On Rebels: So Dark The Con Of Maul

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Hi! Quick note: this is not a full review. Here we just take a closer look at a few things – and then possess them, make them do our bidding to take over the galaxy. And to get take out because, honestly, I’m too lazy to go pick it up.

This week on Rebels, Visions and Voices, Ezra manages to be the hero and rescues his friends from certain Doom with a capital D … after having got them into trouble in the first place. Oh dear.

The Delusions of Darth Maul The Very, Very Unwise

That writing spells ‘KENOBI’. Under Duchess Satine’s image it reads ‘…And Satine sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.’

Does Maul know something that I don’t? Apart from the phone number of a fantastic tattoo artist, I mean. Through this episode, and previous episodes, Maul has constantly referred to young Ezra as ‘my apprentice’. I used to think that it was a form of psychological manipulation and taunting on his part. Taunting because, well, how can it not be a taunt when uttered to Kanan, the boy’s current master? And manipulation because it plants, albeit rather crudely, the idea into Ezra’s mind that siding with Maul isn’t such a strange thing, after all. That there’s another path and another teacher immediately available to him, should he decide to quit his current one and avail himself of another. Not to mention (though I’m now going to mention it) that it plays upon an old psychological technique where you’re presented with evidence pointing to you to one, let’s say, version of reality but when someone (often in authority) tells you something else it is that voice and version of reality that you accept, over-riding previously observed evidence. I don’t know why, and I dare say there is an explanation for this, but it happens. If you’re in a bind at a dinner party and are forced to eat something you don’t particularly like, eating it while saying out loud ‘yum, this is most delicious’ will then work your mind around to thinking that, yes, it isn’t all that bad (the delicious part comes later with repeat attempts).

But this episode presents another reality. Could it be that Maul is really so deluded as to think that Ezra, you know, actually is his apprentice? What’s more, that Ezra is his brother from another mother? Yes. Unequivocally so. Did you not see that image right up there? Look up! For crying out loud, look up!

You can look down now. Hi, welcome back! With this episode, we see just how deep the well of Maul’s madness is as we encounter his shrine to his past. As we see him gaze, almost reverently at the tortured visage of Duchess Satine of Mandalore – and here I must do my due diligence by providing background for those who didn’t watch The Clone Wars. Duchess Satine ruled the peaceful people of Mandalore and was something of a love interest to Obi Wan Kenobi. She lost her seat of power when Maul ousted her and essentially claimed the Mandalorian throne for himself.

Now: we also saw his madness in his protectiveness over the darksaber (an item of cultural importance to Mandos), an item which he probably doesn’t – or didn’t – really care about beyond it being tentatively attached to his and Obi Wan’s shared history. You see, Maul has always been one to hold a grudge. Back in the Clone Wars, he recruited his brother, mercenaries and allies, accrued power all to hit back against Darth Sidious, his erstwhile master. And now of course he’s hell-bent on using Ezra as a tool to destroy Obi Wan. But something seems off here. What has Maul been up to, all these years? Surely he must have thought that Kenobi was dead – and we know this from his excited proclamation of ‘he lives!’ upon seeing him in the holocron vision. So why would Maul be so obsessed with vengeance upon Kenobi? How long has he been obsessed with this? If not that, then why did he want that holocron in the first place? How did he know about Kanan’s holocron? And how long has he been on Dathomir? Because I think he’s been possessed by the Nightsisters.

Something Something Something Dark Side

In this episode we get three or four different takes on the Force: the traditional Jedi and Sith ways with Kanan, Ezra and Maul. We get the way of Bendu, who embraces both the dark and the light. And we get the Nightsister way, which is formidably incomprehensible. Let’s focus on the Nightsisters, because it seems that these Force ghosts are somewhat different from those that we have already seen. Oh, they’re quite different, personality-wise: they’re vengeful and poisonous, whereas the Force ghosts of Yoda, Qui Gon, Obi Wan and Anakin are all peaceful – but I put that down to mere differences in their personalities while they were alive (which means Anakin was still whiny in the Force Afterlife). I mean that they’re different in how they exist. The Nightsisters, unlike the others, seem to owe their continuing existence to a table. This is a little bit odd. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine table. Aslan would love it. It would certainly look good in my front room. Okay, it’s actually bigger than my front room, but let’s ignore that.

