Star Wars Rebels Season 4 Episode 12 Review: Wolves And A Door
A visually striking episode of Star Wars Rebels teases the Force mysticism coming next.
This Star Wars Rebels review contains spoilers.
Star Wars Rebels Season 4 Episode 12
“Wolves And A Door” is a prologue, a gradual opening outward into what the Lothal Jedi Temple has become. As a lead into the finale, it creates some intrigue in the form of the Jedi Temple, but ultimately it’s an episode in which not much happens — a lengthy journey with a few entirely unnecessary scenes, a watered-down new character, and some tantalizing art.
Galvanized after Kanan’s death, Ezra calls the loth-wolves to spirit the Rebels to the Jedi Temple. This scene shows off some of the things I liked best about this episode and the one that follows: the music and the scope of the scenes. The camera lovingly shows each character interacting with the loth-wolves in their own way (big, fluffy Zeb being the most nervous around big, fluffy creatures continues to make me laugh).
The loth-wolves bound across the plains in true The Lion King fashion, bringing the characters through the same kind of time-space distortion Ezra experienced before. The wolves, which at first looked a bit gawky and awkward to me, have mostly grown into their dragon mouths and chicken feet and continue to be, well, cool. Wolves so often capture kids’ imaginations that it makes a lot of sense for them to appear here, adding to the sense of adventure and wildness. The visuals are still constrained but pretty impressive; the colorful hyperspace tunnels continue to be an artistic touchstone in this show, which makes the journey across Lothal feel almost psychedelic. Rebels isn’t afraid to be weird.
The alternate realm feels very inspired by Avatar: The Last Airbender’s generic version of Asian spirituality, with less focus and less real-world identity. It’s something unlike anything seen in Star Wars before, but it doesn’t feel fully out of place, either. Lothal itself has been around long enough to have established a decent sense of place partially because Ezra cares about it so much. After traveling the galaxy for a season or two, Ezra and Sabine are clearly both fighting for Lothal specifically now. I really like what the show is doing with Ezra’s personal connection to the planet, declaring that a character doesn’t have to be Luke Skywalker, leaving his home only to return under the threat of a friend’s death, in order to have adventures. Ezra can make a difference on his own turf too.
However, fans who are expecting the show to stretch further than The Clone Wars did in this aspect might be disappointed by this episode. Arriving at the Temple, the Rebels find that the Empire has constructed a research lab around the walls. This is where the episode begins to feel bit stretched thin. While Ezra and Sabine examine the mural of what Palpatine later calls “the Mortis gods,” Hera, Zeb and Chopper keep watch.
The Mortis arc in The Clone Wars was an odd stopover in the series, three episodes of theater in which living manifestations of the Force enacted a highly dramatic, mostly overwrought game of conflict and balance. Mortis gave the show the opportunity to show some heartfelt character moments such as Obi-Wan speaking to a vision of Qui-Gon Jinn, but it also featured a drawn-out “no” of grief to rival Darth Vader’s Revenge of the Sith scream, the whole story veering from cheesy to affecting and back again. Rebels handles Ezra and Sabine’s ignorance of this history pretty neatly — the symbolic meanings of the figures are obvious, and some quick dialogue establishes that the Imperials know about the painting because of records in the Coruscant Jedi Temple.
The art itself is eye-catching, with gold outlines giving the painted wall the look of traditionally crafted pottery. The animation looks traditional too, with 2D wolves running on a 3D surface to create an effective impression of bent reality and mystical doorways. The music and the visuals continue to make this feel like a polished introduction, a truly magical doorway hidden behind a secret code. As a kid, I might have loved this.
For now, I’m distracted by the entrance of a new character who might be interesting: Minister Hydan, the stooped and finicky overseer of the architectural dig. He’s basically a researcher trope, a square-jawed character sunken down into a robed figure Star Wars Twitter immediately began speculating might be Yupe Tashu. Instead, he’s a new guy without too much to contribute for now. The slimy Imperial advisor type has been around since Sate Pestage pledged his purple hat in Palpatine’s service, and I was curious to see what Rebels would do with Hydan. Turns out he’s been studying the painting of the Mortis trio, but his personality still amounts to about the image of a librarian saying “shush” in terms of both threat and distinction.
Another part of this episode that left me scratching my head was Hera and Zeb’s roles. They stay on the sidelines and mostly just narrate what we already saw happening, with the dialogue serving mostly to express to the audience that the rest of the team did indeed see Ezra and Sabine find the painting. Hera is still grieving, feeling Kanan’s presence as if he’s still with her. I’m glad that the show did not completely gloss over her grief, but instead it goes too far in the opposite direction, showing how bereft she is without making it feel like true character development from her. What does she think his loss means for the Rebellion? What memories of him did she cling to, or what memories might she start to share before deciding that she actually wants to keep them for herself? The dialogue doesn’t express any of that, instead lingering on the image of Hera’s hand on her own shoulder as she imagines Kanan watching from behind her.
“Wolves And A Door” was absolutely a transitional episode, its lush music and the reveal of the Mortis painting preparing the audience for what is bound to come next. A lack of tension left me lukewarm on it, though, as did the fact that at the end of the episode only two major plot points had happened: Ezra had found the gate, and Sabine had been captured. The finale is about to take off, but some of this episode felt like it stalled for time.