Star Wars Rebels: “Shroud of Darkness” Season 2 Episode 17 Review

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For better or worse, the best parts of Star Wars Rebels season two have almost entirely centered on connecting back to Star Wars: The Clone Wars, where season one’s strengths were in Ezra makeshift Jedi training that seemed like it could head in any direction. Well, “Shroud of Darkness” had it all. As one of the best episodes Rebels has put out yet, it reminds me of the very best Clone Wars episodes. As an extension of this beloved franchise, these series occasionally celebrate its past, present, and future in ways that’ll make your eyes well up.

But the episode started on a much more exciting note. Throwing us right into the heat of a duel between Kanan, Ezra, and the two Inquisitors, Rebels instantly feels more exciting than it has since before The Force Awakens came out. A few clever things are thrown into this action sequence to bring us up to speed. First was the mention that the two Jedi were searching for a base for the rebels, a notion that has pretty much been dropped since earlier this season. Second, Ezra fittingly reminds us of unique Force ability to communicate with animals that pretty much renders “The Call” pointless. Last, after they escape, Kanan mirrors Luke in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, worrying that his and Ezra’s very presence is endangering the rebel cause. Like Luke, he’s probably not entirely wrong.

So comes a private journey between the master and the apprentice. Well, not entirely private, as they are joined by Ahsoka, whose return is beyond welcome after weeks, no, months without her. And in her very first season, she has me already visibly upset. Showing Ezra holograms of Anakin teaching (with Matt Lanter reprising his role from The Clone Wars), unbeknownst to her of who he became, was a punch right in the gut.

Returning to the Jedi temple Kanan and Ezra found in season one’s seminal “Path of the Jedi,” the three warriors meditate for guidance. And like that episode, all of them go through emotional Force-inspired journeys that reveal secrets and instill hope.

Kanan’s was the most visual and seemingly physical of the three. Entering a much lighter Jedi temple, he’s faced with a guard wearing a similar outfit to the guards on the main temple on Coruscant. His voice is familiar, but intentionally scrambled. The figure tells him Ezra is being pulled by the Dark Side, angering Kanan and forcing them into a duel. It was clever to have our hero wielding both a blue and red blade, signifying his own imbalance at the moment. But he eventually lays down his weapons and reverts to the Jedi way. Kanan can’t change his shortcomings or Ezra’s fate, all he can do is his best. At this thought, the guard removes his mask, revealing the Grand Inquisitor. But this time, he’s not a foe. This spiritual version of the character reveals he was once a Jedi himself, a twist that feels right while inspiring a lot of questions.

Then there’s Ahsoka, who only hears Anakin’s voice. As he tortures her soul for leaving him when he may have needed her most, the truth is slowly revealed to her. The iconic breath of Darth Vader emanates over her shoulder as tears run down her cheeks. Ahsoka seems to finally learn what became of her master and it’s naturally one of the saddest moments the character has experienced yet.

As for Ezra, his journey once again puts him in communication with Yoda. But Ezra is too eager for answers to even hear Yoda’s guidance. You can even hear Yoda’s frustrations in his voice (Frank Oz returning because of course). So he tells Ezra to find Malachor, a planet with Sith connections. Yoda is understandably vague on the matter, as his projections of the future to Luke were in the original trilogy.

But with the Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister invading the temple, it’s time for the three warriors to escape. Before they do, in another tear duct-testing moment, Yoda reveals himself to Ahsoka and simply waves. She smiles back at him. Like Obi Wan in Revenge of the Sith and beyond, there’s a feeling that Yoda especially believes in Ahsoka, more than many of his other former students. She was wise enough to leave the corruption of the Jedi Order to walk a more righteous path. I believe Yoda not only understands her decision, but sees it as the right one, the one closest to the Light Side of the Force.

The episode ends with Vader thanking the Inquisitors for their find. Just placing him there gives the season more stakes than its had since it began. But as we head toward the end, with just three episodes left, it’s time to up things once more. “Shroud of Darkness” accomplished that and way more. It jump started the stagnant journeys of our three Force-wielding heroes. It gave the season direction again. It did so with deep moments of sadness and hope. It reminded us just what Star Wars Rebels can be when it hits all the right notes. Grade: A

Some Other Notes:

  • Ahsoka says she last saw Anakin just before he ran off to save the Chancellor, the sequence that opens Revenge of the Sith. I cried at this line, imagining all the weight this scene would have had as possibly the rightful series finale to Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
  • But speaking of how Clone Wars ended, the final arc involving Yoda’s spiritual journey to enlightenment had a moment where he saw Ahsoka dead in the aftermath of Order 66. She was the only one he talked to in this vision. Knowing it didn’t come to pass and his little wave to the now grown warrior was perhaps an unintentional callback to this moment, but one that filled me with mountains of emotion.
  • There’s a story to be told in how the Grand Inquisitor went from Jedi to Inquisitor, presumably under Vader’s influence. Get on it, Disney!
  • After weeks of filler, this episode filled me with hope for this series once again. I’m dying to see where this all leads. I’m also an unreligious person now praying for Ahsoka to make it out alive.

By Matt Dougherty

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