On Rebels, The Inquisitors Perfect The Menacing Crawl


… which is a yoga position, if I’m not much mistaken.

Quick note: this is not a full review. If you want that, cool, but here we take a few things for closer inspection. Best read after your viewing and taken with crackers, SPOILERS from here on out.

In this week’s episode of Rebels, entitled Shroud of Darkness, we see our three Jedi (or Jedi-adjacent*) Kanan, Ezra and Ahsoka enter the Jedi Temple on Lothal to communicate with Yoda, who’s still on Dagobah. Just go with it, it totally made sense in the episode.

*I do not apologise at all for this.

No joke this time around. Just marveling at the design on show.

Though those visions were most interesting, first I’d like to discuss something that’s been bugging me.

The Inquisitors

Minimised as this picture is, it looks like the Inquisitors are surrounded by hearts. How cute. Little hearts of death.

This episode saw the return of several characters from the first series: Yoda of course, but also The Grand Inquisitor, in a reveal that definitely wasn’t greeted with an ‘I called it’ dance from me. What? That’s totally a thing! A thing that I don’t do, so forget I mentioned it. Anyhoo, not only did he return, but he did so in style, and brought all the characterisation and back-story that was missing from the first series. For it turns out that he was once a Jedi and one of the Temple Guards. Quite why Palpatine would want his Inquisitors to be led by a guard who let Order 66 and Operation Knightfall (I would have gone with Night of the Long Sabers, personally) happen on his watch is beyond me, but hey ho. I’m not an Emperor of an entirely made up galaxy, so what would I know?

Actually, I'm Emperor of a vast and fearsome colony of ants. Why are you laughing?
Actually, I’m Emperor of a vast and fearsome colony of ants. What? Why are you laughing?

Last week saw some much needed depth breathed into Agent Kallus, and this show has, in my opinion, given some great defining character moments for otherwise amorphous and forgettable Imperial underlings. Now we see some intriguing back-story to the Grand Inquisitor. Which for me raised the question: are we going to have to wait until these Inquisitors are dead before we learn anything about them?

Here’s what we know: They’re named in a seemingly hierarchical structure which also suggests that they’re brought up in some sort of family environment (whether natural or artificial, we don’t know). They work extremely well together, despite their competitive natures. And they … walk very very slowly and very very menacingly. I could add a few more ‘verys’ just to make that list longer, but that’s pretty much it. This isn’t exactly an improvement on what we know about the Grand Inquisitor – or Big Inky, as he is known on the street.

This is not what I had in mind when I googled 'big ink'.
This is not what I had in mind when I googled ‘big ink’.

And this is one of the main failings of the show for me. In the show, they’re portrayed as implacable foes that are nigh impossible for our Spectres to defeat and who turn up at the worst possible moment to mess up the rebellions’ plans – and that’s it. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to say for having great unknown evils lurking about in your story, simply because that aforementioned great unknown adds to the fear and terror that their mere presence can instil. But there does come a point when something, anything – I’d take throwaway dialogue at this point – is needed that fleshes out your villains from two dimensional boogeymen into truly memorable and strong characters. And there does also come a point where sacrificing character depth in favour of unknown terror starts to turn against you and begins to actively harm the story you’re trying to tell. Nothing quite undermines your heroes’ victory over the baddies when the viewer thinks ‘well that’s them sorted, who’s the next Inquisitor going to be?’ I’m not saying we’re there yet*, in large part because they haven’t featured too heavily in this series. But we are nearing the end of the second series, so now might be a good time to think about adding in some layers to various neglected characters *conspicuouslycoughsHera*.

*I took a poll when you weren’t looking. That serves you right for not checking your junk mail.

Unless they’re actually dead, in which case: that’s them sorted. Who’s the next Inquisitor going to be? I vote for Anthony Stewart Head.

Oh gods please make that happen!
Oh gods please make that happen!

Forget The Old Way

I fell asleep. This is Ezra, right?

The trial of Ezra Bridger saw Yoda proffering little nuggets of wisdom like a little wisdom Pez dispenser, to help Ezra understand how to grow to be a Jedi and what that means in these turbulent times. It seems fairly straightforward, yet the scene left me somewhat confused; I didn’t get such a good read on it. So if I may, I have a question for you: who failed that trial, Ezra or Yoda?

