Chris Connor on Star Wars Rebels…
Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012 opened up a wealth of opportunities to expand the Star Wars universe. We have since seen five movies and the live action TV series The Mandalorian, the majority of which have pleased fans with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and The Mandalorian often labelled as some of the best content the franchise has produced since 1983’s Return of the Jedi.
In spite of this one area of the Disney-era that is constantly overlooked is the animated series Star Wars Rebels which acts as a quasi-sequel to Star Wars: The Clone Wars series while standing alone and bridging the gap to the events of the Original Trilogy, covering the latter part of the two decades between Episodes III and IV.
One of Rebels‘ biggest strengths is the decision for its core crew to be characters new to the franchise, many of whom have gone onto become fan favourites. The ragtag nature of the Ghost’s crew and camaraderie are reminiscent of A New Hope but this feels distinctly in its own corner of A Galaxy Far Far Away, fleshing out aspects of the universe that the films don’t manage to touch on, namely the effects Imperial rule has on real people particularly evidenced by reoccurring storylines focused on Ezra Bridger’s home-world of Lothal.
We do of course encounter force users and Jedi but Kanan Jarrus and Ezra are not as skilled or overpowered as the likes of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda or Anakin Skywalker. The focus on Sabine Wren is particularly crucial as the series dives heavily into Mandalorian lore, something The Mandalorian of course builds further upon. It would not be a stretch to expect the events of the upcoming Star Wars: The Bad Batch series to further bridge some of the gaps between Clone Wars and Rebels.
Perhaps the main selling point for Rebels is the links to virtually every aspect of the franchise to date. The most obvious links are to The Clone Wars and the Original Trilogy, with some arcs from Clone Wars carried across particularly for Ahsoka Tano and Commander Rex although these never take away from the arcs of our core set of characters and it is refreshing to see these characters fifteen years or so after audiences last encountered them. There are also heavy links to Rogue One as we encounter key figures including Mon Mothma and Saw Gerrera, sowing the seeds of some of the events that unfold in Rogue One, with Gerrera’s hunt for information about the Death Star.
It appears that the announced Star Wars: Ahsoka live-action series will continue threads started in Rebels, and with encounters with iconic characters from across the franchise including Obi-Wan Kenobi and Lando Calrissian, there is potential for Rebels to link into those characters’ upcoming shows as well. While we do see many familiar characters, this is done in a cohesive manner and never detracts from the main events so while Darth Vader appears prominently in the show’s second season, his appearances never feel forced and fit the period in question. Appearances from the likes of Princess Leia, C-3PO, Bail Organa and Master Yoda are brief but help fill in some gaps for these characters’ history within the wider universe and while acting as fan service to an extent, it is handled in the correct manner. We are also given a substantive backstory to key figures like Wedge Antilles.
Rebels introduces aspects that would be further dived into later with the introduction of Inquisitors who are tasked with hunting down remnants of the Jedi Order, and also form a key part of the video game Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. We also see new aspects to the universe including alternate realities and time travel which feature prominently towards the end of the final season (whether or not this is an aspect of the universe that will be expanded upon further in upcoming series or films remains to be seen). However, perhaps the main new addition to the official canon from Rebels is the first film or television appearance of the iconic villain Grand Admiral Thrawn. Based on season two of The Mandalorian, it appears likely Thrawn may be the main villain of Ahsoka’s spinoff series.
Star Wars Rebels makes extensive use of Ralph McQuarrie’s original concept art for Episodes IV – VI, making sure the show generates the same ‘lived in’ feel as the original films and feels like it takes place within the same timeframe. This also showcases the dedication that went into the show’s production and making Disney’s first foray into the Star Wars universe a very successful venture. Coupled with the design, the tone and pace of the show encapsulates elements of both Clone Wars and the original films, delivering a consistently enjoyable viewing experience which is not afraid to delve into its share of darker moments.
While it hasn’t won the same level of plaudits as some of Disney’s other Star Wars content, Rebels is well worth fans’ time with links to numerous aspects of the franchise’s past and offering tantalising glimpses at what its future might hold. The cast of new characters build on franchise’s legacy and there are cameos and appearances aplenty from an assortment of familiar faces, although these never make the main story lose momentum and are mostly done with a great deal of care and respect.
The tone of the show closely aligns with the Original Trilogy but exists in its own distinct corner of this galaxy, exploring the genesis of the Rebel Alliance and some of the key early battles to resist Imperial rule prior to the involvement of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Importantly, Rebels should be seen as essential viewing for the upcoming Ahsoka Tano series with some characters from the animated series rumoured to be making their live action debuts alongside Rosario Dawson’s Ahsoka. And, with a lengthy gap until The Book of Boba Fett and The Mandalorian season three, there is no better time for fans to acquaint themselves with the adventures of Ezra Bridger, Hera Syndulla, Kanan Jarrus and the rest of the Ghost crew.
SEE ALSO: The Top 10 Star Wars Rebels Scenes
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