Star Wars Rebels – Season 2, Episode 16 – “Shroud of Darkness” – Mysteries Revealed

     “Shroud of Darkness” is more great quality from “Star Wars Rebels.” In this questions are answered and we learn just how amazing the Grand Inquisitor was and is. I like that he hasn’t been forgotten as he was one of the characters who got me into the show in the first place. We also see the Inquisitors acting somewhat effective, which is always good.

     The episode was directed by Saul Ruiz and written by Henry Gilroy.

      The story involves Ahsoka, Ezra and Kanan returning to the Lothal Jedi Temple as the Inquisitors continue to find them wherever they go and they want to find out why by reaching out to Yoda. From here the story unfolds as a new layer to the Temple is revealed.

The Pros: The Action – The action is great in this episode! From Ezra and Kanan fighting the Inquisitors, from Kanan against the Temple Guards and the Inquisitors rising the Jedi Temple from the ground. This episode is great at showing just how powerful the force is.

The Jedi Temple – The Jedi Temple is really fascinating, as this time it revealed another room and with it more secrets. Curious to see how Sidious and Vader use it to their advantage given all the history within it.

Yoda – Yoda appears in this episode and offers great advice as we get an idea that he sensed but didn’t understand what was coming and from that warns Ezra of how fear can be healthy but that can corrupt when it turns to anger. He also reaches out to Ahsoka to show he’s proud, which is a sweet moment.

The Inquisitors – The Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister are great in this episode. The Seventh Sister finds the Temple and together they do a great job in their fights. Their will only breaks when the Grand Inquisitor appears in his uncorrupted form with the other Guards to face them. It’s a powerful scene.

Ahsoka – Ahsoka is dealing with her anxiety over leaving the order and missing her Master Anakin. In this episode she learns what happened as Anakin’s spirit is angry at her for leaving him and that now he is greater and stronger as a vision of Darth Vader appears. It’s really well done and I like that she still has his training videos. She also doesn’t see herself as a Jedi, which is powerful in it’s own right.

Ezra – Ezra’s drive is to protect his friends (hello Luke) and Yoda cautions him against letting fear for his friends control his actions. He may have understood but Ezra is such a cipher sometimes that it is hard to tell. I’m glad he got to see Yoda at least.

Kanan – Kanan’s journey is letting go of Ezra and letting him make his own choices and from this he earns the respect of the light within the Grand Inquisitor, who appears in his uncorrupted form showing the Temple Guard fell to the Dark Side and that is the reason the Inquisitors have double bladed light sabers. This was one of my favorite parts of the episode and my respect for the Grand Inquisitor grew. What a great character.

The Grand Inquisitor – The Grand Inquisitor was once a Temple Guard and the light side within him counsels Kanan that he has to let go of Ezra and let him make his own choices, even if he turns. It’s powerful and he makes Kanan a Jedi Knight. Seeing the good that he was once was before becoming the Grand Inquisitor is powerful, especially since his spirit and those of the other Guards turn on his apprentices the other Inquisitors, stalling them for our heroes escape.

Hints at Things to Come – Vader arrives to visit the Inquisitors and he mentions his Master will be greatly interested in the Temple, and when the Inquisitors give their warning he voices that he plans to use the growing power of the Jedi to turn them to destruction and their end. Please don’t mess up Vader writers…do this right, let him win.

   This was a great episode and is easily one of the best this far. The fact that we get the Grand Inquisitors story and Ahsoka learns the fate of Anakin are powerful scenes and I do hope we see Ezra turn, though I don’t know how it will be tun…he’s too good, though I do hope he turns. The Empire and Dark Side need some wins, Season 2 has been a lot of neutral fights or Rebel Wins.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 2, Episodes 12-14 – “Duchess of Mandalore Arc” – Shades of Grey and Power Plays

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      The “Duchess of Mandalore arc” is awesome! In this we explore the conflict of neutrality during wartime as well as the benefits and disadvantages of a warrior or pacifistic philosophy as both the Duchess Satine and Death Watch leader Viszla both have reason to believe what they do as sovereignty is the primary theme of this arc and how different factions seek to use that to their own benefit and make Mandalore a pawn.

    “The Mandalore Plot” was directed by Kyle Dunlevy and written by Melinda Hsu and Drew Z. Greenberg, “Voyage of Temptation” was directed by Brain Kalin O’Connell and written by Paul Dini and Henry Gilroy and “Duchess of Mandalore” was directed by Brain Kalin O’Connell and written by Drew Z. Greenberg and Brian Larsen.

     The story involves Obi-Wan arriving at Mandalore to investigate the terrorist group Death Watch who rumor has is being controlled by his past lover Duchess Satine. He soon discovers they are false rumors and when the Death Watch leader Viszla is revealed he must protect Satine as she advocates for Mandalore to deal with it’s own affairs and not have an occupation done by Republic Forces. She is later framed for the death of a Mandalorian and must reveal the truth of the recording of her Prime Minister to the Senate that speaks for Mandalorian Sovereignty that was doctored to present that as not being the case.

