One of the many casualties of the Disney buyout of Lucasfilm was Clone Wars. The merger caused the TV show to move whatever episodes it had already in the can onto Netflix, while cancelling any episodes in active development (don’t worry, there is a happy ending, a final season of Clone Wars is coming to Disney+). Out of the ashes of that untimely cancellation came another new cartoon project for Disney XD, Star Wars: Rebels.
Rebels ran for four seasons, following the crew of the Ghost as they grow from a small rebel cell on Lothal into full-fledged members of the rebellion. Rebels started off with a great start with the short film Spark of Rebellion, which combined the first two episodes into one big mega pilot. What puts Rebels above and beyond all of the other Star Wars cartoons is the fact that it isn’t tied to any characters from the film, and all of the main cast members get full and complete character arcs. So lets start with the good guys, starting with the…
Crew of the Ghost
Ezra is a force-sensitive kid on Lothal, abandoned by his parents and looking to strike out against the empire. Not gonna lie, he is pretty annoying for the first season of the show (thankfully, Season 1 is only 13 episodes), but he quickly becomes the emotional center of the entire series. Initially, he is wide-eyed and excited to learn the ways of the Jedi, to the point of annoyance, but once he learns what it means to be a Jedi in the post-Jedi era, Ezra flourishes.
Kanan is my absolute favorite Jedi of all time. Kanan, then named Caleb Dume, survived Order 66 as a Padawan and then went into hiding as a smuggler just trying to get by, hiding in plain sight from the Empire. Eventually, he found he was better off going from place to place. Once he finds Ezra on Lothal, though, he reluctantly agrees to train him in the ways of the force. The best part of Kanan’s arc, though? He doesn’t believe in himself at all, and he thinks he is a horrible teacher for Ezra. This allows both characters to grow in tandem. Oh, and he has eyes for Hera, and they are amazingly cute and fun together.
Sabine Wren is an outcast from Mandalore who left after the Empire gained control of the planet at the end of the Clone Wars. Her arc mirrors Ezra’s: she is looking for her place in the galaxy, and ultimately ends up returning to her home planet at the start of Season 4, hoping to remove the Empire from power. A lot of her story is centered on Mandalorian honor and houses warring against each other, but she desperately wants to cut her own path. She pushes Ezra a lot, and sees him like a kid brother. Her best trait, though? She gets stuff done. She is constantly pushed by the plot of the show and by her fellow crew mates, faces failure a couple of times, learns from that, and becomes a better person because of her past mistakes. There is a reason she delivers the monologue that ties a bow on the series.
Hera is the pilot of the Ghost, the best smuggler ship in the galaxy (yeah, I said it). She takes on the mother role in the crew. She is full of “I told you so’s” and a deep knowledge of space combat and hyperspace routes. Her father, Cham Syndulla, fought in the Clone Wars to help keep Ryloth from the control of the Separatists. She is constantly torn between being loyal to the crew of the Ghost and the larger rebellion. She is deeply passionate about unseating those in power, and it sometimes puts her at odds with the rest of the team. Being the Captain, though, the crew usually defers to her, even if they disagree with her. She is a true leader.
Garazeb “Zeb” Orrelios
Zeb is the muscle of the group, angry and ready to punch things. He is also secretly a big ol’ softy. Zeb is one of the last known Lasats, an alien race completely wiped out by the Empire, with Agent Kallus leading the charge against the planet. He is constantly butting heads with Ezra, but he eventually grows to care for him. He also curses a lot, using the sci-fi trope of inventing a word to get around those pesky censors. Karabast!
Look, every Star Wars crew needs a droid. Luckily, Chopper is perfect. Like R2-D2, Chopper has sass, but his sass is a little more … violent. He regularly pushes people off ledges, complains, beeps and whirls in frustration, and, at one point, he uses multiple firearms. He is great, and pure, and I want one.
