The double length season finale offers some serious wish fulfillment for “Star Wars” fans.
We open with former Jedi Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Padawan Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray) and astromech droid Chopper making their way to Malachor in the Phantom dropship.
Communicating via hologram, Clone Commander Rex (Dee Bradley Baker) offers to back them up, but Ahsoka gently turns him down. As they arrive over the ominous looking planet, Kanan notes that it was always off-limits to Jedi.
Having been told to venture there by Yoda, Ezra asserts that Malachor is where they’ll find the knowledge they need to defeat the Imperial Inquisitors. Chopper tracks another ship to some stone pillars towering over a barren stretch of land, so they land.
Ahsoka sees writing in the “Old Tongue” etched on one of the pillars, but an entranced Ezra touches its surface and the ground under them crumbles away.
After the trio recover from their fall, they gaze upon a red-tipped Sith temple in the distance. Chopper has remained at the Phantom (it’s reassuring that they have an escape plan after the foreshadowing of the penultimate episode) and reports that the ship they tracked is nearby.
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Ezra asks Ahsoka about the nature of the knowledge they seek.
“The forbidden kind,” she says. “To defeat your enemy, you have to understand them.”
Seems they’ll be coming dangerously close to the dark side very soon!
Unfortunately, this isn’t Ezra Bridger’s new lightsaber.
They walk among countless ashen bodies on what is clearly an ancient battlefield and Ezra picks up one of the many fallen lightsabers. In a gloriously simple nod to “The Force Awakens,” he ignites the green crossguard blades and we get a hint as to where Kylo Ren got the idea for his weapon. Maddeningly, the three blades immediately sputter out and they continue their journey towards the temple.
However, they are interrupted once more when an Imperial Inquisitor leaps from the shadows. The trio rush into battle, but the previously unseen Eighth Brother (Robbie Daymond) leaps away and flings explosives at them.
The blast makes Ezra fall to a level below, but the teen immediately announces that he’s unhurt. Ahsoka and Kanan take off after the new Inquisitor, leaving their young ally to catch up. He wonders aloud where he is.
“I know where you are,” says a feeble voice from the shadows. “You’re with me, heh!”
As Ezra ignites his lightsaber, the shadowy, hooded figure mirrors Yoda in “The Empire Strikes Back” as he hobbles along with a walking stick and assures the Padawan that he means no harm. He claims that his ship crashed there long ago, before telling Ezra that they came to Malachor for the same reason: knowledge.
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The yellow-eyed being says he knows how to enter the temple and get what they seek, but he needs the teen’s help. Ezra remains skeptical of this unfamiliar person.
“Call me … Old Master,” says the being (Sam Witwer), his red tattoos slowly becoming clear.
Returning to his old alias, Ezra introduces himself as “Jabba.” Because there’s no way half the galaxy hasn’t heard of the infamous Hutt gangster.
Old Master … or Old Maulster?
Old Master tells Ezra that the Inquisitor is pursuing him, prompting the teen to ask if he was a Jedi. His voice becoming subtly stronger, he denies that affiliation, but confirms that he was a once a Force user.
When Ezra says Old Master is a Sith, the being venomously notes that the dark side group took him from his mother, killed his brother and used him “as a weapon” before casting him aside. Of course, fans know that this is all true; he is describing events seen in “The Phantom Menace,” “The Clone Wars” and the “Son of Dathomir” comic series.
His yellow eyes are tinged with sadness as he claims to have been left with nothing. Ezra empathizes, saying that Empire took his family and home.
Old Master promises him justice and claims to have discovered “the key to destroying the Sith,” which he promises to share with Ezra once they enter the temple.
On Kanan’s orders, Chopper rockets towards the ship they tracked: the Eighth Brother’s TIE Advanced v1. He barely dodges the Inquisitor’s spinning blade to leap into the cockpit. When Ahsoka and Kanan arrive, the ever-aggressive droid opens fire with the fighter’s heavy blasters and knocks the Imperial to the ground.
“Chopper, sometimes you do it right,” says a proud Kanan.
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When the pair interrogate the defeated Imperial about his true target, he reveals that he is pursuing “a shadow.”
Ezra and Old Master arrive at the temple, prompting the elder Force wielder to reveal the trick to passing the solid doors that block their way.
“Two must lift these stones, no more, no less,” he says, echoing the Sith creed.
Funnily enough, this trial requires a large amount of trust between two beings and this is a quality that the backstabbing Sith sorely lack. Clearly, it was designed to mess with them in a big way. In the impressionable young Ezra, Old Master has found a way to subvert this danger.
Ezra struggles to move the first door with the Force and Old Master implores him to use his anger, subtly referencing the Sith Code. This creed was originally written for the 2003 video game “Knights of the Old Republic.”
With an aggressive expression, Ezra tries again and successfully lifts the door. He and Old Master alternate in lifting the doors to make their way through, with the elder being’s red and black tattoos and mechanical legs becoming increasingly obvious as the “Indiana Jones”-style scenario plays out.
