Every group of heroes needs a group of villains to keep them on their toes. The relatively simple first season of Star Wars Rebels pitted the Ghost crew against one Grand Inquisitor, but with their allies multiplying in Season Two, the rebels needed more enemies, too—and in "Always Two There Are," we met two of those enemies. There wasn't much to this episode; it was neither complex in theme nor grand in scope. But its central conflict—the clash of personalities between a young, unrefined Jedi and a young, sadistic Jedi-hunter—was entertaining enough to carry the story.
Ezra was the star of the episode, demonstrating a marked improvement in both his discipline and his Force prowess. The episode's introduction, with Kanan and Rex arguing over what Ezra most needed to learn (Force sensitivity versus basic wits), foreshadowed Ezra's eventual challenges on the abandoned Republic medical station. For the most part, it was about his use of the Force, but at the end, when Zeb told him to keep his chin up, that was when his wits came into play. Overall, it seemed like he had come a long way in his Jedi training since the end of season 1. But, watching Kanan and Rex argue, it struck me that perhaps he could use a little bit of training from the clone. As much as Ezra's days on the Lothal streets had given him sharp wits and a keen survival instinct, Rex wasn't wrong that Kanan's brand of Jedi-hood was less refined than his own brand own clone discipline. Perhaps Ezra's edges could use a little sharpening.
Ezra truly impressed me throughout this episode. As soon as the Seventh Sister ignited her lightsaber, I saw fear flash across Ezra's face—but only for the briefest instant. Then he ignited his lightsaber and stood ready to defend himself and Sabine. Ezra had never been a coward, but he had also never looked as stoic as he did in that moment. When it became clear that the Seventh Sister's Force grip was too strong for him to escape with Sabine, Ezra thought quickly and did the noble thing: he let himself be captured and shut the door behind him to prevent the Inquisitors from getting Sabine. As the Seventh Sister observed, it was a very Jedi-like thing to do.
The Seventh Sister is a fantastic addition to the Star Wars universe and its pantheon of villains. "Always Two There Are" did a great job of telling us a lot about her in very few words. It began when she glimpsed the Fifth Brother approaching her fight. She spared a brief look at him and seemed to look away in frustration; she clearly didn't want him to share in what was supposed to be her victory. That one head movement spoke volumes about the dynamic between the Inquisitors—much like bounty hunters, they are all keyed into the same craft, and they have a common task, but they approach it in different ways (each believe his or her approach superior) and they hate running into each other because it means they're not as uniquely clever as they thought.
When the Fifth Brother asked the Seventh Sister if she had learned anything from Ezra, she replied, "Nothing I wish to share," thus confirming that they had been trained to value solitary pursuit and victory over teamwork, even if it meant achieving their goals more slowly. This, too, reminded me of bounty hunters, and it made me wonder if their self-defeating independence would become more of a plot point in episodes to come. The contrast between the Inquisitors' lone-wolf status and the rebels' family/teamwork dynamic is certainly an interesting theme, not unlike the contrast between Imperial uniformity and clone individuality that we saw in the last episode.
What I also loved about the Seventh Sister was her long-term thinking and seemingly superior tactical sense. When the Fifth Brother tried to kill Ezra, she stopped him, sounding almost disappointed as she told him, "You are shortsighted." It became clear then that the Fifth Brother was less of a planner than a killer. He didn't really think ahead or think big-picture like the Seventh Sister. (He did have the Force sensitivity to detect and deactivate Zeb and Sabine's thermal detonators, but that may have been more raw Force power than intellect.) The Seventh Sister and Fifth Brother's interactions in this episode made me desperately want to see an entire story about the Inquisitorius and the experiences that shaped the Seventh Sister's cunning personality.
But the Seventh Sister wasn't just cunning. She was also creepy—and, it seemed, a little bit unhinged. She carried herself in a distinctly eerie way. She moved gracefully but spookily, such as when she perched on the command center console while studying Ezra like he was a specimen. And there was a marked sadism about her words, like when she casually referenced sparing Ezra's friends a grisly fate while gentling stroking his cheek like a parent or lover. Nearly every line she spoke carried that same sadism or menace: "I have no plans to kill you—yet." "Poor child. If only you had the power to protect your friends." Explaining that she would kill Ezra and Sabine "very slowly." Even when she was torturing Ezra through the Force, she pretended that she didn't want to do it; whether or not that was true, her tone lent to the casual sadism of the act.
And then, of course, there was the time she called Ezra "pretty," which drew an appropriately confused reaction from him. The Seventh Sister seemed almost like the Star Wars version of Harley Quinn. We'll see if her quasi-romantic comments continue along with her pursuit of Ezra and the others. I know I certainly wouldn't mind seeing more of the Seventh Sister's bizarre brand of the dark side. Sarah Michelle Gellar was the perfect actress to voice her, and she does so with exquisite menace.
I had many other observations about this episode, but, owing to how simplistic the story was, they don't have a theme. I loved that the early part of the episode was dusted with a fair bit of camp, like when Zeb predicted that Ezra would "run right past" the medical supplies before doing exactly that, and when Ezra lectured Zeb to "keep your head down and you won't get hit" before abruptly (and loudly) hitting his head on a steel beam and falling over. Ezra and Zeb's banter, in general, has improved significantly throughout the course of the series. Whereas at first it was barely more tolerable than Ahsoka's earliest scenes with Anakin ("Snips," anyone?), by this episode it had progressed to more clever exchanges. The writers clearly have a better sense of how to have Ezra joke around—as he did in this episode with Zeb regarding how the Force worked—without sounding bratty.
Although it largely took a backseat to Ezra's bravery and the Seventh Sister's creepiness, Chopper demonstrated uncannily human personality in this episode. You could tell when he was scared, angry, and nervous. You could see him getting jumpy when he heard things rattling around outside the command center. When he heard the echo of his metallic squawks, he did what any human would do: he kept making noise to track the echoes. And when he finally found the probe droid, he freaked the hell out. When Zeb woke him up after the probe droid knocked him out, he did the "put up your dukes" routine with his spindly metal arms before he realized who had found him.
Some other thoughts: I enjoyed the parallel to The Empire Strikes Back, with the Fifth Brother recognizing that the medical-station power surge was no accident, the same way Darth Vader recognized that the Hoth probe droid's readings were of no mere smugglers. I didn't notice much impressive music in this episode except for the spooky choral accompaniment to the Seventh Sister's dogged advance on Ezra and Sabine. And the Seventh Sister's comment about Kanan not having finished his training made me wonder what else she knew about the Ghost crew and whether she would be able to use their pasts against them in some way. (Executive producer Dave Filoni has said that we'll learn about their pasts. What better way to show those pasts than by forcing the crew to reveal their backstories to explain how the Inquisitors are pursuing or tricking them?)
The end of "Always Two There Are" left us with a deep sense of dread for our heroes. Despite what the others assumed, Kanan had no idea that the Empire had trained more than one Inquisitor. The newcomers appeared to be less powerful than the Grand Inquisitor—Jason Isaacs' character would have easily dragged the Phantom back to the hangar bay floor instead of losing his grip the way the Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister did—but there is strength in numbers, and even acting alone the new Inquisitors could wear down the Ghost crew.
Kanan seemed to despair at the thought of facing more talented dark-siders, and he aptly summed up the bleak situation with the closing line: "We really have no idea what we're up against." This uncertainty, this promise of long odds, made "Always Two There Are" a good jumping-off point for the rest of the season. This third episode may not have had a deep story, but it did open up the show to new conflicts and threats, and that was good enough for me.
You can read all of my Rebels reviews right here.