It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. When we left off the last time, Ahsoka has fought Darth Vader and finally accepted he and Anakin Skywalker were one and the same. It’s a fight a wounded Vader walked away from, although Ahsoka’s fate is left a little more ambiguous. Although, we know from her life action appearances that she’s fine.
Not only that, Maul has returned and been thrown back into the mix. Having a massive impact as soon as he showed his red and black face; wounding Kanan and permanently blinding him, as well as giving Ezra a taste of the dark side. With the second series ending on a very ominous note with Ezra seemingly activating the Sith holocron they recovered from the temple on Malachor.
Seems like it was a pretty good place for me to take a little bit of a break doesn’t it. I pretty much ploughed right through Clone Wars when I watched that, but at this half way point through Rebels, I’ve taken a month and a half off. But now I’m back and excited to jump into series three of Star Wars: Rebels and see what this two parter has to show me.
Season 3, Episode 01: Steps into Shadow: Part 1
So yeah, looks like Ezra has had a haircut. All of a sudden, he seems much more of a finished article in terms of confidence and force ability. It’s certainly a time skip, even if a minor one. As everyone on the crew has seen some level of redesign for season 3.
Ezra also has a new Lightsaber and is using a real blaster now, one that actually kills people. His lightsaber being green all of a sudden is not doubt a call-back to Luke’s being green in Return of the Jedi. It’s felt like a while since we saw the obvious parallels to the original trilogy that littered the early parts of this show.
The starting mission makes Ezra seem like the new leader, running missions much in the same way Kanan would in the previous seasons. Scratch that, he seems much more powerful than Kanan ever was. Dispatching Stormtroopers with a sinister air that puts Sabine at unease. Which is time to queue where Ezra has been learing from in the time since the last season; the Sith Holocron.
Only this time it speaks to him, Nika Futterman reprises her role as “Presence”. I’d say that the Holocron is obviously manipulating, it’s made Ezra seem power hungry, with good intentions, sure, but that’s the slippery slope we’ve seen so many Jedi fall down. Anakin Skywalker and Jacen Solo both. To me though, the artifact should want to make him Sith right? Not just act like a bad Jedi.
The crew’s initial mission seems to revolve around rescuing Hondo Ohnaka from the Empire. A character Dave Filoni must absolutely adore considering how often he has come up throughout the years. Upon rescuing the conman pirate, the Rebels gain intel that leads to a raid on an Imperial scrapyard that could result in the Rebellion getting their hands on a few squadron’s of decommissioned Y-Wings from the Republic era.
A good job that gets Ezra a promotion to Lieutenant Commander, which is the first time I was aware anyone in the Rebellion had actual military rank. Following this, we meet Kanan again, we learn he has been pretty absent, meditating on nature and stuff. Which makes him seem much more Jedi Master-Like than he ever seemed before.
Although his and Ezra’s relationship has become strained. It seems like Ezra has done much of his learning alone, through the Holocron and not with Kanan. Something that Kanan seems to discover almost as soon as they start talking, and then begins berating him for. Just like old times.
While the crew starts to scout the scrap yard, Kanan feels something calling out to him in the force. A voice that ends up belonging to some huge old creature. One that is able to speak basic, although in this animated series, that doesn’t always necessarily signify the creature has some history of inhabiting civilised space. Also, considering Ezra’s history of being able to connect with other lifeforms in the force, you’d have thought he’d have noticed this presence a long time ago already.
Oh well, let’s chock it up to Kanan being blind now and being able sense things he couldn’t before. Also, can’t he just get robot eyes? Surely that’s a thing, right? I know it doesn’t fit into the blind mentor trope that he’s leaning into now with his beard and stuff, but come on. “Bendu”, as the credits call him is voiced by none other than Tom Baker himself, the former Fourth Doctor from Doctor Who fame.
Anyway, the big guy gives us yet another aspect of beings that use the force in the galaxy, one that doesn’t use the Ashla (Light Side) or the Bogan (Dark Side) as he calls them, he focuses on balance between the Light and the Dark side of the force, what he calls the Bendu. This being is an interesting sort, carrying the mischievous aspect to his personality while seeming very wise, very much in the same way Yoda does when we first saw him during Empire Strikes Back.
He also brings into reality one of the aspects of the force I’ve always found interesting: the idea of towing the line between the Light Side and the Dark Side, making use of powers from both sides while not fully committing to either the corrupting effects of ether when used in excess. The Grey Jedi are an order spoken about in Legends continuity who do just this. Could this character be the beginning of that kind of force wealder finding its way into the new canon.
It certainly explains away Ezra’s lack of presence in the original trilogy if he never technically becomes a Jedi.
But while I’m here just talking about what-ifs like some big old nerd, something much more exciting happens. We’re introduced to Grand Admiral Thrawn; a character I have been very excited about meeting ever since I learned he was in Star Wars: Rebels. And he swoops in with Sherlock Holmes-like logic and immediately shows his worth as the newly promoted Grand Admiral by deducing the Rebels exact plan.
