On the D/L – Star Wars Rebels
Season 1 Episode 4 – “Rise of the Old Masters”
Now this is the sort of episode of Star Wars Rebels I was angling to see. Kanan begins to train Ezra in the ways of the force and has some trouble articulating what he wants to say while Ezra has trouble understanding. The crew of The Ghost discover a transmission revealing that Jedi Master Luminara Unduli is alive and in an Imperial prison. Kanan sees this as an opportunity to find someone better equipped to train Ezra as well as offset the loneliness he feels at being the last of the Jedi so the team embark on a rescue mission.
The past couple of episodes have mainly been focusing on a couple of characters with the others firmly entrenched in the background but this episode does a much better job of showcasing the ensemble nature of the show and highlighting what each member of the team brings to the table.
Ezra still remains much of the focus but he is still the avatar for the audience which is fine since the character is clearly much more than that. He has a defined personality and undergoes continual character growth throughout the episodes. It helps that he’s such a likeable character and has unique characteristics that come out in various different ways depending on who he’s interacting with.
His story in this episode involves the beginning of his Jedi training -finally- under Kanan. The training scene reminds me slightly of Obi Wan’s initial demonstration of the force in A New Hope in how rudimentary it is in terms of setup. Ezra is being trained on the roof of The Ghost as rubbish is thrown at him so it is very much a case of using what happens to be around to MacGyver up a training session.
The most interesting part of the episode for me was how unprepared Kanan is to take an apprentice. He uses the techniques that were taught to him but he doesn’t understand them. The episode gives an interesting new take on Yoda’s famous line “do or do not, there is no try”, something that Kanan had just accepted when it was told to him but when Ezra forces him to think about what it actually means he comes up short. It’s a great way of turning the master/apprentice dynamic on its head because we haven’t really seen an apprentice challenge their master in quite this way before, not even with Ahsoka in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Ezra is similar to Luke in the respect that he’s coming into this a lot older and already has his own personality quirks that make training more complicated for all concerned.
I also liked how Kanan’s assumptions about how easy this would be are shattered. He is all too quick to dismiss his abilities as a mentor when the possibility of a new teacher becomes known. His character arc for the episode involves realising that there is no easy way out and he has to face up to the responsibility he’s given himself. The episode puts it best when Kanan finally understands the meaning of Yoda’s phrase by the end. I always like to see a mentor figure learn the value of their own lesson, it’s great to see Kanan’s mind opened in a way that was previously unavailable to him. It’s clear that Ezra will challenge him as much he will challenge Ezra and that will make for a great dynamic. There are also some great moments that show the bond he has developed with Ezra and how much he is willing to risk to keep him safe. If this relationship continues on like this then this show is onto a winner.
After the tease in the pilot, we are finally given our first proper look at the mysterious Inquisitor. It turns out that Luminara is long dead and the transmission was a trap to lure any surviving Jedi to their destruction. From the first second he appears The Inquisitor is a formidable and menacing presence who wastes no time in attacking Kanan. The lightsaber battle is really intense and exciting and it’s clear that Kanan’s skills are no match for him. It almost seems like The Inquisitor is toying with him which proves to be a mistake since Kanan escapes. It is a narrow escape made possible by teamwork but The Inquisitor is going to have to bear this in mind or risk becoming a pantomime villain who can easily be thwarted week by week. It’s a good decision to use him sparingly as well as it increases the threat level if he’s a genuine threat when he rarely turns up as opposed to an easily defeated antagonist that we see every week.
The action in general was great and made good use of what is otherwise a drab Imperial setting. Sabine’s use of the flying animals bring something different to these scenes while feeling uniquely Star Wars. I also enjoyed the more varied use of force powers to achieve objectives, it’s always good to see the mind trick used on hapless storm troopers. The aforementioned lightsaber battle is a particular highlight.
Hera is still firmly taking a back seat in the episodes, having little to do here but stay on the ship but it’s clear that all of the characters will get their chance to have something to do. This episode belonged to Kanan and Ezra with emphasis on Kanan’s insecurities and that idea was explored very well.
The best episode of the series to date with some great Jedi training moments. Kanan and Ezra’s master/apprentice dynamic is unique with an emphasis on the challenges they bring to one another as well as a profound focus on Kanan’s insecurities around taking an apprentice. There was a clever arc where Kanan learns the value of one of his own lessons and becomes a better mentor as a result
Each of the characters have a job to do in this episode which unfortunately results in Hera being underused here but the rest of the characters get to showcase their unique skills and characteristics that help inform the action. The Inquistor is so far a great villain being appropriately skilled and menacing. He definitely seems like a formidable presence and will hopefully continue to be a credible threat throughout the series.