Star Wars Rebels Review: “Shroud of Darkness”

Shroud of Darkness

Spoiler Review –

In Star Wars Rebels‘ “Shroud of Darkness,” Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka must face the fears that plague them, prompting them to return to the Lothal Jedi Temple for help and guidance. Their time in the Temple, and some of the surprising answers they receive, sets up a great finale (to air in a few weeks) and cements this episode as the best of the series to date. My deep dive i.e. long review is below.

Shroud of DarknessFailing yet again to find a suitable base for the rebellion, and hounded once more by the Inquisitors, Kanan wants to go on the offensive with Ahsoka at his and Ezra’s side. But what’s prompting his attack mode are several of his personal fears and problems, including his frustration at being unable to help Hera and her cause which he’s tied himself to and his fear of losing Ezra to the Inquisitors because he hasn’t trained the young one enough. Ahsoka heeds caution though, knowing the last time they struck out their problems multiplied, and wishes she could chat with Yoda or Obi-Wan for answers to their Inquisitor predicament. Surprisingly, Kanan and Ezra haven’t mentioned to her previously that they communed with Yoda, but bring it up now, resulting in the three of them journeying to Lothal to visit the Temple. I’m also a little surprised that they seemingly haven’t talked much at all, as Ahsoka just now reveals Anakin was her Master to Ezra (Kanan would likely know, considering he was around during the Clone Wars), she just learns Ezra’s from Lothal, and she mentions she’s no longer a Jedi because she choose to leave the Order (I will not cry thinking about that, I will not cry). I know they’ve all been busy, but I’m surprised some, if not most of these things hadn’t come up in conversation before. In the end, it’s nice to have them all caught up about each other at least.

Shroud of DarknessLothal’s Temple hasn’t been visited since “Path of the Jedi,” where Ezra gained his lightsaber crystal because he admitted to his fear of learning about his parent’s fates and commits to becoming a Jedi to help his new family, while Kanan got a rousing pep-talk to the point where he’s willing to accept responsibility for Ezra’s actions under his tutelage. In a way, their adventures in the Temple in “Shroud of Darkness” feel like part two for those problems, as Ezra is dealing with the fear that his new powers won’t be enough to help his family while Kanan is struggling with the fear he hasn’t been a good enough Master to Ezra. In my review of “Path,” I said, “Yoda’s ominous but hopeful line to Ezra, ‘A Jedi you may yet be,’ plus his line to Kanan on how Ezra will be his last chance, will hang over this series till its end, I believe,” is something which kept popping up again in my mind while watching “Shroud.” Much like in “Path,” none of the guidance Ezra, Kanan, or Ahsoka receive is particularly hopeful here, but definitely helpful…if they choose to heed it correctly.

Shroud of DarknessFor Ezra, who we’ve seen grow more and more powerful and confident in his own way (in this episode, how well he holds his own against the Inquisitors and his ability to call on those creatures for a ride), his fear about still not being good enough to save his friends and family has been pushed under the surface, hiding beneath the new confidence. After they escape the Inquisitors in the beginning, Kanan mentions their encounter was too close, and Ezra sarcastically and cockily agrees; He’s been treating their battles as a game almost, too sure and too confident in his new abilities. When he communes with Yoda, the Jedi Masters’ revelations regarding his own battle with fear and about what fighting in the Clone War did to the Jedi knocks down Ezra’s confidence and brings his fear bubbling back to the surface. Yoda says the Jedi were consumed by the dark side during the Clone War, which is true from a certain point of view, as they mistook their fear of losing their power in the galaxy as their rightful duty to take action in the war, mainly because of the dark side’s involvement in starting the war. He suggests to Ezra that learning how best to go about winning their battle, instead of learning how to fight better enough to win, is the true path to staying a Jedi and helping those Ezra cares about. Because if they all give into their fears and rush into battle, then they’ll start down the path to the dark side (Fear leads to Anger, Anger leads to Hate, Hate leads to Suffering) and even if they win, they’ll still lose because they took the quick and easy path. Ezra struggles with the realization that no matter how powerful he gets or how many new abilities he learns, it might not be enough. And as much as Ezra understands and hears the advice, he’s still sure of their plan to take action against Vader and the Inquisitors, causing Yoda to surprisingly drop the name of a certain planet (more on that in a bit) to help them with their course of action.

