Hey there, Star Wars fans! Strap into your X-wings, grab your blasters, and hang on to your lightsabers, because today’s subject is Disney’s animated series Star Wars Rebels!
I had intended to write a post about this series not long after it aired. But, with so few episodes played on television, I feared that doing so would be premature. I still wanted to write about the series, but I thought it best to see the first season through before I said anything in favor of – or in protest against – Star Wars Rebels.
Now that the first season of the show has run its course, I am free to unleash my opinions about it. To start this post off, if you have not seen the series, here is the main cast of Rebels:
Ezra Bridger: Ezra is a street boy from the capitol city of Lathol, an Outer Rim planet, who is also Force-sensitive. Physically designed to look like Aladdin, but somewhat younger (fourteen at the beginning of the show, fifteen from the middle of the first season onward), he makes his living as a minor pickpocket who is not averse to stealing bits and pieces from Imperial officers. He is particularly fond of stealing Stormtrooper helmets, and is quite willing to pull pranks on the Imperials – when there is no chance of their realizing that he is behind the prank, that is.
In Rebels’ first episodes/introductory film, Ezra falls in with a small band (you can count their number on one hand) of rebels who regularly cause trouble for the Empire. Though Ezra at first has no intention of staying with the crew for very long, he soon becomes fond of them and joins the gang permanently.
Kanan Jarrus: Originally called Caleb Dume, he took on the name Kanan Jarrus after the fall of the Jedi, probably because his real name was on the roll of Jedi known to have been in the Order at the time of the Clone Wars.
Kanan was the apprentice of Jedi Master Depa Billaba, but his training was cut short when Order 66 was implemented. He was fourteen when he saw his Master killed by Clone troopers. Following her order to “Run,” he disappeared into the galaxy, letting his Force skills atrophy to nearly nothing and burying his past as a Jedi in the same drawer where he kept his lightsaber, becoming a fair shot with a blaster as a result.
Joining up with the pilot of the Rebels’ band, Kanan became the gang’s leader. Smart, cocky, and ready with a snappy comeback or piece of battle banter, Kanan’s Jedi history was a secret known only to his crew. Until the group had to save a band of Wookies in the opening film for the series, the Imperials were none the wiser of his existence, let alone his heritage.
Kanan’s past as a Jedi meant that he recognized Ezra’s Force-sensitivity fairly quickly. Knowing that sooner or later the kid could get caught and what the Empire would do to him once they discovered his connection to the Force, Kanan offered to train Ezra in the ways of the Jedi. This left him uneasy, however, since his own training was incomplete and he had avoided being a Jedi for some time. Now, he and Ezra are learning about the Force in concert, and Kanan has been told that this is his last chance to be a Jedi. If he fails now, he and Ezra are both toast.
Hera Syndulla: A Twi’lek and pilot of the rebels’ ship, the Ghost, Hera is the mother figure for the crew. Down-to-earth, firm, but also warm and kind, Hera keeps the rebels centered. She rarely loses her temper, but when she does, duck. She has a good right hook, and should not be underestimated in hand-to-hand combat. Hera’s friendship with Kanan may be more than a friendship, as she will refer to him as either “dear” or “love” from time to time. She seconds for him in almost every situation and he backs up her motherly discipline or decisions, as well as taking her advice on how he should deal with Ezra. Her piloting skills are just below Han’s as far as I can tell. Hera is the first member of the Ghost’s crew to take a real shine to Ezra.
Garazeb “Zeb” Orrelios: A former Lasat honor guard from Lasan, Zeb is one of the few Lasats left in the galaxy, since the Empire forcibly “cleared” his homeworld for colonization. Gruff and grumpy, but a loyal friend once you earn his respect, Zeb is the team’s muscle. He is not your average heavy-hitter; he thinks when he gets into a fight and can come up with lots of clever maneuvers in battle. He hates the Empire for killing most of his people and forcing the survivors off Lasan. On a lighter note, though, Zeb also enjoys beating up Stormtroopers. Every chance he gets, Zeb smacks their heads together. He says something about the feel of their helmets just makes it more fun.
Sabine Wren: A sixteen year old girl from Mandalore, Sabine has some serious fighting skills for her age. She also enjoys blowing things up. Just how she joined up with the rebels we do not yet know, but apparently she went to the Imperial Academy on Mandalore and “it was a nightmare.”
Sabine seems to fill the daughter role in the crew, as both Hera and Kanan treat her more gently than they do Zeb and Ezra. Zeb usually partners with her in a fight, acting in an older brotherly-fashion toward her and making her safety his priority. Ezra has a crush on her. (Don’t laugh; it worked for Anakin and Padmé!) Sabine is also an artist. She is especially good at graffiti. She regularly spray paints Imperial hardware, and the phoenix symbol the rebels occasionally leave behind after a mission is her specialty. Her Mandalorian armor and even her blasters are painted as well.
