Star Wars: Rebels, or, Something Like an Ending in a Franchise That Will Never End

rebelsfinales

Fixing to get jumped by some cats.

For the first time since, arguably, Return of the Jedi, there’s been a proper ending in a galaxy far, far away. After four seasons, Lucasfilm Animation’s Star Wars: Rebels has come to a close, or at least a premeditated line of demarcation between it and the future of the animated Star Wars saga.

The Star Wars that Rebels leaves behind is vastly different than the Star Wars it entered into in 2014, more than a year before the premiere of The Force Awakens. Looking at what Star Wars was then and is now, and considering the now completed story of the Ghost crew in its entirety, we can already gleam some sense of the legacy the (admittedly fantastic) Band-Aid Disney slapped on their unjust, premature cancellation of The Clone Wars will leave behind.

Star Wars: Rebels was the debut of a new era of Star Wars, the post-Lucas, Disney era, and it proved to be a smart, capable and worthy successor, but also a very appropriate one. The end of the Lucas era, the end of Star Wars made by the maker, was The Clone Wars, so it’s fitting that that ending would dovetail into the beginnings of the Star Wars we have today. In many ways, notably the oversite of Lucas’ heir-apparent Supervising Director/Executive Producer Dave Filoni, Rebels was the strain of current-day Star Wars that best carried on Lucas’ adventurous, if divisive, storytelling sensibilities. The show doesn’t skimp on TIE Fighters, which are starting to feel like an incessant nostalgia bell Disney rings throughout its every Star Wars entry, but Rebels was never content to rest on the past glories of the Star Wars franchise. It continually blazed forward, broadening the canvas of what Star Wars can be right through to its finale. The show often engaged with and introduced ideas and concepts that felt jarring, or goofy, or even heretical, challenging the notions of what the Star Wars universe encompassed. Not the controversial character decisions or shocking identity revelations that haunt the theories and vitriol of fans, but big, grand ideas of cosmic and mythological scope. Ideas about what a Jedi is, about what the Force is. It went weird, real weird, and profound, and Star Wars as a whole is more nuanced because of it.

But Rebels was also distinctly effective because of its smaller scale. Where Clone Wars was something of an anthology series bouncing across a sprawling cast spread around the entire galaxy, Rebels stuck like glue to a regular cast of characters, largely on one planet.

While I personally got a little sick of Lothal and relished any chance to see more exotic locales, the show’s focus on one planet lends a viewpoint of the Empire and the Rebellion that Star Wars viewers previously haven’t been exposed to. We’ve always known the Empire were bad guys because they blew up a planet and because the good guys fought them. But Rebels showed us what the Empire looks like on a Monday. It showed us what the Empire looks like to a fruit vendor, to a neighborhood, to a local government. In Rebels we got the day-to-day Empire.

Similarly, we got a better understanding of the Rebel Alliance and its severe limitations. What does the existence of some rumored band of radicals mean to one person on one subjugated planet amongst many? What does that one person mean to the Rebel Alliance? Rebels provides thoughtful insight into the conflict the world was first introduced to in 1977. It isn’t information you need to know to understand the Star Wars films, but if you’re curious, the information is there and it’s been presented with the same amount of thought and care that goes into the films.

Rebels won’t hold the same place in my heart as The Clone Wars, which is very likely more a matter of timing than of either show’s inherent qualities, but as with its predecessor, Rebels has given me some of my favorite moments and characters in all of Star Wars. Where Clone Wars had the daunting task of carrying the torch for the entire Star Wars franchise in its day, Rebels carried the torch for something more fleeting, more specific, that adventurous, beyond-the-establishment spirit that ran through all of George Lucas’ Star Wars, that urge to move the conventions and mechanisms of storytelling forward.

Rebels has now also given viewers something Disney’s Star Wars has yet to confront: something like an ending. And what an ending it was. The finale of Rebels was so exciting and well executed that it heightened the show as a whole, highlighting just how complete a story the series had been all along. Much as you don’t need to see Rebels to enjoy Rogue One, you don’t need Revenge of the Sith or A New Hope to enjoy Rebels. It’s a story with its own beginning and ending, its own heroes, its own challenges, mysteries and revelations. Whatever Lucasfilm Animation does next, if the folks behind Rebels are involved it’ll be well worth watching.

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Keeping My Enemies Close, or, Star Wars: Rebels

The details of my episodic, thoroughly self-documented feud with Disney are no secret. The war between us, one of intent blogging met with abject corporate silence, wages on to this very day. I’ve tried and failed several times to sell the television rights for the ongoing beef to ABC. But if you don’t read my blog or aren’t anyone within earshot of me anywhere at any time you may require something of a refresher.

Disney, upon acquisition of the Star Wars license, canceled the shit out of my favorite television show, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, so now I hate them.

Kill me, George. Just kill me.

Kill me, George. Just kill me.

And yet, two weeks ago I found myself tuned in to the Disney Channel for a full hour of my time to witness the dawn of the post-Lucas Star Wars age with the new animated series Star Wars: Rebels.

Despite spawning from the putrid bowels of the aforementioned villainous juggernaut, Rebels had something going for it before it even aired. While Disney just butchered The Clone Wars, I mean butchered, like a pack of feral dogs going at a lame horse, Disney kept show-runner Dave Filoni and other key creative voices in place for Rebels. Those voices are very much heard in Rebels, and the premiere immediately feels like the spiritual succession of Clone Wars because of it.

But where The Clone Wars explored a galaxy at, you guessed it, war, Rebels quickly establishes a status quo of occupation, and its amidst this new order that the heroes of the show are introduced: the crew of the Ghost and an annoying kid they wind up with who will never be Ahsoka no matter how hard he tries ever, ever, ever. They seem pretty neat.

The characters of Star Wars Rebels are the show’s strongest asset, as they give the show something neither The Clone Wars nor Episode VII had or will have: a blank slate.

Who da hell?

Who da hell?

Clone Wars introduced viewers to dozens and dozens of new characters, but the core cast was always largely comprised of animated adaptations of characters from the prequel films, begging comparisons to their live action counterparts. Likewise, while I’m sure Episode VII will introduce no shortage of new characters it’ll be impossible for viewers not to be busy comparing the old guard with their younger selves.

The primary cast of Rebels, as of now, is comprised entirely of new characters. They may have similarities to fan favorites, but they are all uniquely themselves. They aren’t boxed in by predestined pasts or futures. They could come from just about anywhere, and they could end up just about anywhere too.

It’s an exciting prospect, and one that will keep me watching a show aired on the network of my most heinous enemy. Or maybe I’ll just pirate it.

So Clone Wars has at last been replaced and Disney has officially put their mark on Star Wars and it doesn’t suck.

Our conflict, however, remains entirely unchanged.

I may watch Star Wars: Rebels, but I hate you for what you’ve done, Disney. I hate you so much.

 

Seriously though, I don’t have Disney XD and I’d like to continue watching Rebels without getting scurvy if you know what I mean. Does it ever air on Disney proper? Is it ever going to go up on Star Wars’ website? If you know you should let me know so I can know. Okay, thanks.