Words fail me… At least short concise sentences summing things up fail me.
From the trailers it was clear this finale was going to big BIG. And while I was certainly excited I was still cautious given how many ideas and characters they would be juggling in just 44 minutes. Other episodes have juggled too many elements and fallen flat in the past and I worried the finale might suffer the same results.
God, do I love it when I’m dead wrong with my cautious optimism. What we got had me nearly in tears from the emotional depth of this finale and wracking my brain with the new mysteries we have to solve.
The Jedi discover a Sith Temple and search for knowledge to defeat the Sith. They get far more than they bargained for when they encounter a former Sith with his own agenda, three inquisitors and finally their master.
The two episodes flow perfectly together with the first one almost entirely devoted to buildup and setting the mood and the second half exploding with visually spectacular and heavily emotional action. The heroes arrive on Malachor and the tension instantly starts to build in such a forboding setting as Ezra and Kanan’s animosity continues and Ezra encounters Darth Maul who in Gollum fashion preys on his insecurities and doubts to use him as a pawn in his own game. I was worried they were going to try to redeem Maul at first. I’m certainly alright with them humanizing him and giving him depth but to see him join the light side would have been pretty hard to buy. Even the idea of Ezra trusting him over Kanan (or at all) seemed farfetched but given how frustrated Ezra has been with his teacher all season, and how open-minded he is, it does make sense.
Maul’s eventual betrayal costs Rahm Kota- I mean Kanan his eyesight (and eyes!) but Ezra to his credit does realize the error of his ways and unites with his master to destroy the Sith Temple and regain the Sith holocron… Which Maul says only a sith or one who thinks like a Sith can open… And the season ends with Ezra opening it with a menacing look in his eyes. That sets the stage for a pretty dark third season.
I’ve always said lightsaber battles are most effective when kept to a minimum. In the Clone Wars the over abundance of lightsaber duels made them a bit of a superficial spectacle most of the time, lacking any emotional depth or real stakes. With a few little duels here and there throughout the season, a battle of this scope with the stakes at fever pitch as payoff works brilliantly.
And on that note, let’s discuss the real purpose of the episode: Skyguy V Snips. Everyone has anticipated this since Clone Wars and it far exceded my expectations. It’s visually awe-inspiring, exciting, heavily emotional and had me biting my nails as it very well could have been the end for Ahsoka. And it… Was…n’t…? After her ambigous departure from the Clone Wars I didn’t think they could do that again… But after Vader limps out of the temple alone (haunted by that owl… More on that in the nerd notes) Ahsoka appears to step down deeper into the temple visually mirroring her departure from the Jedi Temple. Is she a ghost? Did she fall to the dark side? I doubt we’ll get answers for a while. And despite the show finally breaking the unwritten rule that Vader can’t be directly outed as Anakin on screen between ROTS and ESB, the moment where Ahsoka gets a glimpse of Anakin’s face beneath the mask is just too poignant and brilliantly done for me to hold that against the show. Plus, mixing the voices of Matt Latner and James Earl Jones for this moment was a true stroke of genius.
Major kudos to the composer this time as the music is at its best in Rebels and Clone Wars, with a lot of music cues from the later episodes of the latter series. And I would credit the animators for their work but I feel I’ve done that enough this season.
Okay, once more, brilliant work animators.
Is it a perfect finale? Alas not. I do feel as if we didn’t get quite enough buildup or development with Ahsoka this season for this to be her presumed grand exit from the show. The same goes goes for Maul, and to understand his purpose in this story requires a lot of homework, not just by watching the Clone Wars but also reading the comics (it works better if you consider Rebels and Clone Wars more or less the same series… Which I kinda do at this point). Too much subtext is neccessary to fully appreciating the ending. Also there are the inquisitors who clearly shouldn’t have had names or character traits all season, but should have just been faceless goons, as they all die here without us having learned anything about them as characters. Still, the good more than outweighs the bad and the season even ends like a Star Wars movie with a few minutes dialogue free just focusing on the expressions of the characters while the music swells. The Rebels are reunited albeit damaged and missing their greatest warrior, Maul escapes, Vader limps away towards the light, Ahsoka descends underground into darkness, and Ezra opens a Sith holocron… Is it August yet?
-So what’s with the owl? I didn’t give it much thought in the previous episode, though I figured it was indicative of something I just figured it wasn’t terribly important. Then I saw the finale and knew this little creature had to be significant.
I read an interview with Dave Filoni and he flat out stated that it is an avatar of someone or something that appeared before in the animated star wars universe. There are a few possibilities but the evidence strongly points to one suspect.
The Clone Wars had begun to expand the mythology of the force and even revealed the personification of the force through the overlords of Mortis. The light side of the force manifested as the daughter, the dark side as the brother, and their neutral father who kept the balance. Though polar opposites, the brother and sister do appear to care for one another. Together they coexisted in harmony but when the brother grew too powerful the balance threatened to collapse. Then after the death of the sister everything in the world plunged into darkness. Yet before she died the sister planted the seeds of the future by giving her remaining life force to Ahsoka. In the end all three of the overlords had to die to bring balance to the force, and if you can’t tell that basically sums up what will happen at the end of Return of the Jedi. But now in this part of the timeline, thr light side is essentially dead and darkness reigns.
So, the owl. First note it first appears to Ahsoka and Ezra, where Ahsoka notably mentions how little of the force they truly understand as an understated Vader’s theme plays. Later it appears over Vader as he limps away from his duel with Ahsoka. Here we can see the color scheme in better detail on the creature… A white face, yellow body, and green flowing down its back. Colors in Star Wars always mean something, and this little creature looks eerily similar to the sister in her griffin form (yeah they could transform). Anakin is still too deeply consumed by Vader to return to the light, and yet we’ve seen there is still a faint light… You know, “there’s good in him.” This creature may symbolize just that. The rebirth of the sister. It is what the light side of the force is at this period, small and fragile as compared with the beast it had been in the Mortis story. So did that symbolize the little spark of light in Vader? It appeared to be following Ahsoka who is descending into darkness… Literally.
-Anyone else feel a little sad for the Fifth Brother? When a bigger villain cuts down a flunky it’s always a little sad to me.
-Can we just assume Kanan is the lovechild of Kyle Katarn and Rahm Kota now?