Review: Star Wars Rebels “Rise of the Old Masters”

TWG contributor Elisa and I return to share our thoughts about “Rise of the Old Masters.” Leave your comments and thoughts below!

General Thoughts About the Plot

EA: Teach the Force and save Luminara. That’s really what this episode comes down to for Kanan, and for as simple as that sounds, it’s not simple at all. This episode frankly threw me for a loop. I was going in expecting certain things, and while they did happen, they totally did not happen the way I originally expected. Instead, things were actually far darker and more horrific than what I had imagined. So much happened: rushing to find Luminara, meeting the Inquisitor in a mismatched battle, and touching upon the difficult subject about what it takes to believe in yourself and in your abilities. I think I have to say that this, so far, is my favourite episode.

JM: Whether on purpose or by coincidence, “Rise of the Old Masters” had some spooky elements that played well with the spirit of Halloween that’s currently up in the air. The fate of Jedi Master Luminara Unduli and the Inquisitor’s intimidating presence are immediate examples. The twist behind Kanan and the team falling for the trap pales in comparison to the actual twist surrounding Luminara’s death. IGN’s interview with Dave Filoni revealed that Luminara’s recording was that of her own execution. Alone, helpless, with no escape in sight, Luminara died in that room. My original impression was that some dark spell was involved and that her reaction was in response to seeing another Jedi lured to their death. Instead, it was a mere recording of her facing her impending doom. The cruelty of it all sank in and that twist alone made the episode as dark as some of the material previously seen in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

The episode also featured Kanan’s promise to teach Ezra how to use the Force. Sadly, with Kanan’s own self-doubt and lack of training, he hit several walls. It was a great episode for them to establish their own relationship as Master and Padawan. As previously stated in an episode of “Rebels Chat,” one learns by teaching, and it’d be great to see Kanan grow alongside Ezra.

General Thoughts About the Characters

Credit: Disney XD, Lucasfilm Animation, Lucasfilm.


EA: I could go on and on about Kanan this episode, but I’ll keep it trimmed. Unlike last episode, a lot happened to Kanan in this one and not just physically. We recently left Star Wars: The Clone Wars, where we saw how masters taught their Padawans, so it’s great to see Kanan struggling with either knowing what to say or properly passing on the knowledge he has. This is shown spectacularly when he quotes Yoda’s famous “Do or do not, there is no try,” to which he admits that he doesn’t know what that means when Ezra questions him on it.

A few reviews back, I called him an overgrown padawan, and he is, and this episode really shows that off. I love how he doesn’t know what he’s doing right away and that this role of being a teacher is something he doesn’t know much about–it’s something that has to be felt and figured out as he goes.

Something else I absolutely loved about this episode is that we get to see how Kanan uses his Force abilities. He’s very physical, and his attacks are fairly brutal. Pulling troopers too him so he can clothesline them with his arms to knock them out isn’t something I’ve ever seen a Jedi do before, and it’s a pleasure to see. Jedi are always very “proper” in their own ways, and most likely due to how young Kanan was when he lost everything, he’s made his Force abilities his own. It makes me excited to see how else he uses his powers, what Ezra will pick up from him in future episodes, and how Ezra will make his own powers his own.

JM: “Kanan’s a horrible teacher.” This is just one of the many comments that I found about Kanan when the episode aired on Monday night. Kanan is not a horrible teacher. Kanan is inexperienced. His teachings are incomplete and his skill level is somewhere slightly above that of a Padawan. Sadly, Kanan’s Jedi training was cut short. That’s equivalent to someone starting a new job, finding out that their supervisor quit on their second day, and later discovering that they have to train someone else. Kanan is doing the best he can with the knowledge and resources he has in his possession.

What I find most touching about the episode is the fact that he wants the best for Ezra. He already sees himself as a lost cause, but he wants Ezra to get the training and discipline that he got as Padawan. Yes, he made mistakes, but he owned up to them and made a promise to do better.

Lastly, Kanan also has a unique sense of style when it comes to using the Force. Most Jedi tend to push away their threats, but he pulls them towards him. Considering the fact that he’s rough around the edges, it makes sense that his techniques are also just as rough.

