Star Wars Rebels came to an end a few weeks ago, and so I wanted to write about how amazing this show was. If you haven’t seen it, you absolutely need to, and here’s why:
3 Reasons Why You Should Watch Star Wars Rebels
Like any good story Star Wars Rebels finds its greatest strength in the characters it brings to life. The members of Specter team are just as memorable and lovable as any of the characters from the film; from Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus right down to Chopper, my absolute favorite droid of all time (and my second-favorite AP-5).
The nature of Rebels 20-minute episodes means that a lot of the characterization comes hard and fast, and yes, sometimes that makes it feel unearned. I thought Ezra’s flirtation with the Dark Side should have been more of a slow-burn, rather than being explored and then immediately wrapped up in the Season 3 premier. However, by and large, Rebels succeeds in creating some of the most complex and lovable characters that Star Wars has ever seen.
We got to see Hera Syndulla confront her father, and in one incredibly memorable scene, reassume her Twi’lek accent as she passionately makes her case for joining the Rebellion. I also loved Zeb’s arc of coming to peace with the destruction of his homeworld, even helping the survivors find their original homeworld. Sebine confronting her past while training with the Dark Saber was an incredibly emotional episode. Then there was the incredibly poignant final lesson that Kanan teaches Ezra: that it’s important to make peace with the fact that people die, and while we can mourn for them, it’s important to let them go. A lesson that Darth Vader didn’t learn until the very end.
Grief, and how we deal with it, has been a central theme in most Star Wars stories and Star Wars Rebels handled that theme beautifully. Yet perhaps my favorite character arc of the series was that of Kallus, the Imperial Agent who tracks the Rebels in seasons 1 and 2.
Kallus has some of the most subtle and deep characterization of the series. On my first viewing of Star Wars Rebels I thought Kallus’ conversion from Imperial hardliner to Rebel spy was a little quick. But on subsequent viewings I caught all the subtle changes in Kallus’s personality and environment that, almost inevitably, led him to betray the Empire. You can see his shock at seeing two imperial officers murdered by the Inquisitor in season 1; his growing respect for Zeb as a warrior; his chafing against the constant ridicule and chastisement he receives from his superiors; and finally he begins to take smug satisfaction from seeing the Rebels succeeding against his fellow officers (most notably at Ezra destroying the Interdictor cruiser).
All the groundwork for his betrayal was laid by the Empire’s treatment of Kallus and when Zeb shows him genuine compassion and understanding, he sees the Empire as it truly is: an organization that breeds fear, mistrust, and isolation to control not only its subjects but it’s own military. Kallus arriving back on his Star Destroyer, with no one to greet him and no one to care that he’s injured, and sitting alone in his quarters is one the most powerful scenes in the show.
My only disappointment with the characters is how so many of the main cast end up being some form of royalty. Zeb turns out to be the leader his people’s honor guard, Hera is the daughter of a famous resistance fighter, and Sebine is the daughter of a ruling clan on Mandalore. Part of the appeal of Rebels, for me at least, was seeing how ordinary people were driven to rebel against the oppressive rule of the Empire. That is undermined when the ordinary people end up being from famous lineages, and it just reinforces Star Wars somewhat worrying fixation on the idea that exceptional people come from exceptional bloodlines. Still, I’m at least glad that neither Kanan nor Ezra ended up having a famous Jedi ancestor.
The Enriching of Star Wars Canon
Star Wars Rebels not only adds its own stories to the Star Wars universe, but also helps to deepen those already told. For instance, consider this line from Princess Leia:
“The more you tighten your grip, the more systems will slip through your fingers.” – Princess Leia to Grand Moff Tarkin.
In Star Wars Rebels we watch the Empire tighten its grip, and as Leia says, the rebellion that grows in response. At the start of the series, the titular rebels are basically a bunch of thieves and arsonists, a minor nuisance to the Empire. Yet as the Empire employs increasingly brutal tactics in their attempts to suppress the small band of rebels, more people begin joining. What begins as a minor imperial garrison becomes a major imperial occupation as multiple Star Destroyers are brought in, slowly choking the planet as the Empire struggles to maintain control. Meanwhile the Rebellion grows from scattered bands of resistance to a unified revolutionary movement.