When they get through, Old Master delivers some fatherly advice in a manner similar to that of Darth Sidious in “Revenge of the Sith.” Ezra reveals his real name and Old Master says he once had one too, but he has forgotten it.
“Now … now I am called Maul,” he growls, surprising absolutely no one as he regains some of the ferocity he had in “The Clone Wars.”
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The pair enter a large chamber to find a Sith holocron, but they are cut off by an impassable hole. A trusting Ezra suggests that he jump and Maul can propel him to the platform with the Force. We know that he has some practice with this move.
In a moment of tension, the teen leaps into the abyss and the fallen Sith Lord pushes him to his destination. Once he has the holocron in hand, the platform starts to rise towards a deadly looking energy source at the ceiling of the chamber.
Ezra, Ahsoka Tano and Kanan Jarrus prepare to face their greatest challenges.
Maul convinces Ezra to leap back and then, surprisingly, passes up the chance to simply take the holocron as he helps him back up. It’s almost enough to convince us that he’s changed his ways.
Ahsoka, Kanan and the handcuffed Eighth Brother arrive at the temple door, but are immediately accosted by the newly arrived Fifth Brother (Philip Anthony-Rodriguez) and the Seventh Sister (Sarah Michelle Gellar).
After Maul tells Ezra that only a Sith, or one who thinks like one, can open the holocron, he uses it to open it all the doors leading to the battle outside. The teen leaps into the fray, telling Kanan and Ahsoka that they have a new ally.
Ahsoka knows exactly who he is, even though they never met in “The Clone Wars.” Could they have crossed paths in the years since? The Inquisitors recognize Maul as “the shadow” they seek.
“What fun, what fun!” says a cackling Maul, as the first half of the episode ends.
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When part two begins, he strolls calmly towards the combatants and the Seventh Sisters notes that the rumors of Darth Maul’s survival are accurate.
“Formerly Darth, now just ‘Maul,’ ” he replies, apparently casting off any allegiance to the Sith.
Ezra claims that the rebels have an ally in Maul, who decides to prove himself by discarding part of his cane and igniting the twin blades of his new lightsaber. He leaps among the Inquisitor trio and effortlessly defends against their attacks, prompting the Imperials to retreat.
The Imperial Inquisitors aren’t the greatest threat the rebels will face in this episode.
Maul tells the “two Jedi and a part-timer” that he too wishes to see the Empire fall, but warns them that Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) will arrive soon. All four agree that they don’t have a chance against the Sith Lord’s ferocity.
Ezra tries to get them focused on their objective; getting the knowledge of the Sith from the holocron. Maul says they can unlock the temple by placing the artifact in an obelisk at the peak of the structure and convinces a reluctant Kanan that this is the best course of action.
“How exciting, we’re all on the same side,” says Maul flippantly, sounding a little like Mark Hamill’s Joker in “Batman: The Animated Series.”
It’s worth mentioning how great Witwer’s performance as Maul is. He has succeeded in make a character who said virtually nothing in “The Phantom Menace” a lot of fun, with so many layers in these episodes alone.
At the base of the temple, Maul reveals an elevator in its corner and prepares to ride up with Ezra. However, Kanan steps in and insists on accompanying the teen. They leave Ahsoka and Maul to take the next one.
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During the ascent, Kanan tells his Padawan to be careful with the manipulative Maul. Ever the rebellious teen, Ezra counters by saying the ex-Sith sees his potential. At the top, the Eighth Brother launches an attack, which knocks Kanan out and leaves Ezra dangling off the edge.
Maul arrives just in the nick of time and drives the Brother away, furthering his worrying bond with Ezra as Ahsoka wakes Kanan up. Against the Jedi’s wishes, the group splits up to divide the pursuing Inquisitors.
When best buds Maul and Ezra depart, the ever-zen Ahsoka reassures Kanan that the teen will be okay.
During this elevator ride, Maul continues to whisper about the dark side to Ezra in the same way his former master did with Anakin Skywalker in “Revenge of the Sith.” They are attacked by the Seventh Sister’s mini-probe droids, before the Inquisitor appears.
The teen engages her in a duel, which Maul quickly ends by choking the Sister with the Force and dangling her helplessly in front of Ezra.
“Strike her down!” yells the former Sith.
When the teen refuses to do it, Maul flings his lightsaber through the air and ends the Inquisitor’s life. Snarling, he tells Ezra that hesitation could get him or his friends killed. He then gazes into the distance, apparently sensing a presence that makes him uneasy.
At the same time, Kanan and Ahsoka are ambushed by the Brothers. After sending Ezra to set the holocron at the peak of the temple, Maul activates his saber and jumps into the fray.
His aggressive fighting style drives the Inquisitors back and Ahsoka manages to disarm the Fifth Brother, before Maul cuts down his helpless foe. Well, the two recurring villains of the season just got killed by the same guy, within minutes of one another! Hopefully we’ll learn more about them in future, like we did with their former boss.
