“Twilight of the Apprentice” is a longer episode of Star Wars Rebels, but this is going to be a slightly shorter recap. Why? There’s soooo much to talk about. So this is going to be a quick mix of episode recap and my thoughts, and then I’ll dig in to the meat of this amazing season ender in another piece. If you want to talk about it, let’s tweet, and be sure to check out Sabina’s great highlights piece on this spectacular finale.
Now, without further ado:
Confrontations that had been foretold occur, an old master returns, and there’s definitely a twilight of an apprentice…but the Star Wars Rebels team pulls a switcheroo on us all.
The episode gets right down to business. Rex wishes Asohka good luck with a classic “May the Force be with you,” our Jedi-ish trio voices their concerns about going to Malachor, and then we’re there. And there is desolate at first sight. It’s cold-looking, barren, a surface that’s reflective like the floor of a cathedral, but unlike a cathedral, it’s open to the sky, endless and intimidating because there are no limits to it. Without limits, our heroes have no context, and that’s what Asohka, Ezra, and Kanan need. They’re looking to put the Empire and the Dark Side in context. They’re looking to understand their enemy, and thereby defeat them. Malachor’s surface, however, gives them nothing to go on at first except a ring of severe pillars and the hint that they may not be the planet’s only visitors.
In fact, it isn’t until they fall through the planet’s brittle surface that they realize how much is actually there to see, and how surrounded they really are.
There are two main sights: A Sith temple and the remains of the many Jedi who once fought to destroy it. And there four other visitors: The Fifth Brother, the Seventh Sister, a new Inquisitor, nameless, and the Old Master—Darth Maul himself.
Except he’s not a Darth anymore, as he explains to Ezra when they’re forced together. He is only Maul now, and he’s after the same knowledge as Ezra and his friends. He has been abused by the Dark Side, taken from his family, used for evil ends, and cast aside. He portrays himself as old and with a broken spirit, and as he guides Ezra through a secret entrance to the Sith temple, he slowly appeals to the young Padawan who has suffered the same brokenness as Maul. Ezra was also taken from his family. He feels personally wronged, and wants justice. Ezra is vulnerable, and makes it easy for Maul to plant seductive ideas into his head as Maul begins an attempt to take Ezra as his apprentice. These ideas brew throughout the episode, driving a momentary wedge between Kanan and Ezra that builds on their tension from “The Secret of Chopper Base,” defining it as an issue of trust between the two. Maul’s re-entry into the series could have been a cheap play for fans’ emotions, but it is yet another example of how the series’ creative team (including Sam Witwer with a voice performance surpassing all his past representations of the character in The Clone Wars) uses old elements for new ends that make the entire Star Wars saga sing.
Maul’s storyline is so elegantly crafted that they could have spent the entire forty-three minutes just launching his storyline (and he’s definitely a new storyline at this point, one with an excitingly uncertain future), but he’s not even the best thing about the episode. The Inquisitors have always felt like slightly weak or undercooked villains to me, but “Twilight of the Apprentice” overshadows the characters’ shortcomings by making them look and move so cool. It harkens back to the Sith lore introduced in the prequels, and hints at mythology even farther back (maybe around the time of the Old Republic?).
Then there’s Asohka and Vader, together again, and Vader’s thrilling line: “It was foretold you would be here.”
And it was. Another old master met another apprentice in a dark place on a strange world, and we all knew it was going to happen. It was practically telegraphed at the end of the season premiere that Vader and Asohka would come face to face. Speaking for myself, I also had preconceived notions of how their confrontation was going to end (as in, RIP, girlfriend). However, when Asohka and Vader fought, there was emotion, danger, and peril, all filtered through fight choreography that stands with the best lightsaber fights of the entire film series (that goes for all the lightsaber duels this episode, especially one in which Ezra looks on as Asohka and Kanan fight all three Inquisitors at once in a wide shot like a frieze on a science fantasy Parthenon).
More importantly, the outcome of Asohka’s storyline defied my expectations completely and, with one brief shot, rocketed the narrative potential of Star Wars Rebels to new heights. She survives, but where is she going? Knowing what she knows now, knowing for sure that Anakin and Vader are the same, how can she interact with the other Rebels moving forward? If she’s walking away from the battle, but not reuniting with the crew of the Ghost, I have a feeling we might look on as she realizes that a certain other Jedi is her only hope for the future of the rebellion, and seeks Obi-Wan out. Without knowing anything other than that Asohka survived, however, we’ll have to suffer like our heroes, and wait a little longer to fully understand.
Finally, without Asohka dying, that means the only other apprentice that could have a twilight is Ezra. The last shot of the season shows Ezra opening the Sith holocron, when no Jedi should be able to. Ezra’s eyes glow red with the holocron’s light, and then the episode’s ending title card pops up, leaving us to wonder. What if the dark seeds planted by Maul in Ezra’s head didn’t die? Maul may not be around to claim Ezra as his own apprentice, but now Ezra may not truly be Kanan’s student either. Star Wars’ best moral gray areas have always developed in its television series, and now Ezra is poised to join Maul, Savage, Asaaj Ventress, and Asohka in the pantheon of transfixing Force wielders without a master.
Unlike Asohka, this episode left me dying…for season three.
- “I am no Jedi.” Asohka goes all Eowyn from Lord of the Rings. I might just start calling her AsEowyn.
- Lightsaber copters. Heli-blades. Need appropriate nickname. Where’s Cisko from The Flash?
- Asaaj Ventress voice! My absolute favorite Star Wars character makes a comeback as the voice of the Sith holocron. I hope we hear more of her in the future.
- The callback to the blindfold lightsaber exercise. This total reliance on the Force, more than anything else, marks Kanan’s transition to Jedi Master for me.
Have other thoughts? Seriously: Hit me up on Twitter!