[WARNING - This review contains SPOILERS for Star Wars Rebels season 3, episode 11.]
Earlier this season, Maul and Ezra took part in a ritual where they combined a Jedi and Sith holocron in the hope of learning what it is they both so desperately want to know. For Ezra, this meant a means of defeating the Sith, while for Maul it meant something more personal - the means of having his revenge.
In tonight's Star Wars Rebels winter finale, 'Visions and Voices' - written by Brent Friedman and directed by Bosco Ng - Ezra is being haunted by Maul, seeing the former Sith lord everywhere he looks. Concerned for his apprentice, Kanan takes Ezra to the Bendu in the hope that the wise force wielder may be able to explain these latest visions. The Bendu doesn't have the answers they seek, but he knows who does: Maul, who at that moment appears not as a vision but as flesh and blood. He's come to fetch Ezra and finish the ritual they started, intent on learning the secret they were so near revealing.
Maul has hung over Star Wars Rebels season 3 like some dark specter. He's had a surprising influence over Ezra, even when not around, clandestinely pushing Ezra to embrace his inner dark side. And for much of this season, Ezra has managed to resist that pull, even here standing up to Maul when it mattered most (after first following him, of course, but Ezra did have his reasons). It shows growth on Ezra's part, and a maturity he's been displaying throughout quite a few episodes.
However, even more compelling are the moments in 'Vision and Voices' where Maul is pleading with Ezra. Several times he refers to Ezra as his apprentice (more to annoy Kanan than anything else), but rather than the pseudo-master and apprentice relationship the two have shared before, here Maul is simply desperate for a partner, for a brother.
Maul has been on his own for some time now and that isolation is beginning to show. (Sam Witwer demonstrates this wonderfully, bringing a lot of pain into Maul's dialogue.) It's fitting, then, that this episode brings them to Dathomir, Maul's homeworld, now a desolate wasteland thanks to the Empire. What family he had is now long gone - Savage, the Nightsisters, all dead. And after again being refused by Ezra, it seems that revenge really is all Maul has left.
Return of Kenobi?
'Visions and Voices' is very much a sequel to 'The Holocrons of Fate', continuing the journey Ezra began to find out how to defeat the Sith. When they previously combined the holocrons, their vision revealed a planet with two suns but little else. Fans, of course, knew this was clearly a reference to Tatooine as there's no more famous planet with two suns in Star Wars canon. But, what exactly did it mean? Luke, maybe, but that seemed a bit of a leap for Star Wars Rebels to take (even if they have already introduced his twin sister, Leia). A bigger clue came from Maul exclaiming "He lives!", which many assumed meant none other than his greatest enemy - Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Having already figured out much of this in that earlier episode, the reveal that Kenobi is indeed the answer that both Ezra and Maul were seeking is a tad anti-climactic, though still an exciting prospect for the series (and realized through some trippy Nightsisters magic). Obi-Wan hasn't been seen since The Clone Wars, having only made an appearance via his final transmission to the Jedi shown at the very end of the Rebels pilot. Most characters, including Ezra and Kanan, aren't even sure Obi-Wan is still alive, but that seems certain to change. And the quest to find Kenobi will very likely be a driving force in the back half of season 3.
Along with finally confirming that it is Obi-Wan Kenobi who Ezra must seek out (an adventure which will undoubtedly also feature Maul), 'Visions and Voices' also teased a bit more of Sabine's future. All season long, Rebels has been revealing bits and pieces of Sabine's Mandalorian heritage and here she receives a pretty important piece of that history (though she doesn't quite realize it).
Kept by Maul all these years, the Darksaber is a lightsaber weapon that once belonged to Pre Vizla and is seen in this episode below a vandalized portrait of Duchess Satine Kryze. Sabine herself is a descendant of House Vizla, so in a way, her retrieving the Darksaber seems a little like destiny. When Rebels returns next year, it seems likely that more of Sabine's history will be revealed, with the Darksaber almost certainly playing a role in that.
'Visions and Voices' was easily one of Star Wars Rebels best episodes this season. With a creepy setting in the Nightsisters abandoned temple and tense battles between Maul, Ezra, and the possessed Kanan and Sabine, this episode features great atmosphere and action. There's quite a bit that ties back to The Clone Wars, too, which again only strengthens the link between the two series. Really the only let down here is the Bendu - what is his purpose?
Star Wars Rebels season 3 returns January 7th on Disney XD.