After 20 something episodes and several months of waiting, the big payoff has come and gone. Even as I sit here minutes after watching this heart-pounding Twilight of the Apprentice finale, I find myself wondering what the hell we just saw? In scanning twitter in the first moments after the show ended, it was as if millions of voices cried out in one relieved, confounded, surprised and elated voice.
I still haven’t fully processed what we saw, so huge was this episode. First off, a giant kudos to everyone involved in putting this show together. It lived up to all the hype and anticipation. Sure, it left us with some questions that we may never get the answers to, but I think it’s safe to say that this episode is not just among the finest episodes of Rebels yet, but stand among the great Star Wars moments of film as well.
So what exactly did we see? We saw our 3 heroes following Yoda’s suggestion (a silly one, in my opinion) to visit Malachor in search of knowledge that will help them topple the Sith, and by extension, the Empire. I felt all along that Yoda was jumping the gun with this suggestion, as none of the 3 force wielders are strong enough or experienced enough to deal with what they’d find. I get having to rise to a challenge, but you wouldn’t ask a hot air balloon pilot to fly your space shuttle, even if there were no other candidates. The finale wasted no time in getting down and dirty, as once we moved past Ahsoka and Rex’ initial conversation, we’re introduced to yet another Inquisitor, and Ezra is split apart from Kanan and Ahsoka.
Enter “Old Master”. While his identity wasn’t much of a secret any longer, it did nothing to dampen our excitement of seeing the underserved Darth Maul once again. Ezra’s scenes with Maul were painful, in that Maul threw the kitchen sink at Ezra in a subtle attempt to get him to “break his chains”, a.k.a., turn to the dark side. We’re never quite sure whether Maul is simply using Ezra to get to the Sith holocron, or if he’s looking for an apprentice (turns out it was both), but to see the evolution of Maul’s character from The Phantom Menace, to The Clone Wars, and now on to Rebels has been nothing short of fascinating. He started as nothing more than Sidious’ personal weapon, and is now as scheming, conniving, and dangerous as any Sith Lord we’ve ever seen. Despite his advancing age, he’s still a total badass with the lightsaber. Clearly the walking stick was just for show as he clearly isn’t nearly as weak and helpless as he let on to Ezra. Once they secured the holocron, Maul had the opportunity to let Ezra fall to his death, but instead he hauled Ezra up back to the platform. You’d have been mistaken to think, even for a moment that maybe this was a possible turning point for Maul as a character. No sir, just all part of the evolution of a disenchanted Sith.
While Kanan and Ahsoka track down the newest lame-duck Inquistor, the Eight Brother, the Seventh Sister shows up to thwart Maul and Ezra’s ascent to the Sith temple. Bad move. Unable to handle Ezra, the Seventh Sister then has to deal with Maul, who intervenes and presents Ezra an opportunity to embrace the dark side yet again. Raise your hand if you sighed in relief when he stepped away from that precipice, “I can’t do it!”. Fortunately, Maul can do it, and he does. So long Seventh Sister. More furious action ensues, and Maul takes care of the Fifth Brother, while the Eighth Brother tries to flee using his saber’s gliding ability. Probably not the best idea when the damn thing is sparking like roman candle. So long, Inquisitors. Season finales have not been kind to you at all. So many cool visuals came out of this Battle Royale of Force-wielders. Maul lining up with Kanan and Ahsoka, the blur from so many sabers on screen at the same time…it was sensory overload of the best kind!
And then Maul’s reveals his true motives. After sending Ezra to the top of the tower to unlock the buried secrets, he confesses (violently) to Kanan and Ahsoka that he intends to keep Ezra as an apprentice, and that the temple itself is a battle station that he will soon control! It was wise to let Maul help them defeat the Inquisitors, so trusting Ezra’s judgement worked out, but only briefly. Obviously taking umbrage to Maul’s plans, Kanan and Ahsoka take on Maul in a battle that does not end well for Kanan. In the most heart-stopping moment of the finale, the screen momentarily goes completely red as Kanan’s sight is permanently taken from him by Maul. Our first gut-punch moment of the episode, and not the last. But wait! Kanan quickly adapts to his brutal wound and stumbles upon the helmet of a Jedi Knight guard – exactly the same as he faces in his Force dream in Shroud of Darkness. Somewhere there’s a connection between this, and the oft-repeated “To defeat your enemy, you must understand your enemy”. We are also reminded of Obi-Wan’s first teaching to Luke; “your eyes can deceive you, don’t trust them”. Blinded, but clearly not helpless, Kanan bests Maul and buys Team Jedi the reprieve they need to get off of Malachor. What’s terrible about all of this is the timing. The Inquisitors weren’t there for the three Jedi. They were hunting “The Shadow”, otherwise known as Maul. If Yoda had been a bit more patient in instructing the heroes to go to Malachor, they would have likely enjoyed a much less stressful trip.
But let’s cut to the main event, the encounter we’ve all been waiting for: Ahsoka vs Darth Vader. Vader’s entrance was unforgettable as he came in to the frame standing atop of his TIE fighter, red lightsaber ready to go. Let’s give Ezra a round of applause as he hung in there for a little bit against the galaxy’s most intimidating villain. Fans of Ezra’s combo blastersaber must be disappointed today as it lays in pieces, thanks to the man formerly known as Anakin Skywalker. Now Hasbro has to sell us a new toy all over again! For shame! As Ezra lies prone at Vader’s feet, he’s bailed out by Ahsoka, who finally gets her chance to confront the Jedi that she once fought side-by-side with. To say all Star Wars fans were as nervous as they’ve ever been is an understatement. What followed was a violent, intense lightsaber showdown that pushes both characters to the limits, and the dialogue between the two doesn’t just tug at heartstrings, it pulls on them with the weight of a 10-ton anchor. You can feel Ahsoka’s resolve to at least *try* to bring Anakin back, but as was made quite clear, he is beyond saving at this point. Tension for fans watching had to reached a boiling point when Ahsoka spurned Ezra’s aid and the Phantom left her there. The point of no return for our favorite Togruta, right? After getting in a head shot on Vader, which provided one of the most poignant visuals in the entire animated history of Star Wars, the split open Vader mask revealing Anakin’s face was a gasp-worthy moment.
