I’ll start with a warning: There will be spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t watched the episode, consider yourself warned.
I’ve been looking forward to this episode since they released the mid-season trailer and we got that brief shot of Obi-Wan ready for a fight. He has been one of my favourite characters for years, from the wise sage in the Original Trilogy to the apprentice, master and daring general we received in the Prequel Trilogy and Clone Wars series. Based on when this episode takes place we see an Obi-Wan closer to his Original Trilogy portrayal than his other animated and prequel appearances. What to say about his showing here? I loved it. He spoke to Ezra in a manner similar to his discussion with Luke on Dagobah in Return of the Jedi, having a short, but very interesting discussion on the nature of truth, before sending him on his way, leading to my favourite part of the episode. But why was Ezra here, why did Kenobi get tied into this series?
Darth Maul had ascertained Obi-Wan’s location earlier in the season and had drawn Ezra to Tatooine in the hopes of drawing out his old rival. One could argue why, but after watching the confrontation between the two the obvious answer is closure. For good or for bad this would end the defining relationship in Maul’s life. The character, especially when he resurfaced in the Clone Wars, was defined by his obsession with getting revenge on the man that cut him in half. Though it seemed to me in this episode that something had changed, almost that he seemed to want to be saved but didn’t know how to ask, or even realize what he wanted.
The confrontation appears to have created a bit of controversy over how it played out. Some fans feel cheapened that they didn’t receive a Phantom Menace style duel, but given that was several decades in the past for both characters, that would be unlikely to occur. As well, it wouldn’t serve the plot or create as much of an emotional charge as I feel that the confrontation they did go with did end up generating. It showed how much Kenobi had grown as both a Jedi, and as a man. The compassion he showed Maul in his final moments(because guess what, this takes place before Episode 4, which has Kenobi and not Maul), was touching, and he seemed to help Maul find some semblance of peace before he died.
This was probably one of the best episodes of Rebels I’ve seen yet, and while it served to do little more than tie up Darth Maul’s story, it did so in a way that helped a character who had seem lost since he resurfaced in Clone Wars, and give him a respectful send off at the hands of his oldest adversary. Maul had never really found a way to identify himself outside of his demand for revenge, whereas Obi-Wan had grown into something so much more.
Anyway, the third season finishes up next week with an hour-long episode, but I think it’ll have a hard time topping the emotional resonance of this one.
May the Force be with you!