So this week brought us two episodes, but let’s be honest, there’s one major focal point of the two of them: the Lothal Jedi Temple and the fact that it can transport people through time and space. To say that this raises a lot of questions is an understatement of the highest order. We can start with how it’s handled in the episode itself, of course, before going into the possibilities that this might open for Star Wars storytelling in the future. Strap in folks, things are going to get very weird.
The main purpose of the temple within the context of the story and the characters within that story is to teach Ezra one last lesson before the show’s conclusion: letting go. It’s far from the first time we’ve seen a Jedi have to learn this lesson, but Ezra’s situation is very poignant, in that he’s dealing with the death of his Master and surrogate father. Kanan and Ezra’s relationship is one of the closest of any two characters in Star Wars Rebels, so of course when he’s presented with the possibility of doing something to save Kanan’s life he jumps at the chance.
But Rebels twists the script a bit by making Ezra’s temptation not based on the dark side like Anakin’s was once upon a time. This is not some temptation that will lead him down a dark path that will forever dominate his destiny. Ezra is presented with an opportunity that is entirely neutral from a moral standpoint, a literal door through which he can walk to Kanan’s side as the fuel tank explodes. No strings, no dark voice whispering in his ear tempting him with unlimited power. Just reach out, and pull him through.
Of course, it isn’t that simple. If Ezra does save Kanan, it would be at the cost of his own life, and the consequences of that sort of action on the rest of the team would be incredible. Not to mention the timeline of events after Kanan’s death with Ezra already present would create a paradox that may have unimaginable consequences. Faced with these realities, Ezra is forced to stand aside and watch, again, as Kanan dies.
In some way, though, this helps Ezra get over the event. He’s taught in a demonstrable way the same lesson that Anakin needed: that sometimes the ones you care about die, and there is nothing you can do or should do to prevent it. Ezra has been broken by loss before, when news of his parents’ fate reached him, and he is able to rise above it once again by learning that he has to move on, that even with the power of the temple life still goes on, and he still has a mission he can accomplish and friends who need him.
But let’s talk about the temple more, shall we? Let’s talk about this nexus of the Force, this “World Between Worlds”, that’s been hinted at and touched on throughout Rebels and only now made clear. It’s how Yoda was able to talk to Ezra earlier in the show, it’s how Kanan was able to talk with a pre-face-heel-turn Grand Inquisitor, and so on. Not to mention that it provides a way for Dave Filoni to literally pull Ahsoka out of the battle she was in with Darth Vader and preserve her life.
So what does this mean for the larger franchise, to have these sort of temporal shenanigans suddenly become fair game? First, considering how much effort on the Empire’s part has gone to finding and preserving the temple, and the planet in general, such nexus points must be incredibly rare. Palpatine takes a very personal, and very immediate, interest in the one that Ezra finds. That alone says a lot. That means that, with the Lothal temple destroyed, odds are that we won’t see something like it come up again anytime soon. Of course, it’s a possibility now, the idea is on the table, but there are enough hurdles to make it difficult to bring into a story.
Second, it speaks to qualities of the Force itself that had not really ever been touched on in the past. We’ve heard about how the Force surrounds and binds, but the omnipresence of the Force extends not only across space but through time. The fact that such an intersection of dimensions exists is not absurd when you remember that time has always played into the abilities of the Jedi, if just a small bit. The little flashes that Jedi use to detect coming events like premonitions during battle or warnings presented via visions are only the cusp of what is possible within the Force.
Third, and perhaps most importantly for the franchise as a whole, the world between worlds gives us a glimpse of the unity of the franchise. The whispers and words that echo throughout the spectral World are from every show and film that has been created up to this point, showing a creative thrust that is willing to draw from across all media. More than that, the idea that someone could walk from one door to the next and appear beside Rey as easily as beside Padmé gives everything an immediate feel and lends a meta level of omniscience to the universe—Star Wars itself exists somewhere within the universe and someone could observe its happenings just as we do.
The World Between Worlds is ripe with possibilities and expands both the Force and the universe of Star Wars in a very real way. That it does so while still being a tool to give Ezra a very meaningful and heavy moment of character growth speaks volumes of the careful crafting that went into this season’s last handful of scripts to keep the focus on the characters that we’ve been on this ride with since the beginning. While the World Between Worlds is an exciting concept, it would not be nearly as meaningful if it did not give Ezra one last lesson from his old teachers.