Mise-en-scène (French: [miz. ɑ̃. sɛn]; "placing on stage") is the stage design and arrangement of actors in scenes for a theatre or film production, both in visual arts through storyboarding, visual theme, and cinematography, and in narrative storytelling through direction.
Malachor is the setting of Twilight of the Apprentice, a pair of episodes that I consider to be the turning point of Rebels. I tend to divide Rebels into two “eras,” pre-Malachor and post-Malachor, because of the dynamic changes our characters endured there. Also, after Malachor is when everyone got a costume change, so that helps too.
The Sith Temple on Malachor one of the many interesting and eerily beautiful locations we visit in the show. It clearly has a rich history that we as the viewers are not entirely partial to, and that gives us plenty to analyze.
When we first arrive on Malachor, it doesn’t seem to be all that bad on its own. It’s a little uninteresting at the top- just a general flat land, with a sun setting over a cloudy sky. The only points of interest are the tall black columns that stick out, but they aren’t particularly threatening at all. It’s only once Ahsoka, Kanan and Ezra break ground to find the hidden Sith temple, that things change.
Before we delve into the Sith temple, I think that this manner of finding it is very interesting, and in its own way metaphorically foreshadowing some of the events of the episode. When they first arrive to Malachor, it doesn’t seem like much, but Kanan and Ahsoka are aware that something dangerous lies underneath. Similarly, in these episodes, when Ezra first meets Maul, he doesn’t seem like a threat, but Kanan and Ahsoka are, again, aware of who he really is, and the risk that he poses to all of them.
The Sith Temple
At first glance, it really doesn’t take much to guess that the temple on Malachor belongs to the Sith. It has that classic “evil” color scheme- black with accents of red, and is a pointy, harsher triangle shape, compared to the rounder Jedi Temple that we see on Lothal in the show. The red lines that scratch across the surface of the temple create an intricate yet angular design, versus again, the rounder inscriptions that we see in Lothal’s temple. This is a general pattern we see in set design, especially in Star Wars- rounder, softer patterns and shapes are safe or good, while sharp angles are generally used to decorate the villains. While it’s definitely not a rule that’s always followed strictly (or the Death Star would be about as good as they come), it is something seen frequently (for example, you can compare the shape of Mon Calamari cruisers used by the Rebellion to the Empire’s Star Destroyers).
Back to Malachor- when we first see the temple, it is shot from below, and though it is already clearly very large, this angle makes it seem even more imposing. Combined with the dark atmosphere, even without the expository dialogue from the characters, we can definitely get an immediate sense that this place is powerful and dangerous.
Of course, Malachor is also, as we can infer, the site of what was obviously a big battle. Ahsoka, Kanan and Ezra find bodies frozen in time like from reality’s Pompeii, and scattered weapons around the temple. These details, though they aren’t a large plot in the episodes, are an excellent piece of worldbuilding- we get a sense of the violent history this place has, but aren’t told hardly anything about it, so the temple still keeps a constant sense of mystery and intrigue throughout the episode.
The inside of the temple doesn’t have a design that differs much from the rest of it, to be totally honest. It continues the pattern of being mostly black and dark gray, with red glowing accents. It’s still very dark, and scary, and things get more dangerous- more powerful, the deeper the characters get in to the temple, leading them to the lethal weapon at the top.
I think the fact that the weapon is at the peak of the pyramid, and not deep within the core of the temple like it could be, shows what the Sith value. Power is what the Sith religion craves, and being “on top” in a metaphorical way is the best way to gain that power- so of course they would build their weapon on top, to make it visible in order to strike fear into the people below them.
Of course, at the end of the episode, the destructive weapon is activated, leaving our heroes in a totally different position than they were before they arrived- showing how powerful this place really is.
Next week, we backtrack to season 1 to revisit the famous PM-1203.