Kanan damages the Eighth Brother’s lightsaber and the final Inquisitor screams as he falls from the temple. It’s unlikely that we’ve seen the last of him. With their enemies dispatched, the Jedi demands to know where Ezra is.
“You mean … my apprentice?” Maul responds, before attacking and apparently blinding Kanan with his lightsaber. Jeepers, this guy really ups the danger level in “Rebels!”
Funnily enough, this is second time a “Star Wars” character played by Sam Witwer has blinded a Jedi. In the 2008 video game “The Force Unleashed (now part of the Legends continuity), Galen Marek (Witwer) pushed his lightsaber’s blade into General Rahm Kota’s eyes. Like Kanan, Kota was a survivor of the Jedi Purge and an important figure in the formation of the Rebel Alliance.
Maul is ready to join the “fun.”
Ahsoka stops Maul from doing any more damage, but ex-Sith gloats as he reveals that Ezra is activating the temple “or, more precisely, this battle station.”
Ezra arrives at the top and finds the obelisk in an ornate chamber. With the holocron in place, the temple (Nika Futterman) speaks to the teen and informs him that “knowledge is power,” before sending an energy blast into the sky as it powers up.
“The power will be mine, Ezra will be mine,” screams Maul as he engages Ahsoka in combat. “And there is nothing you can do to stop me!”
A sightless Kanan feels around and finds one of the cool Jedi Temple guard helmets on the ground, then hides his wounds as he prepares to face Maul. Ahsoka leaps up the stairs leading to the obelisk chamber, cutting their duel maddeningly short to leave and help Ezra.
Maul stalks towards Kanan, who adopts a defensive pose and uses his ears to track his foe until he strikes. He blocks the attack and knocks Maul off the edge of the temple, ending their battle as quickly as it began. It didn’t take him long to adjust to the loss of a sense!
Kanan calls Chopper for a pickup, but the astromech warns him that a TIE fighter is approaching. It would appear that the one they all feared has arrived.
The Sith temple informs Ezra that “the power to destroy life is at your command.” When the Padawan denies that he wants this, the temple suggests that the other who approaches might take it.
Ezra runs to the edge of the temple to find the imposing figure of Darth Vader standing on top of his TIE, with his lightsaber’s red blade activated and cape fluttering lightly in the wind. Wow.
The Dark Lord leaps down and locks blades with Ezra, who claims not to fear him.
Ezra faces Darth Vader for the second time.
“Then you will die braver than most,” replies Vader.
However, he quickly cuts away the Padawan’s weapon and knocks him to the ground. Ezra cowers as the Sith prepares to strike him down.
“Perhaps I was wrong,” says the villain, displaying some of his trademark dark humor as he raises his weapon.
“It wouldn’t be the first time,” Ahsoka says calmly.
The two face off and Vader offers her mercy if she gives up the locations of the remaining Jedi. Ahsoka says her suspicions that the man behind the mask was her former master must have been wrong. Vader claims to have destroyed Anakin Skywalker for his weakness.
Ahsoka swears vengeance and the much anticipated duel finally begins. The former Jedi is far more agile, but Vader slowly drives her back with his superior strength. Ultimately, the Sith Lord pushes her off the temple.
As the battle moves away, Ezra tries and fails to deactivate the temple. Kanan arrives, guided by Chopper, and tells him that they’ll need to work together to get the holocron. They reach in together and pull the Sith artifact out, but the temple begins to crumble around them.
Kanan leans on Ezra as they move towards the Phantom, but Vader suddenly pulls at the holocron with the Force. Before the Sith can drag the teen into his grasp, Ahsoka leaps in and savagely attacks, damaging Vader’s helmet. The broken mask reveals one of her former master’s Sith-yellow eyes and makes him revert to a raspy version of his normal voice (Matt Lanter).
“I won’t leave you, not this time,” says Ahsoka, referring to her decision to leave the Jedi Order in the fifth season of “The Clone Wars.”
It seems the Sith holocron will play a role in the Padwan’s future.
“Then you will die,” replies the merciless Sith, before the two engage in battle again.
With Kanan safely aboard the Phantom, Ezra prepares to rush back to Ahsoka’s aid. She pushes him back with the Force, just as the temple closes and cuts them off. Kanan, Ezra and Chopper take off on the Phantom and the temple explodes.
Back on Atollon, the Ghost crew meet the blind Kanan and a despondent Ezra. Rex looks on guiltily as he realizes that Ahsoka has not returned.
Jumping back to Malachor, we find Maul flying away from the planet on one of the Inquisitor’s TIE fighters. Will the former Sith seek out his young “apprentice” again?
A badly wounded Vader walks slowly from the ruins of the temple and we glimpse Ahsoka stepping into the shadows elsewhere. So it would appear that she defied the odds and survived their fateful encounter?
On the Ghost, the final image of the season sees Ezra opening the holocron, with a Sith glint in his eyes.
Season 3 of “Star Wars Rebels” is scheduled to air in late 2016.
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