"Star Wars: Rebels" 1.10 – Path of the Jedi (9.5 out of 10) – Directed by Dave Filoni; Written by Charles Murray; Based on characters and situations created by George Lucas; Starring: Freddie Prinze, Jr., Vanessa Marshall, Taylor Gray, Steve Blum, Tiya Sircar; Special Guest: Jason Issacs and Frank Oz as Yoda; Rated TV-Y7, Airs on Disney XD 1/5/15.
Warning: There are spoilers in this review.
The first episode of "Star Wars: Rebels" of 2015 is an incredible insight into the rethinking we'll need to be doing about what we know and think we know about the "Star Wars" mythology.
This episode focuses almost exclusively on Ezra and Kanan in their Jedi training. Time has passed since the last episode and Kanan decides that it's time to put Ezra through a test to see if he's fit to be a Jedi. It's one of the trials we've seen Luke put through, in the domain of evil on Dagobah, and Anakin in the no-longer-canon Genndy Tartakovsky "Clone Wars" microseries. We've even seen Ahsoka go through what might have been a version of it on Mortis. But now we see how Ezra Bridger handles it.
His training pales in comparison to any of the other Jedi put through the trial, save Luke, and we're shown just how gifted in the Force Ezra could be. In fact, he passes where Luke failed. It makes me wonder if he passed because he's younger and easier to learn, making Luke's training all the more incredible, or if he's as adept a student as Kanan believes him to be and his connection to the midi-chlorians and, by extension, the living force is even greater than normal. But those are questions for another time.
The episode is almost esoteric in its hallucinations and visions for the padawan. "Alice in Wonderland"-like imagery, falling through the rabbit hole, is accompanied by a fabled trial of the Jedi, testing Ezra against the darkest fears he brings with him.
In a scene as well-lit and well-staged as anything on "The Clone Wars" Ezra bears witness to the death of his master at the hands of the Inquisitor. The scene wraps up imagery from two different "Star Wars" movies and then takes camera flourishes from Alfred Hitchcock, which is exactly what I love about this new era of "Star Wars." The duel took elements of the final duel between Qui-Gon and Darth Maul from "The Phantom Menace," with Obi-wan (Ezra in this case) watching on, and set it in the tests and visual background reminiscent of the cave on Dagobah from "The Empire Strikes Back." When the Inquisitor strikes down Kanan, the shot turns to Ezra and we're given a masterfully animated approximation of Hitchcock's signature Vertigo shot as the padawan reacts.
It's a blend of old, new, and classic film, and watching it unfold is endlessly thrilling to me. I hope "The Force Awakens" has such brilliant homages and flourishes to the rest of the saga.
But the thing everyone is going to be talking about this episode isn't the lightsaber duel. Nor is it Ezra's trial. Nor the brutal murder of the Ghost Crew, even though Vanessa Marshall's scream in that sequence will haunt me.
It's the return of Frank Oz as Yoda. And not just his return as Yoda, but Yoda's return itself.
As this episode is set just four or five years prior to "A New Hope," Yoda is still in his self-imposed exile. It raises a number of questions and ever-so-slightly adjusts our perception of what Yoda was up to in all of his years in the swamp. In this episode of "Rebels" he's able to communicate with Ezra and Kanan, to "see" them, as it were, though they are unable to see him.
This casts him as sort of a Dr. Strange character, travelling the spirit plane for answers and information, offering guidance and help where he can. But it also changes the nature of lines he's spoken in the classic trilogy. "This one," he tells Obi-wan of Luke, "a long time have I watched. All his life as he looked away, to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hm. What he was doing."
Are we to take this literally now? That he was actually watching Luke from a distance? How vital is Qui-Gon's training to that equation? In this episode, he tells us that something has changed. Is this something leading to an awakening of the Force later? Is this a clue for the new trilogy?
I'm not sure.
But Ezra's accelerated learning curve would seem to imply that it's possible. Same with Luke's for that matter.
But Yoda's appearance here, if taken at face value, means that when he tells Luke that he will be the last of the Jedi, there's much more gravitas to that statement. If he can talk to and communicate with the remaining Jedi during the Dark Times, Yoda's exile becomes all the more heartbreaking as he's forced to watch each of their lights become extinguished, one by one. And when he tells Luke that he's the last of the Jedi, he truly means it.
While this episode only hints at such important matters of a galactic scale, it's played as a very personal story, a fine line to balance. But this episode was written by Charles Murray, the man who wrote the final four episodes of the fifth season of "The Clone Wars," and he understands the subtlety required to imply more than he's saying and to make you think in bigger ways about the mythology of "Star Wars." And it's no surprise either that Dave Filoni's name is attached as the director, which is something I'd actually guessed before the credit came upon the screen. The episode exudes a passion for "Star Wars" and its finer details that seems to invigorate Filoni.
And it makes me glad that we have him working in the universe.
Overall, this is one of the finest episodes of "Star Wars: Rebels," and, so far, might be the most important.
- Short films: 8 out of 10
- Spark of Rebellion: 9 out of 10
- Droids in Distress: 7.5 out of 10
- Fighter Flight: 8 out of 10
- Rise of the Old Masters: 9 out of 10
- Breaking Ranks: 8.5 out of 10
- Out of Darkness: 6.5 out of 10
- Empire Day: 9.5 out of 10
- Gathering Forces: 9.5 out of 10
- Path of the Jedi: 9.5 out of 10
Season average: 8.5 out of 10