Fair warning: Rise of the Masters has yet to air on DisneyXD so there are SPOILERS ahead!!!
Episode 4 – Rise of the Masters – The Dark Side Rises and a Journey Begins
When Star Wars finds the right balance of exciting story, mixed with humor, great action scenes, and heroes and villains pulled from classic archetypes it elevates itself beyond just popcorn entertainment to telling modern myth. Rise of the Old Masters is just such a story.
As our story begins, Ezra has started his Jedi training, and it is clear both he, and his master, Kanan Jarrus, are struggling with his studies. Ezra lacks the focus Kanan feels his student needs, and after a series of failed tests, cracks in their Master/Padawan relationship begin to show. While Kanan may outwardly be showing disappoint in Ezra, the person he is most disappointed in is himself. Kanan feels he is completely unsuited to train Ezra properly,
Later, the crew of the Ghost gathers on the ship to watch an Imperial news report that is interrupted by rebel agents who claim that Jedi Master Luminara Undulli is being held prisoner at a castle on Stygeon Prime (a nice nod to The Clone Wars arc turned comic Son of Dathomir). Kanan hatches a plan; the crew will infiltrate the facility and rescue the Jedi Master. As a bonus Ezra will now have a proper master to train him. It all sounds too good to be true…
And it is…
After arriving at Stygeon, Kanan, Ezra, Zeb, and Sabine make their way into the prison facility to rescue Undulli. The group realizes the schematics of the old building are out of date, requiring the group to alter their plans. Zeb and Sabine grow increasingly concerned this may be a trap, or they may be unable to escape once they have rescued the Jedi prisoner.
Meanwhile Ezra and Kanan work their way deeper into the prison. The pair finally arrive at Undulli’s cell, and after a quick Jedi Mind Trick on a couple of unsuspecting Stormtroopers, Master and Padawan find themselves face to face with the Jedi captive. But it is only an illusion which dissipates to reveal a casket holding the remains of the fallen Master.
From the shadows emerges the Inquisitor, a tall and gaunt looking Utapauan tasked with hunting down remaining Jedi, or those Force users the Emperor deems to be dangerous. As he draws his red bladed lightsaber, the Inquisitor reveals this has all been a plot to draw Kanan and Ezra out from hiding… His terrible trap is sprung.
Kanan quickly draws his own blade as he and the Inquistor exchange blows and verbal jabs. The Inquisitor feels Kanan’s doubt and begins to play on that fear of his inadequacies as a teacher. However, as the battle ensues Kanan and Ezra slowly begin to work as a team, each realizing they need each other in order to survive.
Eventually, after some quick thinking by Kanan, the pair briefly escape finding Zeb and Sabine along the way. The group quickly makes their way to the landing bay with Stormtroopers and the Inquisitor in hot pursuit. When they arrive at the docking bay they find the large bay doors shut, preventing their escape. Meanwhile the Inquisitor is cutting his way through door to the hanger… they are running out of time.
Kanan turns to Ezra and tells him to concentrate on the locking mechanism, and in his mind, push it away. Together, Padawan and Master are able to lift the bay door. Dozens of Stormtroopers wait for them on the other side, and in an epic gun fight the motley group makes their way through the Troopers to the other side of the bay where Hera waits in the Ghost’s attack shuttle, The Phantom.
The Inquisitor watches as the crew of the Ghost escapes…
Back on Lothal, Ezra and Kanan ponder their future. Kanan has finally come to terms with the fact that he may not be the best teacher for Ezra, and he might make mistakes along the way, but this is his task. Their journey down the path of mentor and apprentice finally begins.
Henry Gilroy is one of my favorite Star Wars writers… he just gets Star Wars. Gilroy was responsible for some of the best episodes of The Clone Wars such as The Ryloth arc, the Children of the Force arc, and Slaves of the Republic arc. He really has an understanding of George Lucas’ style of storytelling and using metaphor and myth to tell a very rich story, and that’s certainly the case here. Gilroy uses a lot of the same elements of the Luke/Yoda relationship to help bring the audience an instant connection of what was underlying Ezra and Kanan’s initial struggles. Kanan sees right away that Ezra lacks focus and patience, but Ezra’s struggles bring out Kanan’s own doubts in his ability to train his young pupil. It’s great stuff. Gilroy’s writing is definitely the best of the series so far, and I’m thrilled that he’s staying on board the production as a writer and producer.
In just his 10 minutes or so of screen time, The Inquisitor has already taken his place among the pantheon of great Star Wars villains, largely due to Gilroy’s fantastic dialog, but also in large part due to the brilliant character design, and outstanding performance by Jason Issacs (of Harry Potter and The Patriot fame). Issacs is incredibly mesmerizing in role. There’s a physicality to his voice work which gives the character additional weight; he almost feels like a cobra waiting for the right time to strike. My only problem with the character was how abrupt his introduction was… he simply appears in the episode. I felt a little cheated like there should have been some build up for his appearance in this episode.
One of the things I love in the Star Wars films is the use of alien creatures to establish a reality to the universe. There are a couple of great Star Wars moments with flying creatures on Stygeon who create a nuisance for Hera and her rescue plans. She eventually uses the creatures as an impromptu air force to help her save the day. The creature design are based on some old Ralph McQuarrie designs from The Empire Strikes Back.
A special nod to Mr. Data, I mean Brent Spiner who turns in a great little cameo as the voice of the Rebel opposition on Lothal, Gall Trayvis.
The opening starts out with Kanan training his young apprentice on top of the Ghost while in flight. There are some nice moments harkening back to Luke’s Jedi training on Dagobah with Kanan urging Ezra to remain focused while Chopper and Zeb egg the young Padawan on. Unfortunately the scene degenerates into a moment so obvious and predictable that I simply sighed and rolled my eyes. Kanan, becoming increasingly frustrated with Ezra’s lack of concentration, decides that some lightsaber practice is in order and orders Ezra to begin deflecting pieces of trash being hurled at Ezra by Chopper. As he struggles to deflect the refuse he staggers back toward the edge of the ship. Of course we all know what’s going to happen… Chopper gets a little too rambunctious with his task and Ezra slides over the edge of the ship, falling to his certain death. Of course Ezra is saved by Kanan’s use of the Force. Isn’t their some kind of Jedi policy against endangering young Padawans during training sessions?
Going to get a little geeky here, and I’m probably going to be on an island among Star Wars fans, but I find the Inquisitor’s lightsaber fairly silly. I loved the use of the dual blades when the saber was in its “half moon” configuration, it has a vaguely East Asian look giving it a real world feel. But when the Inquisitor transforms the saber into the full circle Cuisinart of Doom it takes what should have been a fear inducing moment and turns into silly spectacle. It’s really completely impractical as a weapon in it’s spinning configuration… I guess maybe as a thrown weapon it might work. Unfortunately as soon as he activated the function all I could hear in my head was the old Kenner announcer: “The new Inquisitor action figure, with spinning saber of doom action!”
Those two quibbles aside, this is a brilliant episode.
Overview: A great episode with solid writing by Henry Gilroy. The story is engaging, exciting, and has a tight story laced with emotional resonance that really captures the growing pains of the Master/Padawan relationship between Ezra and Kanan yet still gives us a glimpse of their potential down the road. Star Wars Rebels is definitely starting to find its stride. There are certainly a few hiccups here and there, but the show is certainly growing into a worthy successor to The Clone Wars.
9 of 10