Chopper: Chopper is Hera’s cranky C1-10P astromech droid. Cantankerous and a grumbler, Chopper is willing to pull pranks on every male member of the crew. Kanan is rarely the butt of his mischief; for the most part, that is directed toward Zeb and Ezra. Chopper is almost always in a bad mood; he only lowers his grumbling for Hera and Sabine. The guys get it with force, enthusiasm and, when the situation calls for it, volume. Chopper is not the friendliest astromech you are ever going to meet; the creators have apparently said that, “If R2- D2 is your favorite dog, then Chopper’s a cat.” He’s the grumpy grandpa of the gang. Where you can make a fuss over R2, Chopper would probably zap you for almost no reason at all.
Okay, with the character list out of the way, we can get to the really important stuff. Initially, I was not sure I was going to like Rebels. I had skipped out on the Clone Wars series because I could not stand the prequel Star Wars films. Plus, I thought the animation for the series stank. Besides, it was not as if the Clone Wars cartoon actually tied into the bigger Star Wars saga, right?
Eh, wrong, as I have discovered. Turns out the Clone Wars series IS part of the larger Star Wars story’s history. Star Wars Rebels is like the Clone Wars in that vein, being set in the five years prior to A New Hope. In fact, both animated series are so far the only tie-in stories for the new Star Wars timeline coming out with Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens. All the previous books and stories from the past thirty years no longer relate to the films’ timeline, according to Lucasfilm. For us Mara Jade Skywalker, Solo children, and all-around Expanded Universe fans, that is a very lousy turn of events. I am not happy that thirty years of stories, especially the great ones written before this year, just got erased.
But what can you do, other than go on living? Maybe the writers will keep Mara and the Solo kids in the Star Wars epic after all. It is a big maybe, but unless they want a full-fledged riot on their hands, doing that seems more sensible than outright nullifying everything fans have had time to enjoy between the original Star Wars trilogy and the less-than-satisfactory prequel trilogy. Oh, well, c’est la vie!
Back to the topic at hand. Despite my initial misgivings, I can say I fully enjoyed Rebels’ first season. Mostly, this is due to the fact that we finally get to meet a Jedi in the same era as Luke and the gang! As you may have guessed, this was the part of the first season which really impressed me. The prequels had Jedi all over the place, I know, but hardly any of them got introduced to the audience in a meaningful way. Mace Windu, Ki Adi Mundi, Luminara Unduli – we hardly got to know any of them in the films or The Clone Wars TV series. They showed up for an episode or two and then they left.
Oh, yeah, and in Revenge of the Sith most of them were murdered by the clone troopers on the Emperor’s command. There is not much point introducing the audience to expendable characters, now is there?
So while the prequel Star Wars films, books, and The Clone Wars TV series are swarming with Jedi, most of them have about the same amount of screen time as unimportant background scenery does. If they get more time on screen than that, it is a rather pointless exercise because most of them die in Revenge of the Sith. How are you supposed to get to know characters that expendable and underwritten?
But in Star Wars Rebels, we have Kanan Jarrus. True, he is not your conventional Jedi. His training is incomplete (he does not even understand Yoda’s dictum “Do, or do not. There is no try,” until the third episode of the series) and he is more into the whole “I’m-the-guy-who-makes-the-plans-and-wisecracks” role. But if anything, that is what makes Kanan interesting. He is not some cardboard copy of Obi-Wan Kenobi or Yoda. He is a character who stands on his own two feet and has his own style. It is really nice to have a “cowboy Jedi” who is willing to take risks, make minor mistakes, and crack wise for a change.
Yes, really important Jedi are and should be “one-with-the-Force-all-the-time.” But we had that with Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Mace Windu. If all Jedi were like that, then the audience would lose interest in them pretty fast. It is one of the reasons why I never liked the prequels; hardly any of the Jedi in those movies had personalities more interesting than brittle wood. Kanan may have a dry wit but he certainly does not have a dry personality (in this writer’s/viewer’s opinion, anyway).
The other great thing about Kanan is watching him connect with Ezra. I always thought that Obi-Wan and Anakin never quite managed to jive properly with each other in the prequels. Jedi Knights or Masters are practically the only parents their apprentices ever know, but this did not work out with Obi-Wan and Anakin. Anakin already had a mother, and Qui-Gon Jinn seemed to be the only man he viewed as a father-figure. I always thought he was uncomfortable and aloof with Obi-Wan, while Obi-Wan got as attached to him as any older brother would get attached to a younger brother.
So it is fun for me to watch Ezra and Kanan learn to get along in Rebels. It takes a while, of course. Like Anakin, Ezra was born and raised outside the Jedi Order. He knew his parents until he was seven, when the Empire took the Bridger couple into custody and left Ezra to spend the next eight years of his life on the city streets. Kanan saw his Master, the closest thing he had to a mother, gunned down by clone troopers. The last thing either of them wants is to get attached to someone again. Both have been hurt emotionally, and neither of them wants to suffer through losing someone they care about again.
