Star Wars Rebels Why does this animated spin-off matter to the galaxy? Because it expands on the galactic world-building and the hidden heroes of the galaxy aside from Luke Skywalker, General Leia, Han Solo, and the rest of the main cast. Now fans are saying goodbye to these heroes after four seasons.
Set years before the events of A New Hope, Star Wars: Rebels is about the birth of the Rebel Alliance. The narratives center around the exploits of a ragtag rebel team: the Jedi Kanan, the pilot Hera, the survivor Zeb, the warrior-child Sabine, the cranky droid Chopper, and the orphaned Ezra Bridger, whose Jedi apprenticeship with Kanan drives the main storyline. As the first post-George Lucas television show for the Star Wars franchise in 2014, Rebels provided a stream of stories during the lead-up to The Force Awakens as well as The Last Jedi. It also continued some of the story arcs left unfinished when the Clone Wars series was canceled mid-sixth season due to the franchise’s difficult transition to Disney. Supervising animator Dave Filoni (of Avatar: The Last Airbender fame) served as George Lucas’ protégé—padawan, if you will—during the run of The Clone Wars and was left at the helm to run Rebels.
Star Wars: Rebels stealthily hinted toward Johnson’s turns and twists in The Last Jedi. Before the release of the latest Star Wars film, fans had some fun scouring episodes of Rebels for clues to the storyline of the upcoming movie. In particular, many cried foul when, in The Last Jedi, Luke conjured an astral projection of himself. But viewers of the animated series may have already recognized it as a technique that Master Yoda employed the year before in the Rebels episode, “Shroud of Darkness.”
If you had been a fan of Star Wars: Rebels before watching the new films, you might have noticed a few Easter Eggs scattered throughout, due to Rebels showrunner, Dave Filoni’s consultant work on Rogue One. While the droid, Chopper, is the only Rebels character to have a Rogue One cameo, the name “General Hera Syndulla” can be heard over the loudspeaker after Jyn Erso delivers news of her father to the Rebel Alliance Council. In addition, once the Scarif battle kicks off, die-hard viewers of the animated series may have spied a cameo of the ship, Ghost, among the battalion. It’s Easter Eggs like these that enriched the story of the Rebellion for fans of the show.
But inside references aside, here’s where Rebels, as well as Clone Wars, are most crucial to the movies: they challenged the mainstream conception of the Jedi long before The Last Jedi did. Some Last Jedi viewers complained about Johnson’s deconstruction of the Jedi ideal, with a now-cynical Master Luke snidely criticizing the faults of the old Jedi Order to Rey. But both animated shows had acknowledged the flaws of the mythologized and bygone Jedi Order long before Johnson’s film. Without the Jedi Order to guide him, Kanan teaches the traditions while respecting his student’s rebellious nature. Bear in mind that Rebels and Clone Wars, although they encourage healthy skepticism of the Jedi, never lose sight of the Order’s optimism.
Fans of the Last Jedi might find themselves enlightened by viewing Rebels. The show has complemented the original, prequel trilogies, and the sequel trilogy. It explored the Rebellion and provoked dialogue about the Jedi while reinforcing its message of hope. Although the series’ end at four seasons may seem abrupt, fans should find relief in that Filoni will end Rebels on his own terms, unlike the abrupt cancellation of Clone Wars. With “Family Reunion and Farewell” Filoni is closing a chapter on Star Wars lore and time will tell if the characters or plot points from the series will carry over into the confirmed live-action Star Wars television shows or the upcoming movies—or the rumored upcoming animated series. If Episode IX (and the Solo movie) references Rebels with a character cameo, fans of the Star Wars animated series will not see these homages as mere Easter Eggs, but as reminders that obscure heroes assembled the Rebellion (and Resistance) in the first place.
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