I don’t remember too much about the first season of Rebels. I didn’t watch it quite as it came out, but I think I binged the whole season in between it finishing and the second season starting, and I’ve only watched it once; unlike The Clone Wars, which I’ve seen through many times.
I definitely didn’t remember the show opening with a shot of some Imperial Star Destroyers (as all OT content should, tbh) and Darth Vader telling the Grand Inquisitor that while “the Jedi Knights are all but destroyed”, the Emperor has foreseen a new threat: The Children of the Force. Having Vader be the first person to speak is a great way to tell us what kind of Star Wars experience we’re about to have. The Empire is at its strongest, the Jedi are extinct, but there are still some force sensitive kids out there, and this show is going to be about that.
Cut to Ezra Bridger, who at this point is basically an Alladin-style street rat (referred to disparagingly as a Loth-rat, because all animals on Lothal (Ezra’s homeworld) are just called whatever they’re normally called with Loth- before (did y’all notice the loth-cat in Ep 4 of The Mandalorian???)). He pranks some imperials to help a fruit seller, but takes some of the fruit once the stormtroopers are gone, just saying, “Kid’s gotta eat”. Fair enough, Ezra.
Things get interesting when Ezra finds himself on a roof watching the crew of the Ghost executing a plan to steal some Imperial crates. I love this as an intro to Kanan, Sabine, and Zeb. We get to see them in action right away before properly ‘meeting’ them, and seeing them as a clever, efficient band of Rebels is a great first impression. Of course, Ezra only sees an opportunity for himself and steals a couple of crates from the rebels. A fun chase sequence follows during which Ezra initially gets the best of Kanan and crew, but then gets rescued by the Ghost once he’s cornered by a few TIE fighters.
What happens on the Ghost here is the least interesting part of the episode. There’s not much character development beyond Zeb is big and angry, Kanan isn’t exactly saying everything he’s thinking, and Ezra starts crushing on Sabine as soon as she takes off her helmet (which is really the only eye-roll moment of the episode). Eventually, Ezra goes with (or, is taken along by) the crew to deliver the crates to what’s essentially a shanty-town outside the city. We learn that most of the crates are full of food, which they give away for free to the impoverished citizens. Ezra has a nice humbling moment when he’s thanked profusely, but just says to himself, “But, I didn’t do anything.”
Meanwhile, Kanan and Hera Syndulla (yes, she’s the daughter of that Syndulla) deliver a crate of blasters to their informant Vizago, who pays them half and offers intel about some Wookies in exchange for the other half of the payment. The rebels accept this deal as they’d been eagerly after that intel, and before long they’re back on the Ghost chasing down a shipment of Wookie slaves that they’re eager to free. Ezra gets dragged along as they don’t have time to drop him back home, but only after he follows a humming sound into Kanan’s bunk and grabs Kanan’s Holocron and lightsaber. Kanan catches him holding the lightsaber and makes him give it back, but Ezra gets away with the Holocron, although Kanan clearly intended that and says something like, “Now we’ll find out” as Ezra walks off.
Ever since Ezra first laid eyes on Kanan, the show has strongly been hinting that he’s force sensitive, and the call of the Holocron is obviously because of that. Kanan’s suspicions (up until this scene) were less obvious, but at this point, it’s pretty clear that he’s testing Ezra for something other than just being a street rat. It’s also not exactly hard to connect the dots between this and the Vader’s opening bit about “the children of the force”, so early on we get to foresee a major conflict between our Jedi(ish) heroes, and the Inquisitors.
But that conflict will have to wait because the Ghost is actually walking into a trap. A Star Destroyer appears once Kanan, Sabine, and Zeb have boarded the slave transport, and Hera has to plead with Ezra to run over and warn them. Ezra, who has presumably been on his own for a long time, tells Hera he doesn’t understand why he’d stick his neck out for some total strangers, which would be a more understandable thing to say if he wasn’t also being tractor beamed onto a Star Destroyer with them. However, the hero has to refuse the call to adventure, and Part 1 ends with a close up of his face as he makes his decision.
Overall the episode is a good intro into a new Star Wars world, and while it’s not immediately as good as The Clone Wars was at its best, neither was The Clone Wars. There’s good tension set up both in the immediate cliffhanger, and the broader storylines foreshadowed for the show. Over its run, Rebels deals a lot with the mystical side of the Force, something we only got hints of in TCW (with the notable exception of the Mortis arc and the last few episodes), and I think that’s something I didn’t really appreciate enough as the show aired.
Ezra, at 14, is about halfway between the ages of Anakin and Luke Skywalker when they respectively began their Jedi training, and, like the Skywalkers, already has a number of traits considered antithetical to the Jedi way. It’s not hard to see how his selfishness and lack of discipline could lead him on a path to the Dark Side, even at this early stage (the dude just stole a Holocron, after all).
- For whatever reason, the musical sting when the Rebels logo shows has always grated at me.
- I didn’t talk about Agent Kallus at all, but I don’t think it would be possible for me to finish this review without mentioning his sideburns.
- I saw an article the other day about how Sabine’s willingness and ability to take off her helmet around people doesn’t coalesce with The Mandalorian‘s whole deal about how he can never take it off around anyone. Considering Dave Filoni (who is an executive producer on both shows) has basically written everything there is to write about canon Mandalorians, I’m not exactly willing to see this as a plot hole. As we learn later in Rebels, Mandalorians are tribal and different tribes have different rules. We’ll probably learn more about this in The Mandalorian, but my guess would just be that his tribe just functions differently than Sabine’s.