Star Wars: Rebels was an american TV series that was released in the shadow of TCW. Generally considered an ok show, but not a great one. It adds the nice little bits of mysticism back into the Star Wars universe, while also making its most powerful threat look like harmless fails. General opinion is mixed, but the results tend to lean towards tolerable. Ultimately its up to you whether or not its good, though most fans agree its way above whatever the hell Resistance was supposed to be.
Rebels is set a few years before A New Hope and covers the early formation of the rebellion from the perspective of one cell focused on the planet Lothal. Much like the Clone Wars, it starts off weakly with slow pacing and erroneous animation, but gets better as the seasons and storyline progress, with season 4 sometimes rivaling the very best Clone Wars arcs for quality and storytelling. If you liked Rogue One but thought it should be about 25 hours long and done in cartoony CGI then this is the show for you.
Since the show does have a fair amount of dedicated fans,
likely possibly certainly more than the sequel trilogy itself, Disney has made a habit of planting Easter Egg references to Rebels in basically everything moving forward, usually in the form of an appearance by the iconic ship The Ghost or the friendly-ish space pirate character Hondo Ohnaka.
(Wait a second, wasn’t Hondo in clone wars first-)
Season 1 is perhaps the most hotly debated and skubby season. As this series amounts to a sequel to the Clone Wars, it had deep shoes to fill, and to be frank, it doesn't fill those shoes well at all. However, high points include Tarkin, the Grand Inquisitor, and Fulcrum. Special note about Fulcrum is that she is Ahsoka, and probably the only reason this show got another season.
Most of this Season takes place on or around Lothal. Lothal as a place isn't too boring either, coming across as a cool mix of Kansas/Oklahoma, with a centralized capital city as it's main point of commerce. The setting is based on Ralph McQuarrie's drawings for Alderaan, which went unused in the original and prequel movies.
The main complaint about season one is that the baddies are completely incompetent. The Imperial occupation of Lothal is seemingly commanded by two Imperial captains (a fat neckbeard and a skinny one with a Habsburg chin) led by a blond ditz who's just the real governor's stuck up secretary. Thankfully, Tarkin shows up towards the end who quickly proceeds to execute the two captains for their incompetence and under his command, the Imperials become slightly more competent for the rest of the season.
The real reason that this show got a second season. Darth FUCKING Vader appears, and he is played appropriately as an essential avatar of destruction (and is voiced by James Earl Jones to add up to the awesomeness). His first act? Carbombing the comedy baddie of season one, Minister Tua and blaming it on rebel terrorism. The plot armor heroes get brutally destroyed, shattering them and dispersing the rebels from Lothal for a time. Such appearances from awesome characters are kept relatively low, due to the need to not let them overshadow the main cast.
The Inquisitors are ok (one of them comes across as having a light attraction to Ezra), and ISB agent Kallus continues to be a presence around the show. The finale really solidifies the show's right to continue, throwing Maul into the mix, and having the epic confrontation that Ahsoka and Anakin were destined to have since the beginning of The Clone Wars series.
It's in Season 2 that the rebellion makes its appearance, as a collection of independent cells largely focused on system level actions. Ryloth is in open revolt, Princess Leia is out on "mercy missions", and Bail Organa is bankrolling Jun Sato's Phoenix Squadron, a renegade paramilitary force that assists other rebel cells. Alderaan is pretty openly building the rebel fleet the way George Remus bootlegged liquor: by stealing it from themselves.
Season 3 is generally considered to be all around good, due to the introduction of Thrawn, and general lack of outright retarded episodes, with only a few exceptions. Thrawn is appropriately written as cunningly intelligent, kicking ass in every scene he is in, including beating assassin droids with his bare fists and a blaster. We even get another new character in Governor Pryce, who apparently chose to chill on Coruscant for two whole seasons rather than do her actual fucking job on Lothal. Ezra also gets changes; he now has a lot less hair, and he has built a new lightsaber to replace the toy he was using for the first two seasons.
