The climactic episode that had been teased since last year finally arrived and what a full episode. So many lightsabers! Secrets of the dark side! Character deaths! Seriously this was such a large and emotional showcase of all things Star Wars.
Spoilers be warned, this is a review.
I’ll get the elephant in the room out of the way first by addressing THAT FIGHT. With the addition of Ashoka to the cast fans have been waiting for the clash between her and her former master. Now of course they saved it for the finale of season 2 as well as the end of the episode itself. And it was worth the wait to finally see the emotional reunion between Vader and Ashoka, Skyguy and Snips, Master and Apprentice. Their fight was intense, which was to be expected, and to see her take off a piece of his mask to reveal part of Anakin’s bitter and aged face. The balance in the audio of both James Earl Jones’ Vader and Matt Lanter’s Anakin was beautifully tragically as it reminded both the audience and Ashoka herself who indeed was behind that mask and the Jedi that Vader use to be. Of course their duel had to end but the surprise came when it appeared that Ashoka was walking away after the temple was destroyed. Could she have survived or was this a force ghost? Ambiguous, yes but it wasn’t her’s or Vader’s story to tell.
At the end of the day Rebels is about the Ghost crew and specifically Ezra’s journey as he grows with the force, and that was the real focal point of this episode. Twilight of the Apprentice brought Ezra to a typical, yet amazing impasse as his ties to the dark side begin to grow. This entire season had played with the notion that Ezra’s past and his emotions can influence his actions and this episode brought Ezra even closer to losing himself. It began when he heard the dark side call to him as they arrived on Malachor [the pillar touch]. His turn became much more realized upon meeting a character from the past. After being separated from the group by a new Inquisitor, Ezra found himself greeted by an aged Maul who introduced himself under the guise of Old Master.
Sam Witwer reprized the long lost former Sith and did an amazing job playing a tired Yoda like figure for much of the episode. Maul’s manipulation of Ezra’s weaknesses and exploiting Ezra’s tragic past to convince him to “grow using his gifts” was a unique spin on the character of Maul that showed a far more sinister side to the character. The intelligence behind his words was brilliant as he avoided to say outright that he was a Sith and that he was leading Ezra down the path of the dark side. Maul even opened up about himself and what the Sith had done to him, which was a great nod to his time spent on the Clone Wars series. Maul’s teachings pushed Ezra up to the point of killing the Seventh Sister.
The two built up a sense of trust as Kanan and Ashoka dealt with the new Inquisitor. Although in a classic Star Wars style scene, it was Chopper who would stop the evil force weilder. Of course the Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister showed up to rescue their companion [not really but they did] but by this time Maul joined in and revealed himself to not be quite so withered. Removing his lightsaber hilt from the makeshift cane, Maul revealed his classic double blade weapon and took the three Inquisitors to task. As it turned out, they were hunting Maul this time and were seeking to end his life. After tonight’s episode, it was no surprise that Maul still posed a threat to the Emperor and his Empire.
“The enemy of my enemy” as Maul said only lasted so long. After Maul sent Ezra to activate the temple and after Maul killed the Inquisitors, he was quick to turn on Ashoka and Kanan proclaiming that the temple was his warship to use against the empire and that HIS apprentice has just activated it. I knew he was using Ezra but to try and twist him into his apprentice certainly surprised me! That’s when we get a great moment in Kanan’s career as he does a fallen Jedi Guard’s mask after being blinded by Maul and pulls off some awesome Matt Murdock-esque skills, throwing Maul into the abyss of the temple. Maul survives of course, most likely to continue to attempt to pull Ezra away from the Jedi next season. Kanan’s eye blinding carried on to the end of the episode with him some time after the fight, still wearing bandages over his eyes. This looks to bring about another interesting hurdle for Kanan to get over moving into Season 3.
A very satisfying conclusion came to this season which left a lot open for season 3 to address. Ezra’s arc of growth has only begun as the episode concluded with the loss of a friend, his master blinded, his utter defeat [Vader even destroyed his lightsaber], and betrayed by his intuition, Ezra opens up the Sith holocron which only a user of the dark side can open. Another tremendous episode for the ever improving series.
Do you think Ashoka is alive or deceased?