Rebels: “Wolves and a Door” & “A World Between Worlds” Review

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First things first: Forgive me, Dave Filoni and the Rebels team, for ever doubting you, and for thinking you would do something with the plot meaninglessly.

Second: this was an epic double-episode, and Rebels is well on track to making not only the finale, but also the entire fourth season as impactful as a last season could ever be.

Rejoice!

In my last week’s review of Dume, I touched the idea that it represented the necessary period of mourning, so that also we, as audience, can come to terms with the tragedy that has befallen the Rebels. This week, it becomes clear. All the epicness, all the glory of Wolves and a Door and A World Between Worlds could not have followed Jedi Night immediately. It would belittle Kanan’s part and it would overwhelm our senses with something else, while we were still supposed to contemplate death, loss and selfless sacrifice.

That much for the necessary flashback. Let’s now focus on what did this week’s second-to-last double episode bring.

 

Images and Music

I know I have praised some of Rebels’ visuals in the past, as well as music at rare times. If there was anything that caught both my eyes and ears on first sight and sound about these two episodes, it was the quality of the visuals and the music.

Rebels has utilised, at times, its animated environment for some beautiful scenery. One such example even now could be the very final scene of A World Between Worlds, with the Loth-wolf slowly disappearing into the mist.

But the last two episodes took the visuals to a completely new level. I am speaking of two original elements: the design of “World Between Worlds”, an environment we haven’t seen before – and the stunning 2D animation of the Temple murals. Similar technique was used in the Darksaber backstory in season 3. Sufficient to say, the animation made the scene look much more special and underlined the otherworldliness of the “door”.

Similar thing can be said about the music. This and the previous week’s double episodes have had much more notable music than any we have heard so far, and that, too, marks the final episodes as something “special”.

Imperial Archaeology

Wolves and a Door offered another new element: the Imperial archaeologists excavating the Jedi temple. It was interesting to see a different face of the Empire. Yes, the Empire is all about the machinery of war, but we so often forget that the person in charge is somebody else – a Sith, a man of knowledge, who is familiar with arcane lore and interested in it. A Jedi temple with its eldritch secrets clearly has great value for the Empire, regardless of what the common soldiers and officers would think.

We saw it all concentrated at the excavation site – military subjected to the research, minister Hydan in charge. It was at least a tiny reminder that the Empire isn’t as homogenous as we tend to perceive it most of the time.

Minister Hydan (modeled similarly to Vader’s assistant in Rogue One) had a short chat with Sabine Wren regarding art. Perfect use of Sabine’s expertise. If I had any complaint, it was a pity the discussion soon gravitated towards the “evil guy interrogating a defiant Rebel” stereotype. The chat could have stayed more civil for longer – it would have been interesting to see an Imperial who was genuinely interested in art and knowledge up to the point that it would overshadow his “evilness” (but maybe that will be Thrawn?).

Sith Sorcery

And speaking of the “Sith face of the Empire”, one big appearance in A World Between Worlds was the Emperor himself (and voiced by the great Ian McDiarmid himself!). And again, in a way we often don’t know him: as the Sith sorcerer he really is. This image, too, is often obscured in favour of his other faces (the dictator, the manipulator). But this is his true face.

I daresay many fans nowadays relate the Emperor to the “Force Lightning”, treating it as if this were his “signature spell”. But no – the Emperor is something more. His powers should not be classifiable in some Dungeons&Dragons spellbook-style. They should be unknown and unexpected. After all, the Force has no limits – and the Dark Side of the Force is supposed to be the source of even more aggressive, hidden powers. Thus, the Emperor summoning the “blue fire” in a completely sorcerer-esque fashion (out of a cup), sending it through a gate to attack both Ahsoka and Ezra, was a perfect move to remind us who the Emperor really is. Hats off again to the creators.

 

The Metaphysical Level

The Emperor’s “sorcery” and the entire concept of a “world between worlds” may seem almost too bizarre. But I am glad it came up. Star Wars is, after all, not really a sci-fi in the strict sense. It is rather a fantasy set in space. And elements like strange eldritch powers and worlds between worlds fit right in there.

I understand that for someone it may be a bit too “tangible” to show the “Force stuff” in such a manner. Compared to, for example, Bendu’s storm in the previous season, Ezra walking through a solid wall in front of a dozen stormtroopers is a bit more crude and less open to interpretation. I don’t believe the Force and “supernatural elements” should be overused in Star Wars. But they should not also be forgotten. As long as this does not go over the top – doesn’t become more than one epic instance per four seasons of a series – it’s fine. Star Wars shouldn’t turn into a story about dimension-hopping through various planes of spiritual existence, but I see no reason to fear such a development at this time.

 

A Door Closes, Another Opens

In terms of story, we have now closed most of the open plot elements, so we can get ready for the finale. Ezra (as well as everyone else) has made his peace with Kanan’s departure. In that sense, reliving the scene of his death was really important, also for the audience. It also stressed the intention of his sacrifice – and the fact that it was a sacrifice, that it could not have gone differently, or it would lose its purpose.

At the same time, Ahsoka has come back from the dead – not so surprisingly. I am now not going to start speculating what it means. She is clearly removed from the story, as it were: whatever goals she pursues, she is somewhere else. I assume it’s a potential for some spin-off… But in this case, I don’t mind.

The Verdict

If I briefly wavered after Dume, now I must give Rebels all the credit back.

Wolves and a Door and A World Between Worlds‘s strength are certainly in the emotions. Ahsoka’s reappearance, Ezra reliving Kanan’s sacrifice and saying goodbye, the visuals and the music.

You could tell that with the end of the series, Rebels could finally afford to use its remaining budget frivolously. It started earlier this season with characters changing outfits several times, now we had different animations. But it’s a good thing.

My only wish is that the final two episodes stand up to the challenge. The bar is quite high. What we need is a worthy conclusion to the story, delivered with just the right amount of epicness. We are ready.

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Rostislav Kurka
Rostislav is a Protestant theologian and a self-trained Sith, counting Jan Hus, Dorothee Sölle, Darth Revan and Darth Traya among his main influences. He hails from the hundred-towered city of Prague, where he had spent a large part of his life creating worlds and inspiring young generations to roleplay. His involvement in organising children's camps led him to accidentally writing a Lord of the Rings musical, which made him temporarily famous, and a Three Musketeer-Jedi fanfilm, which didn't. He has recently moved to the frozen waste of Finland, because that's it, the Rebels are there.