Most of the character development for the season is focused on two arcs: Ezra's entanglement with Maul, and Sabine's history with her people. Ezra's arc ends with Kenobi telling Maul to stay dead in the greatest and most illustrative lightsaber fight ever. Along the way Sabine discovers the Darksaber and then sits out a few episodes on Mandalore until returning for the finale.
For the alliance as a whole, Mon Mothma is on the run conducting pirate broadcasts against the Empire. Jan Dodonna has defected and begun assembling a fleet of defector pilots and stolen ships; among the new recruits are Wedge and Hobbie. Phoenix Squadron and the Dodonna force suffer severe losses fighting to escape Thrawn's fleet as the season ends.
The survivors of the Battle of Atollon at the end of the 3rd season escape to Mon Mothma's new base on Yavin IV. The rebellion is now taking on its recognizable form from the movies, although is having difficulty reining in its wilder elements. Fighters like Saw Gerrera advocate aggressive direct action, to the dismay of the more moderate leaders. This arc is left for Rogue One to resolve, while the main cast of Rebels returns to Lothal, themselves in favor of direct action against Thrawn and his TIE Defender project.
The liberation of Lothal is the main arc of the season although that starts with the Rebels getting punched in the face because Lothal belongs to Thrawn and he's ready for them. Pryce manages to kill Kanan, but only by blowing up the occupation's entire fuel reserve. The true extent and power of Ezra's connection to the force and Lothal is revealed, and it becomes clear that the Imperial occupation of Lothal is only tangentially about building fighters and more about the fact that it has a Jedi temple, which the Emperor is very interested in for reasons.
- All the main characters are well-written, fleshed out, with reasonable, sympathetic backstories and significant character arcs, along with different enough skill sets that they don't step on each others' toes. Each one feels like an integral part of the team; the pilot, the gunner, the muscle, the tech, the swordsman and the hot-shot rookie.
- Seriously, you'd think that with two jedi in a 6-man crew you'd get some overlap, but they feel like very different characters, both in personality and powers. Kanan is very much the quintessential combat jedi (as is to be expected as he was trained during the Clone Wars), while Ezra's signature ability to connect with the galaxy around him and especially its wildlife marks him out not only from the rest of the Ghost crew, but from every other force user we've seen on the screen.
- Ghost and it's shuttlecraft, Phantom, are both pretty cool ships
- Sense of escalation. In season 1, focus is entirely on the crew of the Ghost and the existence of a larger Rebellion is mostly unknown to them. In season 2, the crew has joined a larger Rebel cell named Phoenix Squadron. In season 3, Phoenix Squadron has acquired themselves a permanent base and we see more cells from the larger Rebellion. In season 4, Rebellion has taken the form we know from the movies, The Alliance to Restore the Republic, and the Galactic Civil War has officially begun.
- Having the crew use callsigns instead of names when on mission or on a radio is a cool detail
- Grand Admiral Thrawn makes his debut in Disney Star Wars, along with the TIE Defender project. The character doesn’t lose much in the translation.
- Zeb is voiced by Steve Blum who also voices some other characters (mostly Stormtroopers)
- Original trilogy actors such as Billy Dee Williams (Lando), James Earl Jones (Vader) and Frank Oz (Yoda) return to voice their characters
- Dee Bradley Baker is back to voice clones and even though they are naturally much less common here than in The Clone Wars (mostly it's just Rex), he does as good of a job as always
- The bearded old guy in the Endor strike team in RotJ turns out to be Captain Rex. Fan theory at first, later confirmed.
- You CAN combi-weapon a lightsaber and a blaster, and it's OP as shit
- Fighters sometimes perform some actual space-maneuvers instead of just flying in space like aircraft as is usually the case
- Plenty of Imperial warships, unlike the movies where we only really see Star Destroyers. Of particular note is the Arquitens-class Command Cruiser, a light cruiser which is generally more common in this series than the Star Destroyer. Makes sense since the galaxy is big and you can build 35 of these at the price of one Star Destroyer. They are also used as escorts for Star Destroyer, something we also don't see in the movies.
