(This article contains massive SPOILERS for Star Wars Rebels season 3 and the episode “Twin Suns”.)
Twin Suns, the twentieth episode of Star Wars Rebels’ third season, holds the primacy among Rebels episodes if for nothing else, then for providing closure to several major plotlines at once. The special thing about this is that these plotlines are not exclusively tied only to Rebels, but also to the Clone Wars animated series (and subsequent comics), and in some ways also to the prequel trilogy.
I would like to spend a little time reflecting on what does this mean in the bigger scope of the stories of the characters involved, of the Rebels story, and ponder whether this was done “right”.
Run To The Desert
We probably all remember where it started. Ezra Bridger, a gullible young Jedi-in-the-making, let a nice grandpa named Maul coax him into picking up a Sith holocron. Later, they used this holocron and Kanan’s Jedi holocron’s powers combined to catch a glimpse of a vision which ultimately led both of them to a certain realisation. Namely, that Obi-Wan Kenobi might still be alive and that he might be on Tatooine, and the key to destroying the Sith is also there (leading Ezra to believe it might be Obi-Wan himself).
Twin Suns starts with this setting: Maul, trying to find Obi-Wan in the desert, but not succeeding, eventually uses Ezra (it worked before) to lure Obi-Wan out.
I will start with what I perceived as somewhat problematic in this episode. Ezra’s naive approach to Force visions has been addressed in the show before, and it seemed like he had been cured of all his trust in Maul in Visions and Voices. That’s all well; this time, Ezra does not listen to Maul, he listens to what he believes is the Force calling on to him to find and possibly help Master Kenobi. But is he really so foolish that he would steal a ship and fly to Tatooine all alone especially since this is a “Jedi business” and Kanan gave him a clear “no”? Ezra is rash, but wouldn’t he reconsider, since things like this have happened to him in the past and this time he actually suspects this might be Maul’s trap?
I believe Ezra’s actions in this episode can be defended, but it still feels a bit forced. Obviously, the reason is the plot: this had to happen, so Ezra had to go. But it strains the audience’s suspension of disbelief a bit and, sadly, it creates the feeling that characters (Ezra) are just being used as plot devices, and not doing what they would really have done in that situation.
Should This Be In Rebels?
That leads me to another question. Objectively speaking, was it really necessary for Ezra to go to Tatooine in the first place? The reasons for him going have been laid out before: he had had the vision, he knew there was something about Obi-Wan and Tatooine, obviously, these loose ends had to be tied somehow. His relationship with Maul also demanded some proper closure, even though in Twin Suns, they actually didn’t even meet and Ezra wasn’t there for the end.
The whole purpose of Ezra coming to Tatooine was, therefore, twofold: to be used as bait, and to hear from Obi-Wan that he should forget about ever seeing him. The first objective could have been easily fulfilled even without him – Maul could just have sniffed Obi-Wan out by himself (it would not be any less believable than Maul not being able to find him). Imagine the episode as a stand-alone book, comics, holiday special or what have you: just Obi-Wan and Maul, finding each other, dueling in the sand. It would have worked without any connection to Ezra or the Rebels.
The point, of course, is that it was Rebels (or Ezra) who first “allowed” Maul to re-surface, so they should have somehow participated also in the ending. And an episode of Rebels without Rebels, focusing only on Maul and Obi-Wan, would have been strange. Maybe the key, however, would have been more Rebels rather than less Rebels. The show creators have let it slip that in the original drafts, Kanan was supposed to accompany Ezra to Tatooine. That would have made perfect sense (Jedi business, meeting one of the “real” Jedi masters etc.) and there could have been a bit more content, making Ezra’s trip somewhat more relevant.
I am not unhappy about the way the episode was handled, but I still think it could have been handled better, given that this was a conclusion to one major plot of Season 3.
The Tragic Hero and His Fate
The other big plot concluded in Twin Suns is part of a storyline reaching back to the Clone Wars series, back to The Phantom Menace. This is the end of Maul; hopefully the real, final end of Maul.
Let me stop a bit at this finality first. I believe what the Clone Wars and now Rebels did with Maul was a good move. Bringing back dead characters is an awful trope I generally disapprove of unless there is a really, really good reason for it. Maul was a popular character with such unused potential that it merited bringing him back; most of all, however, what matters is what the writers actually did with him once he came back. He wasn’t brought back just because he was cool, so that you could see him or fight him in a video game. His reappearance had merit because he was given a chance for character development, and that chance was actually used.
Maul’s story is a tragic, yet beautiful tale of a deceived, used person, made into a weapon and then discarded, finding his purpose in hatred of his former master and revenge, but being so much more, struggling to free himself of the Sith teachings that had brainwashed him and at the same time trying to incorporate the positive side of them into his life. It is a tale of high aspirations and failure, of diminishing and aging into an old man who clings to the last few things he can trust and strive for.
And Twin Suns brings his tale to a closure, with him facing the man who had been his downfall so many years ago. The scene of Obi-Wan cradling him in his arms is, in some way, the best possible conclusion. It is a closure, a circle made complete. On top of everything, this moment actually mirrors what had happened on Naboo decades ago: Obi-Wan holding dying Qui-Gon (killed by Maul in the same single stroke Obi-Wan now used on him) who, in his dying breath, spoke about his hopes for the Chosen One. Maul speaks from his own perspective, talking about revenge where Qui-Gon’s words were about balance, but Obi-Wan does not deny his words. Maul is speaking from the perspective of someone used, who hopes that one day, those who had wronged him shall receive justice – which, in his belief twisted by a lifetime in darkness, is punishment.
I cannot possibly list all the meanings and references present in this single scene, and how much they tie into previous events. I will leave it to you to ponder and discover on your own. As a teaser, just one: Darth Maul’s first (and almost only) words in The Phantom Menace are “at last we will have revenge”. It is only fitting that his last words also are of revenge – however in a different context.
Just One Swift Stroke?
I cannot leave this without talking about the highlight of the episode – the duel itself. I can imagine many have been disappointed by the fact that it was so short. I was somewhat surprised, too, but I believe the build-up heralded the moment well enough. Sure, we could have had epic jumping and lightsaber-swinging and Force powers, but this was something else: those were two old, experienced enemies, meeting after years and years, but knowing so much about the world and about lightsaber techniques that they had transcended dramatic show-offs. It was also such a personal matter that any showing off wasn’t necessary.
The battle reminded me of a duel of two samurai more than anything else: the two of them standing, taking in each other’s measure, and when they actually decided to take action, it was a matter of seconds. No unnecessary actions. Serious business, true understanding of the opponent. I believe the depiction the creators of the show chose was the best possible.
Not to mention that it actually circumvented the one obvious issue I had dreaded the most: if you remember how Obi-Wan fought Vader in Episode IV, it was truly like an old man. There is no way you could show Obi-Wan jumping around and try to reconcile it with his fighting style in Episode IV, and at the same time you could hardly show Maul using a slow, “grandpa” style after what we have seen him do previously. The way this was done was probably the one that did justice to both.
The Great Conclusion
I believe that despite the inevitable bumps, Twin Suns delivered the closure we have been waiting for. Closure to Maul, closure to Ezra’s relationship with him, and last but not least, closure for Obi-Wan in regards to Maul. The final meeting and the duel were handled masterfully and if there is anything I regret about it, it is that we didn’t see it with live actors. The episode was beautiful visually and very powerful emotionally. The only somewhat questionable bit was the way Ezra/the Rebels have handled the trip to Tatooine. But out of all Rebels episodes, this was definitely one of the best.