Review: Star Wars Rebels, “Shroud of Darkness”

(Photo: Lucasfilm)

This review contains spoilers.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been exploring the characters and their motivations, but we’re finally coming down to a point in the season where some of our heroes are being tested and being exposed to truths that they’ve been reluctant to face. While “Shroud of Darkness” is not the best episode of the season, as some have claimed it to be, it’s certainly a great episode that further explores the mysterious ways in which the Force works. And although the episode would have benefited from being longer or from being broken up into multiple episodes, the writers successfully gave each character the right amount of focus in a short amount of time, making for an emotionally charged and well-rounded episode.

It was great to see Ahsoka again, especially since she had been away doing other things in the background. Had she been left out of the episode only for her to return for the last two of the season, it wouldn’t have felt right. We definitely needed this stepping stone as a way to bridge the gap as well as to finally confirm her original suspicions regarding Darth Vader’s identity. Though very emotional, mainly because it was wonderful to hear Matt Lanter return to voice his role as Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, one can’t help but feel miffed about his exchange with Ahsoka. It just proves once more that Anakin blamed everyone else for what happened, instead of him taking responsibility for his own actions. The moment is also depressing because it sets Ahsoka up for failure and disappointment because there is no other way of defeating Vader until Luke Skywalker shows up later on.

As much as I loved the parts with Ahsoka, I loved even more the scenes that involved Kanan and the Jedi Temple Guard. When he went through his lit door, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but the end result was both outstanding and gratifying. We’ve watched Kanan grow as a Padawan through the Kanan comic book series and saw him rise to the occasion in A New Dawn, so to have seen him successfully pass a test that so many other Jedi failed to understand and for him to have become knighted for it really demonstrates how far he’s come. It’s a beautiful thing, really, for his character to be rewarded in the most amazing way ever. It’s a title he’s rightfully earned, but with it, comes this feeling that we’ve reached the highest point of Kanan’s story. He’s a Jedi Knight living during the dark times, and unlike Obi-Wan who’s hidden away in a desert, Kanan’s out on the front lines. It’ll be interesting to see how his story moves forward from here, especially in relation to Ezra.

While Ezra has shown much maturity throughout the series, his conversation with Yoda showed that he’s still a youngling in many ways. That said, he is the character with who I identify the most in the series and completely understood his motivation and need to fight for the people he cares about. It’s commendable that someone of his age wants to do good and wants to help because there are a lot of people his age and older who couldn’t care less about the state of the (world) galaxy, but it’s also difficult for someone of his age to understand the importance of picking and choosing battles and that a continued state of fighting has a tendency to warp personalities and ideals. It was a beautifully written, the fact that Kanan learned when not to fight, while at the same time, Ezra is on this war path with no signs of backing down. They’re both on two different ends of the spectrum, so it’ll be interesting to see how the two will clash down the road.

Overall, the episode was a great reminder that things won’t always be as happy and cheery. The war against the Empire is gradually changing people and the writers are doing a magnificent job at showing that in bits and pieces. Not only is that approach more believable, but the longer we stay with these characters, the harder it’ll be to part from them when things start to get darker and more serious.

