Note: This review covers both new episodes from this week, Episode 12 – “Wolves and a Door” and Episode 13 – “A World Between Worlds”.
Star Wars Rebels returns this week with another set of double episodes, and things get very weird very quickly. With the team still reeling from the effects of last week’s episodes, they jump headfirst into their next mission: heading to Lothal’s Jedi Temple looking for answers relating to the cryptic Loth-wolf Dume’s message.
*Episode Spoilers Ahead*
As the team decides to head to the Jedi Temple, Ezra has the idea to use the Loth-wolves as transportation. What results is a really cool Loth-wolf traveling sequence that is not only beautiful to look at, but also full of emotion as we see and hear moments from the Rebels’ past. Upon reaching the temple’s location, it is discovered to be under heavy Imperial occupation, under the leadership of the very strange Minister Hydan (voiced by the awesome Malcolm McDowell), who is some kind of Imperial authority on history and the Force. Hydan is employed by Emperor Palpatine (excellently voiced by Ian McDiarmid) to open Lothal’s Jedi Temple and discover a massive secret inside. Hera, Zeb, and Chopper decide to keep watch while Ezra and Sabine steal Scout Trooper armor in order to sneak in. The tablet Dume gave Ezra has some kind of answer for how to open the temple, and as Ezra and Sabine are trying to figure it out, Sabine is captured and taken to Hydan.
Right about here is where things start to get super trippy and weird. The door is some kind of puzzle that can only be unlocked through the Force, and the puzzle is made of a giant mural of the inhabitants of Mortis from the much-loved Mortis arc of The Clone Wars: the Son, the Daughter, and the Father. Once open, Ezra walks into a strange world that can only be described as infinite black with passageways and portals. Then, there are the voices. We hear various voices from different parts of Star Wars history. Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Kanan Jarrus, Anakin Skywalker, and Ahsoka Tano all make audio cameos here. Suddenly, we start hearing voices from things that haven’t even happened yet at the time of Rebels. Old Obi-Wan, Princess Leia, and, yes, we hear both Rey AND Kylo Ren. Two characters who won’t even exist within the Star Wars universe for decades (we also hear Maz Kanata speak, using dialog from her conversation with Rey in The Force Awakens, and I’m fairly certain I also heard Jyn Erso and Poe Dameron). Back outside of the temple, Hydan reveals the temple is a gateway to all of time and space, and whoever controls it controls the universe, which is why Palpatine wants it, of course.
Back inside, Ezra comes across a portal showing the lightsaber battle on Malachor between Darth Vader and Ahsoka Tano. This was really cool because we got to see a bit more of the fight than we did in the actual episode it is from, but things got super weird again, and as Vader was about to deliver a presumably lethal blow, Ezra instinctively reached inside the portal and pulled Ahsoka out, saving her from certain demise.
That’s right; time travel now exists in the new Star Wars canon. Granted, time travel isn’t a completely new thing for Star Wars, but it was used in rare occasions in the old Expanded Universe. It just now exists in the new canon and was used in Star Wars Rebels, a major medium for the franchise.
After filling Ahsoka in a bit on what she missed, Ezra figures out he could theoretically use the same method he did with Ahsoka to save Kanan’s life. After thinking on it and receiving advice from Ahsoka, Ezra decides it is sometimes best to allow the Force to do its will without changing it; some things simply can’t be changed. If Ezra saves Kanan here, Kanan won’t be able to use the Force to keep the explosion from destroying and killing the team, and Ezra himself. This was a really great exchange of dialogue, and shows a lot of character development from Ezra. He has come a long way from being the headstrong, emotion-and-instinct-driven child we knew at the beginning of the series. This situation leads Ezra to a lesson from Kanan which the audience may not fully grasp until the series ends next week.
Also inside the temple, Palpatine isn’t going to take this lightly. As Ahsoka and Ezra walk past another portal, the Emperor appears inside of it and threatens them before sending snaking blue flames after them, which triggers a chase sequence. The “world between worlds” is visually striking and every sequence that takes place in it is equally visually satisfying, and Ian McDiarmid’s return to the role of Palpatine is nothing short of great. My issue here lies with the way the Emperor is portrayed from a character standpoint. Yes, this totally seems like something Palpatine would want to get his hands on, but the whole time he seems like a comic book or cartoon villain, and while this is a cartoon, he seems a bit over the top for my liking. Plus, the whole “bad guy wants to control the universe” trope is kind of “meh” for this storyline.
Before finally escaping, Ahsoka and Ezra decide to split up to increase their chances of survival, and Ahsoka goes back to her own time, but not before she agrees to find Ezra once she returns. This seems to set up Ahsoka’s full return in the final three episodes next week, and I’m super excited for that. Once Ezra escapes and seals the Jedi Temple back up, the whole temple sinks into the ground, now inaccessible to anyone… at least for now.
Time travel is an incredibly tricky thing to pull off well, and as much as it pains me to say, I’m not sold on this. It seems forced and lazy, like Dave Filoni and the team couldn’t come up with a better way to bring Ahsoka back. Perhaps I’m wrong and I’m missing something that will be cleared up with the final episodes, but for now, I’m personally not a fan of this decision. I love Ahsoka, and I’m happy she’s back; I just wish she was brought back in a different way. I’m not a fan of cop-outs, and that’s exactly what this feels like. This isn’t a Jedi Mind Trick or Force-projecting across the galaxy; this is literally ultimate power that, if in the wrong hands, can be used to change ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. There are too many “what if” questions regarding time travel, and with Ahsoka now alive after fighting Vader, how will this change the course of what has already happened in her absence? I’m sure we will find out soon; I just hope the answers are well thought out and entertaining.
There are plenty of cool things to unpack in these two episodes, with nostalgia flying EVERYWHERE thanks to the nod to the Mortis arc, Ian McDiarmid voicing Palpatine, voices from Star Wars’ past (and future), and, of course, the return of Ahsoka Tano. Rebels has only three more episodes to go, and they are all being aired as a 90-minute event set for next week, March 5, so we don’t have much longer at all to see how everything comes to a close. Hopefully, we can get some clarity on things that unfolded this week.
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