The Pros: “Duchess of Mandalore” – “Duchess of Mandalore” was my favorite episode in the arc as we got to see Viszla in action see Palpatine working actively against Satine so that Republic forces would have reason to occupy Mandalore (and in turn later the Empire) and how she and Obi-Wan navigate the political minefield using Padme to save Mandalore’s sovereignty, though it doesn’t solve the problem of Death Watch or how Death Watch is out of Satine’s control unless she gives up her pacifism. It’s a powerful plot. 10 / 10

Death Watch – Death Watch is a hyper-nationalist organization that wants to restore Mandalore to it’s former strength that it had in the Old Republic as an Empire. Viszla even wields an ancient Mandalore saber that can counter lightsabers. They are a small and powerful organization that has sympathy among the populace as Satine cannot protect them from the Separatist and just neutralized the Republic.

Mandalore – Mandalore is a once warrior nation that now is a primarily a trading world but it still carries it’s warrior roots through Death Watch and the Civil War it experienced prior. It is a beautiful world too and has a classic feeling to it, it captures both ancient mixed with modern with expresses the Mandalorian people really well.

Pre Viszla – Viszla has his own government on the moon where the losers of the Civil War were sent who aren’t pacifists. Unsurprisingly he is sympathetic and a leader of the populace he rules and because of that seeks to empower them as the current Mandalore is vulnerable to outside threats. Minus the hyper-nationalism he is an issue that Satine has not dealt with and his perspective is never dealt the justice it deserves as Mandalore needing an army to protect it’s sovereignty.

Count Dooku – Dooku is the one who sees the big picture and warns Viszla to wait when the assassin fails to kill Satine. He is a player of a long game of making Mandalore another faction that the Separatists control and it is his cool head even after failing Palpatine that make possible that Death Watch will be around for a long time to come.

Palpatine – Palpatine is a smart manipulator in this and would have succeeded if the Assassin had killed Satine. His end goal is control of Mandalore via Republic troops and he has reason to send them as the Separatists are a threat and Mandalore has no defensive force outside of Death Watch which it doesn’t see as representing it to the other governments. Even though his plan does not succeed he never lets on or breaks character with Satine or the Jedi that he was behind any of it. He is truly the Emperor for a reason.

Duchess Satine – Satine is an idealist and dreamer and the events of this arc change that in some ways. She still stands for sovereignty of her world and no involvement of outside troops but she is willing to defend herself. She explores her past with Obi-Wan and confesses that she loves him but afterword they are both so proper and don’t want to risk their friendship as Obi-Wan would never betray his Jedi vows. She respects that though and his call for defense while she calls for pacifism. She is also a nationalist and stands for her people regardless of the cost.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Obi-Wan deals with his romantic interest Satine and we see that though he is committed to Satine he would have given it up when he was a Padawan if she had asked. It’s a great character moment that reveals the humanity in Obi-Wan as well as the fact that he is so committed to the Jedi Code because of that loss. The Code and his being a Jedi is all he has so he can be no closer to anyone beyond as a friend, but he stands with her and helps stop Death Watch’s plot.

Anakin Skywalker – Skywalker is getting closer to the darkside and Darth Vader as we see him justify the occupation of Mandalore since Death Watch is out of Satine’s control, we see him kill the Senate Separatist Spy when Satine and Obi-Wan are unable to do so and we see he doesn’t think about it at all. Killing someone is nothing to him as the ‘Imperial March’ plays. This show really does show Anakin’s descent really well. It starts with taking life for granted and he never lets up on that as the ends of protecting others are always the drive behind it, and it’s hard not to see the times he has taken that choice on the show as wrong, questionable for sure…but not wrong.

A Matter of Sovereignty – Sovereignty is a major theme this episode and the different ways it is sought. For Satine it is not involving outside power, while for Viszla it does involve outside power and a strong military to defend against threats. Neither side is wrong and that is what is debated this episode as we know that the Empire will destroy Sovereignty later while the Separatists may do that sometimes now, but not always. Does Sovereignty involve military strong power or diplomatic soft power, for me the answer is both are needed though the episode falls on soft power primarily as Satine is a pacifist. What this debate means for Mandalore still remains to be seen, the Republic and Separatists aren’t involved yet, but the war is far from over.

Okay: Romantic Potential – The romance feels more realistic than Padme and Anakin but that isn’t saying much. There back story of having to depend on one another for survival when they were younger was really cool and they do have good chemistry but I wanted to see more warmth between them, we only got moments of that.

The Assassin – The Assassin was awesome! He kills a Mandalore informant who passes the real info of the Prime Minister’s recording to Satine and dies in the process and he escapes every attempt at capture and manages to hold his own against Obi-Wan and Satine. We never learn more about the individual and I wish he’d done more damage but he was okay.

    This was a powerful arc, with “Duchess of Mandalore” being a personal favorite of mine as it establishes that Death Watch is not out of the game yet and also that Mandalore is alone for better and for worse to deal with it’s own problems. There is so much potential here as I don’t believe Satine is in control, her almost getting arrested is going to look bad in the public eye, not to mention the death of her Prime Minister. She has no control over Death Watch and they still control a lot of the narrative. This is something the episode doesn’t fully deal with and why I don’t consider this a victory for Satine. There was no middle ground of Republic help which could have stopped Death Watch, while now they have time to recruit and to grow.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10.

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