On a personal note; the Chiss are my favourite race in Star Wars. Basically all of my characters in The Old Republic MMO were Chiss, on both sides of the conflict. Although I am kind of bummed they altered the design of the race for Rebels, replacing the glowing, solid red colour of their eyes and actually giving him an iris and a pupil within his otherwise red eye. Much less cool in my opinion.
The first part ends with Ezra making a very rash choice, one the rest of the crew obviously disagree with. But thanks to his recent assignment of a rank, they apparently have no choice but to follow him. A sign that Ezra is being driven by his emotion and dark side influences rather than the Dark side for good intentions he was claiming to Kanan earlier. Pretty on the nose if you ask me.
Season 3, Episode 02: Steps into Shadow: Part 2
Despite the previous episode ending with everyone disagreeing with Ezra’s apparently Rash choice, the beginning of this episode plays out like any other Rebels mission, in that they narrowly avoid disaster and end up working it by the skin of their teeth. Things seemed pretty similar when Kanan was still in charge.
Speaking of which, despite only recently being minted as a Jedi Knight himself, Kanan seems to be on a whole new road of discovery in his connection to the force. In his continued mentoring from this Bendu creature, he tried to regain some semblance of force sight, maybe akin to how the Miraluka race do, despite having no eyes.
The scene has an uncanny resemblance to the scene between Yoda and Luke from Empire Strikes back, where it seems like Luke is close to a breakthrough before the vision of Han and Leia in danger drags him back to reality and away from whatever he has been close to learning. Except this time, Kanan does have the breakthrough.
He has something of a small personal realisation, that his fear, doubt and confusion were the things that always held him back as a Jedi, and the things that stopped him from being able to see through the force when he first lost his eyes. Much to Bendu’s amusement, Kanan gives him the Sith Holocron and returns to camp to help Ezra after spending so much time… sulking I guess.
I have a distinct feeling this is not the last time we’ll be seeing Bendu and his unique perspective on the force.
Back at the scrap station, the plan seems to be going pretty well as is. Ezra’s new control over his powers has made him a fearsome opponent, one more than capable of taking down a dozen or so Stormtroopers with minimal effort. I’m getting flashbacks from the Clone Wars, Ezra is starting to feel more like Anakin every day. Something I very much doubt is a coincidence.
In his brashness, he destroys the stations central power unit so the crew can get the Y-Wings, the downside being that he knowingly also starts the station on a crash course into the dense electrical storm below. It’s good that he trusts his friends to accomplish the mission, but maybe he should have checked with them first. Y’know instead of making some grand stand showing for the sake of the Imperial Officer.
Because the crew find themselves cornered by a Star Destroyer in orbit with no Hyperdrive and Ezra finds himself stranded on a doomed station with the Phantom dislodged and seemingly destroyed in the storm below. Hera is not going to be happy. Do yeah, queue the part where Ezra’s rush to do the job at the expense of everyone’s safety comes back to bite him in the ass.
It’s not exactly dark side behaviour, but it’s him messing up the first time he was given a command in his new position. Kind of reminds me of that episode in early Clone Wars where Ahsoka got her entire unit killed from expecting too much of them. Not everyone has Jedi skills. And like in that episode, it’s up to the master to save their apprentice and teach them something along the way.
Although in this case, like some kind of deadbeat dad, just showing up seemed like all Kanan needed to do to regain Ezra’s faith in him.
Meanwhile, we continue to get the picture of the grander scheme at work here. Grand Admiral Thrawn as appraised of the situation. And is unimpressed, he calls the small feet with the Ghost “one cel” and orders them to be allowed to escape. It seems like Thrawn has much grander plans in mind, ones that involve shutting down the entire Rebel fleet in one fell swoop. The true extent of which even we don’t know the truth of yet. Like the crew of the Ghost, we only know of this one cel and all others remain a mystery to us,
The end of the episode shows Hera reprimanding Ezra for his behaviour, not Kanan. Which somehow makes it mean more. While the start of this two parter really put a focus on Ezra dabbling with the forces of the dark side, the ending made it seem more like it was a story about him not being mature enough for his own command yet. Which is why Hera is the one suspending his command and not Kanan giving him crap for using the dark side.
This series introduction seemed to start off as one thing and then turn into something else. While it had some new status quos to establish and some new character designs to introduce, as well as a new series villain for us to sink our teeth into, for the most part it seemed like it ended up being a story of the Rebels vs the Empire, not one about the force.
Which, I mean, Yeah. This is a show called Rebels, of course that’s what this series is about at its core. But the way the second series ended, with Ezra looking into that holocorn, and how this one began it really felt like that was the direction it was going. Then it kind of all just got brushed under the carpet. Which doesn’t bother me, it just feels like a very fast coure correction.
I would be very interested to see if they pursuie the character of Bendu and the concept of the force users balaning between both the dark and the light sides of the force.
Based on both the lines from Hera and Thrawn towards the end of this episode, I get the impression the third season of Star Wars: Rebels is going to put an increased focus on the formation and coming together of the greater Rebel Allience, revealing to us the true extent of the Rebel forces and starting to shape them into what we see during the original Trilogy.
The first series very much felt like a tuturial, the crew of the Ghost operating alone, the second series was the Ghost’s Rebel Cell establishing itself and showing themselves self sufficient. The third series is going to make the next jump up from there.