Hello everyone and welcome to The Sarlacc Pit! This week I am going to discuss the current ongoing animated Star Wars series: “Rebels.” This show follows the crew of a ship called the Ghost as they fight against the Empire and bring together other freedom fighters to begin the formation of the Rebel Alliance. This series takes place about five years before the events of “A New Hope,” and occasionally features characters such as Lando Calrissian, Princess Leia, Bail Organa, and others. While this show is intended for children (it is aired on Disney XD), there have been some dark moments, similar to the earlier canon series that appeared on Cartoon Network, “The Clone Wars.” However, this show is far from perfect, and this week I am going to go over a few things this show has done well, a few things this show has done not-so-well, and a few things that have been just downright disappointing. Now the show is not complete yet (we’re about halfway through season 3), so I may have to come back and apologize for some things I say here, but I feel like these things need to be said. This post will obviously have some spoilers, so read at your own risk.
“The Clone Wars” Tie-Ins
When Disney bought Star Wars, season 7 of “The Clone Wars” was in production and season 8 had some scripts already written. However, Disney pulled the plug on the fan-favorite series, seemingly leaving some story lines unfinished and leaving fans begging for more. Well, I seriously doubt that will ever happen. While I am also disappointed in the loss of this series, I understand that these things happen, and luckily, “Rebels” seems committed to filling out some of the plot gaps left in the wake of “The Clone Wars.”
“The Clone Wars” tie-ins began at the end of the first season, where Fulcrum, the Ghost crew’s underground contact reveals themselves to be Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s wayward padawan in “The Clone Wars.” In season two, the Ghost crew further recruits Clone Captain Rex of the 501st, who fought alongside both Ahsoka and Anakin in the Clone Wars. These characters begin to shed some light on some of the storylines left open such as what happened to some of our favorite clone soldiers when the clones betrayed the Jedi during Order 66. We had further tie-ins with my favorite space pirate: Hondo Ohnaka, where we learned just how hard it was for pirates once the Empire took over. Of course, I would also be remiss not to include the most important freedom fighters in the galaxy: the Free Ryloth Movement, whose leader, Cham Syndulla, appeared originally in “The Clone Wars” and is father to the captain of the Ghost, Hera Syndulla.
Season two was full of tie-ins as we even saw the return of Maul, who originally returned to Star Wars canon, after his apparent death in “The Phantom Menace,” in “The Clone Wars.” The last we saw of Maul in the Cartoon Network series showed Darth Sidious killing his brother and dragging him into captivity. In another canon comic, “Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir,” it was revealed that Maul was able to escape with help from the Mandaloria terrorist group Death Watch. In “Rebels” we find that Maul had been on the run from the Emperor and Darth Vader ever since, and was still on the hunt for his nemesis: Obi-Wan Kenobi (the most recent commercials for “Rebels” show that Maul may finally find Kenobi, aged and alone on Tatooine, for a final showdown). Maul first appeared in the last episode of season two and has made a few appearances in season three, as he has been attempting to bring Ezra Bridger to the dark side as his apprentice.
Another thing “Rebels” has done well is delving into the Force and the lore of the Jedi. Kanan Jarrus of the Ghost crew was once Caleb Dume, a Jedi Padawan who survived Order 66 and has been in hiding ever since. When Ezra Bridger, who joined the crew on Jakku, was discovered to be strong in the Force, Kanan took him on as an apprentice in an attempt to bring the Jedi Order back to the galaxy. Through this we have seen a lot of content about lightsaber building, holocrons, the light side versus the dark side of the Force and more. With the introduction of the Bendu, we have even begun to see a little bit of the gray area between the light and dark sides, with promise that we will see more in the future.
