3.3 The Holocrons Of Fate
Right off the bat, this is a difficult episode to write about without revealing spoilers. The most significant part doesn’t happen until the end. Once we get there, that part is largely disconnected from the main plot, in which Darth Maul is back and has taken the Rebel crew hostage. But when the episode comes together, it tells an open-ended story that doesn’t feel unfinished, a hook into the rest of the series as strong as last year’s Darth Vader vs. Ahsoka Tano showdown. So far, season three has done a fantastic job of proving that it wants to be a bit more episodic.
What it hasn’t done is turn back into the ensemble show I’ve wanted it to be for a long time. This is very much a Kanan-and-Ezra episode, and yet again, Captain Hera is sidelined a bit. When the crew is taken hostage, Maul forces Hera to give him the Jedi holocron and she makes a plan for her crew to escape. I wanted this to be an Out Of Gas episode, taking a page out of Firefly’s book to show what the Ghost means to each character. But the episode wasn’t that, maybe in part because we didn’t get a sense of what losing the ship meant to Hera.
There were several parts of the episode that I thought could be longer, including the capture itself, which takes place completely off-screen. (This is disregarding the amount of time it takes to travel in space, which… we will not concern ourselves about.) The crew, Kanan and Ezra’s conference with the Bendu, and the new canon about what happens when you put two holocrons next to one another could all have been expanded upon. However, I wasn’t left wishing that the episode was longer, neither from a technical or a fan perspective.
For one, Kanan and Ezra’s reconciliation felt true to their characters, as well as to the emotional underpinning of Star Wars. It took descending into a cave for them to be open with one another about how Ezra feels about Kanan’s blindness. Once there, though, communication was all they required. This was another moment where Rebels seemed to be layering real-world advice on its mysticism especially heavily, and it worked – with help from a The Empire Strikes Back reference of Ezra leaving his lightsaber outside the cave. It’s good to see the two Jedi on good terms.
However, Ezra is still very much a changed boy. He knows the word “Sith” now. He also knows that some of his feelings toward Kanan weren’t in keeping with Jedi composure. At the very same time, Ezra is willing to trust both Kanan and Maul. He’s okay with having “Masters,” in the plural. Because of this, it’s understandable why Ezra agrees to go along with Maul’s plan.
That plan makes for some interesting new canon. The Bendu – back quicker than I expected, and still very chaotic neutral – tells Kanan and Ezra that putting a Sith holocron and a Jedi holocron together will give the user a revelation, “clarity beyond your kind.” This concept hasn’t cropped up in canon before, and frankly, in this episode, it’s essentially a plot device. The characters need the holocrons in order to be together and to use the holocrons. Maul has conveniently appeared in order to go after the same goal. However, I can’t fault the episode for starting out this way, since the MacGuffin becomes so much more by the end.
More before we get to that, though. Freddie Prinze Jr. brings great range and emotion to Kanan as always, giving the character once described as the “space cowboy” some casual but very wounded charisma. This episode makes sure to emphasize both that Kanan can’t see and that his other senses are working hard to compensate. Maul, who himself has prosthetic legs, mocks Kanan – but the Jedi can even smell blaster scarring on the walls of a ransacked ship. The animation is also excellent. I especially liked Kanan’s curled lip as he listens to Maul talk to Ezra. When Kanan gets ejected into space, the frost on his armour also looked very cool.
Ultimately, Maul is the catalyst for most of the episode. Sam Witwer plays him closer to Peter Serafinowicz’s The Phantom Menace version than ever before now that Maul is freed of both his traumatic stint as a leader of Mandalore during The Clone Wars and his scheming on Malachor. His voice breaking makes him sound older. Maul’s focus varies widely in this episode, from his hyper-fixation on the holocrons to his vague reasoning for why he even wants them.
There are a few clunkers in the dialogue. “You will remain alive only as long as you are of use to me” is redundant, and “try, try again” feels out of place. However, I’ve generally gone from sceptical to accepting of this version of Maul, and the unhealthy Master-apprentice relationship with him and Ezra looks like it’s going to continue to get more interesting.
That brings us into real spoiler territory, so turn back now if you don’t want to know details of the end.
The two holocrons have conveniently conveyed incomprehensibly clarified questions to Maul and Ezra, getting them started on a search that sounds a lot like it will end at the Lars homestead. Maul’s “he’s alive” and Ezra’s “twin suns” don’t necessarily mean that we’ll get a showdown on Tatooine, but it’s certainly possible. Maul and Obi-Wan have fought over Luke Skywalker before – in the comic Old Wounds from Dark Horse’s Star Wars: Visionaries. As soon as Maul got his prosthetic legs in The Clone Wars I started thinking of that comic, and at the very least we have some intriguing developments to look forward to in Rebels.
The holocron also reveals more about Maul’s still-fragile psyche. When he says that he’s looking for “hope,” it can be read as both truth and a coded reference to Obi-Wan. On the other hand, the emptiness he finds in the holocron stuns him. On the behind-the-scenes Rebels Recon, Story Group member Pablo Hidalgo called back to Maul’s many near-deaths, saying, “He’s been denied death too many times” and might want someone to carry on his work. That work is so muddled now, though, and Ezra has grown up in a very different world. Like Ahsoka and Vader’s confrontation, pitting Maul against Obi-Wan would add a lot of weight to Rebels, in both good and bad ways. So far, we’ve also seen how viscerally it effects Ezra.
The Holocrons Of Fate could have been structured differently and suffered from a lack of focus on the crew at an important time. However, it also opened up some intriguing new possibilities, and dealt with both Ezra’s and Maul’s emotional journeys with a balanced tone the Bendu would love.
Read Megan’s review of the previous episode, Steps Into Shadow, here.