Shroud of DarknessWhat I enjoyed about Yoda’s appearance was not just that Frank Oz returned again, but that the diminutive Jedi Master didn’t continue his trend of being obtuse and instead was very forthcoming. I think Yoda knows there’s a time to be incredibly vague and a time to openly discuss things, which this is the latter considering Ezra’s built a wall against his anxieties through his powers and Yoda realizes admitting his problems with fear will open the young one’s eyes. If such a great Master had similar problems, it must be okay to deal with and admit one’s own, no? Yoda’s line about how it’s, “…a lifelong challenge not to bend fear into anger,” is my favorite of the episode and I think deserves to be held in as high esteem as other Yoda-isms (like “Do or do not” for instance). Through his experiences, fear is not unnatural or terrible to have in life, it’s just important how one deals with it if they are to become a Jedi. As we saw Yoda deal with in The Clone Wars‘ Season 6 finale arc, he fought his fear both mentally and physically (mentally as he fought against visions of a perfect world where everyone still lived and physically in a battle against his dark shadow and later the Emperor himself), resulting in him learning the Order would suffer for the negligence of bending their fear into anger and only through patience could their salvation be found. Ahsoka’s description in “Shroud” of Yoda hits the nail right on the head, calling him wise, kind, and happier before the war. Even before he found out what would befall the Jedi during his quest by the guidance of Qui-Gon Jinn, she could tell he was carrying a great weight, as I’m sure he already suspected the Jedi were in too deep and going about things the wrong way.

Shroud of DarknessKanan’s vision brings him to a dojo* from the Coruscant Jedi Temple, where he meets a decidedly unfriendly Temple Guard, who wants to take out Ezra before he gets pulled to the dark side. Kanan’s fear about not training Ezra enough to deal with the growing threats against them is spurred on by both by his disappointment in himself for not being able to help Hera, the rest of the crew, and the rebellion due to fighting the Inquisitors all the time, but it also could be because he’s fearful about the vow he took for accepting responsibility for Ezra’s actions. If he doesn’t train him good enough, Kanan will have to deal with the knowledge he was responsible (and probably hide in seclusion as both Obi-Wan and Luke have done), but he doesn’t seem to realize it can’t all be his fault. His fight with the Guard seems endless, because he has such a hard time letting go of that responsibility, is unsure he wants to accept Ezra must deal with the consequences for his own actions, and has always been in the habit of fighting his way out of an issue. To see Kanan make the same choice as Luke did aboard the Death Star II, no longer fighting and instead looking for an alternative solution, was a huge moment for the unorthodox Jedi. The ability to understand fighting isn’t always the path to victory gains Kanan his Knighthood (!), something he couldn’t quite get after Order 66 threw a wrench in his training and he lost his way as a vagabond surviving one bar to the next. Seeing how Kanan acts following his Knighthood and his new found philosophy is something I look forward to watching in the final episodes, as this season has been more consistent on keeping character development and building on it throughout the season.

Shroud of DarknessAhsoka’s time in the Temple, at least to me, confirms she instantly knew who Vader really was when they connected in The Seige of Lothal. Since then she’s been unable to accept the truth of what she learned and considering how long she knew him and the way she talks about him here, can you blame her? Her description of him in “Shroud,” especially regarding how deeply he cared for his friends and that he’d stick by them till the end (like he mostly did during her trying time of being framed for an attack on the Coruscant Temple, in the TCW S5 finale arc), only just scratches the surface of her time with him during the Clone War. And while we know she’s seen some of the dark potential lying within, comparing those little hints to the atrocities she associates with Vader just doesn’t compute. Her journey to the Temple forces her to confront the truth though, as she tearfully (and I tearfully) accepts it while Anakin accuses her of leaving him just when he needed her most, forcing some of guilt she feels to surface. His accusations (made instantly emotional thanks to Matt Lanter’s return as Anakin), while biting, ring hallow because if she hadn’t left he could’ve dragged her down with him (much like Ahsoka was warned by her future-self on Mortis) and they point to an interesting revelation: it would seem Anakin and Ahsoka did not meet after she left the Order. She even says she last saw him rushing off to save the Chancellor i.e. the start of Revenge of the Sith, but it’s implied she only saw him in passing, not actually getting to chat with him. Sure, there was and is tons of untold TCW stuff still to come, a lot regarding her new lease on life, but it’s possible she never got to cross paths with him again after she told him, “I know,” (cue tears) which is a sad prospect. It’s even sadder yet, especially considering the first time she’d see him since then, he’d be Vader. Yikes. {Dave Filoni, in the new Rebels Recon, reveals they didn’t just cross paths since, but they’ve worked together! My original thoughts stand, but wow, now I’m dying to learn what mission she helped him on just prior to RotS! UPDATE: Learn more about that in the Ahsoka’s Untold Tales panel from SWCE}

