After a lighthearted romp last week, Star Wars Rebels took a serious turn in tonight’s episode, “Rise of the Old Masters.” Ezra (Taylor Gray) is continuing his Jedi training, but he and Kanan (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) are both filled with self-doubt. Kanan doesn’t think he’s a suitable teacher, and Ezra thinks that’s because he’s a lousy student. The kid is making some progress, but the series is thankfully taking it slow. Ezra rises to the challenge when necessary, but it’s clear that he’s far from being in full control of his Force abilities, and that’s so very good for the story.
This issue had a few ties to Kanan’s past life as a Padawan, including a reference to one of Yoda’s most famous sayings. The best part of Kanan using the whole “there is no try” bit was him admitting he didn’t understand it. In some ways, he’s like Ezra. Kanan never got to finish his training and because of that there’s no reason he would be as wise and worldly about teaching like Yoda or even Obi-Wan. He’s simply doing the best he can, and he and Ezra are learning together.
Two more quick notes about the training sequence: Chopper is the best/worst cheerleader to have around (though why are they using what seems to be necessary supplies for training?), and they get points for showing Ezra nearly take off Kanan’s head with the lightsaber. Talking about the control on the side to adjust the lightsaber’s length was also a nice touch – just one of those small things to geek out over.
After Ezra survives a fall off the in-flight Ghost, the crew sees a transmission on the holonet from Gall Trayvis (Brent Spiner) stating that Luminara Unduli is alive and being held prisoner by the Empire instead of being given a fair trial. The rebels decide to free her and go to the Spire on Stygeon Prime – an Empire holding facility – to release her (this references a location recently seen in the Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir comics where Darth Sidious held Darth Maul), but unfortunately, they step right into a trap created by the Inquisitor (Jason Isaacs). Oh, and they conveniently leave Chopper behind so that Ezra is forced to use uh, the Force with Kanan to get the group out of the Spire.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. When Kanan and Ezra go to spring Luminara, they learn she’s been dead for years. Which brings up a couple of questions: Was Trayvis misinformed or he is really on the side of the Empire after all (probably the former), and did Kanan sense the presence of another Jedi? He probably wouldn’t have mistaken the Inquisitor for Luminara, right? We don’t have those answers yet, but the encounter did teach us more about the Inquisitor.
He’s chilling. It’s not an easy task to create new villains in the Star Wars universe because Darth Vader’s a hard act to follow. So is Sidious. The Inquisitor hits the right note of calculating and capable to make an impression though. Isaacs nails the voice – he makes the character sound haughty and confident. He sneers at Kanan and Ezra, and while we didn’t see him lose his temper after the rebels escaped, he seems like the kind of guy who wouldn’t shy away from Force-choking out his feelings.
I appreciate that they took a moment to reveal that the Inquisitor has studied the Jedi Temple’s records so thoroughly that he knows Kanan trained under Master Depa Billaba because of the way Kanan fights. It’s all very Sherlock and shows the Inquisitor is more than a brute force with a snazzy spinning lightsaber.
The episode did miss a couple of things. The biggest being that the Inquisitor mentioned the dark side to a surprised Ezra. I get that the story had to circle back around to the “there is no try” point to feel complete, but we needed a scene with Ezra asking Kanan about the dark side. Hopefully that comes in the next episode. The other point is minor but grabbed my attention: when stormtroopers spot the rebels at their top security, secluded prison, they don’t radio for back-up. Why didn’t the rebels pick up on that?
Those are small notes in an episode that delivered overall. It gave us our first real look at the big bad our rebels are facing and illustrated the strength and influence of the Empire yet again by showing how the Imperials spun the story about Zeb (Steve Blum) and Ezra’s TIE fighter escapades. The events and dialogue hit a comfortable blend of darkness and laughter, too. Ezra and Zeb ribbing Kanan about the Inquisitor’s fancier lightsaber was funny, and that moment and quips like it showed more of the group’s family-esque dynamics. It makes them more likable.
Let’s take a moment to pause and admire the animation and effects they’re using on the lightsabers, shall we? When I spoke with Dave Filoni about Rebels back at WonderCon, he mentioned that he and Joel Aron (the CG supervisor of the series) made a conscious decision to make the blade look like a fencing rapier – like they looked in the initial release of A New Hope. You can see the difference with a single lightsaber, but the thinner blades were especially apparent during the fight with the Inquisitor and they’re beautiful. The look makes the already visually impressive fight that much more engaging.
What did you think of “Rise of the Old Masters?” Share your opinion in the comments or let me know on Twitter.