Going into this series, I’m not entirely sure what my expectations for it are. In part because it exists in this muddy middle ground in the middle of the Clone Wars’ initial run and its continuation, of which I’m including the Bad Batch in that bracket.
So in terms of quality of animation and storytelling, I’m not sure where to set my level of expectation. One thing’s for sure though, in these first three episodes of the series I’ve watched, my misgivings of that were born around those marketing shorts is mostly brushed under the carpet.
Like with my retrospective covering the Clone Wars series, I’m going to be talking about each episode of the show a handful at a time. The big difference here being the format and cast of the show, while Clone Wars felt much more like an anthology series at times, Rebels is much more focused on its main cast and telling an ongoing story.
The beginning of which is detailed in the two parter Spark of Rebellion. The series picks up amidst the height of the Galactic Empire, 14 years after the events of Revenge of the Sith and five years before A New Hope.
Within the context of the series, it seems like Rebellion as we know it from the original movies doesn’t exist yet. This is one of those things between the old and the new continuity that always gets really muddy, there are so many conflicting stories about how the Rebellion against the Empire actually got started.
Although I guess with this series being shortly after Disney throwing all of the old Expanded Universe stories into the Legends bin, this will most likely be our canon explanation going forward.
Season 1, Episode 01 & 02: Spark of Rebellion
This episode actually begins by introducing us to the Grand Inquisitor. A character I hadn’t expected to see this early in the series. I imagine at this point in the Star Wars fandom, this was the first time inquisitors were being introduced to the mainstream fandom. A series of conditioned force sensitives trained and/or brainwashed to work for the Empire and hunt and execute any survivors of Order 66 as well as find any burgeoning force sensitives and either convert them or execute them.
Outside of this introduction though, he doesn’t factor into events.
The main story introduces us to Ezra Bridger, our Luke Skywalker analogue for the series. Ezra is an orphan from the planet Lothal, he scrapes his way through life as a charming, opportunistic thief. Sticking it to anyone who crosses his path, but seems to take a particular delight in ripping off the Empire.
Ezra stumbles upon the crew of The Ghost, lead by Kanan Jarrus, who in the middle of a heist, stealing blasters from the Empire. Ezra takes the opportunity and leads into a three way chase between him, Kanan and the Empire.
Now, I don’t know if this was intentional at all, but I get big Disney’s Aladin vibes from Ezra right away. In his demeanour, his action and even how he looks. I mean, Zeb even calls him a “street Rat” at one point. I can’t imagine this was unintentional. I mean, it’s Disney running the show now. Not that a carbon copy of a classic Disney character is all there is to Ezra Bridger.
He is pretty distrustful of everyone around him, starting the two parter off seeing selflessness and charity as foreign concepts. Through his actions and pursuit of the Empire, Ezra is dragged along by the crew and ends up finding himself becoming an unwilling part of the crew as they make the arms deal with a Devaronian crime lord named Cikatro Vizago. During which the smooth talking character forgoes half of the crew’s pay in favour of giving them a tip about some Wookiee slaves being transported.
Throughout the story, there are plenty of not so subtle hints that Ezra is force sensitive, and pretty powerfully so as well considering how unconsciously he seems to be using it. It draws him to Kanan and it seems like the feeling it mutual as Kanan takes a liking to the kid, much to the chagrin of his Lasat strongman Zeb.
The other poorly kept secret is that Kanan is a survivor of Order 66. The façade of which is completely gone by the time Ezra breaks into his quarters and discovers a Holocron and a Lightsaber. Although he doesn’t know the significnace of either when he does.
Throughout this episode, we learn that the crew of the Ghost are bunch of Do-gooders, outcasts and survivors who have banded together to both stick it to the Empire and help those who have suffered from their actions. Real Robin Hood types.
Despite, their rough edges, or Zeb’s at least, Ezra sees first hand what they’re doing and starts to feel some remorse over his worldview and selfish attitude. Considering he’s been stealing from the crew the entire time he’s been working with them.
We also meet who I assume is the first major antagonist for the crew of the series in Agent Kallus of the Imperial Security Bureau. This mutton chopped Imperial Agent reminds me of the Agent class as portrayed in Bioware’s The Old Republic video game. An intelligence officer who seems much sharper than your average Imperial toady.
