Star Wars Rebels- Season 1 Episode 17
“Shroud of Darkness”
Star Wars Rebels brings the Inquisitors back into the fold as Ezra, Ahsoka and Kanan visit the Jedi Temple on Lothal to seek guidance.
This episode has a really exciting opening showing how well Kanan and Ezra work together as they take on the Inquisitors. Ezra’s abilities are shown to have grown a lot and he has a lot more confidence with his lightsaber. Kanan and Ezra are functioning really well as a team with their technique and use of Force powers being completely in sync. Ezra’s affinity for animals comes into play as well so the whole sequence is very exciting.
The dialogue during and after this comes across as really clunky as Kanan talks about running into the Inquisitors everywhere they go. There must be a lot of encounters we’re not seeing as they have hardly been featured at all and when they are I wouldn’t consider them to be that big a threat. The last time they were seen was 6 episodes ago in “Legacy” and it was such a brief appearance that it almost didn’t matter.
Having exposition catch the viewer up on the situation is a clear indication of how Star Wars Rebels has been unfocussed this season. It would have been really easy to establish the Inquisitors as a recurring threat without having them overpower the overall narrative. Season 1 used the Inquisitor character really well without overusing him and diminishing his threat level as a result. At this point it’s not possible to diminish Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister’s as a threat since they were never properly built as one in the first place.
Outside of that the episode completely nails what it is trying to do. I mentioned back in my review of “Legends of the Lasat” that the spiritual side of the Force interests me as I like the idea of it being an intangible living thing that is constantly mysterious.
Kanan, Ezra and Ahsoka all have very different visions that point them in a specific direction. In many ways it can be seen as Ezra’s vision being the beginner level, Kanan is an intermediate and Ahsoka is an expert. It speaks to what level they are all at in their connection to the force. Since Kanan had his training cut short he hasn’t been in a position to learn anything new so hasn’t really progressed as a Jedi.
His vision has him facing against a Temple Guard in a Matrix inspired Dojo setting. The Temple Guard warns Kanan that Ezra will turn to the Dark Side. This has always been a possibility and it’s a concern that preys on Kanan’s mind as he is worried that he is inadequate as a mentor and will cause his apprentice to become evil through his own failings. The Temple Guard represents all of his fear and doubt and forces him to confront that in a tangible way.
When fighting the Temple Guard Kanan is unable to defeat him and when more of them appear it suggests that his fear and doubt threatens to consume him unless he deals with it. There is a resolution to this internal conflict when Kanan admits that he can’t protect Ezra forever but can only train him to the best of his ability. This revelation allows him to give into what the Temple Guard has in store for him. He is then Knighted by the Temple Guard who reveals himself as the Grand Inquisitor from season 1. Since he is only a vision that represents a specific conflict for Kanan it completely makes sense for this to happen. It’s interesting that the Grand Inquisitor was once a Jedi and the fact that they were once bitter enemies adds greater legitimacy to this whole struggle.
There is some confusion associated with this. I’m completely fine with Jedi resolving personal issues through appropriate visions but I’m not sure if being Knighted actually means anything. Is this how the status of Jedi Knight is bestowed on people or is there some other way that happens? Does this signify the end of Kanan’s training or is that part of his life still incomplete?
Ezra’s vision has him talk to Yoda. Whether this is the real Yoda projecting himself form Dagobah or the Force taking the form of Yoda to help Ezra explore his own doubts is anyone’s guess but the impact isn’t diminished by this ambiguity. It could be that a vision of Yoda is conjured as a result of Ezra hearing about him from Ahsoka and associating him with the solution to his dilemma.
Ahsoka’s perspective on Yoda is a really interesting one as it gives us insight that the prequels didn’t. The mention of him being a mysterious figure that nobody understood who appeared to be happier before the Clone Wars was fascinating as none of the films have painted him in this way. I also like the idea of him knowing the profound change was coming due to his connection to the Force. It helps build Yoda as a legendary powerful figure with added significance since many of the viewers will know him from his various appearances in both the films and The Clone Wars.
Ezra’s conversation with Yoda works really well as it shows a misunderstanding of what it means to be a Jedi on Ezra’s part. He is eager to fight to protect his enemies even though combat isn’t the Jedi way. Ezra sees it as being the right thing to do since he believes his intentions to be noble but Yoda points out that this attitude was what ultimately caused the Jedi’s downfall. Arrogance led them to joining in the Clone Wars and the result of that was the destruction of the Jedi order.
Yoda doesn’t tell Ezra what to do or how to think as he prefers to give him the tools to change his own thinking. Telling him what to do won’t fix anything but helping him realise a better way will be more valuable. This shows that Ezra isn’t sure that fighting is what he believes in but has done that because it’s all he knows. Before now he hadn’t considered there was a better way so he has plenty to think about and a specific destination to help him take the next step.
Ahsoka’s issues surround her relationship with her former master, Anakin Skywalker. Ezra sees her watching an old training hologram of him demonstrating her skills and she tells him about the last time she saw him. As far as she knows Anakin was killed with the rest of the Jedi and she feels guilty about not being there to help. This comes through in her vision where Anakin appears to her and tells her that she failed him. Ahsoka can’t even look at him when he says this which shows how strong her feelings are. The vision of Anakin tells her that she is responsible for him becoming Darth Vader and her reaction is very well played in both animation and Ashley Eckstein’s performance. Ahsoka chose to leave the Jedi Order back in The Clone Wars and it’s a choice that she stands by but also feels guilty about. Her reluctance to open the Jedi temple earlier in the episode because she no longer considers herself a Jedi is a great way to show that. She quickly convinces herself that there is another way and she is right but it won’t be her that finds it.
The Inquisitor’s showing up to the temple is supposed to add a complication but it comes across as nothing more than a nuisance. It does cut the visions short but not to the point that there are a lot of unanswered questions. The main point is to make Darth Vader aware that Ahsoka, Ezra and Kanan are doing some soul searching which will apparently be their undoing. The reason for this is unclear at this point but Darth Vader seems pretty confident.
I found the Temple Guards helping Ezra, Kanan and Ahsoka escape to be confusing but not in a negative way. I can accept that visions are able to seem real enough to slow people down but the lack of effect on the Inquisitors was odd especially since they saw the Grand Inquisitor working against them which surely has to confuse them in some way. Maybe this will play out in the coming episodes.
An excellent episode that effectively explores the doubts and fears of the three Jedi characters. The setup was a little clumsy as things were mentioned that haven’t been shown before this point but it largely didn’t matter as the character driven soul searching worked so well. I love the mystical aspect of the Force and this episode explores that wonderfully.
- the exploration of fear and doubt through the Force visions
- each character having a clear outcome from their vision
- an exciting opening action sequence
- some clumsy exposition in an attempt to make up for the show lacking focus in earlier episodes