Godspeed, Rebels

Star Wars: Rebels ended its four-season run Monday night, and I thought I’d share my thoughts about the show. While I generally enjoyed its predecessor, The Clone Wars, the quality of stories could swing wildly from one arc to the next, so I wasn’t sure what to expect of Rebels at its launch. However, Dave Filoni and the whole Lucasfilm animation team really took what they learned from The Clone Wars and refined it into something special.

Rebels had a tighter focus on the crew the Ghost, and the art team did a great job playing to their strengths. Drawing inspiration from Ralph McQuarrie’s original designs, we got to see early iterations of many  iconic Star Wars creations, from the Imperial speeders and walkers, to a more angular Darth Vader and a proto-Chewbacca who came to life as Zeb. The world the show created was immediately recognizable as Star Wars, but unique enough to always feel like its own thing.

With the show set in the era of Rebellion, it’s clear that everyone involved was eager to play with all the classic Star Wars toys, and they dove in with gusto. Fan service or not, I’ll never get tired of seeing the alphabet soup of Wing fighters in action. Everyone loves Boba Fett, but Sabine’s Mandalorian armor is a wonder of design, stripped down to its essentials, but with a distinctive Pop Art flair. As for the show’s central ship, the Ghost, I’d argue that it’s cooler than any vehicle or ship we’ve seen in any of the three most recent Star Wars movies.

The core of the show, of course, was the crew. On the one hand, we’ve seen these character types before: the boy hero, the spunky girl, the gruff but loveable tough guy, the patient maternal figure, the haunted veteran, and the scene-stealing droid but the show forged them into a family unit, and the affection these characters had for each other felt genuine. They cared about each other, so I cared about them.

My favorite character was Hera. It’s rare in Star Wars to see a mother figure play a central role in the story, and Hera was the heart and soul of the show. She was the bad-ass mom the Ghost crew needed to help find their place in the galaxy. Coming in second, obviously, is Chopper. He is an unrepentant and unreformed forking son of a bench, and I love him for it. I doubt we’ll ever see his like again.

Rebels did a good job keeping its focus on the main characters and their journeys, even when it touched on other aspects of the larger Star Wars mythos. Filoni got to tie up some dangling plot threads from The Clone Wars with the return of Ahsoka and Rex, but those characters felt like additions to the cast, not distractions from it. Rebels also came to be something of a prequel to Rogue One, but in a way that I think mostly felt natural to the story Rebels was already telling.

Some of Star Wars’ heaviest hitters also stopped by, and it’s a credit to the show’s creators that visits from Darth Vader, Yoda and Ben Kenobi were handled with fantastic drama but still a light enough touch to not overwhelm the course of the show. And I’m impressed with the job they did bringing Thrawn to life as an intelligent and formidable antagonist for our heroes.

I was sometimes frustrated that Rebels would bump up against the limits of what a kid’s show would allow, acting a little too coy about Kanaan and Hera’s relationship and lacking real narrative stakes when most every adventure had to have a happy ending. As a viewer, I could also see the creators straining against the schedule and budget limits of a TV production, but I also appreciate that over the course of 74 episodes, we really got to explore the characters and their settings in a way that movies just don’t have time for.

In the end, however, I’d say Rebels hit the marks it was aiming for, and is a most worthy addition to Star Wars lore. I don’t doubt for a moment that Filoni and company have more stories to tell, and I’m eager to see where they take us next.


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