What did you think of the Plot?
Oky: Well, this is it. This is the episode where we finally get to see the final confrontation between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul, a battle that fans have been waiting for for years ever since Maul was brought back in The Clone Wars, and one that this show has been building up to since the Season 2 finale. Maul finally tracks Kenobi down on Tatooine, the two stare each other down, Maul charges at his life-long adversary, and what happens? Kenobi kills him in a single blow. Years of hype and build-up are diminished in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment. Never have I seen such an anti-climactic ending to a story arc in this entire saga. Now, don’t get me wrong, I get what they were going for. This is how a sword fight between two old masters of the art would realistically go down and it’s a homage to the samurai films that inspired Star Wars. It was much closer to Kenobi’s slow and short duel with Vader in A New Hope than the over-the-top duels in the prequels which makes sense considering this takes place shortly before ANH, and as short as this duel was, there was some poetry in how Obi-Wan switched to Qui-Gon’s stance, causing Maul to attack him the same way he did when he killed Qui-Gon, which allowed Obi-Wan to preempt Maul’s attack and avenge his old master. However, this doesn’t excuse how anticlimactic and unsatisfying this fight was. The fact that the rest of the episode didn’t have much action either and was just Ezra wandering aimlessly through the desert didn’t help.
BEAVeR: The final confrontation between Maul and Ben Kenobi is something we’ve all been longing to see. The story of two strong characters with decades of history between them coming to a close. What should it look like? Obviously, we should get to see how each character has evolved, with their emotions peeking when they finally meet leading to a confrontation on more than just the lightsaber level. But this is Rebels, so obviously we should have someone of the Ghost crew involved because else this story would feel disjointed from the rest of the narrative. No problem, we could involve Ezra and give him a really interesting arc as well: he has history with Maul after all and in Kenobi he might find new wisdom. It will be a bit difficult to juggle three characters, but if you do it well, you could have an episode with a wealth of content.
Sadly, most of this episode’s juggling balls fall flat on the ground. While I think Maul and Kenobi’s lightsaber confrontation was handled expertly, their emotional confrontation was not, with not much more than smack talk passing between them, so the most climactic moment falls emotionally flat. And Ezra is just a pawn of the plot, even though the plot makes sense. But the episode seems to ignore that Ezra makes some pretty major decisions and doesn’t give any motivations or leaves Ezra with a changed personality. Instead, the episode focuses on a rather big number of loose scenes in the desert, like the rather pointless sandpeople scene, with a lot of cuts in an attempt to show Ezra’s and Maul’s struggle. But because there are so many small moments, there is little time to be spent building up the characters. Some longer scenes could have conveyed the desperate situation better because we would be able to see the despair of the characters more.
What are your thoughts on the Characters?
Oky: Ezra and Chopper felt completely unnecessary here and their inclusion didn’t make much sense. Ezra should have known by now that anything to do with Maul was a trap and he shouldn’t have gone to Tatooine, especially after he endangered his friends by following Maul’s call the last time. It was strange that Kanan didn’t seem nearly as concerned about Ezra as he was in Visions and Voices and it would have made more sense if it was him who followed Ezra, not Chopper. Also, the way Maul called Ezra using the holocrons seemed contrived as we have never seen holocrons act like this before, and the fact that Kenobi found him right before he was about to die in the desert seemed too convenient. We don’t get to see much of Ben Kenobi, but Stephen Stanton does a great job imitating Alec Guinness’ portrayal of the character. I also liked Maul here as he seemed more obsessed with finding Kenobi and finally getting his revenge than ever before which makes sense given how close he was to locating him. However, the meaning of Maul’s final words: “He will avenge us” is unclear as it can be interpreted in a number of ways, and it was odd that he still called Ezra his apprentice even though Ezra made it quite clear during their last encounter that he will never be his apprentice.