Shroud of DarknessWhile I teared up a bit as Ahsoka confronted the truth, what really got me (and I’m not completely sure why) was Yoda’s simple hand wave and smile to her just as they are fleeing the Temple. To think he just wanted to see her, despite the urgency of the situation, speaks to how proud he must be of her. It also made me realize he believes and trusts in her enough to handle the situation with Vader on her own for him to not appear to her. Watching Ahsoka acknowledge his pride and not be angry he didn’t directly contact her in the Temple about Anakin shows her maturity about such emotional matters; I believe it’s possible my stronger emotional reaction to the hand wave was due to how the moment reminded me of the journey we’ve watched Ahsoka go on as she’s grown from a snippy little Padawan to someone Yoda trusts, which is a pretty damn big deal.

Shroud of DarknessYoda’s parting bit of advice, due to Ezra’s insistence that they’ll fight the Inquisitors and Vader at some point, is that they should seek out Malachor. The look shared between Kanan and Ahsoka when they hear Malachor definitely betrays their apprehension of going there, which makes me wonder what awaits the crew on the planet and if we’re going to be learning about the ‘Great Scourge of Malachor.’ As we patiently await to see how the new canon handles Malachor, let’s look back at the Legend’s take and what it could mean for the road ahead:

Malachor should be intimately familiar to the fans and gamers who played Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, as the game’s finale takes place exclusively on the planet. Its backstory is tied heavily into the player’s character’s own story, The Exile (later Legends-canonized as Meetra Surik), and has an interesting parallel to the Jedi in the Clone Wars, as it’s the place where the Knights who disobeyed the Order to fight back the hoard of advancing Mandalorians learned the true price of war, Jedi or not. Over the course of the game, Meetra and her companions uncover her past and how she was responsible for tons of death and destruction when she activated the Mass Shadow Generator to wipe out the last of the Mandalorians attacking the Republic above Malachor. The Generator’s destruction was without remorse or bias, taking everyone and everything present and the horrors of surviving such an event, and okaying the weapon’s use, caused Meetra to cut herself off from the Force (and lose her memories). War takes its toll on everyone involved, which is why the Jedi Council of old advocated staying out of the war and were smart enough to follow through on it, something the Jedi of the Prequel era should’ve done. But the Prequel Jedi figured they needed to protect the galaxy, uncover the truth of the war, and the Sith’s involvement as those things were all dangled tantalizingly in front of their collective consciousness by Palpatine. The Jedi of the KotOR era didn’t have anything like that, nor was the dark side clouding everything, but it did lead to a Jedi Civil War so one could say at least the Prequel Jedi weren’t fighting each other…well, actually, no they did: Pong Krell, Bariss Offee, to name a few.

Shroud of DarknessIn the KotOR II’s light side ending (which was made Legends-canon for the back story of the still on-going The Old Republic MMO), Malachor was destroyed by the team using the Mass Shadow Generator again as a way to wipe out the evil brewing on its surface. While the events from the game aren’t canon anymore, it seems some other aspects have been/will be adapted for canon: something nearly as bad as what happened in KotOR II happened on Malachor in the canon’s past, considering the planet’s name has been used as an expletive as a replacement for Hell, which could be the aforementioned ‘Scourge of Malachor’ which we might learn about in the finale (it’s said Kylo Ren’s crossguard saber is from a design dating back to the ‘Scourge,’ and we’ve seen Ezra teased holding such a blade); There was a Sith temple on the planet (which was used by Revan and later Kreia, his old Master and Meetra’s in a way, briefly, to convert Jedi to the Sith) and we’ve known since the midseason trailer that the crew would be visiting a Sith Temple, just not where, but now it’s confirmed to be Malachor. Despite some familiar elements for its canon appearance, I’m more excited to learn what new secrets Malachor will hold and what will it mean for Kanan, Ezra, Ahsoka, and Vader’s fates. Because if I’ve learned anything about Malachor from Legends, visiting it always comes with a price and if I was a betting man, Ezra won’t come away from the experience the same. We’ll find out soon enough.

