Star Wars Rebels – The Holocrons of Fate Review
“Do what you must, but such power comes with a price. Once a secret is known, it cannot be unknown.”
Well, there are two characters that I wasn’t expecting to see again so soon. The Holocrons of Fate not only features a reappearance by Bendu, but also marks the return of Maul. His presence in this season is hardly surprising, since he was featured heavily in the trailer, but one could be forgiven for assuming it would be a couple episodes before he appeared again. As it stands, I’m not convinced that may not have been a better idea. Rebels established Thrawn as a threat in the premiere by showing off his insight and understanding of tactics, but it may have been more effective to follow up on that immediately, rather than to spend the next episode refocusing on an entirely different antagonist. Maybe when viewed as part of the season as a whole, there is a reason why these events needed to happen during the third (The premiere is technically a two-parter) episode, but that remains to be seen. Thankfully, while I may still question its placement, The Holocrons of Fate is a strong episode that deftly blends two narrative arcs into one as Kanan and Ezra are forced to reinvigorate their trust in one another, while Maul attempts to find knowledge that can be unlocked using the holocrons.
The episode starts off with Kanan and Ezra taking part in a Rebel mission, only to find that the freighter they were supposed to rendezvous with had been attacked. A mortally wounded crewman confesses that they were attacked by a “red blade,” who forced him to reveal the location of The Ghost. This leads to a wonderfully executed scene where they contact Hera only for her to reveal that, “It’s not an Inquisitor.” Maul insists they bring him the Jedi and Sith holocrons or he will kill the rest of the crew. This leads Kanan to introduce Ezra to Bendu, who insists that, because the holocron is a source of contention between the two, they must work together to recover it from the spider-infested tunnels. Rebels does an excellent job combining the narrative surrounding Maul’s return with Bendu’s test of master and apprentice. It even sets aside some time for the crew of The Ghost to attempt to subdue Maul by themselves. There is a lot happening in the plot, but, with care, The Holocrons of Fate doesn’t allow this to detract from the story. The only complaint that I may have with this execution is that, although it doesn’t hurt the narrative, it goes by with such a brisk pace that there isn’t much time to meditate on and digest what is happening, which potentially could have elevated the material further.
As is implied by the delicate structuring of this episode, the production and execution for the episode is quite strong. Tom Baker’s voicing of the Bendu remains a highlight and I hope he will be a heavily recurring character in the episodes that follow. Also, it may be an odd thing to note, but I’m glad that this episode displayed a greater understanding of what space would do to a human body. In season two, there was the episode The Call, the one with the space whales, which was a decent enough episode on its own, but its failure to acknowledge the cold of space was a nagging element for me. In this episode, there Kanan is briefly exposed to the vacuum of space and within seconds his body is starting to freeze. I still haven’t gotten caught up on Clone Wars so I’m not familiar with his performance there, but Samuel Witwer has done a fine job voicing Maul in Rebels. There is certainly a sense of menace to him, but he can be amusingly petulant when things don’t go his way. His sly condescending mocking of Kanan’s injuries prove to be one of those villainous quirks that perfectly needles both the protagonist and the viewer.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Watching Maul’s unsuccessful attempts to open the Jedi holocron got a good chuckle out of me.
- It’s not clear what knowledge Maul was seeking. He makes a reference to someone still being alive, and having only a basic understanding of the events of Clone Wars, I initially assumed he was referring to his brother. However, it was pointed out to me that it is more likely that he was referring to Obi-Wan.
- I like that when Ezra attempted to see “the key to destroying the Sith,” one of the images he mentioned seeing was of twin suns. It is a nice detail that forms a connection with A New Hope.
The Holocrons of Fate provides a well-constructed and briskly told story whose limited runtime prevents it from elevating itself further. It is a strong entry, nonetheless, with great performances by Samuel Witwer and Tom Baker.