The Grand Inquisitor
So, here is the thing. Post-Order 66, there were some Jedi that survived. No matter how good the Clones were, there was no believable way they were getting them all in one sneak attack. Enter Darth Vader’s secret gestapo of Jedi Killers: the Inquisitors. The big baddie in Season 1 is the Grand Inquisitor, who was actually present at the trial of Ahsoka Tano at the end of Clone Wars. He is vile and evil, and he will pretty much murder anyone who gets in his way, including fellow imperials. Also, all of the Inquisitors have these really fun lightsabers that can spin on their handles, creating awesome bladed buzzsaws.
Ah yes. General Cornelius Von Mutton Chops (note: not the character’s actual name). This is by far the secret best character in the show. Agent Kallus is tasked with hunting down the crew of the Ghost for the first couple seasons, but he slowly starts to question the rule of the Empire. He begins questioning what he is doing, and why he is doing it, eventually taking over the mantle of Fulcrum after Ahsoka Tano returns. Haunted by the guilt of following orders and murdering hundreds of Lasat, Kallus is often seen at odds with Zeb, but eventually, the two begin to respect each other, and by the end of the series they become best friends.
The Seventh Sister and Fifth Brother
These two are more like reoccurring villains throughout Season 2. They are pretty awesome, and they are constantly on the hunt for Ezra and Kanan. Fun fact, the Seventh Sister is voiced by Sarah Michelle Geller, and her husband, Freddie Prinze Jr., voices Kanan. They also fight against Ahsoka, Darth Maul, Ezra, and Kanan in the Season 2 finale.
Grand Admiral Thrawn and Governor Pryce
Following Season 2, there were pretty big evil shoes that needed to be filled for the rest of the show. Enter Grand Admiral Thrawn. Pulled from the old Extended Universe, Thrawn here is ever-more calculating and evil. He even has a distractingly-horrifying theme song played on an organ that creeps through every scene he is in. Like his EU counterpart, Thrawn is obsessed with weaponizing culture against those he is hunting. As such, he is constantly collecting artifacts from the crew of the Ghost, from Sabine’s paintings to relics of Ryloth, to hunt down Hera. He is creepy, he is awesome, and he isn’t held back by his original hackneyed writing from his original incarnation.
There are a few extra characters that show up throughout the show, but they are quickly regulated to the sidelines, showing up in a few episodes here and there. Here is just a list of extra characters, most from the films and Clone Wars, that show up throughout the series:
- Darth Vader
- Obi-Wan Kenobi
- Ahsoka Tano
- Saw Gerrera
- Bail Organa
These characters mostly serve as plot points, although Vader and Ahsoka dominate the tail end of Season 2. The crew of the Ghost interacts with these characters, but these extra characters come and go as the story needs them to.
My absolute favorite part about Rebels, especially when compared to Clone Wars, is that it doesn’t take place with a nebulous sense of time. Everything is linear, and even the characters change to reflect that. Here is a look at the key art for each of the four seasons:
The biggest changes obviously come in Sabine, who is constantly adding and changing her armor, and Ezra, who starts as a simple kid and evolves into a full-fledged Jedi. The one you can’t really see here, mostly because I couldn’t find a good key art picture of it, is Kanan. By the end of the series, Kanan grows so much, and his character design reflects that. Granted, that is mostly because he takes a lightsaber to the face and becomes blind, but that is when his return to the path of Jedi really starts.
My biggest complaint about Star Wars Rebels has nothing to do with the show itself. It has to do with the fact that hardly anyone saw it. It barely registers to most Star Wars fans as a real thing that actually happened, and it is a shame that this is the case. I am hoping that with the release of The Mandalorian on Disney+ that Disney does the smart thing and puts Star Wars Rebels as the first recommended series following the completion of the show. Without giving too much away, because I honestly want everyone to flock to this show, the last truncated season of the show will rip your heart out, ask you to accept what happened, and do it without talking down to you. While it is a cartoon and aimed “towards kids,” there is so much stunning character work going on that it shouldn’t be discounted because of this fact.
Rebels is the absolute best thing Disney has put out since acquiring the rights to Star Wars, and by telling the story the creators wanted to tell in the length they wanted to tell it in, there is hardly any extra fat on this meal. It is the ripest of Meiloorun fruits, and everyone should watch it as soon as they can.