Elisa’s Thoughts

  • One thing I really like about Kanan and Ezra, and something that has been shown as the series has progressed, is that they have been good for one another. Not only is Kanan trying to guide and teach Ezra as best he knows how, pushing himself to improve and be what Ezra needs him to be, but the pair have combo movies that set them apart from other Master and Padawan pairs. The two are a singular unit who excel together, but are also completely separate and unique from each other. It’s a nice combination of growth.
  • I love that Ezra’s ability to connect with creatures is only continuing to grow. I had been hoping we’d see him use his ability again, and this was a great way to showcase it while having it be different from other times he’s used it.
  • Now, this is something that comes in later, but this whole episode and what happens in it is because Kanan doesn’t understand why or how the Inquisitors can keep finding them and how he and Ezra are “endangering the whole squadron” by being with them. I know the Force is never direct in its answers, and even when you think it is, it probably isn’t, what with the whole “future is always in motion” aspect, but do they actually get their answer to this question? Not directly, but I’ll say yes. Henry Gilroy in Rebels Recons said, “Ultimately the visions created in the temple are a means of communication for Yoda, to instruct and teach these young Jedi.” Ahsoka, Kanan, and Ezra have all been given the tools they need to deal with something that is quickly approaching. Something which was put into motion with Yoda telling Ezra to go to Malachor, which makes me anticipate the double episode finale all the more.
  • I was not prepared for how much it would hurt to actually hear Anakin’s voice. Even before the Temple vision, hearing and seeing him in the training holo was a punch in the gut of nostalgia.
  • I really loved the Jedi Temple on Lothal and I’m extremely saddened that it’s probably gone now. Or at least unreachable by the rebels. I wonder if we’ll get a new temple later on, or if this last set of visions was giving the characters what they needed most because it knew that this would be their last opportunity for them in such a place.
  • “I wouldn’t do anything you would do.” Kanan’s line is so offhanded and a joke, but given what happens during his vision and what he is confronted with, I wonder if it’s a line that will eventually be a painful one in retrospect. Part of being a Jedi is acceptance and showing the strength to lay down one’s weapon. Kanan passed his trial, accepting that he can only do so much when it comes to Ezra and what may or may not happen to him due to the choices he makes. The whole scene was a great insight into Kanan and I feel preparing him for things to come, even if they hopefully will not be as dire as what we’ve been led to believe.
  • Ahsoka’s vision was everything I thought it would be, which is awful and painful. People who have watched the unfinished episodes of The Clone Wars have picked up on the fact that at one point Anakin was disappointed in Ahsoka. At some point, from him watching her leave to his time talking with Obi-Wan, his thoughts on the whole thing had soured and he’d begun to turn against her even before the war was over. Now, Anakin is not dead, and I’m sure that he’s not sorry, especially at this point for what he has become, but the blame Ahsoka feels and what Anakin says feels very genuine for what his character would say if he were in the frame of mind to say such things. I would say it is her guilt speaking, though, which is why her seeing Yoda on her way out means all the more, because he’s there smiling and giving her a little wave, and I would hope in that moment she knows that it’s not her fault and that she is not being blamed for any of this. Though, her “there is still a way” leaves me on pins and needles to know what that may be referring. It also breaks my heart in a good way because Ahsoka was the one person he actually interacted with when he saw lying dead in the Temple hall when he had his vision in season six. I don’t know if he ever saw her again after she left the Order, but their brief interaction makes me happy for them both.
  • Since Ezra’s first vision, Yoda has had to speak to a boy who has argued about how it could possibly be wrong to fight to protect those he cares about. Ezra’s first line to Yoda this time is “You must know a way to destroy Vader and his Inquisitors.” Ezra has never been shy when it comes to his belief in fighting. This episode solidly splits Kanan and Ezra, which is even more evident at the start of the episode. Kanan learned that he cannot always fight and that he has to accept that, and Ezra continues on his path of seeking to stop and destroy those who he feels  need to be stopped. Yoda does his best to tell Ezra what he needs to hear, bringing up the arrogance of the Jedi and the path that led them down. He literally tells Ezra that it led them to the dark side, and Ezra, without skipping a beat, shakes it off and immediately brings it back to what he wants to know. Was it wrong for the Jedi to fight? And is it wrong to want to protect his friends? Despite it all, Ezra says that they have chosen to fight, something that may not be Kanan’s goal anymore given his vision, and there is only sadness on Yoda’s side.
  • Now, why Yoda would say “find Malachor” is a mystery. Like how he motivated the Force, is he being motivated to give an answer, even though, he wishes he could not?
  • I love what a struggle it is for the Inquisitors to open the Temple, and how their efforts made red appear along the design. While this goes to show that Ahsoka would have been capable of helping open the Temple, it also shows that it may not have been easy for her if it only wanted those who had never strayed to access it. I do wonder if she would have made a colour appear as well, or if it only would have taken her longer to force the Temple to open.
  • The Fifth Brother’s expression at seeing the Grand Inquisitor was quite telling to the relationship or non-relationship that they had prior to his death. There was no sense of joy or only shock at him being there, it was also fear.
  • Vader’s cape is beautifully animated.
  • The last line of this episode is Vader saying, “It will be their undoing,” in response to hearing that the Jedi are growing stronger. Typically, since your opponent becoming stronger is the opposite of what someone wants, I wonder if Vader is directly thinking to what had happened before and to what Yoda had warned Ezra about. With strength can come arrogance, and that could come back around to Ezra, since he is so sure of their fight and the concept of winning.
  • We know Ezra will be different from both Luke and Anakin: one who never fully strayed and had a brush with the dark side, and the other having fallen completely. I wonder if Ezra’s fate for the time being is to fall, but catch himself at some point and return with a better understanding of who he is and who he wants to be. With the rumor that he’ll have short hair, I could see that not only as a pragmatic thing for him to do, but if he does fall, it would be another way of separating himself from Kanan, who has longer hair.
  • This episode was fantastic, and I cannot wait to see how this season wraps up after all we’ve been given so far.

Make sure to tune into the next all-new episode on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, at 9:00PM EST on Disney XD.

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