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Star Wars Rebels

Wolves and a Door (Star Wars Rebels - S04E12) - Television

Series: Star Wars Rebels

Title: Wolves and a Door

Season: Four

Episode: 12

Original Air Date: February 26, 2018

Runtime: 22 minutes

Credits: Review & Text: Mike Taber; Page layout & Design: Chuck Paskovics

"I have no idea what just happened." SPOILERS. 

“Wolves and a Door” is a somewhat unremarkable episode for one that includes the return of Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor, Malcolm McDowell’s Star Wars debut, the first reference to the Mortis Gods since they were introduced, and the introduction of a Force portal that is the gateway to a place beyond space and time. All of these are huge and fascinating developments, but they only receive a surface level exploration in this episode and are introduced through a fairly generic and standard infiltration plot. There are indeed some wonderful moments in this episode that help set the stage for the next episode, but that may the problem that I am trying to articulate. The primary function of “Wolves and a Door” seems to be laying the groundwork for and easing us into the next episode. It’s a Trogan Horse episode where a standard and somewhat generic plot is used to introduce us to something more experimental. That is not in and of itself a bad thing, but it has produced an episode that promises more interesting ideas and moments than it offers. Much like “DUME”, this episode is a necessary but uneven addition to the story of Star Wars Rebels.

   

The episode itself began with Ezra showing the stone tablet given to him by the Loth-Wolf Dume to the rest of the Ghost crew. Ezra explained that it came from the Lothal Jedi Temple, which was in danger from the Empire. The Jedi Temple was on the other side of planet, but the Loth-Wolves helped solved that issue. My frustration with the Loth-Wolves peaked in this episode. It has become increasingly clear that they are little more than a storytelling tool. Need to get to the other side of the planet? The magic wolves can help. It seems that Filoni needed a physical manifestation of the Force to: (A) solve logistical problems, (B) push both the narrative and characters forward, and (C) stand in for Kanan following his death. He likes wolves, so why not make this physical representation a wolf? Filoni is a brilliant storyteller so I’m sure a lot more thought went into the creation of the Loth-Wolves than that, but that is how it has come across to me as an audience member. I do like the idea of this heightened representation of the Force taking the form of an animal and being more closely aligned with nature, especially since Ezra has always demonstrated a heightened connection to animals like the Loth-Cats. However, this idea faltered in its execution. My issues with the Loth-Wolves aside, their journey to the other side of the planet with the Ghost crew was well-handled from a visual point of view. It was small details like Hera using her goggles for the first time or one of the Loth-Wolves carrying Chopper in his mouth that helped sell the sequence. The portion of the journey that looked like the Force’s take on a hyperspace jump was the most visually and thematically effective segment. Seeing and hearing images and voices from episodes past as they traveled through Lothal via the Force was wonderful as it was a reflection on the series as a whole. The Force has guided them on this journey that has always come back to Lothal.

   

When the Ghost crew arrived at the location of the Jedi Temple, they discovered that the Temple had sealed itself off and the Empire had begun an extensive archaeological operation aimed at unlocking the secrets of the Temple. The Imperial excavation site itself was very reminiscent of scenes from both Raiders of the Lost Ark and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The opening of the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the mountaintop meeting in Close Encounters of the Third Kind were clear visual influences. These visual influences can not only be seen in the design of the Imperial excavation site, but the visual framing as well. The Ghost crew overlooking the Imperial site has a nearly exact visual parallel in Close Encounters where the Richard Dreyfuss character is looking down at the government operation on the mountaintop. The influence of these films, particularly Raiders of the Lost Ark, can also be heard in Kevin Kiner’s score. Ezra and Sabine stole the armor of two Biker scouts and snuck into the excavation site. This is where the episode employs that familiar infiltration plot that I mentioned earlier. It feels like every other week that some combination of the Ghost crew steals Imperial armor and infiltrates an Imperial base. Using this by the numbers plot to introduce more experimental and philosophical ideas feels slightly restrictive. Yes, it’s the way we get to the aforementioned experimentation but it and the Loth-Wolf journey take up far too much time thereby delaying most of the meaningful exploration of these ideas to the next episode. What we are left with is the introduction of compelling storytelling promises within a fairly generic and routine episode structure.

   

When we arrive at the Imperial excavation site, we are introduced to Minister Hydan. Hydan is voiced by the great Malcom McDowell, who gives a wonderful performance that brought instant credibility and energy to the role. I never knew that I wanted Malcolm McDowell in Star Wars, but I’m so glad that it happened. He is a fantastic addition to the franchise. Hydan is far more interesting than the traditional villain-of-the-week, thanks in large part to McDowell’s performance. It’s not just McDowell’s performance though; Hydan is not your average Imperial. He answers directly to the Emperor and is steeped in the history of Jedi and Sith lore. The fact that the Emperor has agents like Hydan tracking down religious artifacts throughout the galaxy is an important development that helps illuminate what exactly the Emperor was doing during this time period. It is also reminiscent of Hilter’s own obsession with religious artifacts. The Emperor’s conversation with Hydan is a great scene. That’s right, the Emperor is back and Ian McDiarmid returned to Star Wars for the first time since Revenge of the Sith. McDiarmid is among the saga’s most talented and consistent performers, and he was as terrifying as ever in his return as Emperor Palpatine. It was wonderful to hear him in this role again. I loved the look of sheer terror on the faces of the Ghost crew when they heard the voice of the Emperor. That’s exactly how these characters should react to him. The Emperor also revealed that he is searching for “a conduit between the living and the dead” inside the Temple. This is certainly an intriguing concept and it made me consider whether or not this portal that serves as a conduit between the living and the dead is the power that Palpatine described to Anakin in the opera house. Could this be how Darth Plagueis could “prevent the ones he cared about from dying?” The other big reveal in this episode was the massive painting of the Mortis Gods on the side of the Temple. The Mortis trilogy is one of the crowning achievements of Star Wars: The Clone Wars so it was great to see some further exploration of that mythology for the first time. The painting of the Mortis Gods itself was beautiful and is among the most impressive visuals of the series. Sabine and Ezra used the stone tablet to figure out how to open the portal, but Sabine was captured. Ezra opened the portal and the painting came to life in a stunning traditionally animated sequence. The episode ended with Ezra jumping into the portal. “Wolves and a Door” won’t make the Best of Star Wars Rebels list that I’m already working on, but it was a necessary episode that expanded the saga and set the stage for something special…

   

What Worked

  • Mortis connections
  • Malcolm McDowell’s Minister Hydan
  • The Emperor Arrives

What Didn’t Work

  • The Loth-Wolves
  • Generic plot structure
External Links:
Added: March 4, 2018
Category: Star Wars Rebels
Reviewer: Mike Taber
Score:
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