When we last left the crew of the Ghost ship, there was some uneasiness in the air. Ezra’s brief connection to the Dark Side (back in “Gathering Forces”) left Kanan a lot more determined to dedicate himself to Ezra’s training, yet at the same time, genuinely concerned if he was up to the task. The question, really, is this: is it worth it? Such a task takes time and sacrifice, and there’s a chance that Ezra isn’t ready, or that he is incapable. Yet, if you were to replace “Ezra” with “Kanan” in that previous sentence, you’d have the same dilemma.
Star Wars Rebels has two core objectives. The first is to follow Ezra and his goal to becoming a Jedi; the second, to explore the origins of the Rebel Alliance. The current run of the show is focused on the former, which is fine, but there’s the fear that it could get stuck spinning its wheels over the Ezra/Kanan struggle. “Path of the Jedi” is a good episode, but it doesn’t exactly provide us with any more insight into this Jedi/Padawan conflict, and it lacks any other developments in the Rebel department.
“Rise of the Old Masters,” “Empire Day,” and “Gathering Forces” told us everything we needed to know thus far. We know Ezra is genuinely scared of losing his newly-founded friends and disappointing Kanan in his training. We know Kanan is not quite Master material (skill-wise and teaching-wise) and is extremely reluctant in taking on the job of training the young teen. “Path to the Jedi” simply presents all that information in a more literal fashion.
Kanan takes Ezra to a hidden Jedi temple on Lothal where the young Padawan is put on “trial.” Using the Force to guide him inside and through it, Ezra has to pass a number of mental tests, tests which, if failed, would essentially kill both him and Kanan. I’m not quite familiar with Jedi Temples being so cerebrally deadly, but when inside, he faces the kinds of fears we already know he has: The Inquisitor killing Kanan; his friends ragging on him and his lack of skills; facing death himself. While it’s nifty to see them actually on screen, there’s really nothing new about this portrayal.
“Mental Anguish” tropes (TVTropes calls them “Journey to the Center of the Mind,” although the “Mind World” or “Spirit Quest” entries are more accurate) can be interesting, especially in animation, where the visuals and audio cues can really transform into something surreal and symbolic. Unfortunately the episode opts for a relatively straight-forward set of aesthetics: generic tense music as Ezra faces The Inquisitor; generic soft music as he speaks with the disembodied voice of Yoda. There are some nice touches here and there–some of the editing and Dutch angles during Ezra’s confusion scene are purposely off-kilter–but for the most part, the episode fails to push the animation or art design in any interesting ways.
The big draw to this episode is Frank Oz returning to voice Yoda, who acts as a verbal guide for both Ezra and Kanan. Hearing the original voice speaking is a delight, and props to writer Charles Murray for easing up on the over-the-top, broken-English style of talking that has plagued Yoda ever since the original trilogy. Still, the voice ultimately acts less as a guide and more like a therapist, used mainly so both Ezra and Kanan can “talk” through their problems until they reach a breakthrough, or at least a point of understanding so they can move on. At least Ezra earns a kyber crystal for his trouble, constructing a lightsaber out of it.
“Path to the Jedi” is a solid episode, structured and paced well enough with perhaps the show’s best VO work, between Prinze Jr., Gray, and Oz. But it’s not exactly revealing or insightful into the Ezra/Kanan relationship (although perhaps more impactful), nor does it push the story in any new, complex or nuanced direction.
- When you watch enough cartoons, you’ll start to notice these strange, rambling, padding moments that really don’t add anything to the episode at all. I call ‘em “time-wasters.” The ending is a prime example: it wasn’t enough for Kanan to say Ezra was making his lightsaber out of spare parts. Everyone else in the Ghost crew had to mention their contributions. It didn’t really open up anything about the characters or the show’s world. It just added twenty seconds to the episode and gave everyone speaking parts.
- THIS WEEK IN EMPIRE EVILNESS: They don’t make an appearance, so I’ll just mention that the Empire destroyed most of the Jedi Temples. Couldn’t even give them preservation status.
- Back in “Breaking Ranks,” the kyber crystals were something that Kanan and Hera had to destroy. Here, they’re the energy core of lightsabers. This is a bit confusing, and I’m hoping they’re not turning them into some kind of catch-all McGuffin, particularly if we reference the Clone Wars. So, to clarify (and please correct me if I’m wrong), there’s the kyber crystal, which is the lightsaber power source, and then there’s the Kyber memory crystal, which is the one that holds data and can only be read by a holocron (and is also called a Kyber crystal). Yet with enough Kyber crystals (the first kind), you could power a superweapon. Sound about right?
- Speaking of Clone Wars, I managed to watch the first three seasons. Overall, it’s fun show with some really exciting battles, particularly the space battles. The first season had some above average episodes. The second started out fantastic (the Geonosis trilogy was a high point), but starts to peter out towards the end, “Senator Spy” being the point that it turns for the lackluster. Same with the third season, but it falls apart even faster, the late season episodes struggle to find enough story to fit 22 minutes, let alone a three-part story arcs.