I’ve been pretty effusive in my love for Star Wars Rebels through the first two episodes of this season. But as a fan of the show and Star Wars as a whole, I was not prepared for this episode. “Always Two There Are,” a title alluding to the Sith Rule of Two established in the prequels, is a great episode furthering the promise of the series.
They must have known what they were doing to air this episode during the week leading to Halloween. Its premise is basically going to a haunted castle to look for treasure and meeting monsters. Dress it up however else you will; it’s got all the classic hallmarks of a Halloween Special.
A place without power, cold, evil demons chasing the heroes as they have to rush out with the treasure.
And I loved it. It was creepy and thrilling.
Firmly Rooted in Fresh Ground
The greatest triumph of this episode is that, with the exception of the bookend scenes, it’s only original series characters who power the story. It’s a noticebale achievement.
The exposition in the bookend scenes naturally have some important exposition. However, it’s to tie the key acts into the larger mythos of the connected universe.
Most intriguing is that one of the new villains introduced in this episode drops a major bombshell. While I always hesitate to have spoilers in a review, I have to say that finding out Vader is searching for Ahsoka after their brief telepathic brush in The Siege of Lothal is a thrilling “gasp” moment.
That little plot point, like Vader seeking Luke at Hoth, roots our characters into the larger story we know so well. Contextually, it once again seems that Vader cares far more about finding someone than crushing the rebels.
It’s yet another feather in the cap for this creative team.
Old Friends, New Villains
Once again, Zeb gets some nice development time. He seems more sure of himself since being taken under the wing of Captain Rex in the first two episodes. What’s so nice about the interplay between the two is that Rex fits so neatly into this Space Family as the “lovable grandpa.” He even needles the “kids” about how much more disciplined they were in the old days.
This sort of anchor has given clearer lines to all the characters, but Zeb continues to be the greatest triumph. He’s less gruff and seems to be coming out of his shell. Perhaps it’s because that’s the sort of turn I enjoy most in characters and people. But it shows a real clarity of vision and awareness of development on the part of the writers.
The two new Inquisitors they introduce are wonderful. The Seventh Sister (though this name’s only really established outside the script) and the Fifth Brother introduced at the end of “Relics of the Old Republic” (same) bring a menace that ups the ante considerably.
A bit that I enjoyed was the sotto voce complaining about the “mystics” on the bridge of the Star Destroyer where the Fifth Brother is stationed. It ties neatly into the contempt that Motti has for Vader in the original Star Wars (A New Hope): military men focused on the material world have no use for the faith-based talents of Force users.
If I can borrow a sentiment from Vincent Vega, it’s the little things that make the difference.
I’d be remiss not to mention that Sarah Michelle Gellar is the voice of the Seventh Sister. Everyone takes delight in the fact that she plays a villain in the same show her husband, Freddie Prinze, Jr., plays Kanan, a hero.
Setting that aside, she takes a great turn here. Good vocal work is crucial to an animated series. She does a good job, and they modulate her enough that you forget the celebrity name attached.
I still miss the Inquisitor from season one, who is name in this episode as the “Grand Inquisitor,” and lament his short character arc. But these two are wonderfully intriguing characters. I can’t wait to see them in action again.
The Music, Man
The one thing of which I’ve always been most critical is the music. I was pleased with the “The Lost Commanders” and gave a warning glare toward “Relics of the Old Republic,” for their respective willingness to depart from established film cues. This episode knocks it out of the park. The cues for the two new Inquisitors are sinister and ethereal. They’ll serve as a nice motif through the season, or rest of the show if they live that long.
Seriously, I was so happy about the music this time that I have trouble expressing it. For this show to have signs of its own audial signature is so important. Much like the films themselves, it gives it a solid and unique identity.
The Journey to the Force Awakens
As we all know by now, the Marvel Studios philosophy of “It’s all connected” has been applied to the Star Wars Universe. While watching tonight’s episode, I began to wonder if they’ve hidden a big clue in plain sight. Are the Knights of Ren that JJ Abrams has revealed as central figures in Episode VII (Kylo Ren and his rain-soaked band of cohorts from the most recent preview), the spiritual descendants of the Inquisitors? I mean, it makes sense. Tonight’s episode resonated with the idea that the Inquisitors are very devoted not-Sith and devoted to Darth Vader.
I may be barking up a crazy tree, but I want to be the first to postulate it so if I’m right I can taunt other fans forever.
Either way, great episode. The one thing I would have preferred if they’d cut the interplay on the Star Destroyer bridge to save time and preserve suspense. Seeing the Fifth Brother outside the claustrophobic environs, however nice the interplay is with Kallus (David Oyelowo), undercuts the mounting suspense just enough to be a hiccup.
The tease for next week features the return of another character from The Clone Wars, Hondo Ohnaka. If you never watched that show, you’re in for a treat. If you did, the thought of his reappearance should bring a smile.