*This review contains spoilers.
My reasons for watching Disney’s animated series Star Wars Rebels are twofold – it makes connections to the other animated series The Clone Wars and, more importantly, with the Star Wars films, but it also gives me a chance each week to bond with my young son over our mutual love of all things Jedi. That said, season 3 episode 20 – “Twin Suns” – is well beyond just any episode but rather a defining moment not only for this series but the mythology of the entire franchise.
The title “Twin Suns” refers literally to the two suns of the planet Tatooine, but figuratively can be seen to represent two Jedi sons Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray) and Luke Skywalker (in this episode a shadow seen only from a distance). These Jedi must go in separate directions to fulfill their destinies, and protector Obi Wan Kenobi (Stephen Stanton sounding more like Alec Guinness than seems possible) must see to it that both stay safe.
The looming threat in this episode is (the former Darth) Maul, voiced convincingly by Sam Witwer, who through The Clone Wars and then Star Wars Rebels has been seeking Obi Wan to exact his revenge (for being sliced in half during the film The Phantom Menance). Maul’s entire arc through that film and the two series has been used to illustrate the depth of the dark side’s power and evil, and Maul’s attempt to enroll Ezra as his “apprentice” connects with the mythology of the Sith once defined by Yoda as “There’s always two: no more, no less.”
Yet Maul can be seen as trying to relinquish his ties to the Emperor (also Witwer) and become a different type of follower of the dark side of the force, if not actually Sith, and using it to his full advantage as he lures Ezra to Tatooine in order to bring Obi Wan out of hiding.
Writers Dave Filoni and Henry Gilroy have great respect for the Star Wars canon, and it is never more obvious than in this episode that carefully weaves threads from the films and both TV series into a dramatic fabric that is quite effective. Ezra has a vision, inspired by Maul, that Obi Wan is in danger, and then he defies Hera (Vanessa Marshall) and Kanan (Freddie Prinze Jr.) when they tell him they need him to stay put and fight for the rebellion (which they do).
Ezra, always impetuous and still learning the ways of the Force, decides to heed the call anyway, which makes perfect sense for his character. With intrepid droid Chopper as a stowaway he blasts off for Tatooine without thinking – his confrontation with Maul would obviously end in disaster if it were to take place.
Maul wanders the desert of Tatooine waiting for Ezra to arrive, and when he does so is immediately attacked by Sand People, but just like Obi Wan saving Luke from them in A New Hope, Maul saves Ezra from them here, but not before they destroy his ship and any chances of escape.
Chopper is eventually incapacitated by a dust storm and Ezra collapses, only to wake up and find that Obi Wan has saved him. This allows the characters a chance to talk – the erstwhile Jedi master and the apprentice who looks up to him as an idol. Though their encounter is brief, Obi Wan’s wisdom is not lost on Ezra. This momentous interaction has to change Ezra, help him refine his views, and bring him closer to the Force.
Maul appears as we and Obi Wan know he would, and Obi Wan quickly sends Ezra and Chopper off to make their escape. The “battle” we have been anticipating since these two faced off in The Clone Wars has finally arrived, and there is some banter between the two, with Maul condescendingly saying, “Look what you have become – a desert rat.”
But we know that all this time Obi Wan has not just been wallowing in the desert. He has been there as a protector of Luke Skywalker all this time, and he has also been perfecting his connection to the Force and his Jedi skills. Thus, the battle with Maul is not a long, drawn out one as between Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) and Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) in the season 2 finale, which was a battle of almost equals. Here Obi Wan (not surprisingly) quickly dispatches Maul after Maul surmises that he is protecting someone on the planet.
As he dies in the arms of his opponent, there is a moment of illumination for Maul but not redemption – he asks Obi Wan if he has been protecting the Chosen One. Obi Wan admits that he has been, and Maul expires wrongly thinking that the Chosen One will bring about his revenge, but Obi Wan knows otherwise. The Chosen One’s purpose has always been to bring balance to the Force.
So, after eight films and two TV series, we finally get confirmation of what many of us have suspected – Anakin Skywalker was never the Chosen One; it was always going to be his son Luke. Based on what we know from Return of the Jedi, that film does so much as validate that fact. Though Darth Vader throws the Emperor to his death, his motivation is to save Luke. Vader dies knowing that he has prepared the way for his son to bring balance of the Force to fruition.
Star Wars fans should be delighted as I am with this episode. The mythology of the Chosen One has long hovered over the entire franchise, with the dramatic irony of characters in the prequels believing Anakin was the Chosen One, but his turn to the dark side always seemed too easy, while Luke’s resistance to it – even in the face of death – clearly establishes him as the one.
It will be interesting to see how Star Wars: The Last Jedi (December 2017) will connect with this revelation. It was once assumed that Obi Wan was the last Jedi, and that we know was wrong. We also do not know where some other Jedi may be – as Ezra, Kanan, and Ashoka are still out there as of now – after this series ends and the years progress through the original trilogy to the new film. We also should assume that Rey (Daisy Ridley) is also a Jedi based on The Force Awakens, so the title of the new film may be a misnomer, but we will have to see.
The end moments of “Twin Suns” are most compelling and deeply meaningful ones – Obi Wan watches the moisture farm where Luke grew up from afar, those setting suns on the horizon as they were in A New Hope when teenage Luke stared at them and thought about his future. At this time Obi Wan hears the familiar voice of Aunt Beru (archived voice of Shelag Fraser from A New Hope) calling, “Luke, Luke…” and in the distance we see the shadow running home across the field. Cue John Williams’ enthralling music (and the lump in my throat), and we have just been treated to a most compelling connection to the films that feels unforgettable.
I am looking forward to next week’s season finale, but it will have to go a long way to surpass this penultimate episode that made necessary connections, strengthened Obi Wan’s legend, and helped to shape Ezra’s story arc. In my opinion season 3’s episode 20 is the most important and memorable one to date in Star Wars Rebels, but that may change next week as the rebellion and the Empire prepare for battle.
Until next time, may the Force be with you.