Credit: Disney XD, Lucasfilm Animation, Lucasfilm.


EA: Besides being the mother of the group, Hera is first and foremost a pilot, and though we’ve seen her piloting the Ghost it was great to see her use her skills for something more than simply moving the crew around. I love that the Ghost has a shuttle (Phantom) of its own and I hope we see it utilized more often. Though her role this episode isn’t as involved as some of the other characters, she still plays a bit part. Knowing that your getaway vehicle is ready when you need a quick exit is the most important thing when you’re attempting your jailbreak.

Hera had her own excitement this episode when some Tibidee mistook the Phantom as one of their own who was on the lookout for some alien bird lovin’. I loved her reaction and the way she dealt with this unexpected situation, and also turned it into an advantage later on. Also, I have to comment on just how pretty she is. I loved the lighting or lack thereof in the scenes with her sitting alone in the Phantom. The detail of her eyes and the way her lek are so swishy when she moves her head is a pleasure to see.

JM: Another complaint I saw from fans was about Hera’s constant presence in the Ghost. Given the fact that she’s the pilot, I say that’s her number one priority. We saw Hera on the ground and taking action herself in A New Dawn. Why? Because she was by herself. Hera had no crew or team, so she had to handle all of the tasks on her own. Now that she has a handful of members on deck, jobs and responsibilities are divvied up for the benefit of the entire crew (division of labor). Chopper stayed behind with the Ghost, but someone had to stay behind in the Phantom. The only logical person was Hera. Like everything else in storytelling, there has to be a purpose behind people’s actions. There will come an episode or point in time when we’ll see Hera on the ground for a very good reason. Until then, the crew needs to rely on her to get them in and out in one piece.

All that said, I think Hera did a spectacular job at handling the Tibidee. Instead of seeing them as a nuisance, she used the creatures to her advantage. Now, if Hera had tagged along with the rest of the crew and left the Phantom behind on its own, the Tibidee would have crushed the poor ship. And no, she couldn’t leave the Phantom off because the Phantom had to be on for it to cling onto the side of the prison. See, everything has a purpose, and Hera’s purpose in this episode belonged in the ship, ready to save the crew when they needed her the most.

Credit: Disney XD, Lucasfilm Animation, Lucasfilm.


EA: I love how much he gets along with Zeb and how the two of them enjoy torturing poor Ezra. I’ve seen some question Chopper and his programming over what happens in the opening of this episode, though I personally didn’t find anything he did out of line. He’s playful, and sometimes a pest, but I don’t see either of those traits, especially in combination to Zeb also being the same way, as anything mean. Sure, he’s a droid, but he has an individual personality, just like any other biological person on the crew, and I love him for it.

JM: More complaints! Believe it or not, people actually hate Chopper. Some see him as a nuisance, whereas I see him as a younger brother finding entertainment in playfully torturing his family. My younger brother (23 years old) is exactly like Chopper, so I completely understand the character. My brother is a smart individual, but he also has a very humorous side to his personality. As a result, he does many weird (but funny) things around the house and to members of his family. Chopper is the same way. One Twitter user went as to say that he should be reprogrammed…That sounds like Imperial talk. You’re going to take something that has a life of its own–something that can make decisions, laugh, react–and wipe him, essentially deleting everything that makes Chopper Chopper and make him more compliant to your standards? Imperial talk, indeed.

Anyway, I digress. Chopper is meant to be the humorous character and he lives up to his role in this episode. He’s the cat that likes to cause trouble. Sure, he can come across as a jerk, but just like any other person, he can be taught to control himself. For now, he’s Ezra’s younger brother and pet cat wrapped up into one, a combination that always brings a smile to my face.

Credit: Disney XD, Lucasfilm Animation, Lucasfilm.


EA: I wish I could sit down and ask Zeb how he feels about the Force. His mention of it being an “ancient religion” is a direct throwback to Imperial Officer Motti’s careless comment to Vader from A New Hope. I wonder if his species is capable of the Force at all, or if to him, it really is something far more unreal, even if he’s seen what Ezra and Kanan can do with it. I do love though how much Zeb teases Ezra and tries to push his buttons and how he and Chopper seem to get along so well in doing that.

