Twilight of the Apprentice Or: Inquisitors, Maul, & Vader, oh my!

Well, well, well…let me start by saying I’ll readily admit that I’m one of “those people” who have regarded several of the episodes in Star Wars Rebels this season as “filler.” Not that I thought they were bad, mind you, just not necessarily in keeping with the overall arch of the story, and sometimes seemingly out of place in the timeline (i.e. the inquisitors are hot on their tail, yet disappear for multiple episodes at a time)…but, anyway, the bookends to season two way more than makeup for any misgivings I might have about other episodes, and I think “Twilight of the Apprentice” has actually usurped “Siege of Lothal’s” position as my favorite Rebels episode so far (though that might just be because it’s so new and sooooo much happens, time will tell)…so, enough preamble, let’s jump head first into this amazing episode, and, uh, obviously, spoilers ahead…

May the Force be with you
A simple phrase, but one that often carries enormous weight, and seldom does it mean more than when the speaker has only abstract knowledge of the Force…so when Rex utters it to Ahsoka the significance shouldn’t go unnoticed, but it also sets the tone for the episode:  somber, worrisome, and definitely full of the Force. In typical Star Wars droid fashion, Chopper provids some comic relief, but the overall feel of the episode remains dark and ominous, which, as a dark and ominous person, might be why I find myself so heavily drawn to this episode. And, speaking of dark, the way lighting was used in the episode really adds a perfect accompaniment to the mood, as does the music, making for a fully immersive experience. Even before anything really happens, you’re already prepared for less than ideal results from this fateful trip to Malachor.

Always a lot there are
Hey, a new inquisitor! Okay, wait, let me back up a minute and mention the cool shout out to The Force Awakens with the cross-saber, and the interesting idea that temple guards seem to be clad in ancient Jedi battle armor…alright, good enough, NEW INQUISITOR! And, what’s this, they can use their lightsabers as little helicopters? That’s simultaneously cool and groan-worthy, so I’m just going to let it be cool (I wonder how long until there’s an Air Hogs version of a flying inquisitor…hmm). Oh how I wish this new inquisitor would have just answered Kanan’s question about how many of them there are…I want so badly to know more about them, but every lead is a dead end. Alas, someday I’ll know…now I wonder if there will be new inquisitors for season three, perhaps four this time to really put the squeeze on our rebel friends.

The Shadow

I love how Ezra’s introduced to Maul in a very Luke-meets-Yoda-on-Dagobah kind of way. Two very different old masters using very similar methods of testing their potential students. Maul is incredible in this episode; he manages to make himself pitiful and so easily gains Ezra’s sympathy and trust that I think even Palpatine would have to admire his efforts (I give a lot of credit for this to the writers and definitely to Sam Witwer for his performance). I really enjoyed Maul’s practical use of the Code of the Sith, working it in conversationally as he continued to further tempt Ezra into allowing the darkness to give him to power to overcome his obstacles. And I like the symbolism of moving the stones in pairs and having to block the path behind you as you travel deeper into the temple; as Master Yoda said, “once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny” – once Ezra moves forward with Maul, he can’t go back.

The gang’s all here
What fun indeed, Maul. I loved seeing the true master of the double-bladed lightsaber battling with the inquisitors. And I love how Maul has Ezra basically eating out of his hand at this point, and uses him to convince Kanan and Ahsoka to unwittingly carry out his plan. Also, it’s easy to imagine Kanan as Obi-wan and Ezra as Anakin when they’re riding the platform up the temple arguing over how Maul sees Ezra’s full potential but Kanan doesn’t. There’s definite foreshadowing of what Ezra could ultimately become going on here…and how timely was Maul coming to the rescue when Ezra was about to lose a hand to the new inquisitor’s saber circular saw? Maul is rapidly replacing Kanan and there’s nothing Kanan can do but watch it happen.

Twilight of the Inquisitors
I was on the edge of my seat with my fists clenched when Maul had the Seventh Sister held up, waiting for Ezra to deal the finishing blow, all but screaming “DO IT!!” at the TV, but, not unexpectedly, he didn’t, much to Maul’s (and my) disappointment. I definitely approve of Maul’s method of dispatching her, though. I’ve always been a fan of the thrown lightsaber. It was a nice touch how, afterward, Maul started out sounding angry at Ezra for not following through, but then turned it to a warning about how hesitation could mean the demise of those he cares about, which, as we know, is a surefire way to turn someone to the dark side. It’s clever how Maul sends Ezra off alone so the former can come in like a caged animal to help Kanan and Ahsoka deal with the remaining inquisitors and then turn on them without Ezra knowing what happens. It’s interesting too that the new inquisitor tries to flee instead of allowing himself to be destroyed like the Grand Inquisitor did…unless, of course, he knew what would happen and was committing his own version of suicide (it didn’t seem like it though).

