Of all of the episodes of Star Wars Rebels that we have known (so far) the synopses of before they premiered, episode 5 “Rise of the Old Masters” was probably the most anticipated of them all. The reason for this was that a few lucky fans were treated with advanced screenings of this explosive installment, and afterwards spread the hype that it introduced the Inquisitor. Introduce the Inquisitor it does, and I must say, he does not disappoint.
The story begins with Ezra and Kanan running into some problems with Ezra’s Jedi training. Kanan is trying (remember that word) to train his frustrated apprentice using the same methods he experienced. Unfortunately, what with his own lack of understanding of some fundamental Jedi teachings, such as “Do or do not. There is no try,” he becomes just as frustrated as Ezra and gives voice to his emotions by declaring that the impatient kid is hard to teach. The training comes to a standstill after that as Kanan decides that Ezra needs a different teacher. When the Rebels stumble upon a message on the Holonet about the imprisonment of legendary Jedi Master Luminara Unduli, Kanan thinks he has found the perfect solution to his problem with Ezra; if the rebels can but rescue Master Unduli from The Tower prison on Stygian Prime, Ezra will have a new, more competent teacher, and his training will be able to continue with much more success.
The message is, unfortunately for the rebels, a trap, a fact that is apparent when they first enter the prison and are able to pull off their break-in (all to easily). With virtually no resistance, Sabine and Zeb manage to secure the lift they will use to escape while Kanan and Ezra creep into the cell where Luminara is supposedly being held. The person they find within the cell appears to be the real Master Unduli, but success quickly turns to disappointment of a HORRIFIC scale when the image of Luminara walks right into…her corpse.
And that’s when the Inquisitor strides in.
This episode had a lot to love about it, though if I’m being perfectly honest, I’ll admit that I wasn’t completely on board with the story until the prison cell scene. Call it a lack of faith or foresight or whatever you will, but I was not impressed with the rebels’ plan or how easily it was working. The Tower is a top-level security prison for holding top-level prisoners; it should not be easy for ANYONE to just “sneak” in. Once Luminara walked into her corpse, however, everything became clear and my opinion of the episode was transformed.
Some thoughts I had on it: the Inquisitor was perfect. Everything he did was perfect; his plan to capture the rebels nearly worked. Everything about him is meant to be intimidating, from his piercing yellow irises and tall form to his spinning, red double-bladed lightsaber. As promised, he is a master at discovering your secrets; in the course of just a few seconds, he is able to pick out what fighting form Kanan uses, how well he uses it, and who taught it to him in the first place. If I were Kanan, I would be pretty shaken up about this confrontation. Not just for how dangerous and cunning the Inquisitor is, but also for what it means for Kanan and Ezra. Kanan and Ezra may have felt like loners in a galaxy all but devoid of Force sensitives like themselves; now their circle has been enlarged by the addition of another Force sensitive…but this time, it is an enemy, a servant of the Sith-controlled Empire. That knowledge will likely haunt Kanan’s decisions concerning Ezra’s training and the actions of the rest of the rebel group in the future.
As to the other members of the rebel crew, they were, of course, integral to the episode in their own unique ways. Hera had some good scenes piloting the Phantom, the small vessel that can detach itself from the Ghost. It is the interaction between Hera, her ship, and a group of winged creatures, who seem to regard the Phantom as a mating prospect, that secure the rebels’ escape from The Tower in the end. The winged creatures, under the leadership of Hera in the Phantom, prove to be a surprise for the Imperial forces who are trying to keep the rebels contained on The Tower. This was an interesting method of securing the success of the rebels’ getaway plan, to say the least.
Zeb and Sabine contributed little to the overall focus of the story, which was directed on Kanan and Ezra, other than preparing the entrance and escape routes. We did learn a little more about Sabine’s seemingly wide array of skills, however: she proves herself to be quite an expert at identifying The Tower’s security measures. Her “miracle” grenades also get the rebels out of more than one jam during their “rescue” mission. Sabine is clearly the most valuable member on the rebels’ team with regards to tactics. Hopefully we’ll see some character development for her in the near future.
Possibly the best part of this entire episode was the end scene, right before the credits started rolling. After his hopes of finding a new master for Ezra have been dissolved, Kanan becomes reconciled to his new position as Ezra’s only available teacher and realizes the true meaning of the phrase, “Do or do not. There is no try.” If he only tries to train Ezra in the ways of the Jedi, he is setting himself up for failure before he has even begun. If he doesn’t try, however, but really trains him, then even if he fails, at least it won’t be because he didn’t do his best. In communicating this to Ezra, he gives the boy hope. This tender moment between them is capped off beautifully by a training session that carried so much symbolic meaning for me: Kanan tosses rocks at Ezra, who has his eyes closed and has only Kanan’s ignited lightsaber and his own Force sensitivity to anticipate and block the projectiles.
The reasons why I find this scene so meaningful originate in the simplicity of the training exercise and the humble determination of the master and apprentice. Here are Kanan and Ezra, the former struggling with his own incomplete training and the latter a difficult mixture of teen angst and budding promise. They are trying to find their way as Jedi through a tumultuous time when their lives as Force sensitives are constantly in jeopardy. In addition to this, they bear the added hardship of not having the same resources or counseling as the Jedi of the old Order had at their disposal. And yet, here they are on an outer rim planet, far from the once-proud Jedi Temple on Coruscant…throwing rocks and deflecting them because they know of nothing better or more sophisticated to do. And yet it works. It’s a meaningful symbol for the idea that a Jedi need not have the best masters or the most modern training methods at his disposal. This is because a true Jedi is content with simplicity and being resourceful, with doing and not trying. After the prideful failures of the old Order, I think what Kanan and Ezra are doing may turn out to be the best hope for a future, more Jedi–like Order. Maybe their methods will even influence a certain Skywalker, still a few years away from his own journey to becoming a Jedi.
In summation, “Rise of the Old Masters” was bold and fun, and it introduced some interesting prospects for the future. I would probably rank it first or second on my list of Best Episodes to those that are Not The Best, But Still Great. You can now purchase it on iTunes. Tune in to Disney XD on Monday night for episode 6, “Breaking Ranks”!