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Star Wars: Rebels - Wolves and a Door & A World Between Worlds - Review: "A Monumental Game-Changer for the Entire Star Wars Universe"

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Star Wars: Rebels 4.12 "Wolves and a Door" - Review:
Directed by Dave Filoni & Written by Bosco Ng

Kanan's death is still lingering over the team when they head to the Jedi Temple on Lothal to try and beat the Empire to its secrets that lie inside. It's an episode that felt very Indiana Jones-y at times, with Sabine and Ezra doing their best to sneak into the Temple undercover as Stormtroopers. Naturally, like most infiltration missions that they've attempted this way, it didn't go as planned.

This was very much a prelude episode that spent a lot of time setting up the action rather than delivering on its premise. We got to see Ezra calling the loth-wolves to take the Rebels to their destination, only to find out that the Empire were already there and had established a perimeter. What lies inside the Temple is so serious that the Emperor himself is personally interested, as we were introduced to a new character in the form of Minister Hydan, who is voiced by none other than Malcolm McDowell, who has featured not only in Amazon's excellent comedy Mozart in the Jungle before, but he's much more notable for his role as f Alex DeLarge in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. Rebels gives him the opportunity to represent the slightly different antagonist to what we're normally used to, he's more of a thinker like Thrawn as opposed to a heavy-hitter like Rukh or Pryce. He's also accompanied by two Death Troopers, which is another brief nod to Rogue One.

One thing that I really like about this show is that it's not shying away from the connections to Rogue One, we've seen the competition between Thrawn and Krennic mentioned in the previous episodes, and we've also seen the involvement of Saw Gerrera in the past. Stardust has been namedropped and whilst it's unlikely that we're going to see people like Jyn or Cassian in person, it's a great way to make the show feel more connected with the Star Wars universe, as the show has managed to feel like it takes place in the same universe as the gritty and dark movie whilst not being afraid to tackle the lighter-hearted moments that you'd expect in a DisneyXD show aimed at a younger audience.

Ezra and Sabine aren't outed immediately as undercover operatives despite getting a closer look at the Temple when they arrive and are quickly shooed away by Minister Hydan and are investigated by a Death Trooper. Whilst it's cool that their cover wasn't blown immediately giving the episode more time to force them to use the stealth approach rather than resort to a more traditional guns-blazing method, it almost feels like the Death Troopers shouldn't be as easily manipulated by the force given their establishment as powerful opponents, far beyond the average Stormtrooper.

I have to say that the inclusion of Ian McDiarmid in his role from the movies as Emperor Palpatine is a great moment for the show to have, that clearly helps further establish it as an important part in Star Wars canon, if it wasn't an important part already. Palpatine is the one big threat to the Rebels that the show has shied away from including so far, and he feels like an appropriate presence to have even if it's just through a hologram as the show reaches the final episodes of the series. His appearance is suitably chilling and menacing, as we learn that the Empire have found art related to the Mortis gods in the temple, which corresponds with reports from the Jedi archive itself.

This is where knowledge from The Clone Wars helps and it's a great easter egg for fans of the show to see it crop up again. But I liked at the same time Rebels is using this approach to explore from an outsider's perspective, so that you don't need to necessarily be familiar with that show in order to understand what's going on.

Of course the Emperor's involvement leads Hera to be nervous, after all, anyone would be, but to Ezra it just reaffirms the importance of their mission. And Ezra and Sabine sneak back in to investigate the painting whilst Hydan goes off to investigate more symbols. The painting is a convor, an owl-like bird that hung out with Ashoka on Atollon, and Loth-Wolves. The positioning of the Father, the Daughter and the Son's hands matched up with the tablet Ezra received from the Loth-Wolves at the end of the previous episode. This is the biggest indicator yet that we've had of a return for Ashoka, with the casual hints being provided over the course of this episode working as a nice foreshadowing towards her long-awaited return in the next one.

Ezra is able to make it into the the temple after activating it, just in time to avoid capture by the Stormtroopers, who find themselves cut off after the wolves have stopped running. It's bad news for Sabine as she finds herself in captivity, but where Ezra has escaped to remains unclear and unknown, at least - going into the show's next episode.

Star Wars: Rebels 4.13 "A World Between Worlds" - Review:
Directed by Dave Filoni & Steward Lee & Written by Dave Filoni

A World Between Worlds was a real fan-service episode of Rebels and in no way was that a bad thing. The sheer amount of references and call-backs that we got from Ezra's trip inside the temple was a delight, and arguably one of the greatest episodes of the show yet, as it descended into sheer Twin Peaks-esque madness giving us an array of vivid images to dissect. The Twin Peaks connection with Star Wars has been around longer than you'd think, for example not only was the throne room in The Last Jedi influenced by the Red Room in Twin Peaks, but also Lynch himself was approached by George Lucas to direct Return of the Jedi, the final act of the original trilogy. He turned it down, but that would have likely been a remarkably different experience from what we did end up having and who knows how different the Star Wars universe would be had that happened.

The show has been truly pushing the boundaries and testing us to the limits of what we can expect from a Star Wars show and A World Between Worlds worked really well, exploring the concept of time-travel in the Star Wars universe. We know why the Emperor was so invested in gaining access to the Jedi Temple as it would give him the ability to control all of space and time, a truly frightening concept, as he would be able to manipulate the events of history to his will. It also gave the opportunity for Ashoka to return, as we got some much needed resolution to her fate after her duel with Vader way back at the end of Season two, and it was very cool seeing one of the best fights in the Star Wars universe play out again, from the different angle of a more experienced Ezra.

Obi-Wan's quote about the force in A New Hope, reminding audiences was replayed here, reminding audiences that The Force is "an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together", and we really got a sense of that here. The fact that it's a pathway between all of time-and space opens up a whole world of new possibilities, with multiple voices being heard - and not just from the original trilogy. Jyn Erso, Rey, Kylo Ren - newer characters are features and it is a very nice nod that suggests that each portal connects to a different moment in time. It's truly ambitious, providing Star Wars with a game-changing way to explore canon in future installments, and it really succeeds.

We got to see the Emperor in all his chilling and terrifying glory here and it's clear that Ahsoka and Ezra combined are not going to be any match for him, even if he doesn't have full access to the portal just yet. You know it's a monumental episode when Ashoka's return isn't even its most exciting new moment, and the very possibilities of her leaving through a different portal opens up plenty of room to explore in the Star Wars canon. There's no clear direction as to just *where* she's ended up and what time-line that is, and although we're unlikely to see a resolution to that in this show with just a few episodes left despite Ashoka's promise to find Ezra again, I wouldn't be surprised if in the future, another Star Wars show or even a movie dealt with where she ended up.

Ezra is able to escape from the Emperor, just about, ending up back home on Lothal after a frantic chase away from his force lightning. I love how the show hasn't wasted the sheer potential of having someone like the Emperor involved, and has never cheapened his involvement. It knows what an important player in the Star Wars universe it has and treats him with the respect and enigma that it deserves.

Sabine's predicament of being captured by Hydan was resolved fairly easily, with Zeb and Hera coming up with an inventive way to come to her aid. But the true potential of this episode was always in Ezra and Ashoka's storyline, and for Star Wars fans, A World Between Worlds was a real treat and it opens up a treasure-trove of potential to delve into. I'd definitely put it in my list of Top 10 Rebels episodes for sure, maybe even Top 5.

What did you think of these two episodes of Star Wars: Rebels? What are your favourite episodes of the show? Let me know in the comments section below and be sure to stay tuned for next week's series finale on Disney XD.

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