This seems to be an anomaly in the Star Wars universe – though not without precedent. In the old expanded universe, now known as Legends, a number of items became imbued with the Force to such a degree that they could be considered active participants in the Force, acting on their own and without outside influence. I can only accept this as fact for now (though it doesn’t sit well with me, but that’s neither here nor there). And what exactly have these spirits been doing? Because I can perfectly imagine that they have been speaking to Maul, poisoning his thoughts so that he became fixated on vengeance against Kenobi, a person he previously thought dead. Why? Was it on purpose? Probably not; it was perhaps just a part of Maul’s psyche that they, being the toxic spirits that they are, felt inclined towards and then naturally dwelled on. And then, in turn, made Maul dwell on it, too.

Still, something doesn’t quite add up. That’s where my mind turns to Bendu. Here’s a sapient being who, like the Nightsisters, has an alternative take on the Force. A being that, at first, I thought was this series’ version of Yoda.

Shove over, Big Ears, there’s a new philosopher in town. Desert. You know what I mean.

But there’s a crucial difference between Yoda and Bendu. Yoda may have never taken an active role in the defeat of the Empire, but he did have the active goal of doing so and actively provided aid in the furthering of that cause. Bendu, meanwhile, is very much a passive character. His role thus far has been to provide advice to our two Jedi. This seems like a bit of a waste. From the beginning, however, I’ve suspected that Bendu himself has a goal in mind, though what, and how, I haven’t a clue.

That said, throughout the whole of his scene he seemed to be toying with Kanan and Ezra – and what’s more, he even seemed to recognise Maul by sight (whereas previously he denied all knowledge of Maul). Something’s up here, and my mind went immediately to the thought that Bendu and the Nightsisters are in cahoots. Why, I don’t know. But it could explain, if Bendu and the Nightsisters are communicating with each other (the Force has great Wi-Fi), how Maul would know about the Jedi holocron, and where the rebel base is.

This is very probably a stretch, but I can’t help but feel that we’re not getting the whole story – at least with Bendu.

The Delusions of Ezra

Okay, delusions might be a bit of a stretch, but I do think he’s deluding himself in that he can continuing behaving in such a rash, cocky manner by going off and dealing with such nefarious people like Maul and Hondo Ohnaka and expect that a) everything will turn out all right and b) that he’s got the measure of them.

Except … he kind of has. Part of the reason why Maul’s delusions about Ezra’s apprenticeship are so, well, delusional is because it looks like Ezra is playing him, just like he plays Hondo. Sure, he may be a bit too willing to go along for the ride but he never seems to lose sight of the fact that they’re bad people and consequently never gets too invested. I think this may be because, while Ezra grew up alone, he didn’t grow up in a vacuum. By that I mean he still would have had to deal with others on Lothal – others who were not entirely spotless, legally speaking. He likely would have had to maintain a cordial working relationship with other crooks in order to sustain a living. Now, I bemoan Ezra (a lot) but here I have to give him a hand. He may not always act rationally, but here, at least, he’s doing what he knows best.

Beyond that, it behooves me to point out that he actually saved the lives of Kanan and Sabine. Okay, he was stupid to not formulate a plan with the others in the first place – and they were, in turn, stupid for following without assessing the situation first (and then ignoring Ezra’s sage advice – I’m looking at you, Sabine). But Ezra manages to not only save his friends but defeat the Force ghosts to boot. Ezra, if you’re not careful, I may start to like you.

(Please don’t make me like you, Ezra. Like the Hulk, I sustain myself on rage. And KFC.)

Now if he and the others were smart enough to realise that Bail Organa actually knows where Obi Wan is, then we might actually get somewhere.

Michael Dare

Star Wars: Rebels will return on 7th January 2o17.

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