JM: Like Chopper, Zeb loves to torture and poke fun at Ezra. Zeb is the older brother to Ezra and you see it when he smacks Ezra upside the head and says, “You did your job. You want a medal?” That’s exactly what I would tell my younger brother. He straightens Ezra out, but you also see the concern on his face when something happens to him.

Credit: Disney XD, Lucasfilm Animation, Lucasfilm.


EA: Even though Sabine didn’t have much of a major role this time around, I did love her interactions with Zeb. Again, we get to see just how well the two of them really do get along together and how different her interactions are with Ezra in comparison. I haven’t commented on it before, but there’s something about Sabine’s character that I really appreciate: the fact that she’s actually quite calm and patient when she needs to be. Though I do not at all mind Sabine leaving her mark on Imperial territory, I like how that aspect of her isn’t going to be exercised in every episode. It’s something she does, and we get that, but I do like seeing her using her firearms and detonators. It has been commented that her armour will grow as time goes on, which leaves me to wonder if that includes weapons, and if so, what other armaments we just might see Sabine wielding in the future.

JM: I appreciate the fact that it was Sabine and not Kanan who led the group meeting when it came to devising the operation to infiltrate the prison. Sabine is obviously skilled in surreptitiously gaining access to Imperial fortified locations (e.g. Art Attack). Also, make note of the fact that she leads Zeb and plans the rest of the way out of the prison. Kanan and Ezra went off to do their thing and she took charge the rest of the way. Though her presence was not extensive as other fans wanted it to be, she played her role and made the best out of the situation given to her. I look forward to seeing her branch out as the show progresses.

Credit: Disney XD, Lucasfilm Animation, Lucasfilm.


EA: This episode broke my heart in how Ezra felt as if he was unwanted, thanks to him not understanding on his own as to why Kanan would want Luminara to train him other than himself. While I’m sure that Ezra would want to help someone in need, I’m also sure that he doesn’t fully grasp why Luminara is so important, especially when it comes to Kanan’s feelings about the captive Master. From the beginning of this episode, we are witness to Ezra’s Jedi training and how he’s not quite grasping Kanan’s style, which Ezra so blatantly points out when he challenges Kanan to whose fault that really is. By its end though, and with a little clarification on Kanan’s part, Ezra understands and even voices that he wants Kanan as his teacher and nobody else.

I liked how Ezra is progressing with his Force abilities, and we’re not seeing him immediately know how to do things without solid guidance. Even though he’s pushed people and has made things wobble, he’s still new to learning all these things, and it makes me happy that they’re not rushing it.

JM: Ezra has a smart mouth–the kind for which you get smacked upside the head. Like the average 14 year old, he knows exactly what to say in response when authority challenges him. I’ve stressed this before, but I appreciate that he is an accurate 14 year old. He acts his age and he’s not given adult-like qualities. Even though Kanan wanted to hand him over to Luminara, I like that Ezra continued to stand by him as the Inquisitor picked Kanan apart. He knows where his loyalties lie and that’s with Kanan and the crew. You see that loyalty and attachment etched on his face when he thinks that Kanan was going to “dump him” on someone else. He feels like he’s going to be abandoned again, and it pains him to think that he may lose another family. His facial expressions tugged at my heart because he finally found his place and he was in danger of losing that again.

Credit: Disney XD, Lucasfilm Animation, Lucasfilm.

The Inquisitor

EA: We saw the brief scene of him at the end of Spark of Rebellion, but Rebels has done well with not bringing the Inquisitor into immediate play. Even though clips of his appearance have been released, seeing it in the context of the episode was just as strong as I imagine it would have been had I not seen them prior. I love the presence the Inquisitor has about him and how sure he is without coming off as cocky. He’s controlled, but his smiles belay his enjoyment of a fight or the mocking of his partner, which he does to Kanan. He feels like a threat, and an intelligent one at that.

