This Star Wars Rebels review contains spoilers.
Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 11
Star Wars Rebels season 3 is broken up into roughly two main arcs, both defined by its villains. For the mid-season episodes, Grand Admiral Thrawn serves as the Imperial antagonist who keeps our Rebels from finding the supplies they need to build their army. Earlier in the season and now in the mid-season finale, Darth Maul provides a more personal story: Ezra, after all, still thinks of Maul as an ally, even when the former Sith is building alters to his fallen enemies.
Like other episodes focused on the Jedi apprentice and his would-be master, “Visions and Voices” one leans heavily on the theme of trust. Kanan tells Ezra that he trusts him, even as he instructs Sabine to secretly track the boy. Maul needs Ezra to particulate in a two-person ritual to untangle the scrambled visions they saw in the Holocrons, but doesn’t tell Ezra the whole story. The episode paints a creepy, compelling picture of Maul and Ezra’s dependency: both need one another in order to destroy their respective enemies. Although the ending is simpler than the rest of the episode suggests, and doesn’t move Ezra’s plot forward as much as I expected, this one shows that the Maul episodes can carry a lot of weight.
It helps that the episode is creepy. We learn a bit more about what exactly happened when the Jedi and Sith holocrons were brought together: apparently Ezra and Maul experienced bits and pieces of one another’s memories, and of the visions they were given by the Holocron. Maybe it’s because of this that Ezra starts seeing Maul at the Rebel base, his voice drowning out Hera’s battle plans. The first five minutes or so establish an eerie atmosphere in which Ezra might or might not be going crazy.
Of course, one would know from the trailers that Maul is physically present in the episode, and Ezra wastes no time in asserting as much to Kanan. For an episode filled with secrets and information withheld, “Visions and Voices” is also good at making sure its characters use their words when it makes sense for them to do so. Ezra explains exactly what he saw, and Hera theorizes that it might be a Force vision.
Oddly, this episode isn’t a particularly dark one in terms of what Ezra does. He’s surrounded by dark things and way too willing to drink a mysterious potion, but even surrounded by Maul’s whispering, he very clearly values his friends more than he values the power Maul could offer him. It’s nice to see Ezra on firmer footing, but it’s also a potentially underwhelming ending to the plot line in which Ezra is tempted by the dark side. From the very beginning, he wants to fight Maul instead of joining him, so the temptation is more out of his noble desire to destroy the Sith than the rage that drove him to force a panicked Imperial driver off a cliff earlier in the season. Ezra has to make a decision between Kanan and Maul, but it doesn’t seem like such a difficult decision as it might have been earlier in the season.
The horror later in the episode is less psychological but equally effective. After Maul’s ritual to clarify the Holocron visions unleashes Nightsister ghosts, Kanan and Sabine are possessed. Fittingly, this process looks just like the Nightsister magic we’ve seen before – but also comes with the scuttling posture that Ahsoka adopted when she was turned to the dark side on Mortis, a more jarring comparison. The possession scene doesn’t do much for Sabine and Kanan, because they’re not in control of themselves. They don’t even react particularly negatively when they wake up to find that their bodies were not their own for a while. However, it does become an illustration of how much Ezra believes in his friends, and how little loyalty he has to Maul.
Although it’s occasionally inconsistent, I’ve generally liked Maul’s characterization on Rebels so far, and this episode does a particularly good job. In part, that’s because Maul is looking both forward and backward at the same time. His dialogue is poetic enough that it can be interpreted in different ways depending on whether he seems to be looking forward to finding Obi-Wan or backward to the Clone Wars, or both. His home base filled with relics of his Mandalorian conquest shows how much he dwells on the past, and I’d be curious to see more details of what exactly he has stashed away there. His obsession with Obi-Wan is also still in full swing, shown not only by his insistence on following the vision of “twin suns” but also by the portrait of Duchess Satine, her eyes slashed.
There were a couple particularly interesting moments for Maul in this episode. His obsession with Obi-Wan still has a possessiveness to it, a belief that he is owed the information about where the Jedi is hiding. When he finds out what Ezra knew all along, Maul’s reaction to the “twin suns” planet is a hard-hitting acknowledgement of The Phantom Menace: “it ends where it began.” Maul’s own addled nature elevates this a bit from cliche villain-raving to a quest seen through the eye of someone who was never meant to be on this quest in the first place.
Not long after, Sam Witwer injects some legitimate fear into Maul’s voice when the Nightsister spirits appear, and the discussion of trust begins again. Maul invites Ezra to come with him as a “brother”, and I couldn’t help but think of the last brother/apprentice that Maul lost. It’s a sincere invitation – and one that might even have been helpful for Ezra to accept, since he doesn’t know where the twin suns planet is – but it’s also another look at the big broken family that the Nightsisters are. There’s no rebuilding those ruins.
That said, the actual presence of the Nightsisters was a bit underwhelming. They were frightening, as was the cave full of statues of what look like people cut in half. The Nightsisters don’t actually have any personality, though, taking the form of generic warriors instead of recognizable characters like Mother Talzin or Asajj Ventress. (It wouldn’t have made much sense for Ventress to appear, judging by her canon fate, but it would still have been nice to see a familiar face.) The Nightsisters do get a bit of motivation, though, and it might be interesting to see them attempt to rebuild their society in the future.
The bond between Maul and Ezra isn’t built on trust at all – it’s built on a shared willingness to dive feet-first into a quest, and that dynamic is carefully balanced here. The trust between Kanan and Ezra isn’t explored quite as well, with Kanan outright lying – or at the very least obfuscating – about putting a tracker on Ezra. Of all the things characters were so good at being open about in this episode, that wasn’t one of them. Rebels is taking a hiatus until January, so we’ve got a while to wait to see whether Ezra’s trust in Maul is really broken.