We here at FTN have reported news about Star Wars Rebels for quite some time. But due to reasons beyond our control (timing, access to channels, etc) we were never able to review the series as it came out. But, with the episodes streaming online (until tomorrow!!! COMMENCE BINGE WATCHING!!!!) for free, I decided to take a day to watch it all, and then review it. Consider this my tribute to May the 4th.
I think it’s important to note that Rebels is made by much of the team behind the immensely popular Star Wars: The Clones Wars, and in many ways that shows here. The style, the action, the dialogue in some ways, it’s all very Clone Wars-ian if you will, and that’s great, cause I LOVED Clone Wars. BUT, this isn’t a Clone Wars knock off, or rip off, it’s something totally new, and I truly appreciate that.
First off, this is set after the rise of the Empire, aka after Revenge of the Sith. The Jedi are all but wiped out, and the Imperial rule is everywhere. Very little resistance remains…notice I say little, not none.
Enter the crew of The Ghost. Hera (the Pilot), Zeb (the muscle), Sabine (the artistic explosives expert), Chopper (the Droid) and Kanan (the cowboy Jedi). They live their lives doing whatever they can to stick it to the Empire, all the while helping out the people getting hurt by them. The series truly starts with “Spark of the Rebellion” where the crew meets Ezra, a loner with incredible skills, some of which is not natural…
That’s right, just like Kanan, he’s a Jedi. And after some initial small missions, Ezra happily joins the crew, and Kanan takes him under his wing as Padawan to his master.
Now you may be thinking, “Man, this sounds WAY too much like the other trilogies, or even Clone Wars! Heck, this is Anakin and Ashoka all over again!” And there is where you would be wrong. Unlike Anakin, who in times of doubt had the other Jedi to consult with, Kanan and Ezra literally only have each other (to their knowledge). For Kanan especially, this is troubling, as his Jedi history isn’t as “pure” as you might think. He is like Anakin, in that he is undisciplined and rash at times, but Kanan has no Obi-Wan to help him with his doubts, which are numerous. This creates a very interesting dynamic with Ezra, who himself not only has doubts, but numerous fears about his own past, and his future. Yet through it all, they both grow, and it’s fun to see it happen.
For me, the best part about Rebels is the characters. Leave it to the Star Wars crew to have to come up with numerous new characters we’ve never seen before, and yet make them so epically that we wonder how we’ve never gotten them before.
Hera is the true den mother, and it’s great. She’s the one who will sit you down when you need to be told something serious, or yell at you when you screw up royally. She’s gifted in her own ways, no powers needed. Her control of The Ghost is second to none, and she’s never afraid to let you know it. “There’s many things you don’t know about my ship!”
Zeb is easily one of the more curious additions, as his race is completely new to the Star Wars universe. You’d think that would be a problem. But the writers made not only explain why this is, but make you wish you almost had discovered them at all, because of what happened to them. Zeb may come off as a brute, but he’s a great teammate, and incredibly passionate when it comes to defending his own. And when he recalls his people, you better not insult him.
Sabine is one of my favorite crew, and not just because she’s a Mandalorian. She’s creative, artistic, loves a big explosion, and loves to tag and paint everything in sight. Seriously, if she could paint a world, she would jump at it. Her joy at doing so brings an odd joy and cheer to a show that can be very depressing at times. And when she fights? She’s no doubt one of the best on the field.
But NONE of them compare to Chopper, the droid with so much spunk and attitude you almost wonder how he hasn’t been disassembled. Seriously, this droid is NOTHING like R2-D2 or C-3PO. Chopper is rude, annoying, incredibly evil in its own way, a constant complainer, and almost murdered another droid because Zeb wanted to keep it on board! No, seriously! He did! And yet, I can’t help but smile when Chopper is in the room, cause you know he’s going to make you laugh in one way or another.
This team truly carries the series, which is great, cause the first few episodes kind of drag story wise. What helped The Clone Wars was that…well, they were in a war. Almost every mission had a purpose for the overall war. But for Rebels…the scale isn’t there, at least not in the beginning. In fact, you could say the episodes bounce back and forth between the crew messing with the Empire, and the training of Ezra by Kanan. While this may not be bad in theory, it lacks cohesion. It really hurts when you realize certain events and their outcomes, and that the first season (not including Spark of the Rebellion) is only 13 episodes long.
Again, in some ways this isn’t bad, but the early missions really have a random feel to them. One mission occurs because of a supply run gone wrong, while another is because the guys forgot to check the results of a diagnostic for their ship. Not impossible, but not compelling. And because of when these happened, you knew nothing serious would happen to the characters.
Then there’s the Star Wars connection itself. Rebels was not afraid to bring in characters both visually and in spirit (aka voices) to help connect it to the universe. At times, this was great. Like when Yoda (the ORIGINAL Yoda) appeared to guide both Kanan and Ezra in their time of need, or when Tarkin arrived to take matters into his own hands. These inclusions were great. But…then you had Lando, who was funny…but kind of a jerk (remember, this is before betrayed Han), and was brought in for kind of a pointless episode. Then there was the “appearance” of Jedi Master Luminara, who we met in Clone Wars, and how she could still be alive. You knew she wasn’t, so it kind of spoiled things.
It’s not wrong to have the connection to the other trilogies, but if done wrong, they’re rendered kind of moot. And no, I’m not forgetting the big two at the end, I’m getting to that.
Thankfully, one thing Rebels really gets right is the use of the Empire. On one hand, they’re still the bumbling bunch of Stormtroopers and officers that you know will get toppled on day. But then, you have the higher officers, like Callus, Tarkin, and The Inquisitor. These three truly bring a terror that makes you know why the Empire last for so long before being brought down. The tone really works in their favor. Lothal, which is kind of the home base for the series in season one, is constantly under Empire occupation. Stormtroopers are everywhere, broadcasts proclaiming the Empire’s greatness truly show just how powerful they are. Which is great, because if they came off as idiots all the time, there would be no believing it.
The Inquisitor is especially menacing, and showcases some pretty epic lightsaber battles. Which is but the tip of the iceberg in regards to the fight scenes we see in Rebels. Space battles, air battles, speeder battles, and more. The Rebels is not afraid to make a spectacle.
The end of season one truly brought a change to Rebels. As you no doubt have heard (and if you haven’t, why are you reading this review?), Ashoka Tano is back, and is more-or-less one of the heads of the rebellion. Her inclusion brings a lot of weight to things, as done the arrival of one Darth Vader to “handle” things for the Empire.
In the end, Rebels truly accomplishes what it sets out to do. Create a new story set in a time we honestly don’t know much about. Yes, they stumbled out of the gate, and some episodes and character interactions are predictable. But there are some fun twists and turns along the way, with some mysteries that are still as of yet unsolved. This is a true Star Wars series. So if you watched it yet…catch up on it!!!