Between clever character developments and a chilling new villain, Star Wars: Rebels has finally gone from being good to being great.
Now we're getting somewhere!
Right from the start, Star Wars: Rebels was filled with potential but kept stumbling in the execution. The problem was mostly about pacing. Rebels kept trying to pack everything it could into a half-hour time slot, and while thats fun to watch, the cast never had time to breath. Each chapter lacked a focus that would allow it to develop new concepts or flesh out characters in any meaningful way.
"Rise of the Old Masters" isn't just the first episode to fix this problem, it's Rebels first genuinely great story. Building from a rescue mission at an Imperial prison, "Masters" perfectly balances the entire cast of characters while slowly building to the arrival of Rebels first truly chilling villain, the Inquisitor. Along the way, there's also promising character developments for Ezra and Kanan, who have different perspectives on whether this Jedi training is working out. "Masters" also knows when to create tension, and when to diffuse the situation with humor, even making light of classic Star Wars tropes in the process.
Sure, viewers may be a little tired of yet another Jedi focused story, but you know what? This episode presents it so well that it's hard to be upset. These are the kind of stories that make the new Star Wars continuity worth following, and if Rebels can keep it up, it will be a show fans love to watch each week instead of going through the motions.
But don't take my word for it; you can watch the episode on Disney XD or iTunes.
The central focus of this episode is on Ezra and Kanan, who have finally started their Jedi training, although don't have the luxury of a secluded planet to do so. Instead, they've taken to practicing on Ghost's hull as it floats in the clouds, where Imperial spies can't spot them. It's a great visual sequence, pushing out a lot of Rebels' usual distractions to address Ezra's flawed approach (except for distractions Kanan wants Ezra to experience). It's also a great chance to poke fun at The Empire Strikes Back's training sequence, especially when Ezra calls out Yoda's "Do Or Do Not" philosophy as bunk.
Like any "first day of school" episode, Ezra's training session doesn't turn out well. But what's really clever is that Ezra isn't overcome with doubt; Kanan is. Even as a Jedi, Kanan is fairly young and certainly hasn't trained a student before (according to the new canon, he was a padawan when the Jedi Council fell). So when Ezra doesn't succeed, Kanan blames himself for being inexperienced, and suggests they find a different Jedi to train him. But to an orphan like Ezra, that sounds like his new family is about to abandon him, pushing him to do more to prove his worth. It's a thoughtful twist that complicates the episode quite effectively, with subtle character actions teasing the hidden meanings just below the surface.