Sticking the Landing – The Finale of Star Wars Rebels

—this piece contains major spoilers, obviously—


Ben: So. That was bittersweet. I want to say up front that I know that the direction the show went in its last season didn’t agree with everyone. They went to some weird places and were not afraid to take chances with characters and the overall direction of the show, and are entirely unapologetic about it. I know that my personal feelings about the show don’t reflect everyone’s feelings, I acknowledge that other people might have taken away different things from the show than what I took away, and I don’t in any way intend to belittle people’s feelings or thoughts with what I have to say.

I’ve watched every episode of Rebels as it’s come out, I’ve been fully invested in the show since before it even started airing, and it’s been the one major constant about the franchise in general that I’ve been attached to since the Disney acquisition. The very first article I ever wrote for this site as a staff member (that hasn’t aged well but I digress) was in defense of Rebels from malingers who were badmouthing it before an episode had even aired. My time with the show has not been all sunshine and rainbows, and I am fully willing to acknowledge that the show is flawed.

All of that being said, the last fifteen minutes or so of the final episode made me so emotional that I was literally trembling. I’ve been invested in the crew of the Ghost for four years, and having their story finally come to an end is something that I intellectually knew had to happen at some point, but that I was not fully emotionally prepared for. I want there to be more. I want to tune back in next week and have another adventure with Sabine, Ezra, Zeb, Hera, Chopper and Kanan ready and waiting for me. I want to see more of Lothal, I want to get more banter and fun, I want to learn more about each of these characters, I want to see them keep interacting, keep fighting, keep living. » Read more..

Jogan Fruits of Imperial Labor – The Growth of Villainy in Star Wars Rebels


With the imminent finale of Star Wars Rebels, I thought it was a good time to take stock of the recurring villains of the show. Where did we start, and where did we end up? Are the villains satisfying? Are they evil, without seeming cartoonishly so? Or should they be cartoonish, because this show is actually a cartoon? When this show started, Grint and Aresko were among the first Imperials we saw – and they were spending their time stealing from jogan fruit vendors and threatening to lock them up for treason on ridiculous pretexts. Thankfully, those clownish villains weren’t typical of the villains we’d get in the show. The use of Thrawn in “Jedi Night” and “DUME” is what got me thinking about how villains have been portrayed throughout the show’s four seasons and it’s as good a time as any to take a villainous retrospective.

The end of the show isn’t the first time that it’s made sense to take stock of the villains of the show. There have been a lot of new villains introduced, and a lot of change. What’s the villainy of Maketh Tua (RIP) next to Vader and Tarkin? Was Kallus’s defection earned, or was he “honorable” all along? Would the return of fan-favorite Thrawn result in white-washing, or a nuanced portrayal? The villains’ competence reflects that of the heroes – every time the Ghost crew up the stakes, the Empire did so in turn. Tracking the arc of the major villains is another way to track the arc of the show and its main characters.

Ultimately, Rebels is a kids’ show that belongs to the Star Wars franchise: it’s clear to everyone who the villains are and who the heroes are. The complexity is never in terms of moral gray: the show will never make us ask “are the Imperials good?” or “are the Rebels bad?” Instead, the villains are given complexity in other ways: the petty evils of Grint and Aresko give way to the likes of Thrawn and even Darth Maul. They’re bad people but they’re evil in different ways. We might even forget for a second that they’re villains, until the show rightly reminds us that they are.

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Rebels Revisited: Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Stuff


So this week brought us two episodes, but let’s be honest, there’s one major focal point of the two of them: the Lothal Jedi Temple and the fact that it can transport people through time and space. To say that this raises a lot of questions is an understatement of the highest order. We can start with how it’s handled in the episode itself, of course, before going into the possibilities that this might open for Star Wars storytelling in the future. Strap in folks, things are going to get very weird.

The main purpose of the temple within the context of the story and the characters within that story is to teach Ezra one last lesson before the show’s conclusion: letting go. It’s far from the first time we’ve seen a Jedi have to learn this lesson, but Ezra’s situation is very poignant, in that he’s dealing with the death of his Master and surrogate father. Kanan and Ezra’s relationship is one of the closest of any two characters in Star Wars Rebels, so of course when he’s presented with the possibility of doing something to save Kanan’s life he jumps at the chance.

But Rebels twists the script a bit by making Ezra’s temptation not based on the dark side like Anakin’s was once upon a time. This is not some temptation that will lead him down a dark path that will forever dominate his destiny. Ezra is presented with an opportunity that is entirely neutral from a moral standpoint, a literal door through which he can walk to Kanan’s side as the fuel tank explodes. No strings, no dark voice whispering in his ear tempting him with unlimited power. Just reach out, and pull him through.

Of course, it isn’t that simple. If Ezra does save Kanan, it would be at the cost of his own life, and the consequences of that sort of action on the rest of the team would be incredible. Not to mention the timeline of events after Kanan’s death with Ezra already present would create a paradox that may have unimaginable consequences. Faced with these realities, Ezra is forced to stand aside and watch, again, as Kanan dies. » Read more..

Kanan Jarrus: The Self-Made Jedi


So. Farewell then, Kanan Jarrus, Jedi Knight.

Caleb Dume’s sacrifice in “Jedi Night”, holding back the fire so his family can live to fight another day, stands with the final acts of the greatest masters, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker. His selflessness will surely inspire the Ghost crew to find some measure of victory, holding back the spread of darkness, and inspiring others in turn.

But Kanan’s journey is also unique, and in the current era of Star Wars “canon”, he stands as the first (chronologically) to forge a path to becoming a Jedi without the structure of the old Order or the guidance of a Master. His knighting in “Shroud of Darkness” raises some interesting questions – what is Kanan’s essential “Jedi-ness,” the thing that earns him this title without the structured progression of Padawan-Trials-Knight-Master? What precedent does it set for Jedi who follow similarly unconventional paths, even decades later? And what does it say about Kanan the person that he achieved all this without that structure?

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It’s Time For the Year of Sabine Wren


Mike: This week saw the beginning of the second half of the fourth season of Star Wars Rebels—and in less than three weeks the series will have come to its conclusion. While the final fate of Ezra remains a gigantic, some would say overwhelming, question mark, we’ve known since Rogue One came out a year ago that Hera and Chopper survive, at least into the original trilogy era. And how could they not? Hera is a fantastic addition to the Star Wars canon, and the small pile of random appearances she’s accumulated since then demonstrates that creators are clamoring to use her in stories of their own—and once Rebels has finished telling its story they’ll be freer than ever (barring an immediate follow-up series) to really dive into her role in the formal Rebel Alliance and beyond.

But there’s another character every bit as deserving of that increased spotlight, whose fate is also in question. Sorry, Zeb—I’m talking about Sabine Goddamn Wren. While it appears that Sabine’s major character arc as far as Rebels is concerned concluded with her reunification with her family earlier this season, it remains possible, however unlikely, that she won’t make it out of this show alive. And even if she does, will she return to Mandalore and stick to being a local player? Or become an Alliance leader in her own right?

As long as those questions remain open, I get why Lucasfilm would be reluctant to use Sabine elsewhere, whatever the time period—it stinks, like it stinks that we probably won’t get any post-The Last Jedi content for a while yet, but I get it. Dave Filoni is Sabine’s creator, and to the extent that Rebels is telling one complete story it’s fair to let him have the “last word” on who Sabine is, where she’s from, what she wants. » Read more..

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