Despite that, Ezra’s better instincts (and maybe the Force) prod him to join the rebel crew, while Kanan feels the need to protect another Force-sensitive – and maybe set about making sure that the Jedi do not completely die out. Of course, the Force may have had something to do with that, too. 🙂
Slowly, the two work out a Master/apprentice friendship that is a somewhat brotherly friendship, part father-son relationship, and a sort of teacher/student partnership. This is one of the things which make the Jedi so darn fascinating. Lightsabers, telekinesis, mind manipulation – that is all secondary; those are frills. The way the Jedi mesh is the interesting part. And in a way, Kanan and Ezra’s friendship is what Obi-Wan and Anakin’s should have – and could have – been. I am very interested in seeing where these two Jedi go from here.
Random observations/questions from here on, readers: first and foremost, the tone of Rebels’ first season is very reminiscent of A New Hope. Do not expect it to last; the creators have warned that season two is more akin to The Empire Strikes Back than A New Hope. So it is probably safe to say that season two sees the Rebels going up against greater odds and getting into even more dangerous situations. “How typical!” to quote C-3PO.
Oh, and Ahsoka Tano fans…she’s baaack!!! That is all I am telling you.
Also, season one ended with the BEST lightsaber duel I have seen since Return of the Jedi! (I know some of you like other lightsaber duels more than that one, but I am a nostalgic Star Wars fan. I really cannot stand the prequels even long enough to admire the lightsaber duels in them. Sorry.)
Now for the questions: we saw very little of Hera’s, Zeb’s, and Sabine’s back stories in season one. And even though we saw a lot of our two new Jedi, there are hints that we have yet to learn everything about them. The creators have lamented that fact as well, and they are eager to explore the Rebels further. In which case, here is what I want to know:
What happened to Sabine’s family and why was her experience at the Imperial Academy on Mandalore “a nightmare”? I know we are dealing with the Empire’s brutality here, but specifics would be nice. Does Sabine have any family she can whistle up to help the crew, or are they dead? If they are not dead, can she ask them for help for the rebel crew, or do they disapprove of her anti-Imperial activities? Does she have any contacts on Mandalore?
Also, what does she think of Boba Fett? And what would happen if the two crossed paths – perhaps in a fight? It would be very interesting to see Sabine go up against Boba Fett. He is Star Wars’ most dangerous bounty hunter, and she is still green in some respects. She is not Boba’s equal, but could she still find a way to duke it out with him? And where exactly is Ezra’s crush on her going to go? I think I see an Anakin/Padmé romance somewhere in this series’ future. We can hope it will be a less sappy romance, but I am pretty sure an Ezra/Sabine love story is in the pipes for Rebels somewhere down the line.
Has Zeb got any family left? The Empire killed most of the Lasats when they took their homeworld. Zeb is one of the very few who escaped Lasan. Does he know where the other Lasats are? Does he know any of them personally? How many of those surviving Lasats are in the rebellion – and how many are Imperial spies, lowlifes, and who knows what else? Heck – does Zeb have a girlfriend out there somewhere? That would certainly be an interesting future episode!
Where did Hera come from? How did she get involved with the rebellion? Where is her family? If you saw The Clone Wars series, then you probably recognized Hera’s last name: Syndulla. Yes, according to everything I have hunted up, she is Cham Syndulla’s daughter. But that means very nearly nothing to me since I did not watch the Clone Wars series. Of the entire crew, the member we know the least about is Hera. We have at least a sliver of back story on everyone except for her. If the creators could explore her history in the next season, I would be interested to see it play out.
Where are Ezra’s parents? It has been teased that they may not be dead. If they are not dead, then where are they? In hiding? In Imperial custody? With the rebellion? The fact that his parents could be alive has been hinted at, so there has to be an answer for these questions somewhere in future episodes.
What else has not yet been revealed about Kanan? So far his real name has only been revealed in the Rebels’ prequel book Star Wars: A New Dawn. Did he make any enemies as a Jedi apprentice? Did these enemies survive the Jedi Purge, maybe to join the Empire as Inquisitors? Will he meet/find other Jedi? Is he going to be able to keep Ezra from falling to the Dark Side of the Force – not to mention himself? He never finished his training; he is risking falling into darkness as much as Ezra is by trusting him for training. What will Kanan do when/if the crew finds/meets Ezra’s parents? That could be an awkward meeting, to say the least!
Also, does Kanan have a family he does not know about? Jedi are taken into the Order as infants. They almost never know their blood family. What if Kanan has family members in the rebellion – or the Empire? What will he do if he finds out he does have family in either – or both – factions? Those are some interesting possibilities to think about…
So Star Wars Rebels writers, please do not keep us waiting too long for the answers to these – and other – questions!!!
And, readers –
May the Force be with you!
The Mithril Guardian