The voice-over work of both James Earl Jones and Matt Lanter is beyond any superlative that I can assign it. As the battle drew on, you could feel the combatants getting worn out, and as we pull away with the Phantom, we leave Ahsoka behind to an ambiguous fate. Dave Filoni has stated that he’s more or less done with Ahsoka, as far as Rebels goes. Leaving the door slightly ajar that she *could* return in the timeline at some point is little consolation when Vader was the only one who walked away from the battle. The last we see of Ahsoka is a far, dark shot of her entering the Sith temple. Why? Looking for a place to curl up and die? Looking for a way out? Looking for a vending machine? In the best case scenario, she’s alone, stranded and probably injured. There’s little chance for the Rebels to believe she’s alive. There’s also the entire question of whether or not Vader would leave her alive. He specifically told her that she would die, but again, we see her alive (at least temporarily), so he wasn’t able to finish the job…maybe a lot like how Obi-Wan wasn’t able to finish Anakin on the Mustafar.
Once Ezra, Kanan and Chopper return to Atollon, we see how each member of the crew is happy to see their friends, but saddened that only two of them returned. Hera’s worries about the group not coming back were technically unfounded, but things will never be the same. Rex’ expression of sadness and loss was the most poignant, as he now truly has no friends left from his era.
The episode ends with Ezra doing what was said to be impossible: opening the Sith holocron. He’s obviously not a Sith, but he’s not a Jedi, either. Perhaps now more than ever open to the power of the dark side, Ezra may be embraacing the Sith way of thinking, which is the key to unlocking the holocron. Will Kanan sense this, or will Ezra follow the path of evil in secret? Admit it – in the final shot, you were expecting Ezra’s eyes to open and be the same red and yellow as a Sith Lord’s. It didn’t happen, but we did get a flash of red as the light from the holocron hit his eyes. The furrowed brow only adds to the bonfire of speculation that Ezra is going dark. Clearly his dalliance with the dark side is not over and will be the central focus of season three, right? How will Kanan reassert himself with his loss of vision? What’s Maul’s involvement going to be? Can Obi-Wan enter the fray or is he off-limits? How many damn Inquisitors are there? What is that owl-looking thing, and what does it mean? There’s so much to talk about and we have months to get to it!
- Why can’t Ezra keep his hands to himself? Silly teenagers. Keep your hands clapping, as my grandmother used to say.
- Darth Maul quoting Yoda? Or the other way around? Either way, he’s become quite adept at explaining things “from a certain point of view”.
- Now he’s giving mash-up pep talks combining Ahsoka and Palpatine’s wisdom? What? Does Maul have an original thought in his head?
- Ezra! Stop touching things! Put that Sith holocron down!
- Not sure I’m a fan of the Inquisitor using their sabers as helicopters. Too much like Inspector Gadget, no?
- Maul uses every trick in the book to lure Ezra over to the dark side, in rapid-fire succession, doesn’t he? That Ezra falls for all of it makes him even more gullible that I thought.
- I was 0/3 on my predictions, and happy to be wrong.
- Asajj Ventress? Really? Naaaah!
- Seeing Anakin’s mangled face, and the blending of Matt Lanter and James Earl Jones’ voice was spectacular and the coup-de-grace for us fans who had so much to process in this finale. It was the ultimate piece of connective tissue served up in the series, and a final glimpse of Anakin until we see him redeemed in Return of the Jedi.
- Twilight of the Apprentice really did apply to Ahsoka, didn’t it? Please tell me I’m wrong!
- Except we don’t know what happened to Ahsoka, do we? We saw her down in the temple after her battle with Vader…worst case scenario, she’s mortally wounded. Best case scenario, she’s alone and after the explosion of the Sith temple, probably presumed dead.
- Ezra manages to open the Sith holocron. The hinted at red eyes was just a coincidence, right?
One of the running narratives this season is that season two was a lot like The Empire Strikes Back. That certainly is true, especially in the aftermath of Twilight of the Apprentice. Not only do the bad guys gain the upper hand, and the good guys suffer terrible consequences, but we’re left with a very open ending with more questions than answers. So if season two was Empire, then season three has to be Jedi, right? And the conclusion of the series?
We’ve got a long wait ahead of us before we start to get our answers in season three, and no doubt the summer is going to be filed with debate and conjecture from fans. Twilight of the Apprentice was a thrilling finale that delighted fans while simultaneously breaking hearts. Still, it was near-perfect and the ambiguous fate of Ahsoka only adds to the weight of this episode’s importance. Final verdict: 9.5/10.
Join in the next episode of the TumblingSaber podcast as we break down the finale in detail, and talk about what season 3 may hold. Please subscribe in iTunes so you’ll be notified as soon as the latest episodes drop! We’re also on Stitcher or wherever else you like to grab your podcasts from, and you can always follow along on twitter. Also connect with us via the facebook page and join our growing community of fans.