"Star Wars: Rebels" Episode 3 – Holocrons of Fate (9 out of 10) – Based on characters and situations created by George Lucas; Directed by Steward Lee; Written by Henry Gilroy; Starring: Freddie Prinze, Jr., Vanessa Marshall, Taylor Gray, Steve Blum, Tiya Sircar, David Oyelowo, Dee Bradley Baker, Ashley Eckstein; Special Guest stars: Tom Baker, Sam Witwer. Rated TV-Y7, Airs on Disney XD 10/1/16.
This review will contain mild spoilers.
The second episode of season three cuts right to the heart of what I've been hoping to see since the revelations of last season. Almost instantly, we're thrust into the crux of the situation: Darth Maul wants the Sith Holocron (as well as the Jedi holocron of Kanan's) and he's captured the Ghost crew minus Kanan and Ezra to use as hostages. The Jedi master and apprentice agree to pay the ransom for their friends, but learn the cost might be higher than they expected.
If you remember to the season premiere, Kanan had taken the Sith holocron from Ezra and gave it to the Bendu for safe keeping, and this creates a problem when they promise to give it over to Maul in order to save their friends.
Ezra and Kanan will have to put aside their differences and their guilt in order to descend into the caves of the planet where their Rebel base is located to retrieve the holocron from where Bendu hid it. This, to me, felt like the light side version of the test in the temple on Malachor that Ezra had to endure with Maul. It's inverted here. Where on Malachor the quest for the holocron is marked with rigorous tests that are demanding on hate and the darkside as well as begrudging trust, this test was about calm a lack of fear. The spider-creatures are harmless in the absence of fear, which is about the most Jedi-like test you can imagine. Tom Baker's Bendu is a fascinating
Tom Baker's Bendu is a fascinating creature here, too. Funny in the same ways Yoda might be on Dagobah, but also gleeful in how above the fray he's willing to stay, though here he strays just a bit. I also love how he doesn't have all the answers because the goals of the Jedi and the Sith are so confusing to him. It was a very telling moment that he asks Kanan, "Why did you take his weapon?"
It just proves how much of a different plane of existence he's operating in.
He also warns the Jedi of the reason Maul might wish to possess both the Jedi and the Sith holcron: creating a vergence in the Force in such a way will allow a force of vision that could drive some mad.
This idea creates a lot of interesting questions and ideas: chief among them: is this how Palpatine is able to look into the future? If so, what wielder of the light side would he have access to in order to help him open both holocrons?
When Maul in this episode gains possession of Kanan's Jedi holocron, he is unable to open it at all. He is incapable of tapping into the light side. Was Sidious honest with Anakin when he told him in "Revenge of the Sith" that he had to understand all the aspects of the Force in order to master it? Could he be so powerful that he could open both of those holocrons simultaneously? Or perhaps it's nothing Palpatine is involved in at all.
Another interesting question it raises: where does Maul learn of this technique? He's obviously been in exile for quite some time. Did his quest through the galaxy include a search for knowledge outside the confines of Malachor? Or is this a fabled ability taught to him by his former master?
That's a good question for another ability Maul exhibits during the course of the episode. As evidenced in the above clip, Maul is able to probe into the memories of Hera using the Dark Side of the Force. Previously in the "Star Wars" canon, we'd only seen this ability in Kylo Ren. How this ties to the new films other than establishing this ability as something more generically Dark Side rather than unique to Ben Solo is still unknown.
The episode is a clever game of cat and mouse between Maul and the Ghost crew, and the tension builds admirably, but through small moments of clever acting. Perhaps one of my favorite of these small moments is Maul's inspection of the Ghost and his realization that it's much more than a transport, but a home for them. I'm a big believer in that there is nothing in "Star Wars" that is simply a throwaway without reason, so I wonder if this is planted to give us indications about future plans.
Another of my favorite smaller moments in the episode is the forgiveness Ezra exhibits for himself in the form of a hug for Kanan. I was worried they would play the angsty Dark Side angle through the whole season, but that seems to have been nipped in the bud fairly quickly. There are bigger things to worry about.
But there are also bigger things to talk about.
And the two words everyone will be repeating to themselves after watching this episode are obvious: "Twin Suns."
Maul and Ezra work together open the holocrons to gain their knowledge. Maul's question involves his search for hope. Ezra's is focused on how to destroy the Sith. Their answers are far more linked than what either of them might expect. This might be the most literary and meta the show has gotten. Ezra is shown the twin suns of Tatooine, this is where Luke, "A New Hope" and the ultimate key to destroying the Sith lives. That play on words could very well explain Maul's use of the word hope as well, but we're given an extra layer of clues here.
When Maul makes his escape, he gleefully explains, "He lives..."
But who could he be talking about. The first time I watched the episode, I wondered if Anakin was the object of his pursuit. Then I thought it could mean any number of things, but I think the simplest explanation is the easiest: who watches over hope under the light of the twin suns? None other than Obi-Wan Kenobi.
If this season isn't heading like a freight train toward a final confrontation between Maul and Obi-Wan Kenobi, I'll be surprised. Though this wouldn't be the first time Filoni and crew have telegraphed one thing and given us wholly unexpected results. Especially when it involves characters like Maul. Or Ahsoka.
I'm rating this episode a 9 out of 10. I've watched it five times and want to watch again. Overall, it was fascinating to watch, gorgeous to look at, fun to experience. More than anything, my brain has kicked into overdrive thinking about the ramifications the knowledge of this episode has for our understanding of the Force and Luke Skywalker in the grand scheme of things. Does this open a pathway to a Luke cameo? A return from James Arnold Taylor? The end of Maul?
Anything is possible. And that's why I love this show.
Season 3 Scorecard:
- Steps Into Shadow (8 of 10)
- Holocrons of Fate (9 of 10)
Season Average: 8.5 out of 10