BEAVeR: Most people seem to be underwhelmed by the actual lightsaber fight, but I am underwhelmed by the confrontation that happens before that. The only thing we learn about Maul in this episode is that he’s completely obsessed by Kenobi, that his hate for him dominates his life, but that’s something we’ve already known for ages. A little bit more nuance and reflection would have been really nice, to give us a glimpse as to why Maul keeps hating Kenobi with such a passion, but I guess it goes to show that Sith only deal in absolutes, just like how Maul can’t except that Ezra doesn’t see himself as Maul’s apprentice. Kenobi was more interesting despite his limited screen time, showing how he doesn’t hate Maul and rather would have avoided the confrontation. It makes for a very striking contrast between how Maul’s life hasn’t moved on while Kenobi has let go of all his anger (sadly this episode makes it look very natural that Kenobi doesn’t hate him) which has enabled him to reach new insights. However, it’s a pity that he seems convinced that there’s no way turning Maul of his toughts.
Ezra was the most underwhelming character of the episode though. Leaving the Rebels behind at such a time combined with his previous experiences with Maul is a big deal, but not once we get to see his motivation behind it. We can only guess. Suppose we would have seen that he realized that if he didn’t go, Maul would definitely come for his family again, would have already made it way more interesting. The same in the desert: we don’t really know what keeps him going. I did really like his moments with Chopper in this episode though. Ezra shows his care for Chopper when he proposes they split up and Chopper can go to a safe place, and at the same time we see Chopper’s friendship towards Ezra when he still follows him, in a really nice contrast with Artoo’s and Threepio’s relation in the beginning of episode IV. And I love it how subtly the heart of the droid comes back in the end of the episode, where he lays his hand on Ezra when they all hug: that was actually pretty touching.
What is your opinion of the vehicles and locations?
Oky: One thing that the makers of this episode succeeded in was showing us what a dangerous, unforgiving planet Tatooine is and why the Skywalkers hate living here so much. The sandstorms, sand people, and the scorching heat of the twin suns were portrayed quite well, and it was kind of poetic how Maul and Kenobi’s rivalry ended where it all started. It was also neat seeing Dewbacks and recognizing rock formations from the podrace in The Phantom Menace. You can tell that they were really trying to show how difficult it would be to find a single person on an entire planet, but it also showed how boring it would be to watch somebody walk through a desert for most of an episode, so this is another example of this episode trying too hard to be realistic.
BEAVeR: We see Tatooine again, and there’s not much new under the suns, nor should there be. I did like how some shots looked more like matte paintings.
Oky’s Rating: 3/5 When creating a work of fiction, there is a fine line between making something that is realistic and something that is too realistic. The sad truth is that reality is not very interesting. This is why we create fiction, to escape into a world that is more entertaining than our own, a world of laser swords and space wizards, a world of epic battles and exciting adventures, and while not every episode needs to be action packed, there always needs to be some entertainment value. This episode had the difficult task of finding that balance between making a story believable, but also entertaining at the same time. Unfortunately, I don’t think it succeeded in the latter. They were so focused on trying to make it realistic that they forgot to make it fun and deliver on the incredibly high expectations that they have set. I’m not asking for an overblown, prequel-style lightsaber duel – these are two old men after all – and I do appreciate some of the poetry and subtlety here, but after all this build up I expected a little more. If they would have shown them fighting just a little longer to show how evenly matched they are and perhaps found some better way to fill the rest of the episode, this could have been a good conclusion to this long story arc, but as it is it was a bit disappointing. Not even the nostalgic sounds of Luke’s theme and Aunt Beru’s voice at the end could change that.
BEAVeR’s rating: 3/5 I thought it was a nice episode, after all we got a unique lightsaber duel, a little bit of insight into how one-sided the Maul-Kenobi conflict has become and the best Ezra-Chopper moments in the entire show. But that’s not enough for an episode that brings an end to one of the most dramatic and emotional conflicts before the duels between Vader and Luke. In the last moments before the fight, we could have learned more about the doubts of both characters before they are forever changed, and have one last emotional high note. Instead, we get only a little bit of insight, but mostly smack talk and a forced reason for Kenobi to engage the fight. At the same time, Ezra comes near death but emerges from this episode unchanged. I do believe that it was possible to tell a compelling story about the each of the three characters in a single episode, but the episode spent too much time on things that only watered the episode down.