Now for as much as I adore him and his voice actor, I can only hope that the Inquisitor is a rarely seen villain, because if he’s bested time and again, he’ll lose his edge as a threat which would be a real shame. This man is far more dangerous than Kallus and he needs to be treated as such. For now though, I love how he fights, carries himself and talks, and though I just said that I hope he’s rarely used, I cannot wait to see him again.

JM: I might be the only one, but I find the Inquisitor far more intriguing than Vader. People who keep begging to see Vader lead the Imperial efforts against the remaining Jedi need to expand their horizons. The Inquisitor strikes fear simply in the way that he studies people and pokes and prods their minds psychologically. He knows how to get under someone’s skin and pull at their weaknesses. I also like seeing a villain that isn’t driven by blind anger or hate. He speaks eloquently, takes his time, and even found the challenge with Kanan amusing. When the rebels escaped, he didn’t shout into the wind in frustration. He accepted his defeat and moved on to plan for another day. His method of operation intrigues me because he comes across as someone who enjoys playing cat and mouse. He may not strike now, but he’ll strike again soon enough.

Favorite Scene

EA: Kanan fighting the Inquisitor has to be my favourite. I love their different styles of approaching a fight and how it showed off their completely different level of skills. I also like how we see Kanan get angry–not rage inducing angry, but he’s not nearly as calm as the Inquisitor, who very quickly picks up on how to push Kanan’s buttons. It’s a great scene and one I could watch again and again.

JM: Ezra training on top of the Ghost. The entire scene reminds me of The Empire Strikes Back, but I also mainly love it because of the clouds. It’s such a beautiful scene with the pastel colored clouds on a warm afternoon.


EA: Jo mentioned this last week when I had nothing to complain about, but I have to mention it this time because she is completely correct. Yes, the Stormtroopers aren’t the best of shots and we all have had a mighty laugh at that. There are many jokes about how even with a Star Trek Red Shirt, who are the fodder for Star Trek, even they wouldn’t die if a Stormtrooper shot at them. Saying that, they need to do something sometime, and I need them to stop staring at detonators that are thrown their way. They are military, surely they know what a detonator looks like and have the ability to either move away from it or try kicking it back.

There are ways of making an enemy threatening, and at the same time, there are ways of keeping the main cast alive without the bad guys coming off as completely incompetent. Going back to Greg Weisman’s television series, Gargoyles, they had numerous foes that they fought against and even some repeatedly, but never did I end up feeling as if the bad guys really made a misstep when fighting a battle they ultimately lost. I know Stormtroopers are treated as a joke, and seeing them get beat up and bested is funny, but they are soldiers. No matter how poorly trained they may be before being stuffed into their armour, they should at least be displaying some basic level of skill and intelligence.

JM: The lack of reaction to the Inquisitor’s existence. The team just encountered this being wielding a red lightsaber…and none of them say a word about it. Does that mean that Inquisitors are widely known? If not, and if they’re working in secrecy, it’s a shame that we didn’t hear a, “Who the heck was that guy? He had a lightsaber just like yours!” I may be missing something completely, but I wish there was a minute’s worth of conversation about what they had just witnessed and experienced.

Final Thoughts

EA: Besides all the reasons I’ve already mentioned liking this episode, two things stood out to me–for as potentially dorky as they may be. One, I love that we finally got an in canon explanation as to how the saber length works. It may be completely missed by some and not cared about at all by others, but I super appreciate it, because unlike the next point, I honestly had no idea how it worked. Two, this episode also is the first to mention the various fighting styles Jedi use. For those of us more familiar with the previously Expanded Universe of Star Wars, this isn’t exactly coming out of the blue, but it’s good to hear it is actually being acknowledged and that it is now an official part of Star Wars canon.

JM: “Rise of the Old Masters” was, by far, the best episode. These characters are living during the “Dark Times” and you actually witness a piece of the darkness that’s actually connected to the Clone Wars. The writers are aware of the audience, a mixture of children and adults, and they are doing a spectacular job at combining and balancing both lighthearted and darker moments.

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