If you became as heavily invested in the Star Wars Expanded Universe (now the Legends canon) as I did, then you’re probably still sore with Disney for slashing it from the official canon. You have my sympathies, friend. It’s a bitter pill that many among the ranks of the Star Wars faithful may never be able to choke down. However, disappointing as it is to realize that unique original characters like Mara Jade and Talon Karrde have been more or less dismissed from Star Wars lore by the bigwigs, Disney’s pursuit of a new EU may not be entirely hopeless.
Within the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to experience the new animated TV show Star Wars: Rebels. The first time I heard about the series some several months ago, I couldn’t have been bothered with it. I think I was still too glum over Disney’s axing of the original Expanded Universe to care. However, back in August, I saw the first trailer for the series, and that caught my attention. There was just enough in that brief glimpse to make me curious and want to know more. Since then, I’d been waiting patiently for the series premiere, which finally aired in the first week of October.
So, what is Star Wars: Rebels? The title could speak for itself, but it doesn’t. Not exactly. This isn’t quite the Rebel Alliance as we’ve come to understand it in the films, though it will eventually grow into that. Rather, this is the Rebellion in its infancy, and it’s a small operation. However, where they lack in size, they compensate for it in efficiency and spunk. They may not be many, but they believe strongly in their cause and pursue it with grit and determination.
Fourteen years after Revenge of the Sith and five years before A New Hope is when this series takes place. The Galactic Empire’s malignancy is spreading throughout the galaxy, and the innocent and helpless are feeling the weight of its tyrannical hand heavy upon them. This doesn’t seem to present much of a deterrent for the likes of Ezra Bridger, however. Ezra (voice of Taylor Gray) is an orphaned con artist and opportunistic thief whose only motivation in life is self preservation. During one of his mischievous escapades he stumbles upon a small band of outlaws in the middle of a heist, and in an unexpected turn of events finds himself zooming around in space with them aboard a freighter called Ghost which bears a somewhat curious resemblance to the Millennium Falcon.
We’re introduced to the members of the small rebel cell; the freighter’s Twilek pilot named Hera Syndulla, a female Madalorian, Sabine Wren, who has an affinity for explosives, a Lasat named Zeb who appears to be the team’s brawn, and Kanan Jarrus (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.), who seems to act as the group’s leader. Oh, and there’s also Chopper, an astromech droid with an attitude, because what space posse is complete without one of those?
Kanan Jarrus fascinates me. He has a secret; he is a Jedi who managed to survive Order 66 – the Jedi purge initiated by Darth Sidious in Revenge of the Sith. It’s not a secret for very long, because the motley crew eventually finds themselves in a tight spot during a rescue mission, and Kanan has to let the cat out of the bag to even up the odds a bit.
Kanan represents a somewhat radical departure from the typical Jedi-in-hiding. Instead of seeking hermitage on a cruel desert planet or hunkering down in stinky marshlands, Kanan has thrown himself right into the thick of it, and in a way has made himself responsible for this little band of troublemakers. This is a welcome change, in my opinion, from the diplomatic, philosophically aloof specimens that the Jedi Order has a reputation for producing. Instead of waiting around for things to get interesting, Kanan is taking charge and working cohesively with his counterparts to fight injustice, which is what real leaders are supposed to do.
As the rabble engage in their freedom-fighting activities, they are hunted by Imperial Agent Kallus.
This guy is ruthless with his treacherous tactics and his . . . beard that conforms to the same shape as the face protection on his helmet? Yeah, that’s weird. As far as villains go, Kallus doesn’t interest me nearly as much as the aura of malice and mystery enshrouding this shady character:
Meet the Inquisitor (voice acting by Jason Isaacs). Aaand, that’s about all the show will tell us about him thus far. Except for maybe his inferred designated role. When the rebels prove to be a considerable thorn in the Empire’s side, especially due to Jarrus’s involvement, Kallus contacts the Inquisitor to inform him of the small resistance party, and of the Jedi among their ranks. “You did well to call,” is the Inquisitor’s reply. Cryptic stuff. The implication is that the Inquisitor may be a dark sider who specializes in dispatching surviving Jedi. This could play out into some intense confrontations as the series progresses. I am eager and look forward to finding out about the Inquisitor’s origins and who may have . . . trained him? I have a lot of questions and a couple theories about this guy. Can’t wait to find out who he is.
Not only do we see some new faces in this show, we see some old ones as well. Bail Organa, C3-PO and R2-D2, and Obi-wan Kenobi for instance. At some point, we’ll even see Lando Calrission, voiced by the genuine Billy Dee Williams himself. How epic is that?!
Sorry. Geeked out for a second there.
What I find most compelling about the show so far is the valuable lesson it teaches within its first sixty minutes. Ezra Bridger is used to being on his own, looking after himself and no one else. He hasn’t had anyone to look after him, either. Despite his easygoing personality, he is something of a recluse, and his years of independence and self-reliance have made him not only untrustworthy, but distrustful towards others, too. Ezra is convinced that looking out for other people will lead to nowhere good. It’s every man for himself, as far as he’s concerned, and because he’s never made a habit of helping anyone but himself, he doesn’t anticipate anyone going out of their way for him, either. But as Ezra gets mixed up with the rebels and their endeavors, he begins to realize that there may be strength in numbers, and if you stick your neck out for someone, they just might stick their neck out for you. It begins to dawn on him that there could be more to life than just surviving, and when you have an incredible gift, you may have a responsibility to use that gift for the greater good and be a part of something bigger than yourself. And Ezra has quite a gift; his strong connection to the Force, which Kanan takes note of.
When it looks like Ezra will go back to his lone-wolf lifestyle, Kanan gives him a moment to reconsider, offering him a place in their squad and a chance to learn to become a Jedi. Ezra recognizes an opportunity to make a difference and serve a purpose, and he takes it.
Ezra learns an important principle that we as Christians are called to employ in our lives as well.
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
While the show may be cheesy in some ways, I have to point out that Star Wars has always had a reputation for being corny in one way or another. This has no bearing on our love for it. It may be the thrilling action sequences or the starships screaming through space, or it could be the way Star Wars promotes the idea of standing up for what’s right no matter how heavily the odds are stacked against us. I like to think it’s just as much the latter as it is the former.
I would definitely recommend Star Wars: Rebels for young Star Wars fans, and even for not so young fans. It’s wholesome, and from what I can see, there’s no underlying propaganda. It’s pretty straightforward. Maybe a bit juvenile, but that doesn’t make it unsuitable for adults. Star Wars has always had a youthful exuberance about it, reminding many of its adult fans that we’re still kids at heart.