This is not a full review; we don’t do that kind here. Instead we take a closer look at one or two itty bitty pieces. Written under the assumption that you’ve seen the episode, and as always BIG WHOPPING SPOILERS (for the show and one for The Force Awakens if you haven’t seen it) from here on out.
Well. That was certainly a thing that happened. Rebels series two has finally come to an end in the double episode entitled Twilight of the Apprentice, a title that had already set curious tongues wagging and is likely to spawn many more debates over just which apprentice it means. Well indeed.
SPOILER: It’s probably not her twilight.
Yep, Ahsoka is very probably still alive – which, by the by, makes this the fake-out of the title. Rebels creator Dave Filoni is playing it cool right now, as is to be expected, as to the fate of Ahsoka – but that’s not stopped many a fan from pouring over that scene, frame by frame, to come to the conclusion that she is not dead. I tend to agree, both because I’ve done the exact same thing, and also because it makes narrative sense, after such a build up, to leave someone alive during an ambiguous cliffhanger. With her dead, we’re robbed of the pay-off. Alive, we’re set up for a ‘shock’ return. So let’s assume that she is alive, which then begs the question: why?
I won’t speculate about upcoming stories, but rather look at it a different way. It would hardly be much of an exaggeration to say that nearly everyone had expected (wished for?) her death at the hands of Darth Vader from her very first reveal. Hell, even from her days on The Clone Wars, it was expected that Vader would kill her. So I’m going to change that question from ‘why?’ to ‘why do we expect this?’ Why do we feel that, to have great drama, a sacrifice is required?
The obvious answer is that it would be incredibly dramatic to see her die at the hands of her former master – and not just her, but for Kanan to die too, for Ezra to lose his master, and Hera her … something*. And yet the show delivered drama and spectacle and yet more drama without a single death.
*There’s clearly a romance there, and while my feelings for intra-lead romances are complicated, I can’t deny this to be true.
And this is a good thing. Death can certainly be heart-wrenching for the viewer/reader, but it’s often done lazily. Good, non-lazy drama comes from a significant change for the character. Which includes death, yes, but is not limited to that, and again for proof look no farther than this episode: For Ezra, it is the challenge to his worldview, for Kanan the loss of his eyesight. But what about Ahsoka? What changed for her character? She already knew who Vader was, so it’s not that. She didn’t die, so it’s not that. There was no imparting of new-found knowledge. Though I can’t be certain at this point in the story, but for my money it’s the understanding that she might not be able to kill her old master after all. I don’t mean on a technical level – though that too: even with the temple collapsing around them, even when fighting multiple opponents, Vader still managed to give them a run for their money.
No, what I mean is that even though Vader showed no sign of softening* and that he would gladly kill her without hesitation, she still might not be able to deliver a killing blow. Here, she opened herself up to Vader, told him that she’ll be there for him even in the most dangerous and dire of circumstances, and simply couldn’t do it. Which … pretty much renders her useless to the rebels.
*Though I would argue that Ahsoka was allowed to escape.
If there’s a next fight – and I’m not convinced there will be – instead of fighting for Vader’s death, she’ll instead fight for Anakin’s life. And we all know how these things turn out.
Maul and The Idiot Ball
Darth Maul made his Rebels debut in splendid fashion. At once sincere, empathetic, commanding, domineering, intriguing and just plain scary. Honestly I haven’t been as scared of a bald tattooed guy since I met Robert LaSardo (see bottom – 1). Maul is back and out to take down the Sith (again), and more than that, he’s out for a new apprentice: the aforementioned idiot.
Obligatory Ezra bashing aside, in a move that surprised probably no one but the characters*, Maul made a very calculated and well thought out play for the blue-haired … wonderful fellow that is Ezra. It was, dare I say, masterful. At every opportunity he filled Ezra’s mind with the ways of the dark side (casually forgetting the rampant backstabbing inherent in the deal) but never really asked him to sign up. Not only that but he displayed a thoughtful trust in the boy that, frankly, was wholly undeserved. By that I don’t mean that Ezra didn’t display any skill, he did, but rather that that trust was there from the beginning, before Maul had any reasonable amount of time to gain knowledge of Ezra’s skills. So right there, without even a word, this lets us know that something odd is up.
*Including Ahsoka. Honestly, for shame, Ahsoka. For shame.
How long was Maul on the planet? If he’s to be believed then it was for a long, long time. But of course we can’t believe him because he is, to quoth Shakespeare, Evil McEvilface.
From the first few minutes we can reasonably surmise that it wasn’t long, since the new Inquisitor* seems to have been tracking Maul. Beyond that, it would be a fair bet to suggest that Maul may have very well been following Ezra’s progress, if not consistently then at least loosely. Which, if true, is some great writing. Again, without saying a word and nary a hint, but with simple actions intrigue is borne.
Now, all this was done with the intended result of gaining Ezra’s allegiance, and though it was done very well, it probably wouldn’t have worked half as well if Kanan hadn’t forgotten the lesson he learned in the Jedi Temple. The one where he realises that he can’t protect Ezra forever? That all he can do is train him the best he can? To, you know, accept what happens? If you’re remembering this, then congratulations, your memory is better than Kanan’s. And Kanan’s failure was all the more pronounced given that, time and again, Ezra did a pretty good job of countering Maul’s philosophy.
This is why I’m suddenly unsure about Ezra’s descent into the dark side – something that I had previously thought as a given. Because granted, whenever Maul waxed lyrical on dark side philosophy, Ezra would disagree, but in a distancing way. ‘Kanan said nuh-uh’ is essentially what all his replies amount to, which isn’t a rousing defence of the light side, true, but he did still attempt it. And when driven to the edge by Maul to kill Buffy, or by Darth Traya (that’s my guess, not official) to use the battle station, he always takes a step back. This leads me to consider the possibility that Ezra may not turn completely dark, but may in fact become a blend of both schools of thought, employing both light and dark in his attempts to defeat the Empire.
Or it could all just be wishful thinking and Ezra does end up going darker than a broken light bulb. You know. Either/or.
(1) – This was meant as a joke, but I can’t leave it without saying that he was the nicest guy when I met him. Maybe he was just having an off day.Powered by Sidelines