Two months ago, four seasons of Star Wars: Rebels came to a conclusion on a two-episode finale, A Fool’s Hope and Family Reunion – and Farewell. The finale, and the show, like the animated series before it (Star Wars: The Clone Wars), held up well to fans and critics. In a world of borderline Star Wars saturation, where even a Han Solo movie is getting panned before a release, Rebels brought excellent story and character development. Never mind that it aired on a Disney young adult channel; it was great and welcoming story on any channel.
A Familiar Start
For most of the Star Wars series, we are washed up in the onslaught of a rebellion against a tyrannical empire. A story of about as pure good versus pure evil – or so most of the George Lucas vision presents to us – as one can get. We observe these struggles from a macro-level point of view. We see the grand battles that define the wars, the arguments over high level politics and strategy. Rebels brought us something new, something micro-level.
Rebels greets us with a familiar face, Darth Vader, giving orders to kill the remaining Jedi. This is something we’ve seen and heard of time and time again. Following that, we’re thrown into a ground level example of the Empire taking over a city in a back-end planet. We meet a mischievous but attentive (and, um, sensitive) Ezra scrounging for food. He stumbles across a band of equally mischievous and troublesome Kanan, Sabine, Zeb, and Hera – the crew of a ship named the Ghost and their attempts at causing problems for the Empire. For the next four seasons, we’d see Ezra grow as a Jedi apprentice, the crew of the Ghost getting involved with a larger Rebellion, but always making their way back to the central planet of the series, Lothal.
A Fresh Perspective
If all of live action Star Wars was about the why the big players like the Skywalkers and Solos of the universe got involved in tyranny and rebellion, Rebels was about why the rest of the universe got involved. The oppression, the greed, and even just rejecting blind allegiance to a larger governance. Rebellions are started by a small group of individuals doing big things, but they’re fueled by the day to day fighters who each have their own smaller story.
We got to see this smaller version of the rebellion grow, and these smaller players grow into their greater selves. In the end it took learning the meaning of hard work, of sacrifice. Of one’s smaller piece to a bigger puzzle. And this show never was afraid of going into darker topics. Loss of family was a big one, but also torture, death of friends and foes. Deeper topics like Jedi lore that had never been talked about outside of the old Extended Universe books, plus some new territory that gave background to the lore of the universe many had only been able to bat around in fan theories.
And that is the thing that drives all wars – the smaller things that aren’t shown in blockbuster movies. There are the bright hidden moments like a Soldier who plays the guitar and cheers up their entire platoon with covers and goofball songs. But there are also the darker moments, of dealing with loss, the smaller battles inside each fighter’s mind. To an extent, we got to examine that in Rebels.
Seeing the start of a war that spans generations, endless to any participant in it, will have these smaller stories of why individuals were pulled into the conflict. And Rebels nailed it in a fun and entertaining way, without shying from the shadows of war.