This Star Wars Rebels review contains spoilers.
Star Wars Rebels: Season 3 Episode 20
One of season three’s main arcs comes to an end in a stark, mythology-heavy episode. It’s no secret that Maul is one of my favorite characters, but seeing him killed – and killed quickly – was just one of the many things to unpack in “Twin Suns”.
This episode, written by Dave Filoni and Henry Gilroy, balances three stories in one. Ezra sets off on a mission to find Obi-Wan Kenobi against Hera’s wishes, while Maul haunts him and heads for a collision with Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan himself also has his own small arc, as hidden as it is behind the mystery of the Jedi Master’s whereabouts.
Maul is unraveling in the desert, and if anything, we didn’t get enough of his madness: I had half-expected him to hallucinate Obi-Wan out there in the sand. Instead, he uses Ezra’s connection to the holocrons to draw him in. The scenes on the Ghost are physically dark, but nicely paced. Ezra wants to go back to sleep when he first hears the voice, which is a realistic, quiet little moment that gives him the affect of a prophet hearing the distant voice of his god.
I rolled my eyes a bit when Ezra butted heads with older, more experienced soldiers yet again, but the writing for Obi-Wan is convincing enough that Ezra’s change of heart at the end of the episode feels earned. Encountering a Jedi Master of Obi-Wan’s caliber, even briefly, is a life-changing experience. I felt for Chopper in this episode, too. He shows some uncharacteristic altruism, but it’s Ezra’s grief that really sells Chopper as someone worth rooting for.
Near the beginning of the episode, the only sign of Obi-Wan is his disembodied voice saying “I regret, I regret,” as if all he has is his name and his loss. As soon as we meet him, though, it’s easy to tell that this is a person with weighty history and a balanced, serene outlook. Actor Stephen Stanton does an Alec Guinness impression that isn’t watertight, but sounds similar enough that I felt like I was watching A New Hope again. (I still don’t love Sam Witwer’s take on an aged Darth Maul, but that’s an … old wound.)
In general, watching this episode gave me the feeling of watching really good fan fiction happen on screen. It’s probably time for Maul to be shuffled off stage at last, but doing it this way made his death feel like a significant part of both the Star Wars saga and Ezra’s story. Star Wars Rebels always had some trouble balancing its original characters and saga characters, and including Ezra right up until the end is a good compromise. Now, the show is free to focus on Lothal in the finale, and Maul’s story has come to a satisfying end.
Especially near the beginning when Maul is using Ezra as bait, this episode shows Maul as the tactician he was in The Clone Wars. The episode also puts the emphasis on Luke instead of on Maul’s revenge, and that’s fine. We’ve already seen the grand rematch between Maul and Obi-Wan, because that was in The Clone Wars, too. Instead, we get a short duel and the revelation that both Obi-Wan and Maul think of Luke as the Chosen One.
It’s hard not to think of the speed of the duel as a requirement to comply with the show’s runtime. However, there’s so much to unpack that I hardly mourn the loss of a fight scene. The two clearly do some mental chess before the battle, shifting through different stances as if already having the duel in their heads. And of course Obi-Wan would win the battle of wills; he’s been spending his time in the desert perfecting a patient, defensive zen, while Maul is still subject to the whim of his own emotions.
I love that Obi-Wan shifts through all the major lightsaber forms he’s known for, moving as if through the different stages of his life before ending on an archetypical Jedi stance.
The through-line in the episode is an oft-repeated message, but it’s delivered through characterization rather than just words. Maul sees Obi-Wan’s life in the desert as a punishment of its own, but Obi-Wan had the same message for him as he did for Ezra. “If you define yourself by your desire to … possess, then you have nothing.” Maul is always impatient and dissatisfied, feelings he has also used to manipulate Ezra. Obi-Wan, on the other hand, preaches peace while doing his own work of protecting Luke. The lesson works in part because of how clearly it has manifested in the characters, all of whom we’ve known for years.
And I love the sudden shift at the end. In death, Maul is no longer looking for Obi-Wan. Instead, he’s looking for what he always wanted: revenge and the rise of the Sith. Maul dies thinking that he has won. He dies thinking that there is still a hope for the Sith, and he dies with his greatest enemy as the only one to mourn him.
Then there’s the idea of Luke as the Chosen One instead of Anakin. I don’t think it’s particularly surprising to hear that confirmed, since we know that Luke eventually did bring some balance in Return of the Jedi. (It will certainly be interesting to see how that might play out in the Sequel Trilogy.) I was also struck by how both Maul and Obi-Wan must feel about knowing that Anakin isn’t the hero of the prophecy. Obi-Wan can let go of some of his regret, knowing that even if he failed Anakin as a Master, he did not fail the galaxy. Maul can still believe that he has a chance. Those few do words do so much: they wrap up two stories decades in the making, as well as tying them to the Original Trilogy. The fight scene may not have lasted very long, but it did a ton of work.