- Force wolves (no, not those force wolves)
- Game of Thrones-style Mandos (Krownest is pretty much Space-Winterfell).
- Imperial Inquisitors. Sure they don’t last long, but they were intimidating while they were, and it planted the seed that was used in other Star Wars media.
- Good appearances by Vader and Sheev.
- The Maul vs Obi-wan decades-long duel finally comes to an end... and what an end it is.
- The season finales are, invariably, fantastic.
- Animation gets better as the show goes on.
A note about the wolves... Rebels turns the force mysticism up past 11. Forget just being precog space monks with laser swords; as far as Rebels is concerned the Jedi are craftworld eldar without the racism. Rebels picks up the torch of the Clone Wars “Force Gods” and mixes in some of the straight-up fantasy shit from the Lucas era novels and the KOTOR/Old Republic Jedi philosophy schools and heresies beyond just “Light good, Dark bad”.
- Since this is a Disney cartoon, the bad guys spend a large amount of their on-screen time (though not all, mind you) losing. This changes the Imperials not named Thrawn, Palpatine or Vader from an imposing force to cartoon villains, although Rebels villains manage to stay intimidating more than Grievous did in Clone Wars.
- Battles slower paced than a Death Guard movement phase. Enjoy characters having conversations in cover-based shooting when everyone has Stormtrooper aim, including the main characters. Unlike The Clone Wars, this issue doesn't even get better as the series progresses.
- Like The Clone Wars, existence of shields is often either completely ignored or they deplete so quickly that it's barely worth it to even have them.
- The "lets punch and kick metal droids and people wearing armor"-thing from The Clone Wars returns
- Artstyle is generally considered a downgrade from The Clone Wars, though it does improve.
- Helicopter lightsabers.
- Complete bipolarity in tone. This can create some great moments, but invariably ruins the mood episode by episode, or between the A and B plots.
- Iron Squadron. Just...fucking Iron Squadron.
- Star Destroyers take some getting used to, mostly due to their bridge towers being way taller than they should be.
- Space Squid-whales annihilating a maximum strength Imperial Blockade in under 30 seconds.
- The changes to Hondo Ohnaka's character.
- Hera is a captain in the beginning of the series and later gets promoted to general... yet wears rank insignia of a lieutenant throughout the series.
- TIE Fighters are used in space without spacesuits, even though it's well-known that TIE Fighters have no life support systems
Especially in early seasons the Empire comes off rather poorly as they are easily tricked and befuddled by our heroes, it is however worth remembering:
- The primary setting in the early seasons, Lothal, is a backwater world and these are not front line troopers here.
- Based on the Academy episodes some of them may be as young as 16 with two months of training. The Academy episodes also show why Stormtroopers seem so crap compared to the Clone Troopers from The Clone Wars: where the Clones were trained to fight together as actual comrades in arms, the morons in charge of the Lothal Academy decided it was more important to train Stormtroopers to actively sabotage each other for personal gain. Which also tie in to why some many early fights end with less lethal encounters, espically the ones involving Sabine's exposives.
Of the Imperials appearing in the early seasons, the Inquisitor (his title was later revealed to actually be Grand Inquisitor) was the only one who didn't seem like an absolute fucking idiot. Agent Kallus was allegedly an elite Imperial Security Bureau agent, but the Rebels generally ran rings around him. Minister Tula was basically a glorified secretary who was in over her head, and all things considered was actually somewhat sympathetic.
However, whenever a more notable (i.e. movie) Imperial shows up, they are almost certainly played completely straight. Tarkin shows up towards the end of the first season and quickly demonstrates he's there to Get Things Done by having the Inquisitor behead the aforementioned idiots in charge of the Lothal Academy and subtly warning Kallus and Tula their heads were next on the chopping block. In the finale, Tarkin is defeated and the Inquisitor killed, but that causes the Emperor to send Tarkin some backup in the form of Darth Fucking Vader, and every encounter with him left the rebels thanking the force they simply got away alive.
