– Spoiler Review –
While Star Wars Rebels has so far been full of lighthearted and less story focused episodes, building up its characters, “Rise of the Old Masters” finds a way to change into story focus mode while retaining its identity of having great characters. It also heralds not only the introduction of the Inquisitor proper, but an incredible creepy and very intriguing moment with a familiar Jedi, and the start of training for Ezra in the Force. “RotOM” is the best episode yet and will be hard to forget for most fans.
The opening moments show Kanan attempting to train Ezra in the Force, but with Chopper and Zeb around they make it harder for Ezra to concentrate (something Luke didn’t have to worry about much in The Empire Strikes Back). It’s easy to tell Kanan is very inexperienced trying to be a Master, seeing as his description of Ezra’s shortcomings, lack of discipline and concentration, could be attributed to him as well. Kanan’s frustration at seeing Ezra fail sets the stage for their conflict throughout the episode, with Kanan feeling Ezra is untrainable by someone like him while Ezra wants Kanan to teach him. Their bickering throughout the episode is funny, helping them learn and appreciate more about one another, much like the dialogue and moments in “Fighter Flight”; I especially enjoyed their discussion about Yoda’s famous adage, “Do or do not. There is no try,” as Ezra’s point that ‘you have to try something to do it’ makes a lot of sense and stumped Kanan.
The antics of Zeb and Ezra stealing a TIE fighter make the Holo-Net news report, but Imperial Senator Gall Trayvis interrupts with shocking news about Master Luminara Unduli not only being alive, but being held as prisoner somewhere in the Stygeon system. Kanan and Hera immediately jump on the news, as they consider Trayvis a trustworthy source, formulating a rescue plan for Luminara. Kanan’s excited to have a real Master around, someone who can train Ezra better than he, adding even more to Ezra’s disappointment his chosen Master doesn’t want him.
After a briefing from Sabine on the Stygeon system’s only known prison, The Spire (last seen in the Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir comics), the team hops into action. They smartly leave Chopper behind with the Ghost, while Hera stays aboard the Phantom, the Ghost‘s detachable shuttle. Ezra blunders in the opening moments of the rescue, eagerly jumping into battle after seeing Kanan hand out some serious butt whooping to two stormtroopers, further giving Kanan reasons to pass the kid off to a better Master. Things get worse after Ezra’s blunder, as their plan has to change as the layout of the Spire was altered. Zeb and Sabine’s teasing about Kanan’s plans always having to be changed works well as a reminder that they’ve been together for awhile now.
As for when Kanan and Ezra meet Luminara, I’m still trying to process it. Kanan has felt, through the Force, that something is wrong with Luminara’s presence, something which quickly comes to light in the single most creepiest moment on the show so far. Luminara gets up when they arrive and slowly walks away from them, morphing through a coffin and revealing herself to be dead. Kanan and Ezra are floored by it and I was shocked as well. If it was simply some hologram trickery then it’s not that shocking, but if this is some type of Sith/Dark Side magic or rather Mother Talzin like magick, then it’s a whole other ballpark. Unfortunately it’s never answered how they made Luminara’s ‘bones,’ as the Inquisitor calls them, present themselves in such a way to appear wholly alive, or sense-able in the Force, but darn does it work as great bait. The image of her corpse was a surprising and effective sight, and this moment, plus a few others in “RotOM” should help assuage those who believe Rebels to be just another kids show (The Clone Wars silenced those who felt that way about it as well). UPDATE: In an interview over at IGN.com, Dave Filoni revealed what we see of Luminara is a recording of her execution just being replayed. That’s even more sadistic than some type of Sith/Dark Side magic and really elevates that scene even more considering you’re basically watching her being executed. They really went there! (The interview also touches on how Kanan could sense her through the Force…and what might Ahsoka sense if she were to ever run into Vader)
The Inquisitor’s introduction really sets him up to be an extremely formidable foe, though he slightly comes off as a mustache twirling bad guy. It’s obvious throughout his lightsaber battle with Kanan that he’s just toying with Kanan, trying to learn what he can using his almost encyclopedic knowledge of the Jedi Temple archives. This strength of his allows him to know who taught Kanan, Depa Billaba (a fact revealed in A New Dawn and now we’ll be spending some time on Kanan’s apprenticeship to her in an upcoming comic), helping give him a psychological edge over Kanan. Their battle is a mixture of prequel and original trilogy lightsaber fights, with close, brutal strikes and some giant flourishes first seen when Obi-Wan and Maul dueled in The Phantom Menace.