The Blind Monk
This I don’t think I would have predicted in a million years, so it was very refreshing and interesting, though upsetting because I liked Kanan’s character as the sort of wise-cracking, brash, anti-Jedi and it seems now he’s more like the blind master in Kung Fu (though that’s a great show, and if he calls Ezra “grasshopper” I will go nuts).

I like how it was handled in the episode as well, there’s a moment when we see Kanan’s perspective and the screen is just red, what I would assume is Kanan “seeing red,” or becoming anger incarnate at what’s happened to him, but, instead, he centers himself and uses the Force to compensate for his lost vision. It was a really moving scene, and incredibly well done. Him donning the ancient mask was a nice touch too; as others have commented, it’s was reminiscent of Luke putting down the blast shield in A New Hope. Also, the subtle weaving of “Duel of Fates” into the music when Maul fights is goosebump-worthy.

Enter the Dark Knight
Imagine what would have happened if Vader had managed to command that ancient Sith weapon…what would he have done? Destroyed the Emperor, Obi-wan, all remaining Jedi? That would be a compelling “what if?” comic or hypothetical, but, as with so many things, I guess we’ll never know. I appreciate how Ezra was barely able to put up a fight with Vader once he starts actually trying, and I was definitely not upset to see his pew pew saber get destroyed. I never much cared for that thing, though it was an accurate representation of the kind of weapon I imagine Ezra would make. I don’t think they will, but it’d be interesting if they gave Ezra a cross-saber for season three…

A master and an apprentice
And so began the fabled battle between Darth Vader and Ahsoka…I love the second shout out to The Force Awakens here where Vader says he destroyed Anakin because he was weak, just like Kylo says of Ben Solo. It makes me wonder if Ben didn’t hear about Vader saying that at some point and used that as his impetus for transformation…anyway, I like that Ahsoka only managed to get a solid hit in on Vader when he was preoccupied with trying to retrieve the holocron from Ezra and Kanan. And what ensued, well, that was undoubtedly the most powerful moment of the entire series, let alone the episode. That they managed to find a way to literally get Anakin and Ahsoka face to face again and not make it cheesy is some impressive work by all involved.

A twilight for each apprentice
Everyone who is or ever was an apprentice is changed by the events of this episode. Kanan, the ex-padawn, is now blind (permanently?) and is left to deal with that; Ezra, the current apprentice is still wading through the darkness he succumbed to via Maul’s influence, and in dealing with the loss of Ahsoka; Maul, the has-been Sith Apprentice, is once again foiled and on the run; Vader was exposed and has to battle the demons of who he was; and Ahsoka? Well, Ahsoka is Schrödinger’s cat. I think we see her double over and die at the entrance that Vader had recently left the temple through, but that’s my wanting Vader to have killed her theory. Undoubtedly many will be hoping beyond hope that she’s somehow still alive (weirdos)…but, until the box is opened, she’s both dead and alive…and what’s with the owl-creature?

It’s no mere coincidence they’re shown on both planets…they may be some kind of Sith familiar, leftover from when the Sith Empire occupied those planets…meaning that the Phoenix Squadron base is built on a former Sith planet, which could be quite interesting for Ezra moving forward, seeing as how he was able to open the Sith holocron at the end of the episode…my other (extremely wild) theory is that Snoke is actually a vampire-esque creature that can turn into those owl-things instead of turning into a bat, and he’s just watching all the Force-related events unfold…oh that’s right, I went there, and I’m not taking it back!

And that is that, ladies and gentlemen…I’ve watched it three times now, and I could easily sit down and watch it again right now, it was really that good (full disclosure, that’s exactly what I plan to do). And as an added bonus, The Force Awakens comes out on digital tomorrow, so my television will continue to provide amazing Star Wars material right through the weekend. I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but it is an incredible time to be a Star Wars fan for almost innumerable reasons, and it doesn’t show any signs of stopping any time soon. So, go watch “Twilight of the Apprentice” again, and enjoy TFA and all the bonus features this weekend, and, of course, it goes without saying but I say it at the end every time anyway, while you’re doing it, may the Force be with you…

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