I never read much of the Extended Universe, but one of the book series I absolutely loved was Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy. I was only 3 when these books were published, but I fell in love with Thrawn while playing Tie-Fighter as a kid, so when I saw a whole trilogy about Thrawn in a used book store I immediately made my parents buy them for me. So suffice to say I was impressed by how on point Rebels depiction of Grand Admiral Thrawn was. Everything from his shrewd tactical and strategic acumen to his love of art, and using that art to understand his enemies, was translated brilliantly to this show.
And of course, as a huge fan of Tie Fighter, I was totally enraptured by the Tie Defender. The construction of the Tie Defender, and the technological arms race that ensues, was pretty much the entire plot of Tie Defender, so I was giddy to see it return.
However the most important way that Star Wars Rebels enriches the canon is that it gives us some much needed closure to Clone Wars. I was a huge fan of that show, and I desperately needed some closure after its run was cut short. We got to see Ahsoka confront her old master, and friend, Anakin.
Season 4 of Clone Wars:
“I don’t know who to trust!” – Ahsoka
“I’d never let anyone you hurt you Ahsoka…never.” – Anakin
Season 2 of Rebels:
“I won’t leave you. Not this time.” – Ahsoka
“Then you will die.” – Darth Vader
We were reunited with Rex and a couple of his clone friends, and in the epilogue were even treated to the fact that Rex fought at Endor, meaning he lived long enough to see the death of the Empire that betrayed him. We even got to see an end to Darth Maul’s story.
I admit I was never a huge fan of Darth Maul, especially in Clones Wars when he just kept coming back over and over again. However his final end at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the incredible duel they have, made it all worthwhile. Especially the final moments, when Kenobi shows Darth Maul compassion and kindness even in the face of the enemy that killed his master.
Adding to the legacy of Obi-wan Kenobi, the greatest Jedi in Star Wars, is no easy feat. Yet Star Wars Rebels did it, and it’s those kinds of incredible details that make it a show worth watching.
The Attention to Detail
The absolute best part of Star Wars Rebels is its amazing attention to detail, the writers of this series take the principle of Chekov’s Gun to heart. If something is introduced in Star Wars Rebels, you can bet that it’ll be important to the story later on. This might not seem like a big deal, but when a story focuses on the small details it makes the entire world come alive. Attention to detail can mean the difference between a world feeling real, and a world that feels completely hollow.
Ezra steals Kanan’s Jedi holocron in the very first episode, and in most shows that would be the end of it, a plot device to be discarded afterward. However, the holocron continues to play an important role in the show well into the third season. Later, in Season 2, Ezra recovers a Sith holocron, but this isn’t simply a McGuffin to be used to unlock the Sith Temple, as it also becomes an important temptation to the Dark side that Ezra must resist. And finally, both Holocrons are used in a ritual by Darth Maul to locate Obi-wan Kenobi. Everything flows from one element to another, weaving together these details into single story.
Meanwhile story elements are foreshadowed so masterfully, and so far in advance that it’s kind of shocking. For instance in season 2, Minister Tua wants to defect from the Empire and offers secret information in exchange for her safety. “The Emperor has plans for Lothal.” And yet it’s not until season 4, only a few episodes from the ending, that it’s revealed that the Emperor is excavating the Jedi temple in hopes of unlocking a portal in time and space.
And Grand Admiral Thrawn? He was told how he would be defeated by the Bendu in season 3.
And while normally I focus on the writing, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the amazing artists behind this shows who included so many details that helped bring the world to life.
Then there was Kanan and Dume the Lothwolf…
The art, the music, everything helped bring this show to life. Even the Purrgil, which at first seem like a Deus Ex Machina at the end, were foreshadowed in the earlier seasons.
The Purgil ask for Ezra’s help in season 2, and when I first saw it I assume that request for help was just to regain access to the crater, but what if it’s more than that? What if the Purgil needed help for something else? Perhaps that’s why Ezra said he had to see it through to the end, because he promised to help the Purgil. And perhaps he needed his family to follow him so that he could do just that.
“Let us help you.” – Ezra to the Purrgil
Star Wars Rebels paid off, not only because it succeeded in telling an outstanding story, but because it helps setup its next story.
“When you get back, come and find me.” – Ezra Bridger to Ahsoka Tano.
Like the conversation with the Purgil, taken at face value Ezra is just telling Ahsoka to find him on Lothal. But Star Wars Rebels showed us that their writing can never be taken at face value. Their writing is like The Force itself, deeper than what can be seen on the surface, and more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
Whether or not Disney has the wisdom to greenlight a search for Ezra, I look forward to seeing whatever project comes next from this amazing team.