Sabine and Zeb realize the Imperials know they’re there and execute some well laid plans and coordinate the team’s escape, all largely thanks to Sabine. Having her role expanded, and very crucial for this mission, was nice considering she’s had the least amount of screen time and practically stole the show last week. Kanan and Ezra come through on their joint Force usage, opening up a hanger door to facilitate the remainder of the escape. Despite being outnumbered, Hera rescues the day with her new squadron: a giant bat-like species whose mating calls resonated at the same frequency as the one the team was using, thus they’re attracted to and protective of the Phantom. Surprisingly, having horny animals save the day doesn’t detract from the more dramatic tone this week.
While there isn’t much of an after action report, the team is definitely considering this operation a loss. Hera is almost more disappointed than Kanan that Luminara isn’t alive and Ezra is certain Kanan won’t be training him. In their final conversation together Kanan shows he truly understands Yoda’s adage, admitting the initial fears he might fail Ezra or vice versa is what caused him to be excited at the chance to pass Ezra to Luminara, and now he’ll train Ezra because it’s what needs to be done. It seems the battle with the Inquisitor helped Kanan comes to terms with the role he should be playing in Ezra’s life, giving him a stronger sense of patience with the giant task of training an apprentice when he never even finished his own training.
Here are a few other things:
- Loved the in-joke/easter egg here about stormtroopers and smashing their helmets on doors. In case you’ve not noticed it, in A New Hope when the stormtroopers blast into Death Star room where C-3PO and R2-D2 are hiding, one of troopers knocks his head on the door. They made a joke out of it in Attack of the Clones, with Jango Fett hitting his head on the door of the Slave 1 after his battle with Kenobi on Kamino. And in the image to your right, is Rebels‘ version of it.
- Great EU/Legends inclusion: Adjustable lightsabers. Exar Kun, Corran Horn, and if I remember correctly eventually Luke Skywalker all have them in Legends stories. Kanan’s adjusting conveniently works for training Ezra, but I wonder why he made that addition to his laser sword in the first place.
- Sabine’s three miracles come in handy.
- The opening bit with Chopper tossing trash at Ezra for him to use the Force to block was really neat and very fitting for the grumpy and seemingly selfish astromech.
- Brent Spiner voiced Gall Trayvis, someone I think we’ll meet in person, and more of, as the season progresses (and not just because he has such a recognizable name voicing him).
- As usual, head over to the official site for their episode guide.
“Rise of the Old Masters” really ups the stakes for the crew, giving our heroes an even more convincing threat than Agent Kallus in the form of the Inquisitor. While he may be a hindrance to them as the show progresses, his actions and mocking words here have set Kanan on the path of training Ezra, despite his reluctance and lack of confidence in himself to do so properly. This was the best episode so far for the Star Wars Rebels, combing this series’ penchant for humor, heart, drama, and strong characters in a nicely wrapped story-laden package.
+ The Inquisitor
+ Creepy Luminara twist
+ Kanan and Ezra gaining confidence for the fight ahead
+ Sabine’s slightly expanded role
STAR WARS REBELS REVIEWS:
Season One: Spark of Rebellion | Ep. 2: “Droids In Distress” | Ep.3: “Fighter Flight” | Ep.5: “Breaking Ranks” | Ep.6: “Out of Darkness” | Ep.7: “Empire Day” | Ep.8: “Gathering Forces” | Ep.9: “Path of the Jedi” | Ep.10: “Idiot’s Array” | Ep.11: “Vision of Hope” | Ep.12: “Call to Action” | Ep.13: “Rebel Resolve” | Ep.14: “Fire Across the Galaxy”
Season Two: The Siege of Lothal | Ep. 2: “The Lost Commanders” | Ep. 3: “Relics of the Old Republic” | Ep. 4: “Always Two There Are” | Ep. 5: “Brothers of the Broken Horn” | Ep. 6: “Wings of the Master” | Ep. 7: “Blood Sisters” | Ep. 8: “Stealth Strike” | Ep. 9: “The Future of the Force” | Ep. 10: “Legacy” | Ep. 11: “A Princess on Lothal” | Ep. 12: “The Protector of Concord Dawn” | Ep. 13: “Legends of the Lasat” | Ep. 14: “The Call” | Ep. 15: “Homecoming” | Ep. 16: “The Honorable Ones” | Ep. 17: “Shroud of Darkness” | Ep. 18: “The Forgotten Droid” | Ep. 19: “The Mystery of Chopper Base” | Ep. 20: “Twilight of the Apprentice“