Years from now, when somebody who hasn’t watched any Star Wars Rebels asks which are the essential episodes so that they can get a good snapshot of the series, “Shroud of Darkness” will be among the key episodes suggested, no questions asked. It was that good, and clearly sets up pivotal events in the series. Shroud of Darkness is like a giant plate of rich, creamy pasta, with a block of cheesecake to wash it down. There’s so much here to digest after a brief half hour episode that was begging to be twice that length. We really got a bunch of connective tissue in this episode, with footage from Attack of the Clones being used, and holocron images of Anakin Skywalker from his better days, it’s once again evident how this show is serving as a brilliant bridge from the prequels to the originals. Stop me if you’ve heard that before.
Kanan’s character has grown by leaps and bounds, finally culminating in enlightenment and Knighthood. What? Yeah, he’s no longer just an adrift former padawan. Not beating the actual Inquisitor in the finale of season one, but giving in to the apparition of that character, surrending his fear of losing Ezra was his trial. While being Knighted must be a relief (and burden), it can’t be good news for Kanan’s long-term health because as of A New Hope, Kenobi establishes that Vader helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi. “Now the Jedi are all but extinct“. Kenobi says to Luke, leading us to believe that he was referring to himself (and Yoda) as the last remaining Jedi. Maybe there’s some wiggle room for Kanan to slide in there somewhere? Maybe? No?
This show is of course Ezra’s story, so we have to spend most of our time with him. Remember way back when he could barely connect with the Force, let alone use it to his advantage? Now he goes toe-to-toe with Inquistors in lightsaber combat, once again uses his rapidly growing powers to connect with a flying creature to get him (and Kanan) out of a jam, and can now actually “see” Yoda instead of just hear his voice. When encountering Yoda, Ezra is warned that following power, comes danger. Ezra’s main hang-up is that he may not be strong enough to protect his friends, and it sounds like Yoda’s warnings are going right over Ezra’s tunnel-visioned head. All of this is startlingly close to what Anakin went through as a youngster during the prequel era, and we know how that ended (spoiler alert: not well). Are we headed down the same path with Ezra? I’m not sure that Yoda sending Ezra to Malachor is the wisest move at this time. It’s obvious that the dark side “pulls at him”, as the InquisiGuard (that’s what I’m calling him now) said. Why send him in to the lion’s den at such a vulnerable time? Between Kanan, Ezra and Ahsoka, you have three relatively inexperienced Jedi/padawans/former padawans. Does Yoda think they’ll have no trouble there? Does he think it’s something they all (and Ezra in particular) must face? I’ll admit I’m perplexed by this suggested course of action but I’m so stoked to see it. Could be another grave mistake by the wizened old Jedi Master.
As for our favorite Togrutan, we see her reminisce about Anakin and how great he was during the Clone Wars. Finding peace in his “old self presence” would soon be contrasted by the horrible truth. Watching her come to accept the truth about Anakin’s fall (that she likely already knew deep-down) was heart-wrenching, and it’s all the more hard to watch her naively believe that “there’s still a way”. Oh, Snips, bless your heart. She seemingly harbors some guilt for Anakin’s fall, and she seems intent on atoning for that. As much as we all adore Ahsoka, I have to give Dave Filoni credit. He hasn’t let her presence overshadow Ezra and Kanan’s story one bit. Maybe that will change by the time the season finale’s credits roll, but it feels an awful lot like whatever happens with Ahsoka will be trumped by what happens with Ezra and/or Kanan. But it’s clear that Ahsoka will embark on some kind of quest to stop Vader and save her former Master. Again, not good news, perhaps foreshadowed by Yoda waving goodbye to her? Was that just a reassuring, comforting wave to an old friend from “better times”, or was that really a nod to the looming destiny that awaits her?
Darth Vader showed up both in Force vision and “in the flesh…if that’s applicable to Vader. Both appearances packed a wallop. Whereas his first appearance cemented his current Sithy status with Ahsoka, his second appearance echoed the same warning of doom as Yoda and the InquisiGuard: “It will be their undoing”, Vader says to the Inquisitors when they tell Vader that the Jedi are growing more powerful. Vader knows, as does Yoda, that with more power, comes the dangers of the dark side, and the potential to be consumed by it.
- After “The Call” I didn’t think anything would top Space Whales until we got massive flying manta rays, who, incidentally sound an awful lot like Purgills do.
- How cute to see the Kanan vs Seventh Sister. I’m sure FPjr and SMG didn’t argue about that *at all* on the drive home!
- Kanan smartly realizing that their presence among the Rebel ranks endangers everyone. Sounds a lot like Luke in RotJ: “I’m endangering the mission, I shouldn’t have come”.
- The Grand Inquisitor? Nice to see him again, and thank goodness for Rebels Recon explaining what his appearance really was. No need to dig deep and bend over backwards looking for explanations on how it could possibly be him. This was Yoda’s doing. But the revelation that the Inquisitor was once a Jedi Knight? That was a bit of a sucker punch.
- Speaking of Yoda, nice to see him again as well, even if it’s in a way that we haven’t seen before. And how great was it to have Frank Oz back?
- It makes all the sense in the world, that the Inquisitor/Temple Guard was a conjuring of Yoda’s doing, as Yoda’s apparition basically delivered the same warnings to Ezra and Kanan. Not good news at all.
- Kanan grabs a red-bladed lightsaber…not a coincidence, right? Of course it isn’t. To me it meant that his overprotection of Ezra, his stubborn willingness to keep fighting was a path to evil. Once Kanan let go, all was revealed to him, and he was knighted.
- Kanan Jarrus: Jedi Knight. Well at least we know he got there, despite not having a real master to take him there. He definitely earned it over the course of nearly two seasons but I’m left wondering what could have been for Kanan had he been properly trained right through to adulthood? I’m happy for Kanan, but left wondering if there’s more impact in having Luke be the first Jedi Knight for an entire generation.
- Heartbreaking to see Ahsoka finally accept the truth about what became of Anakin. The knife twist was a little more harsh considering how glowingly she spoke of him earlier in the episode.
- “There’s still a way”. No there isn’t, Ahsoka. Don’t try it. Please.
- I’d be remiss not to mention how equally awesome it was to hear Matt Lanter reprise his role as Anakin, and James Earl Jones as Vader. Worlds colliding!
- I liked hearing Obi-Wan’s name come up. Probably nothing, but I hope that Kanan files the name away for future use once Ahsoka is no longer around.
- Glad to know there’s more to Anakin and Ahsoka’s story after she left the Jedi Order in season five of The Clone Wars.
- Is it just me, or does the Jedi temple on Lothal resemble the shape of the temple on Ach To? I get that one is a natural formation and one isn’t, but still.
- How useless are the Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister? If they haven’t been able to beat Kanan and/or Ezra yet, then it’s unlikely they ever will, barring a Mr Fuji-esque sneak attack.
With Kanan accepting the fact that he can only do so much for Ezra, both as a teacher and as a “parent”, the stage is set for something big to happen between the two. Whether it’s good or bad remains to be seen but everything that has been hinted at suggests that the outcome won’t be good. As for Ahsoka, Vader is now right on their heels and the inevitable clash between the two draws ever closer. And what role will “Old Master” Darth Maul play in all of this? Clearly he’s going to attempt to sink his hooks in to Ezra, but how successful will he be? Time will tell. Shroud of Darkness was a very powerful episode of Star Wars Rebels, leaving us with more questions than answers once again. Next week will give us a breather before we plunge in to a Chopper story. Final Verdict: 9/10.