Anticipation was running high for this episode. Yet how on Earth could you deliver an epic face-off between Maul and Kenobi, where the stakes are so high and yet both are not the swordmasters they once were. All in 20 minutes. Well, deliver it surely did.This was a great episode and there is so much that I could discuss here. But I have the distinct feeling there is even more that I cannot discuss for it needs time to sink in. So for this review I want to focus on essentially only two aspects of this symbolism packed 20-minute episode that aslo featured so much great dialogue.
This episode of Rebels had a huge workload for just 20 minutes because it had to accomplish two essentially distinct things. No doubt this was one reason for Filoni to be personally involved with direction and writing. First and foremost in the mind of the viewer will be that this episode would somehow need to bring closure to the Darth Maul & Obi Wan story-arc. Secondly however, with Ezra set up to meet Obi Wan this episode would also need to clarify for once and for all Ezra’s connection to the Skywalker trilogy. I want to start with that first.
Ezra and the Skywalkers
We know that Ezra has met Leia, we also know that he knows Anakin Skywalker was Ahsoka’s Master and quite probably knows that Anakin is Vader. Ezra knows Maul and Yoda. Ezra truly bridges Prequels and Originals but that makes him an incredible story-telling liabillity. His presence in any Original Trilogy related setting could significantly affect set storylines. But where is Ezra’s destiny then?
Ezra’s journey to Tatooine is beautifully depicted as a journey into nowhere. He almost succumbs in the desert lead astray by visions Maul indices in him. It reminds one fo the ‘One Day in the Void’ episode in Clone Wars, which is also quite foreshadowing what is to come in a way. It is Kenobi who finds Ezra much like he will, years later, find Luke. Sitting at the camp fire Kenobi then is blunt with Ezra: You are not supposed to be here! It becomes clear that this is the moment where Ezra’s connection to the Original Trilogy takes a turn away from Luke’s path. Because it is the authoritive figure of Kenobi who says so, it is so impactful and clear … and definitive. Ezra’s destiny is with Phoenix squadron and his friends there, he has no role in the destruction of the Sith.
Obi Wan doesn’t explain anything, he just sends Ezra on his way. Some reviewers have criticised that but let us not forget what an impact seeing Obi Wan must have on Ezra. He is meeting a character from ‘legends’and such characters can postulate without the need for explaining. Ezra accepts and goes his way, sent ‘home’ by Obi Wan, leaving Kenobi to deal with Maul.
At the end of the episode Ezra tells Kanan, Hera and the others that Maul will not return any more. This shows how much Ezra has understood this lesson and to which degree Ezra acknowledges the definitive nature of Kenobi’s instructions and dealings. Whatever, as far as Ezra is concerned, happened to Maul that was private between Obi Wan and Maul.
Obi Wan and Maul
And so it comes about that the duel between Obi Wan and Maul truly is an almost intimate matter. This is very much analogous to the way the final duel between Vader and Ahsoka was turned into an intimate matter in the season finale of season 2. But this time Filoni doesn’t shut us out of the final moments, instead he gives it all to us yet sets it up in a subtle and expert manner.
All the great duels in Star Wars are conversations by different means. This is true for the duel between Luke and Vader on Bespin or on the second Death Star, for that between Yoda and Sidious or that between Anakin and Obi Wan. These duels also rhyme and ‘talk’ to eachother. So no wonder that this duel between Maul and Obi Wan will also. And Filoni chooses to raise the stakes infinitly by having Maul almost read Obi Wan’s mind and recognizing Obi Wan is protecting someone on Tatooine. That is the moment Kenobi switches on his saber as now it is clear Maul cannot be allowed to get away.
The duel starts out with Obi Wan in his Revenge of the Sith stance, but then before the fight starts he shifts to Qui Gon’s stance in his duel against Maul in The Phantom Menace. This is beautiful story-telling, because Maul responds by attempting to defeat Obi Wan with the same attack he used on Qui Gon. Obi Wan sees it coming and responds with lethal clarity. Maul’s life has come full circle yet it is unclear how this could give closure. Filoni does so in what might be among the finest dialogue in Star Wars.
A dying Maul lies in Obi Wan’s arms, like Qui Gon three decades earlier, but also like Satine Kryze two decades earlier. Maul knows this, and this place is the closest he will ever have been to being … loved. Loved? You might say! Maul’s dying words are bombshells, as are Obi Wan’s responses. When Qui Gon dies he affirmed to Obi Wan that Anakin was the Chosen One. Now a dying Maul asks Obi Wan “Is he the Chosen One?”. Now many viewers may have thought he was referring to ‘Luke’. But Lucas was always clear about it: Anakin is the Chosen One, Filoni knows this. Obi Wan confirms that ‘he is the Chosen One’ to which Maul replies that ‘he will avenge … us’. Maul dies after having spoken of him and Obi Wan as ‘us’. Obi Wan closes Maul’s eyes. Did Maul find peace because he knows now that the one ho will destroy the Sith, the Chosen One, is at the side of Sidious? Is he at peace now because he realizes that his removal from Sidious’side by Obi Wan those decades ago in Theed was just a neccesary step in order to bring about the downfall of Sidious? We are left in delicious doubt, but the way Maul’s life ends it could be that he knows.
This was a difficult episode to make because so much had to be accomplished. I think Filoni delivered on all fronts. The duel that was so hyped was short on action (which I didn’t mind at all) but strong on emotion and depth. I fully understand now that Filoni wanted to take this out of the season finale. Maul got an intimate, personal death in the arms of his enemy. Not redemption … but peace. At the end of this episode Kenobi stands out as this towering yet stern figure that we know from A New Hope. And with Ezra’s ‘dismissal’ from the hexalogy’s main story trend he, but also Rebels, are now free to explore the Rebellion beyond A New Hope. The last shot shows us the Lars Homestead signalling: the original trilogy is happening soon but Ezra’s destiny is not part of it.