I’m not sure if that was the inspiration, but his ability to deduce where the crew of the Ghost are going to show up next makes him a very dangerous person to show interest in them. Showing that the Empire isn’t full of incompitent dolts, Kallus has orchestrated the entire Wookiee transport as a trap to capture the crew of the Ghost. One they walk right into.
Despite the trap though, the crew manage to escape, thanks to Ezra putting his neck on the line to warn them. Al except Ezra himself, who is grabbed by Kallus and left behind by Zeb. Much to Kanan’s displeasure, as it seems he had big plans for the kid. Oh, and the fact that he’s a good guy and stuff.
From here, it feels like events go a mile a minute. Kallus predicts the Ghost will return to rescue Ezra, Ezra manages to break himself out of the holding cell due to the stormtrooper’s blinding stupidity and figure out that the Wookiee’s are being transported to Kessel before meeting back up with the crew and showing a change of heart brought on by their rescue by relaying the location of the Wookiee’s.
Before you know it, we’re on Kessel and trying to fight off the Empire while liberating the Wookiee’s. All of that happens in what feels like the first 10 minutes of the second episode. At the time I was a little bugged by how fast things were going, but considering the parts of the series the show wanted to give us following this, my complaints were pretty short lived.
Long story short, Kanan is forced to reveal his identity as a Jedi to Kallus and his platoon of stormtroopers. Allowing everyone to escape. Meanwhile, Ezra has made his full hero turn and is trying to save a Wookiee child from a lone stormtrooper. Doing so with a very flashy display of force power in leaping high over the trooper to put himself between him and the kid.
While he does save the kid, he finds himself up against Kallus himself only to be saved by Kanas in very heroic and Jedi-like fashion. Allowing them all to escape along with the Wookiee prisoners. And unlike Clone Wars, it didn’t look like there was a single casualty.
The ending of the episode has Kanan make a turn and go into full Jedi mode now, playing mystical, mumbo jumbo mind games with Ezra, posing him a choice to remain on Lothar as a scavenger and petty thief, or join the crew of the Ghost and train in the ways of the Jedi with Kanan serving as his master. It’s pretty funny if you think about it. Kanan has probably spent more of his life as a normal guy than as a Jedi, he couldn’t have been more than a kid when Order 66 happened, but he acts so wise and all knowing in these final moments.
As you’d expect of a Jedi.
It’s strange seeing him manage to flip between the Han Solo and the Ben Kenobi role throughout these episodes. I’m interested to see what kind of teacher he ends up being to Ezra as the series goes forward. This is coming from a person who played Respawn’s Jedi: Fallen Order video game, which follows a very similar trajectory to this one in terms of Kanan and Cal Kestis’s experience.
In the end, Ezra joins the crew, as you’d expect and Kallus passes the information onto the Grand Inquisitor that he has encountered a couple of Jedi.
Season 1, Episode 03: Droids in Distress
I’ve said this before, but I’m always irked a little by how small Disney seems to want to make the Star Wars galaxy feel at times. I mean you’ve got this vast, wide galaxy full of millions of planets and trillions of individuals, and yet the same characters seem to end up bumping into each other continuously.
I mean, having C-3PO and R2-D2 showing up at some point was inevitable I guess, but them showing up here, in episode 3, feels like a pure marketing movie rather than an organic or necessary coincidence. I mean, this is the first episode after the “movie” that introduced the main cast, so I guess It makes perfect marketing sense to put some recognisable, fan favourite characters front and centre.
It just bothers me, and always will bother me when it feels like creative decisions were made by a marketing department.
In this episode, the crew of the ghost are desperate for credits and supplies, thus take on another shady job from Kanan’s Deveronian contact Cikatro Vizago. The job is to steal some weapons from an Imperial deal with an Aqualish, which seems to go off mostly without a hitch in a pretty elaborate Ocean’s Eleven-esque misdirection.
The crew’s Mandalorian; Sabine stands in for translator between the pair after Ezra and Kanan force all droids on the transport to the storage era of the ship, including Threepio who is there as the Imperial’s translator. Sabine feeds false false information to the Imperial while passing on the legit info the crew.
