*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Rebels episode “Shroud of Darkness.”
Despite what some detractors of The Phantom Menace might tell you, the Force remains mysterious. We may now have some vague understanding of how one connects to the mystical energy field that surrounds, penetrates, and binds the galaxy together. But the inner workings of the Force–the actual mechanics and logistics, if you will–continue to defy explanation. And the more we seem to learn about it, the more questions arise from the revelations. Such is the case with this week’s episode of Star Wars Rebels, “Shroud of Darkness.”
Rife with both mind-blowing twists and confirmations of the long-held theories, “Shroud of Darkness” takes Kanan and Ezra back to Lothal in search of guidance. Returning to the hidden Jedi temple they encountered in last season’s “Path of the Jedi,” Master and apprentice are joined by Ahsoka Tano as the trio have decided to attempt to contact Yoda for his advice on dealing with the Inquisitors and Darth Vader. Their last visit to this temple resulted in not only clarification of purpose for the pair but also in Ezra’s acquisition of the Kyber crystal the burgeoning Padawan used to construct his own lightsaber. There is hope that their return will bear similar fruit, but the Force–and Yoda–have larger plans.
Upon their arrival, it becomes immediately apparent that this visit to Lothal’s hidden Jedi temple will be full of surprises. Though Kanan and Ezra repeat their prior actions of using the Force to reveal and open the temple, this time they are presented with a different passage to the sanctuary. Just as the “Room of Requirement” in Harry Potter provided its visitors with different resources depending on their need, the Jedi temple seems to recognize through the Force that our heroes have a different purpose than the last visit and has adapted accordingly.
The Force also shows a great deal of sensitivity in regard to individuality in “Shroud of Darkness,” as does Yoda–one of its greatest practitioners. Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka each receive Force visions while in the temple, and while it was hinted at during the episode itself (and alluded to during its Rebels Recon) that Yoda was responsible for the content of the visions, one could also make the argument that the Force itself was using Yoda to meet his students where they were at and provide them with the guidance they needed. If you will permit me another Harry Potter reference, it’s as if the Force in this episode operates much the same way as the Mirror of Erised–only instead of showing someone what they most desire, it reveals the truth of what they most need, believe, and fear.
Kanan’s vision takes him into a dojo-like setting and into the presence of a Jedi Temple Guard. His sense of familiarity causes Kanan to openly request assistance in defeating Vader and the Inquisitors, but the guard refuses to help with this current problem, dismisses it as futile, and instead addresses Kanan’s deepest fear (and a primary reason for his and Ezra’s first visit to the temple)–losing his Padawan to the Dark Side of the Force. According to the guard, Ezra is a more pressing problem and must be eliminated before he turns.
Unsurprisingly, Kanan refuses to carry out this deed and places himself in the guard’s path. A duel ensues, and Kanan soon finds himself not only outmatched, but outnumbered as additional temple guards join the fight. Fittingly, as the master fights for the fate of his apprentice, Kanan employs the use of two lightsabers: his own (the weapon of a Jedi) and a crimson blade (the weapon of a Sith). Even so, he is overwhelmed by the guards and admits defeat and his inability to control Ezra’s fate. With this confession, the temple guard officially knights Kanan as a Jedi before revealing himself–as the Grand Inquisitor. The revelation that the Pau’an was once a Jedi before turning to the Dark Side has massive implications moving forward and only serves to justify the assertion that Ezra is headed toward evil. Additionally, the return of a dead character to seemingly corporeal form opens the door to all manner of speculation and theory.
As with Kanan’s, Ahsoka’s vision is about addressing one’s fear but is also about gaining knowledge. Through the Force, Tano confronts her own guilt over leaving the Jedi order and her former master. Just as Luke Skywalker found the Dark Lord of the Sith because of what he took with him into the cave on Dagobah, Ahsoka’s fears regarding the fate of Anakin Skywalker manifest themselves in the form of Darth Vader. The phantasmic figure expresses his disappointment in his former apprentice and blames her for what’s happened to him. Whether or not she knew what had happened to Anakin Skywalker prior to this vision is debatable. However, what is clear is that Ahsoka knows the truth now and harbors guilt over what she views as her part in the tragedy.
Fear continues to be the primary theme of “Shroud of Darkness” as Ezra meets with Yoda. As Ezra has grown considerably in the Force since their last encounter, he is able to actually see the diminutive Jedi master. Yoda gives a bit of a history lesson to Ezra and the role that fear and anger played in the destruction of the Jedi order as the erstwhile keepers of the peace became generals in the Clone Wars. A similar fate looms for those, who in their struggle against Vader and his Inquisitors, allow fear to conquer them. And as a final cryptic piece of advice, Yoda tells Ezra to find Malachor, an inhospitable and brutal planet that has often also served as a mild expletive in the Star Wars universe. Whatever the purpose of this quest, one can be sure that it will be dangerous one.
Finally, as the Inquisitors make their way into the temple, they are held at bay by temple guards led by the Grand Inquisitor’s Jedi incarnation. Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka escape just before Darth Vader arrives. Palpatine’s apprentice in nonplussed by the Inquisitors’ assertion that the Jedi are growing in their power; in fact, he believes that development will only hasten their destruction. With the formerly-hidden Jedi temple on Lothal revealed to the Sith, the odds certainly seem to be getting worse for the Rebellion. Only time will tell what assistance–if any–will be found on Malachor.
Thank you for reading! If you have feedback or just want to say hello, you can leave a comment on this page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact me on Twitter @influxman or check out my Rogue page on “Star Wars in the Classroom.”
And don’t forget to check out Rebels Reactions for even more insight, discussion, and analysis of this episode.
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