Rebels Review: Shroud of Darkness

star-wars-rebels-shroud-of-darkness-ahsoka-tano-darth-vader

The non-Jedi seek out the advice of Master Yoda  in Lothal’s Jedi Temple and go their separate ways on spirit journeys. What could possibly go wrong? NOTHING.

Wow… So Rebels is officially on a roll now. Once the momentum finally picked up in the latter episodes of this season by delving into the complexity of all the main characters, the last few weeks have been most impressive. While some previous episodes have struggled to balance multiple storylines in 22 minutes, here Ezra, Kanan, and Ahsoka’s stories (and even some others) come together perfectly as all three of them get their due screen time.

Following a great four-way duel that kicks off the episode, between the non-jedi and the inquisitors, the episode heavily focuses on the drama and he emotions of the characters afterward, and the results are powerful to say the least. Ezra, Kanan and Ahsoka enter the temple but all go on their own spirit journeys which all pay off marvelously. There’s some possible foreshadowing, seeing them go on separate paths might indicate where this season will end. Ezra and Kanan even muse about leaving the rebels for the safety of the group as a whole, and seeing the “family” split up would definitely open up a lot of interesting potential stories.

Ezra’s flirtation with the dark side has been building since season one, and despite his noble intentions he still lacks the greater understanding of the force and the discipline to control his anger. Yoda fortunately makes the distinction that it is how he chooses to win that will determine whether or not he is in the right. Things aren’t looking very promising for Ezra by the end however… even with Yoda leaving him with the plot point for the next episode, that being a planet known as Malacore. Sounds like a good place for a season finale.

But in contrast to Ezra’s bleak looking future, Kanan has come a long way as a leader and a Jedi since his days as a crappy teacher in season and figurehead captain, so he deserved his ascension to the rank of Jedi Knight, even if the manner of his promotion was quite unorthodox, and also a little out of nowhere. It’s nice to see the Jedi playing a little looser with the rigid rules than we saw in the prequels and Clone Wars, which aided their downfall. And Yoda too addresses the failures of the Jedi Order, how their own arrogance led to their downfall. I always gave a lot of credit to Clone Wars for properly portraying the Jedi as tragically flawed, and seeing these characters self-aware of their flaws brought a lot of humanity to the monolithic lifeless order which the prequels presented (there I go again…).

But back to Kanan, obviously he never achieved the rank of Jedi which has been mentioned here and there throughout the series, but apart from it explaining his poor teaching ability it was never made a central plot point. If not for who actually dubbed him so ironically, it might have not worked as well as it did. And while the big reveal of the Grand Inquisitor as a former Jedi Temple Guard wasn’t a big shock (the voice, the stance, the armor were all dead giveaways) his connection to Kanan still managed to be a powerful and satisfying arc to the former villain, even if it was post-mortem. I wasn’t overly dismayed with his lack of character development last season but it was fitting that he would be the one to knight Kanan as being his adversary really was a major factor in Kanan’s growth as a Jedi. Mirroring their dual last season, Kanan declines to deliver a finishing blow to his foe, fully embracing the light side, and perhaps even redeeming the Inquisitor? I don’t know, it gets a little fuzzy there, whether this is actually the inquisitor’s spirit or just the light side of the force manifesting as him, because either way he actually helps the heroes escape! What a nice guy.

As I said, all three of the character’s plot threads come together nicely in the end despite, and as for Ahsoka, who had been used very sparingly this season even in episodes featuring her, she truly shines this week… Well maybe that’s not the right description given how tragic her story is. From reflecting on Master Yoda’s sadness, to fondly recalling what a good person Anakin had been and, to the utterly heartbreaking vision of him blaming her for his fall to the dark side, it was hard to supress a tear or two. Seeing Ahsoka’s guilt over her master’s fall from grace was incredibly powerful and she leaves the temple possibly believing she can redeem him (I don’t know, I feel like that’s what she meant by “There’s still a way…”). Good thing she’s suddenly so optimistic because Vader’s ominous arrival at the end of the episode signals things are about to get really bad. Worse still, the inquisitors have been incredibly incompetent all season, but Vader rather than punishing them calmly asserts that the Rebels growing strength appears to be part of his plan.

Most notably, “Shroud of Darkness” (and the show overall) really recaptured the magic and mysticism of the original films. Star Wars has always been a fairy tale in space at its core, and less about the scifi elements. I know I mention it almost every week, but Kevin Kiner’s score really does tug at your heartstrings and adds to the drama, and now the music feels fuller and more orchestral as with later seasons of Clone Wars. The finale of season 2 has now been set in motion, and this is a fine start to the end.

Rating

9.6

Nerd Notes

-There is a LOT to speculate after this episode so here goes… first of all, Malacore. I know my Star Wars stuff, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard that. This is new, right? Anyone know anything? 

-The Empire didn’t know about the temple on Lothal. Scratch that off the potential list of reasons the Emperor himself is interested in Lothal. Or maybe they were looking for it? Not bery hard, if so.

-If I had one complaint it would be the missed opportunity for the show to finally use Kanan’s real name, Caleb Dume, when the Inquisitor knighted him. Would have been the perfect moment.

-How cool was the Inquisitor’s return/redemption?? Well, it was a little cryptic. The new canon has established that only a select few Jedi could return as force ghosts so there’s a lot of possible interpretations of what could have happened there. Was it actually him through the living force, or just the force showing Kanan (and the inquisitors) a vision? I don’t know but it was awesome.

-“Where are they going?” Asks Sabine. That’s the most she’s done in weeks. Poor Sabine.

-Ahsoka saw Anakin rushing off to save the chancellor? Huh? What? What happened there??

-There’s a lot of speculation that Ahsoka will die at the end of this season, which would be a shame since we haven’t seen much of her all season but I don’t think she will since the Emperor basically said her wanted her alive. If the season ends with her capture that would be something.

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