Star Wars Rebels is back, huzzah! The series returned tonight with “Path of the Jedi,” and whoa. Just whoa. In a mere 22 minutes, the episode explored some serious lore and served up new tidbits that expand our understanding of the Jedi Order. As if that wasn’t enough, we got to hear the wizened voice of Frank Oz’s Yoda once more. I don’t want to say I never expected to hear Oz in the role again, but it was a pleasant surprise and affected me more than I thought it would.
When we last saw Star Wars Rebels, Ezra (Taylor Gray) had a jarring encounter with the dark side of the Force. The event prompted Kanan (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) to figure out the next step in Ezra’s training. The events on the asteroid put Ezra at a crossroads. Kanan is clearly nervous and unsure about himself and whether he’s training Ezra properly. You can hear it in his strained voice and see it in his posture and movements in the beginning of the episode. It’s balanced by Ezra’s eagerness to learn and please.
I’ve enjoyed watching the relationship between Ezra and Kanan over the course of the series as well as the performances from Gray and Prinze, but this episode? It marks a milestone for both characters. Prinze does a marvelous job bringing weight and burden to Kanan’s dialogue. You can feel the pressure he’s putting on himself just by closing your eyes and listening, and it was crystal clear when Kanan communicated with Yoda. Additionally, Kanan mentioned that he’d lost his way. Is he referencing the past that we saw in A New Dawn, or he is saying that he was tempted by the dark side of the Force?
Similarly, Ezra developed greatly and Gray really hit home with delivery. We saw Ezra face fears, question himself and his motivations, and come out ahead. Gray landed each note from trepidation to triumph, and his performance in “Path of the Jedi” is his best of the series so far.
It’s clear Ezra’s Force abilities are nothing to sneeze at, and when tasked by Kanan to find a Jedi outpost for testing purposes, he had no problems. That’s the first interesting point we learn. There are outposts and temples throughout the galaxy for the Jedi to visit when Coruscant is out of reach. The fact that there’s a temple on a planet as far-flung as Lothal means it’s likely these places are tucked all over the place.
The temple wants the Master and Padawan to enter together, and once Kanan and Ezra do so, we see a scary waiting room. There are skeletons that belonged to Masters whose Padawans didn’t return from the test. I couldn’t tell if they were part of the illusion, but if not, well, that strikes me as brutal. The Jedi were once so numerous that a lost person or two wasn’t the end of the Order, but death seems like a severe punishment.
Anyway, Ezra’s test reminded me much of the cave on Dagobah that Yoda made Luke enter. Maybe it wasn’t really a dark side cave as we’ve come to call it, but a Jedi outpost like this one on Lothal. Yoda tells Luke that what’s in there is “only what you take with you.” Luke sees his face under Darth Vader’s mask because that’s where his fear and thoughts led him. Ezra sees the Inquisitor – a symbol of the Empire – killing the people he loves and he sees his new friends (family, really) admitting they don’t particularly like having him around. It got quite dark. Everything he saw inside the temple was a manifestation of his worries and doubts. He saw what he took with him. It’s absolutely fascinating to look at the difference between how Ezra and Luke responded to the challenge.
My mind is a little blown. More than a little.
And then there’s Yoda. Given the correlation to what Luke went through, it’s no wonder they got Oz to come back as the little green guy. Hearing the exact voice you heard in The Empire Strikes Back ties it all together and brings you back to the swamps of Dagobah. The presence of Yoda and his cryptic yet reassuring words put me in the same state of mind as I was when I watched Luke struggle with the Force. It was nerve-wracking. I felt exactly the same for Ezra.
Yoda provided the kind of guidance for Ezra that he did for Luke, but Ezra actually listened. Yoda stripped Ezra’s intentions to the core and made him examine the truth about why he wants to become a Jedi. Ezra peeled away the layers of hate, anger, and revenge towards the Empire and found that he was acting from a place of love and compassion. He wants to be able to protect not only his fellow rebels but the helpless and innocent. What a moment of growth!
Besides the fact that Yoda provided invaluable assistance to Kanan and Ezra, let’s focus on another big reveal: Yoda was in communication with at least two Jedi during his exile. If he was able and willing to connect to Kanan and Ezra, it’s not out of line to guess he’s talking with other Order 66 survivors from time to time – probably if those survivors made it to similar Jedi outposts. Yoda wasn’t just cooking smelly food and repairing his little hut during his years alone on Dagobah; he stayed busy and involved.
The revelation is also sad because by the time we get to Return of the Jedi, Yoda tells Luke, “When gone am I… the last of the Jedi will you be.” I never thought Yoda was guessing but in a way, knowing he did indeed communicate with others gives his statement more weight. And it means Kanan and Ezra are both gone or no longer Jedi.
Many aspects about this episode were just smart. One instance: On the surface, it appears as if the focus is on Ezra’s training. He’s taking the next leap forward on his path to become a Jedi, and it’s significant and weighty. The mystical undercurrent of the Order was on full display, and I remembered why it once seemed like the coolest thing ever to me to become a Jedi. But, it wasn’t just about Ezra. Kanan learned just as much, and while he didn’t get a tangible reward for his leveling up, make no mistake that it happened. Ezra saw he was worthy of Jedi training, and Kanan saw he was worthy of being a teacher.
About that reward: Ezra got a kyber crystal. I was just as floored as Kanan. Receiving a kyber crystal is an important Jedi occasion. In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, we saw Ahsoka and Yoda take a group of younglings to Ilum in order to get their crystals. Each youngling in the group and in the Order had to undergo a rite of passage in order to find the crystal that was meant for him or her. Now that the Empire is in charge and the Jedi are all but wiped out, going to Ilum is no longer an option. We’ve already seen the Empire transporting kyber crystals in Rebels so they’re probably mining Ilum for all its worth.
The presence of the kyber crystal in the outpost introduces new questions. Were the outposts stocked with crystals for the younglings and Padawans that couldn’t make it to Ilum? Did the kyber crystals somehow arrive after Order 66? What does it all mean?
We know it’s a real, functioning crystal because Ezra was able to build a working lightsaber. He worked on it for weeks and used parts available on Ghost and bits given to him by the crew. Even Chopper donated a power unit. Awww! The result is a unique lightsaber that functions as the traditional sword and apparently as a blaster. I look forward to seeing it in action, but for now, compliments to the artist(s) who came up with the look for Ezra’s lightsaber.
Along that line, I can’t wrap up without tipping my hat to the animation and lighting team. This episode was packed with information about Star Wars lore, and the visuals complimented it at every juncture. The duel between Kanan and the Inquisitor was especially gripping. It was energetic and even though I knew it wasn’t real, it was so intense that I found myself clenching my fists and feeling anxious. The imagery enhanced the mysticism and lent terror to Ezra’s visions.
If you couldn’t tell by the length of this recap, I have feelings about “Path of the Jedi.” I wouldn’t say that it’s my favorite episode of Star Wars Rebels, but I can’t deny its impact on the Star Wars universe and the tremendous development of Ezra and Kanan.
What did you think of the episode? Head to the comments and share your thoughts or hit me up on Twitter.