Shroud of Darkness

Here are a few other things:

  • I reviewed KotOR II with the Restored Content Mod included, something which now comes standard with the game through Steam, calling it nearly better than the first because of the more cohesive and finalized feeling one gets from playing with the missing content restored.
  • *The dojo was first seen in Kanan #7, another neat little connection between the show and the comics. That trivia bit, and more, can be found at the official site’s episode guide.
  • Big events regarding Ahsoka have all fallen on March 2nd: her leaving the Order, her being revealed as Fulcrum in Rebels, and now her accepting the truth about her former Master. Here’s hoping there are many March 2nd’s left for her tale to be told!
  • Having an extra layer to the Lothal Temple was a neat surprise, as it makes me wonder just how many layers there could be and if it’s directly related to how powerful one has become within the Force. Ahsoka’s insistence about being unable to open the Temple because she’s unaligned makes for an interesting tidbit about how the Temple works. Why is it that the Inquisitors could open it then? Is it simply because they are aligned with one side and the Temple is built to deal with that, as everything outside turned red and inside it shudders with warnings of impending conflict? With Ahsoka being unaligned, maybe the Temple knows such a choice means that person is on their own path and a Jedi Temple might not have the right answers to their questions. It was an odd new detail, but intriguing nonetheless.
  • I thought up the idea of the Grand Inquisitor being a Jedi Temple Guard a week ago and the more he talked this episode the more I swore I heard Jason Isaacs voice, but I thought maybe I was just hearing what I wanted too; I was still surprised then when it turned out to be him, and while it doesn’t quite explain how he went from Guard to Grand Inquisitor, nor why he was even the apparition Kanan sees in the Temple, it’s a cool bit to include him again while giving us a smidgen of new info about him. {Henry Gilroy, co-excuitve producer, in the latest Rebels Recon says the vision Kanan has is of Yoda’s doing, so he’s the one who put the familiar face in the Guard’s uniform. But Pablo does seem to say ol’ Grandy was a Guard back in the day}
  • The cast section of the credits for the episode is a pretty amazing set of talent. Outside of the great main cast we already have for the show, “Shroud” had Frank Oz, James Earl Jones, Ashley Eckstein, Matt Lanter, Jason Isaacs, Sarah Michelle Geller, and Philip Anthony-Rodriquez. How many shows can ever say they had that caliber of talent guesting in a single episode?

Shroud of Darkness“Shroud of Darkness” brought out some emotional and surprising revelations for Ahsoka, Kanan, and Ezra as they were forced to face their fears in the Lothal Jedi Temple and, quite simply, it was a great episode, through and through.

+ Ahsoka, Kanan, Ezra confronting their fears

+ Yoda’s teachings 

+ Kanan Knighted

+ Malachor tease

 They seriously didn’t chat about some of these things before?

Ryan is Mynock Manor’s Head Butler. You can follow him on Twitter @BrushYourTeeth. You can follow the website @MynockManor.

STAR WARS REBELS REVIEWS:
Season One: Spark of Rebellion | Ep. 2: “Droids In Distress” | Ep.3: “Fighter Flight” | Ep.4: “Rise of the Old Masters” | 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. 18: “The Forgotten Droid” | Ep. 19: “The Mystery of Chopper Base” | Ep. 20: “Twilight of the Apprentice

Season Three: Steps into Shadow | Ep. 2: “Holocrons of Fate” |  Ep. 3: “The Antilles Extraction” | Ep. 4: “Hera’s Heroes” | Ep. 5: “The Last Battle” | Ep. 6: “Imperial Supercommandos” | Ep. 7: “Iron Squadron” | Ep. 8: “The Wynkahthu Job” | Ep. 9: “An Inside Man” | Ep. 10: “Visions and Voices” | Ep. 11: “Ghosts of Geonosis” | Ep. 12: “Warhead” | Ep. 13: “Trials of the Darksaber” | Ep. 14: “Legacy of Mandalore” | Ep. 15: “Through Imperial Eyes” | Ep. 16: “Secret Cargo” | Ep. 17: “Double Agent Droid” | Ep. 18: “Twin Suns” | Ep. 19: “Zero Hour

Season Four: Heroes of Mandalore Part 1

RELATED REVIEWS:
Kanan (Comic)
The Last Padawan (#1-6) | First Blood (#7-12)

A New Dawn (Novel)

Ahsoka (YA Novel)