Besides just giving us more lore on the Force, “Rebels” does a great job of telling more about the universe that Star Wars takes place in. We have learned about how some planets were impacted by the Empire, we’ve learned histories of the Jedi and other cultures (most recently we have learned about the culture the Mandalorians built around the darksaber), we’ve even seen glimpses into the Imperial war machine. To me a good series or franchise is built on stuff like this: where there is a complete universe behind the story. “Rebels” does a great job of expanding that universe and filling in story gaps left by the rest of the franchise.
The Last Episode of Every Season
If you are ever watching a trailer for “Rebels” and think “Wow! That looks really cool!” I can guarantee you that that scene happens in the last episode. The best episodes of this season are either the first episode of the season, the last episode before a hiatus, or the season finale. It’s how they keep the audiences from leaving.
The major focus of “The Clone Wars” was the Jedi Order’s fight against the Separatist and the dark side of the Force. Naturally, we learned a lot about the Jedi and a lot about the Force. In “Rebels,” the main focus is supposed to be about the creation of the Rebel Alliance. However, Kanan and Ezra’s story lines with the Force and the Jedi are so interesting, that any episodes focusing on the Rebellion feel like filler and tend to be less satisfying. This might just be a personal opinion, but I believe this show would have benefited from being broken into two separate series: one focusing on the Rebellion, and one focusing on the Force.
This series suffers greatly from episodes where nothing really happens. These episodes often focus on droids doing silly things, or Ezra having to get along with someone. I do not know why these episodes exist, they are probably meant to entertain younger audiences, but they often just feel out of place with the rest of the series.
This series suffers heavily from the creators bringing in certain characters or ideas seemingly just because they think people will like them. For example: one of the Ghost crew is Sabine Wrenn, who belonged to Clan Viszla (fans of Death Watch would recognize this name). For a long time episodes would feature her but little would be revealed of her past and nothing would really happen. There were a few of these episodes before her story finally was revealed in the most recent episode of season 3. It often felt like some episodes focused on Mandalorians just because Star Wars fans love Mandalorians. This does not make the episode good, though, as for Mandalorians to be cool they have to actually DO something. Now, I will admit that Sabine does have a few cool moments, but they are unfortunately few and far between, although considering the last episode was all about her past and the darksaber then I have hope that her story will pay off more in the future.
The worst case of fan service so far is the introduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn. I already wrote about who he was in Legends Canon and why people loved him here. However, he has yet to really do anything, and we’re halfway through the season. Whenever he appears I feel like I am supposed to be excited, but honestly he’s just not done anything cool yet. Hopefully in the future he will do something that makes it all pay off, but so far all he has done is allow the rebels to escape after successfully carrying out missions. He keeps saying that it’s all a part of some plan, but it’s been a real disappointment so far.
Buildups that Don’t Pay Off
The biggest disappointment in the series so far (and the reason I don’t have much hope for Thrawn), is the Ahsoka vs. Darth Vader face-off. I wrote about this in an earlier post, but it’s worth repeating here. After Ahsoka’s introduction to “Rebels,” the series kept building up to a showdown between Ahsoka and Darth Vader, until they eventually met in the season 2 finale. However, while the battle was fantastic and emotional, the ending left many with a sense of frustration as neither Darth Vader (obviously) nor Ahsoka Tano ending up dying. Ahsoka was last seen walking into a Sith Temple, and the showrunner has stated that her fate is “nebulous.” This is super frustrating to me, because it just seems like bad writing. If you’re going to kill a character, kill the character. Ahsoka Tano is such a great character that she deserves a good ending to her story, but who knows, maybe we will see more of her in the future, and maybe there’s still a chance for her to have a good ending.
There’s still a good bit of “Rebels” left, and there’s plenty I did not talk about here. Overall the show is pretty decent and I would recommend it to anyone who is as in love with Star Wars as I am. However, I do not think it’s the best piece of canon out there, and like many people I do believe “The Clone Wars” to be the superior show. “Rebels” hits some high notes, but it has plenty of lows as well. Next week, I plan on talking about Mandalorians: the galactic bad-asses of the Star Wars franchise. Thanks for reading, and may the Force be with you!