Where the show has currently failed the Inquisitors in approaching them as fleshed out characters, they very much succeeded with Yoda. Granted, that little green Pez wisdom dispenser is an already established character, and this team has had experience writing for him on Rebels’ spiritual predecessor, The Clone Wars. But that doesn’t negate the good work they’ve done – that being how they’ve made Yoda as not just an instructor for Ezra, but a person needing their own test as well, and a person bringing their own baggage to the conversation, rather than just being there for something else. This is a common short-falling for storytellers the world over, rather than operate on the assumption that each character is, essentially, a real person and the hero of their own story – that they have their own lives, goals and needs, and that one life-altering conversation for one person may just be a Tuesday for them.

So what is it that Yoda’s bringing to the table here, and why does he need a test? Why do I believe he is even being tested in the first place? Good questions all, if I do say so myself. To answer the first: Yoda doesn’t seem to be answering Ezra’s questions all that well. At first, he seems to understand what’s needed of him, yet coaches his answers in the frame of reminiscing on times gone by and lamenting the past, i.e. discussing events that are more important and more well known to Yoda than to Ezra. This quickly puts Ezra at a disadvantage, and since Yoda’s had 800 odd years of teaching young Jedi-in-waiting, you’d think he’d be cognizant of this fact. (To veer off quickly, I did love this conversation: it felt like both characters were having two entirely different conversations while they were conversing to each other. That’s very hard to write and if the writers had intended this then I applaud them for it.) To return to my original point, it seems that Yoda has become too wrapped up in the past, in the old way, to understand that Ezra is being a Jedi in an entirely new way. Perhaps more: that an entirely new way is needed for the Jedi altogether. Yet it appears that Yoda is doubling down on the Jedi ways of old, somewhat forgetting that that had a large hand in their downfall in the first place.

To answer the second and third questions – because those two are intertwined – is because it makes narrative sense to do so. As I’ve said, writers tend to treat secondary characters as just foils for the main character to explore their faults. This is bad. Instead, we should think of secondary characters as heroes. Following that line of thought let’s pretend it’s The Yoda Show instead and that our Spectres are merely guest stars.

In this episode, Yoda has been exiled to the swamp planet of Dagobah. Years go by as he waits to become relevant to the galaxy again. Always waiting until he can become a teacher again – to the galaxy’s new hope, Luke Skywalker. But as time passes he fears that he won’t be as on form as he used to be, back in the golden age of the Jedi and the Republic. After all, he’s been a teacher all his life and has never gone so long without teaching (that decade spent meditating with the silent Jedi monks of Malastare and the week-long-turned-two-year-long furlough on Nar Shaddaa don’t count). He needs a little test, just to make sure his skills are still sharp. So when he’s contacted by a fledgeling Jedi in the form of Ezra Bridger he spies his chance. This is it, he thinks. A quick lesson on the basics and everything will be fine. Wait, what’s this? He’s already decided to fight? That’s … not what he had in mind. He had a whole speech planned out. About the Clone Wars. About Order 66. He’d made puppets.

Ah, he thinks. And in a moment of deep insight that takes even old Yoda aback, he realises that perhaps he’s been going about this the wrong way. Upon realising this, he sends Ezra on his way with some pertinent information before going off have a long hard think. Perhaps, he concludes, he needed that. He’d forgotten that this Luke Skyflier or, or, Luke Starkiller or whatever his name is, would probably not have been raised in the Jedi way and moreover that he’d likely have similar inclinations as this Ezra boy, too. It might be worth it to have a little rethinking of his teaching plan. Do away with the puppets, for a start. Some brisk jogging could help, and he’d get to see some parts of the swamp that he hadn’t been able to visit since he’d landed, so that’d be nice. ‘And, and,’ he would say, ‘I wonder where I left that cave?’

Michael Dare

Star Wars Rebels is taking a break for a week, so do be sure to set your reminder for the following week.

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  • Zarm

    I had the feeling when watching it that Yoda was reminiscing (tying into the Anakin bits) as a cautionary tale, that perhaps the Jedi were foolish or headstrong to focus on fighting; that this was not meant to be their calling. In that way, he’s specifically rejecting the old (PT) ways, although he is hearkening back to the older (pre-PT) ways; so depending on what you meant by that, I either agree or disagree.