As an aside, the transport and its pilot in this episode are based on the now defunct Star Tours Disney ride in Disney World. While I do feel like this a pretty cute, and pretty obscure reference in this era. When I actually think about it, this seems like a pretty sinister sign of Disney creeping their grasp ever tighter over the franchise.
I mean, I know the Disney branded Star Wars of today is a much different beast than the one that existed at the time of this episode’s initial airing, but it’s a reminder of how much Disney seemed to want to twist the brand to their own devices shortly after obtaining it. I guess they eventually did learn that they were coming at the franchise entirely wrong in the end, but at this point it’s difficult to look at it any other way than sinister.
From here, the heist goes sideways, R2 and Threepio find themselves aboard the Ghost and the weapons the Aqualish was trying to sell are T-7 Ion Disrupter Rifles. Ion weapons powerful enough to disable Starfighters. They seem like some real nasty business and the debate comes up around destoryng the weapons rather than telling them to Vizago where they could eventually end up in the Empire’s hands anyway.
The character drama in this episode comes from Zeb. As I mentioned briefly before, Zen is the muscle of the Ghost’s crew. A grub, but good hearted Lasat. In this episode we learn that Zeb’s people are endangered, if not close to extinction thanks to the Empire’s actions. Like so many other worlds under the Empire, the population were culled and taken away to use as forced labour.
The Lasat in particular were put down through the widespread use of these disrupter Rifles. While they were weapons designed for use against vehicles, it’s implied that they still have a very nasty effect when used on living beings too, although we’re spared the grizzly details. Needless to say, Zeb is very against the sale of these weapons if they could help the Empire possibly mass produce them.
As the sale goes ahead, thanks Threepio’s classic inability to read the room, he ends up leading the Empire right to the sale. Which ends in the crew being forced to overload the weapons and use the resulting explosions to cover their escape.
From this event, it seems pretty obvious that Kallus, as our first primary antagonist of the series is being squared as being Zeb’s villain specifically. While I know the Inquisitor is going to show up in pursuit of the rogue Jedi eventually, for now Kallus is our big bad it seems like he’s going to eventually going to have his rematch with Zeb.
I kind of wonder how long he’ll end up lasting…
In the end, we learn that R2 and Threepio were all on some secret mission to sabotage the arms deal anyway and their true owner will pay for their return. So the crew manage to get their pay from Bail Organa. Although the Alderaanian keeps his identity secret from Kanas In their meeting.
Ending this episode by asking R2 to show them more about these “Rebels”… I could get upset about new canon here, but I’m going to let it go considering how early in the series we are. And how long this post has been going.
There was a lot to sink my teeth into throughout these episodes. It’s super obvious that this series wants to appeal to the old school fans of the movies. Despite the oddly counterproductive fact that Disney initially wanted the series to be much more comedic and focused forward a younger audience.
Although what we end up getting here has a much broader appeal. As it the series should have. The music, the way the characters speak and the visuals are all leaning heavily on original trilogy. Which isn’t a bad thing at all. It helps the series differentiate itself from the Clone Wars and deal with a much different setting and feeling of Star Wars.
After watching the shorts, I was a little worried that the series would shy away from the terrifying aspects of the Empire, their sheer scope and power they wield over the galaxy. So far, I’m not disappointed, as characters like Kallus show that the Empire is full of dangerous men who are more than willing to commit atrocities in the Emperor’s name.
They’re watered down not doubt, but by no means toothless.
Otherwise, the main focus of these two episodes are Ezra and Zeb. Both in Ezra’s introduction to the crew and their combative nature. I like their dynamic and are the two characters who got by far the most interaction. Sabine and Hera haven’t had the chance to do much as of yet, although Hera has already solidified herself as crew mom right from go.
This is a good start and I’m excited to see where things go from here.
As a final note, I need to comment on the facial textures of all the characters in the series. Rebels has a slightly different visual style to the Clone Wars, one of the most distinct features being that when you see their faces up close, they have this felt, fabric texture to them. It kind of makes the whole cast look like Muppets. As in Gonzo, not just idiots.
It’s funny and I can’t help thinking it every time I see them up close.
Anywho, that was a big one. I hope they don’t all turn into parts this long going forward, but we’ll see. I’ll be talking about the next three episodes next week. Hope I manage to not leave it to the very last minute like I managed to this week.