This week’s episode of Rebels isn’t a bad one; it’s actually quite good, at times terrifying, and deeply rooted in Star Wars lore. “Visions and Voices,” however, does raise a difficult question about the nature of Rebels as a show: is it about the past, or the future, of the saga? Episodes like last week’s “An Inside Man” allow the show to spread its wings in the relatively unexplored pre-Episode IV era and be its own thing. However, episodes like this one are often caught in the tension of whether this show is supposed to be an epilogue for Clone Wars or a prelude to the rebellion.
“Visions and Voices” picks up from the threads of this season’s much earlier episode of “The Holocrons of Fate,” wherein Ezra has disturbing visions of Maul (Sam Witwer) hounding him. A quick consult with Bendu reveals…not a lot, as Bendu appears, but is annoyingly underutilized this week and disappears as soon as Maul shows up. Anyway, Ezra and Kanan learn that the holocron experiment both left Maul and Ezra with pieces of each other’s information and memories. Ezra still wants to know how to defeat the Sith; Maul wants to know…something. (More on that.) The only way to get there is to engage in a ritual that will complete each other’s missing information.
So Maul takes Ezra back to Dathomir–now wiped of the characters who appeared there in Clone Wars, to engage in a ceremony to merge their minds. (Don’t worry, Kanan and Sabine are close behind with a tracker.) Maul’s hideout is full of Easter eggs and nods to his Clone Wars days, and indeed, this is where the show gets hung up over resolving old prequel-era plotlines. Maul still has the Darksaber in his possession, and again, it appears this will be a plotline to resolve in episodes to come.
But it turns out that the ceremony used Nightsister magic, and performing it summoned their angry ghosts, who demand payment in the form of physical bodies. (This episode is pretty quickly turning into The Exorcist.) Unfortunately, that’s when Kanan and Sabine show up, and they become possessed by the witches. Maul leaves Ezra with the choice of joining him as his apprentice or staying in the futile task of trying to save his friends–demanding that Ezra forget the past. (An ironic statement, given that Rebels keeps dipping back into Clone Wars territory.) Ezra chooses friendship, of course, much to Maul’s frustration.
Unsurprisingly, the day is saved, and Ezra rescues his friends by defeating the giant MacGuffin in the room which Maul identified as the source of their power. This is the episode’s weak spot–as most Rebels episodes are “safe,” the Nightsisters are defeated in the most obvious manner possible. Not that you’ll notice: Ezra finally reveals what both he and Maul learned, and it’s a mutual goal: Obi-Wan Kenobi is alive, and he’s on a planet with twin suns. (Duh! But apparently, the galaxy has a lot of these–Sabine comments that “twin suns” doesn’t really narrow down the possibilities.) So now it’s a race between Maul and the Rebels to find Obi-Wan–Maul wanting revenge, and the Rebels believing he’s the key to defeating the Sith.
As I said, this is the show’s tension–between the past and the future of the saga. The quest to find Obi-Wan is clearly propelling the show towards the inevitable Episode IV period, and it’ll be interesting how it resolves this since we know where Obi-Wan ends up in about two years. (Prediction: Rebels is going to take the opportunity to vaguely adapt this story.) But it’s also constantly dipping into the past, needing to resolve old prequel-era plotlines about Maul’s status and his involvement with the Mandalorians. Relatedly, Sabine ends up picking up the Darksaber on a whim, with hints that this ties to her Mandalorian past as well. Both of these ends are fun and do help marry Rebels to the broader story of Star Wars. At the same time, though, it prevents Rebels from finding its own identity in things like the ongoing Thrawn plot when its characters are subsumed into someone else’s story.
Rating: Four darksabers out of five.