Gazing out onto a vast and desolate plain from a single and solitary tower, tall and stretching high out towards the grey sky above, we see a young boy caught deep in thought. As he continues to glare at the blank prairie, a dark and all-encompassing shadow passes overhead snapping the daydreamer alert. The shadow grows until it blankets the field. Now, staring up instead of down, the boy watches the terrifying and domineering figure cruise past the tower and the plains and towards the small town just beyond. An Imperial Star Destroyer has come to visit the peaceful planet Lothal. Undeterred and perhaps a bit too excited, the boy hops on a speeder to chase after the flying behemoth.
As I watch all this transpire in the first 60 seconds, I realize that this opening sequence strongly reflects my feelings. A new face (Disney) charging towards a force of incredible power (Star Wars) to mix things up and start a new adventure. Will the adventure be inspiring and exciting? Maybe it will be a nonevent with little or no consequence? Or will it turn for the worse, becoming an escapade in something that never should have happened? The only way to know is to follow the speeder and join in. Star War Rebels is here and the world’s newest adventure has begun.
Before I go into the overview and episode reflection I have to vent a little bit. Without digressing into a page long rant about what was wrong with the animated Clone Wars series (seriously, my first draft had a full page of ranting), I’ll just say this: the production and creativity teams for The Clone Wars made what I felt were several bad choices for very bad reasons. In five seasons of this Emmy-winning series, I never came close to feeling the magic I did when I first fell in love with Star Wars – my first viewing of Episode IV: A New Hope. Because The Clone Wars will be what Rebels is ultimately compared to I feel it’s important to note that the former was a far cry from properly representing the greatest space adventure of all time. I saw this as such a missed opportunity to connect with older, life-dedicated fans as well as engaging a younger audience. While I think The Clone Wars missed the mark on that objective, I think Rebels has plotted a course that will resonate much better with all audiences throughout the galaxy.
The show starts with Ezra, the daydreaming youth from the opening sequence. He makes his way to town just in time to witness some Imperial commanders bullying the townspeople. We learn quickly that Ezra is a troublemaker and very good at avoiding suspicion when chaos breaks lose. Easily sending a squadron of Stormtroopers on a wild Bantha chase, he takes the self-made opportunity to steal some valuable Imperial cargo. He’s only somewhat surprised to find that another small band of crafty characters is also after the cargo and attempts to thwart his snatch-and-grab! We’ll later learn that this band is comprised of the other headline characters for the show – all our rebels!
What comes next is an exciting speeder bike chase through the city streets and alleyways. Ezra plays Vornskr and Womprat (cat and mouse for those not as geeky as me) with the leader of the band of rebels, Kanan Jarrus, a Jedi Knight. The Imperials eventually catch up with the racing thieves and Ezra is kindly forced to join Kanan and his band to make their getaway.
Throughout the chase, and more so as the episode progressed, we’re revealed the unique attitudes and opinions of each rebel. Kanan is the calm, cool and kick-ass leader. Zeb is the brutish tough guy – able to easily carry a wookie on his shoulders. Sabine is a beautiful Mandalorian graffiti artist with a bit of sass. Hera is a talented Twi’lek pilot with a heart of gold. She’s also got a “thing” going on with Kanan which I love for so many reasons! Chopper is a spunky astromech droid that loves to talk back to his owners. And finally, Ezra, a Force-sensitive brat with no family and no future. That is, until he meets Kanan and his squad. Ezra struggles to find trust early on, but eventually opens up and opts in to be one of them.
The episode keeps its pace as a space battle against TIE fighters quickly gets underway. So far everything in the episode is very reminiscent of the events in Episode IV. The story gets deeper when we come across the rebels selling their stolen goods for credits in a rundown refugee camp named Tarkin town – named after the notorious Grand Moff Tarkin who has taken away homeland of the refugees thus forcing them to hold up elsewhere. Ezra gets his first glimpse of what the Imperial Empire is truly capable of. He’s equally shocked when he’s dragged into a rescue mission meant to save a group of wookies that have been enslaved by the empire. Never having to look out for anyone but himself, Ezra can’t fathom what motivates these strangers to put their lives at risk for others.
In the midst of the wookie rescue, it becomes apparent that the whole setup IS A TRAP!! I was channeling my inner Ackbar just there. A clever scheme orchestrated by the Imperial Agent Kallus, the rebels only narrowly escape. But not without setbacks; Ezra gets caught making his escape and becomes a prisoner. After mild debate among the original band of rebels, they decide to go back and rescue Ezra. Again, the team just barely pulls it off.
The episode concludes with an actual wookie rescue carried out in dramatic fashion. In this climatic end, Kanan reveals himself to the Imperial captors as a Jedi – lightsaber and all!! He’s been hiding his true origins as best he could in this post “Order 66” galaxy. All of that’s about to become unraveled with his secret finally uncovered. Escaping one more time (with rescued wookies) the rebels take Ezra back to Lothal to spare him from any other crazy adventures that present him with no personal return. As they part ways Ezra has a vision – one of Kanan offering him the chance to be his apprentice, a chance to be a Jedi. The aspect of traveling the galaxy and getting into danger for other people’s sake may not drive him the way it does the other rebels, but having traveled and adventured with the team over the past few days, he realizes that the opportunity to be part of a family and grow strong in the ways of the The Force is too good to pass up. Ezra agrees to be Kanan’s apprentice. The rebels shoot off into space for their next adventure. They’re not the only ones cruising the stars though. Agent Kallus having just witnessed the appearance of a Jedi calls on an another special agent of the Empire. Known only as “The Inquisitor,” this ominous character is sure to give our rebels a hard time in the episodes to follow.
Hush Comics gives the premiere Star Wars Rebels episode a B. My fears of having a Clone Wars repeat are subdued for the time being. The series has all the right elements to ensure it keeps fans hooked. The characters are engaging – let’s just hope they are dynamic. The opening episode was driven with a clear plot – let’s hope that continues and evolves. Homage to the original movies were apparent – let’s hope that Weisman and Filoni don’t mess it up this time. Overall, I’m incredibly joyed to have more Star Wars in my life. I can’t wait to see how Rebels impacts the beloved galaxy of far, far away and a long time ago.