Of course, both Vader and Tarkin have Plot Armor since they both have to live to see Episode IV, so they don't stick around. New Imperial characters get introduced in the form of Governor Pryce (the actual governor of Lothal who apparently spent most of the early seasons mucking around on Coruscant instead of actually doing her job), a couple of new Inquisitors eager to take the now vacant title of Grand Inquisitor, and Grand Admiral Thrawn. Unfortunately, despite being shown to be threats at first, fans noticed they became less and less of a threat as time went on. A counter to this is that neither Kanan nor Ezra ever manage to beat the second set of Inquisitors; Fulcrum can take them both, but given who she is that is not surprising. It isn't until the old master returns that the Inquisitors are.... removed.
This was one of the biggest criticisms of the series, in fact. The heroes have plot armor, and worse at times seemed to know they had plot armor. At several points, they even dismiss the presence of Stormtroopers as being nuisances at best. Again, it was implied that the Stormtroopers assigned to Lothal are just crap, but when later in the series it's revealed Lothal is actually pretty important to the Imperial war machine it makes it strange that more competent troops aren't rotated in.
Forget all that noise about Imperial incompetence, because the real bad of Rebels doesn't disappoint. Grand Admiral Thrawn is in peak form in Rebels. He's observant, he's ruthless, he plays the long game, and he's fucking ripped for a guy who's into art and strategy.
Thrawn's first spotlight moment is on Ryloth, when Hera attempts to steal back her family's Kalikori heirloom. Thrawn (understanding the artifact's significance) instantly realizes her identity as the daughter of Ryloth's renegade leader, while his aide struggles to put the pieces together. Taking an interest in the actions of Hera's band of rebels, Thrawn begins collecting Sabine Wren's graffiti.
Another moment was when Agent Kallus, now a double agent for the rebels, assisted Ezra in hacking the records of Thrawn's search for the rebel base and then reprogramming some combat training droids as assassins (which Thrawn beats down like a boss). Kallus attempts to pin the incident on another officer, which effectively throws off Wullf Yularen... but not Thrawn, who deduces that Kallus switched sides and uses him to leak false intelligence. The giveaway? Thrawn knows the scapegoat officer isn't that skilled, and someone as clever as Fulcrum wouldn't get caught that easily. But the kicker is the helmet Ezra was captured with; Thrawn immediately recognized the custom paint-job as Sabine's handiwork, identifying its owner as the young Jedi Ezra, and the fact that Kallus didn't tell them their "captive" was Ezra proved Kallus was no longer loyal to the Empire.
In Imperial politics Thrawn is a pragmatist standing in opposition to the Death Star project as it draws resources away from his own projects. He sees it as a waste on big dumb object when the Empire would have an enormous advantage over the rebels once the TIE Defender is mass produced. In fact, Thrawn would likely have stopped the Death Star project if it wasn't for the fact his boss had ordered it, and the TIE Defender project was only stopped due to Pryce's incompetence and Rebel sabotage.
Thrawn's only mistake was his dismissal of the supernatural despite knowing about the Force, Jedi and Sith. He knew about the planet Atollon from folklore, which is where he found the rebel base, but didn't look further and learn about the godlike Force entity Bendu who enabled the Rebels to escape. To be fair, while Thrawn admitted to Ezra that he didn't know much about the Force, Thrawn had the Resistance on the ropes then and was only beaten by Ezra using the Force to call a pod of giant space whales (which Thrawn had no way of knowing would show up).
In summary, Rebels gives Thrawn fair treatment as one of the most dangerous men in the Empire. He's not a force-choking sith lord, and he's not a power crazed moff with a superweapon. He's an efficient and brutally intelligent admiral who will use everything at his disposal to hunt down the empire's enemies, and the only way to beat him is to exploit the flaws of his officers or hit him with something nobody would expect.
|About:||The Franchise, The Setting, The Movies|
|Television Shows:||The Clone Wars, Rebels, Resistance, The Mandalorian|
|Star Wars Games|
|Miniature:||X-Wing, Armada, Legion|
|Roleplaying:||FFG, WotC (d20), WEG (d6)|