“Star Wars: Rebels” fills in some of the gaps surrounding the origins of the Rebel Alliance. For continuity purposes, the show is a similar effort to “The Clone Wars,” but it takes a different approach in a different era. While “The Clone Wars” is an anthology of stories covering various planets and characters, “Rebels” Season One exclusively (more or less) follows the exploits of street rat Ezra Bridger, who falls in with a band of “rebels” led by rogue Jedi Kanan Jarrus. The action centers on Lothal, an outer rim planet that has strategic value for the Empire as a staging ground and factory planet.
This more traditional approach to a TV series solves some of the problems of “The Clone Wars.” At the end of each story arc in the former series, I would have difficulty finding the motivation to keep going, as I was unsure whether the next arc was good or not. “Rebels” has the benefit of a consistent cast. The inertia to keep going is always there because you want to know what happens to these particular characters.
When the show begins, the band of Imperial resisters are definitely lower-case “r” rebels, not the capitalized kind that come with an Alliance. In fact, the band at first appears to be just anti-Imperial muscle for hire. As the show progresses, it is revealed that Kanan and Hera (the Twi'lek pilot of the group's communal ship, the Ghost) are taking direction from “Fulcrum,” who seems to be organizing other cells.
Though the consistency is a nice feature, the characterization for “Rebels” is a bit cliché. Zeb, a Lasat, is the traditional (furry) muscle, and Sabine is a techie who likes to explode things. Chopper is the classic eccentric astromech droid (we’ve never seen one of those before in Star Wars!). Ezra is the orphan who grew up on the streets and a chip on his shoulder.
What the show lacks in unique characters, it makes up for in a different setting. The crew of the Ghost is on their own: no backup, no base of operations, and little support. There are two things that Kanan is looking for in a job: an opportunity to strike a blow against Empire, and a paycheck. They are scrounging for a living, and this gives a different flavor to the show compared to other Star Wars stories.
The continuity nerd in me is a little bothered by one element of the show: the presence of Jedi. Kanan is a Jedi Knight who survived Order 66, Ezra is being trained as his Padawan, and, in a spoiler for fans of “The Clone Wars,” Anakin's old Padawan Ahsoka shows up in the last episode. On the one hand, Jedi are cool, and I can hardly expect to see Star Wars without them. On the other hand, this is supposed to be a period of low Jedi activity. The Empire is always talking about how it wiped them all out. I can hardly believe that Tarkin and Vader would be so ignorant as to believe they were extinct by “A New Hope” when there were several running around causing trouble just a few years earlier.
All this leaves me with wondering where this is going. Luke and the Rebel Alliance are clearly unaware of any Jedi besides Obi-Wan and Yoda. Thus, shouldn't all Jedi either be dead or presumed dead?
While I can see Ahsoka (and maybe Kanan) getting killed off, I think killing Ezra might be a little difficult for the show’s creators and audience to deal with (unlike the often adult tonal shifts of “The Clone Wars,” the Disney XD home of “Rebels” guarantees a veneer of kid-friendliness).
However, the possibility of death is one reason why I'm motivated to continue watching. At the time of writing, I have not yet seen “Rebels” Season Two, which wrapped up only recently. In the final scene of Season One, Darth Vader arrives at Lothal to assist with removing the Jedi presence. This must be leading towards some sort of confrontation between Ahsoka and Vader. I am very excited for that moment. Ahsoka is not my favorite character, but the story surrounding her and the ties she has to Anakin/Vader can be quite compelling. How will Vader react to finding his apprentice? How did Ahsoka survive Order 66?
I will continue watching to find out.