“Visions and Voices” is exemplary and showcases why we like the series.Worldbuilding, strong characterization, excellent pacing, and even tragedy. There are some issues, such as the logistics of Maul’s plan, confusion over Ezra’s hallucinations, Kanan’s trust issues. However, these are all really small blots on an otherwise great work. It makes for an excellent addition to the canon. This episode was also excellent was how the fanservice was handled. Despite having a ton of fanservice things: nightsisters, Maul, Tatooine mentioning, and even Obi-Wan seeding, it never overrides the episode.
The best episodes of Rebels feel like mini-movies. “Visions and Voices” is no exception. There a lot going on this episode, Ezra’s increasing mental stress, some short talk with the Bendu, Maul’s plan, the dark saber, some battles. This episode has a lot. Pacing needed to be excellent, and the show’s team delivered. Not once did either of us notice the passage of time. Like Zach says: “Good pacing is good when you don’t notice it.” This episode delivers.
Maul’s Increasing Desperation
Maul was very well written in this episode. It would be easy to make him evil for its own sake, cause well evil, and nothing more.
He’s actually a bit more nuanced and because of that, even more disturbing. The writers explore have explored his psyche. His anger is so deep and prolonged that he’s reached a state of seeming calmness, not unlike the Emperor in Return of the Jedi (or your average college student approaching finals). He is so angry at Obi-Wan, at the Empire, at Kanan and Ezra, that his anger has become all consuming. It is the only reason that he keeps on living.
His dependency at having a subordinate in Ezra is increasingly growing more disturbing and even sad. Maul was raised to value brotherhood in his childhood, and then learn feed the white burning hatred of the Dark Side. For Maul, a relationship is built on someone dominating the other. He did that to his brother in The Clone Wars. Now he has nothing, and seems to see Ezra as his only other option. It’s a dark situation and I am increasingly disturbed, saddened, and pitiful towards Maul’s character. Worse still, it seems like he’s beinging himself closer and closer to his doom on Tatooine. It’s very tragic and even thematic. This is all to say Maul has become one of the best written characters in, dare I say, the whole Star Wars canon.
Good Bendu Use
Something Nick really appreciated was how the Bendu was used. He’s like your old great grandpa who traveled the world and smiles like he knows something. He’s not evil, nor is he exactly good, he’s there. He helps when asked. This fluffy rock is a good example of being neutral, and quickly becoming one of Nick’s favorite characters.
Something interesting to note is how Maul never acknowledges the Bendu. This could be a mistake, but we think that might mean something. Perhaps Maul is so imbalanced he can’t see him, or perhaps the Bendu chooses not to have Maul see him. Regardless, we hope it’s something more than what otherwise is a giant plot hole.
Ezra’s Character Clarity
Ezra’s character was excellent this episode. Over this season, he’s sometimes regressed, or come off as Anakin 2.0. With the last two episodes, his characterization has started to finally stabilize into something we like.
Something maintained is how distrustful Ezra is of Maul. He only goes along with him because he has to. Not because he’s tempted, not because he trusts again, but because doing so would reveal the rebel’s entire base to the empire. Ezra recognizes how dangerous Maul is and how simply isn’t someone he wants to be around.
Also strong is how Ezra uses his smarts to saves Sabine by tricking the ghost possessing her outside and Kanan by destroying the night sister’s table. He is able to use his powers of observation to find ways to outsmart his opponents and save the day. He’s shaping up too.
In every episode that Maul shows up, Kanan suddenly becomes distrustful and almost jealous. Of course he is distrustful of Maul, but that distrust also feeds into his treatment of Ezra. No matter how many times the two of them work together to defeat Maul, and no matter how many times Ezra rejects Maul, Kanan always seems to think Ezra will defect anyway.
Kanan was supposed to have gotten over his trust issues with Ezra last season during his vision in the Jedi Temple on Lothal. Yet since then his character has remained fundamentally distrustful of Ezra at all times. Perhaps it is Ezra’s personality that scares Kanan. Ezra is continually seeking something, he has ambitions beyond just helping Phoenix Squadron. Ezra wants to actually change things. Kanan is more content to live in exile, eking out a living on the Outer Rim and helping a few people along the way. The fact that Ezra’s goals extend beyond what Kanan wants to teach him is what scares Kanan.
The Darksaber and Sabine’s Future
From the moment we saw the Darksaber in the episode previews, we hoped that Sabine would get to keep it. That blade has a controversial legacy and a personal history to Sabine. As a part of House Vizsla and Death Watch Sabine must have known stories about the Darksaber growing up, tales of how Pre Vizsla led a war against the Jedi and brought Mandalore to greatness again, and probably how it was lost. For Sabine, though, it probably does not represent the glory so much as it reminds her of her shame. The Darksaber is every part of her past that she seeks to escape or differentiate herself from made physical. But she picks it up. I refuse to believe that Sabine is ignorant of what it is, so she must have a motivation.
In medieval stories, weapons have power. Not just magical powers, but the power of an image. The defining image of King Arthur’s legitimacy is the sword that he drew from the stone. Perhaps this is where Sabine is going. The writing crew in the latest Rebels Recon suggests that Sabine might use the Darksaber to unify Mandalore under a single banner, and personally I would love to see that. Mandalore is a military powerhouse, so if all the Mandalorians, from Kalevala to Concorde Dawn, banded together to throw off the yoke of the Empire, it might well have a chance of succeeding, especially if combined with a larger rebellion.
2nd Half of Season 3 Predictions
- Thrawn will blast Phoenix Squadron into the Stone Age with a well timed attack
- He had better use Ahsoka’s Marg Sabl maneuver and give her credit for it.
- Commander Sato will die, and Hera will take his place as the leader of Phoenix Squadron
- We will see some obvious Death Star in some capacity
- The Season Finale will be a Maul vs Kanan, Ezra, Kenobi duel on Tatooine
- Luke will definitely cameo
- Maul dies
- Either Kenobi finally finishes him off and it brings their rivalry full circle
- Or Ezra kills Maul in a final, ultimate rejection of the Dark Side
Episode Rating: 8, Inspiring: Any shortcomings are nothing but small dots on an otherwise perfect painting. Despite some minor issues, it’s on par with some of the best. I could definitely watch it more than once (or twice).
All images courtesy of Disney