"Path of the Jedi" isn't a perfect mid-season premiere, but has enough unique touches to make it a worthwhile watch.
In Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, there's a brief two-minute scene where Luke enters a cave that manifests his darkest fears. It's a great sequence foreshadowing his encounter with Darth Vader, but it's also something the original trilogy never revisited again and didn't need to. But since Star Wars is now the inspiration for multiple expanded universes, it's also a canonical fact that writers can explain in further detail and add their own twists to. That's why the old EU gave that cave a history stretching back hundreds of years, and why Star Wars: Rebels can introduce its own version as part of Ezra's Jedi training.
The result is something of a mixed bag. Giving Ezra a vision that developed his character or foreshadowed his future would be promising, but the concept doesn't have enough meat to simply extend across a half-hour episode. All we end up is a bunch of spectacle that viewers know isn't real and is pretty much forgettable. That said, Rebels adds several details on the sidelines of the vision that put a nice spin on Star Wars. We've got hidden Jedi temples, actual "custom-built" lightsabers, and a bleak glimpse of what happens when padawans fail their Jedi tests.
More importantly, it looks like Rebels might be dropping the "will Ezra turn to the dark side" subplot that's well-played out in Star Wars, so future episodes can come up with original twists. We'll find out in upcoming weeks, but in the meantime you can catch up on the latest episodesRebels via Disney XD or iTunes. If you're all caught up, you can also catch up on our previous reviews. Now, on to this week's "Path of the Jedi."
After the explosive fall finale, Kanan slows things down a bit to address the force-sensitive elephant in the room: That Ezra was drawing on the Dark Side in the battle with the Inquisitor. But instead of trying to calmly talk him out of a path that never ends well, Kanan decides to nip this in the bud by raising the stakes and forcing Ezra to confront his fears head-on. But as the episode progresses, we understand why Kanan was reluctant to do so before: Not every padawan, or even their masters, survive the attempt.
Guided by a holocron and force senses, Ezra and Kanan make their way to a Jedi Temple on Lothal that's been hidden since the Republic fell. It's also largely been undisturbed since its door needs two Jedi to be unlocked: a master and a padawan. As Ezra and Kanan enter however, we realize that the Temple's greatest security measure is also its greatest danger. Inside are the bones of Jedi masters who entered with their padawans, but couldn't leave when they failed the test. Presumably when the Jedi Order existed, someone would check up to let the masters out if things went wrong, but now Kanan is literally staking his life on the hope that Ezra won't break.
Rebels is supposed to be a children's show, right? Well that's probably the darkest implication in a children's show I've ever seen, and certainly the bleakest moment in Rebels so far. At some point, Jedi brought their padawans to this temple for an important test, and not only did the apprentice die, but the teacher was left behind to slowly starve and decay. I'm amazed there aren't more actual Force ghosts kicking around to cause trouble with that history, but showing that might be too harsh for younger Star Wars fans. Regardless, it's impressive (in a horrifying way) that Lucasfilm decided to go ever this far.