    But the way I read that is ‘Yoda has had time to reflect and realize that the prequel Jedi did indeed suck and have the totally wrong way of doing things, and he is now getting back to basics- the core tennets of the order that the PT Jedi had abandoned… the same tennets that he would eventually teach Luke and see embodied in his order.’ So in that way, he did not fail. But as Ezra was convinced- his head filled with PT nonsense by the likes of Ahsoka and Kanan, who are still steeped in it, and and filled with visions of vain, false glory by recently seeing the ‘paragon’ of Anakin Skywalker- just like the Jedi of the PT era, that fighting is the way he must go. Neither knowledge or defense, but attack. And seeing that this is a path from which he cannot dissuade Ezra- that this lesson, if it is to be learned by Ezra, must be learned the hard way (perhaps by Ahsoka’s death…?); just as, so often, children must make the same mistakes their parents tried to warn them about for themselves before they *get* it- he gives Ezra what Ezra needs to follow that path. He reasons, I suspect, that it is better to give Ezra a way to move forward on the more difficult path (which Yoda doesn’t agree with) than leave him in the untenable limbo that he is stuck in… just as, once Luke decides to go face Vader in ESB, his disapproving teachers still give him the best advice they can for the path he’s chosen.

    So, to my mind, Yoda has not failed- except perhaps in instructing with such subtlety that Ezra missed the point he was trying to make. But it also strikes me as having been the wisest and most helpful that circumstances allowed him to be, and very consistent with the ‘reformed’ Yoda we saw in ESB.

    And we may or may not agree on that, because I’m not quite sure from the phrasing you chose if that’s what you meant or not. :-)

    • MikeDare

      Hi Zarm,

      I’m sorry for the confusion, that’s my fault, I should have been more clear.

      Although what I’m about to say may be more confusing still, haha. But let’s have a go: I do think he was trying to be subtle in his teaching of Ezra, and I do think he’s trying to get back to basics, as you say – and those are the areas in which he failed. I believe that, at this point, he has realised that the future Jedi need to rethink how to do things, and he’s certainly willing to do that. But at the same time, he doesn’t realise that the things he’s thinking of as ‘core tenets’ aren’t the core at all. And by that I mean he’s still stuck on PT era rules and regulations of how the Jedi of the Old Jedi Order do things, and how they had a tendency to focus on the abstract, instead of focusing on the here and now (as Qui Gon instructs Obi Wan to do in TPM) – which is what ESB Yoda tries to teach Luke. I don’t think these are the core tenets at all, but are essentially all the frills that lead to the fall of the OJO in the first place, and I further believe that this current iteration of Yoda is still holding on to these things – which is understandable. He’s been thinking along these lines for nearly 900 years. It’s going to take longer than a decade or so to change your thinking that drastically. Does this make more sense?

      That said, I do disagree that Ahsoka and Kanan are still steeped in PT-era Jediness. Ahsoka was never that much of a conventional Jedi to begin with, and Kanan was still a padawan at the time of Order 66, and has had much more training in how to not be a Jedi than actually being a PT era Jedi. But I do think you’re right that Yoda definitely has Anakin in mind when he sees Ezra’s desire to fight – and I think of that as a failing, too. Anakin did want glory, yes, and to be a hero, which Yoda did know. But at the same time Anakin still had that basic drive to save everyone, which I believe Yoda overlooked simply because he focused too much on Anakin’s negatives. And this comes into play with Ezra, too. Ezra wants to help people, but has little to no drive for glory. Yoda, however, misreads Ezra and sees the human’s fervour as an Anakin-like lust for fame.


      • Zarm

        I think I get what you’re saying; that Yoda is rethinking, but so far, he’s not rethinking enough. He’s in the process of breaking free of the old Dogma, but he hasn’t broken free yet as he will by ESB. So his new philosophy is still too similar to the old philosophy. He’s recognized that something was wrong with the way things were done but he hasn’t correctly figured out what that flaw was, and it’s still a part of his teaching.

        • MikeDare

          Yes, that’s what I was trying to get at :)