The big tease for this week's episode of Star Wars Rebels was that Frank Oz would be reprising his role as the voice of Yoda. But what was truly interesting was not the return of the old Master, but Ezra's own "Luke on Dagobah" moment and what it reveals about Ezra — and Kanan.
We're getting much more into the meat of Star Wars Rebels. Following the mid-season finale's dip into Ezra's Dark Side, the show is exploring the perils of a rogue Jedi taking on a Padawan. Kanan ups the level of Ezra's training by helping guide him to a Jedi temple, which just happens to be on Lothal. (I cheated and watched the behind-the-scenes video for this episode, in which Dave Filoni admits that the writers' room debated whether this was too coincidental.)
After Ezra finishes screaming at the site of the skeletal bodies in the temple lobby (kid, you're going to see much worse before this episode's over), Kanan explains the deal: He sits in the antechamber while Ezra goes off on his sojourn. If Ezra doesn't come out, he wastes away out there like the skeletal Masters before him. Ezra's a little unnerved by the magnitude of this gesture, so it's not long before the Force gives him a vision of an impatient Kanan criticizing his approach to traveling through the Temple.
It's interesting to watch this as an adult, because it's readily clear that this Kanan isn't real. He's a manifestation of Ezra's own fears and anxieties. But I imagine that for children, it's actually pretty frightening when the Inquisitor appears to duel Kanan — and wins. The hallucinated duel is actually kind of cool — I dig the Inquisitor's elegant fencing style of lightsaber battling, which then goes totally off-kilter when he fires up the rotating hilt. But Ezra is dismayed when it ends with the blade going right through Kanan's chest.
Ezra's also too distracted by his horror to notice what the Inquisitor comments, "Kanan? Is that what he was calling himself."
But the death of Kanan isn't the worst thing Ezra witnesses inside the Temple. He stumbles into a vision of the Ghost, where his crewmates seem to be be gossiping about them. Ezra is certainly afraid of letting Kanan down, of someday becoming responsible for Kanan's death. But his bigger fear is that nothing on the Ghost was real, that the family he has surrounded himself with is a fraud and that he's not loved but merely tolerated (by Zeb), desired for his power (by Hera), or pitied for his youth (by Sabine).
Well, maybe that's his second greatest fear. Just when he confronts these shadow versions of the crew, the Inquisitor reappears, and slaughters everyone but Ezra. It happens off camera, but it's still shocking, especially with Sabine's cries in the background. Ezra's greatest fear is that the Empire will take everything away from him again, just as they took his parents.
That's the real danger when it comes to Ezra. He might not be susceptible to the Inquisitor's recruitment efforts, but he does have enough fear and rage to tap into the Dark Side. And Kanan may not be able to prevent it from happening.
Fortunately, at least in this instance, Kanan has an ally.
We actually get an impressively light touch with Yoda in this episode. He's definitely there and definitely Yoda, but his disembodied presence doesn't overwhelm Ezra's journey. Here, he functions as substitute teacher and Jedi therapist, leading Ezra through the negative emotions to find the positive emotions that the Ghost crew inspires in him. It's not just that they're good people or that they give people hope, it's that that hope makes people, makes Ezra, feel alive. Feeling alive is a powerful sensation, and it gives Ezra something to hold onto in the face of hate and the desire for vengeance.
But Ezra isn't the only one who gets a visit from invisible Yoda. Yoda's voice also intrudes upon Kanan's meditation, forcing Kanan to face up to his doubts about his ability to train Ezra. There is something lurking in Kanan's past, something that makes him question his worthiness as a Master. Kanan tries to assure himself that training Ezra gives him an opportunity to set things right, but Yoda doesn't sound terribly optimistic. "I won't let him lose his way," Kanan promises, "not like I did." Hey, Kanan, you're suddenly interesting.
For now, at least, Ezra is proving a worthy student. He emerges from the Temple with a lightsaber crystal and more confidently on his Jedi path. And, after all of his doubts about his place among the crew, everyone from the Ghost chips in the parts for his hybrid lightsaber-blaster.
We end with Kanan reassured that he can train his unconventional Padawan with his unconventional lightsaber in this unconventional situation. But he would be foolish if he didn't consider Yoda's words and the tone of his voice. Kanan may be a teacher now, but he will still have a lot to learn on this particular journey.