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

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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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Star Wars Rebels Season Four Preview, or, I Saw an Episode of Star Wars Rebels You Probably Haven’t Yet! Neat, Huh?

Last month I was able to make my wistful daydreams a reality and not only finally attend Star Wars Celebration, but also wake up at 4am to stand in line and finally sit down for a LucasFilm Animation panel in person. At the panel, for Star Wars Rebels, I was able to see a screening of an episode from the show’s upcoming fourth and final season, Heroes of Mandalore Part I. Below, some spoiler-free thoughts to tide you over until Rebels returns this fall.

Oh who am I kidding, I just wanted to brag about seeing the episode first.

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Did you have the wherewithal to con your way into a children’s pass to Star Wars Celebration? I bet you didn’t.

If Heroes of Mandalore Part I is any indication, Rebels’ fourth season may prove to be its most energetic yet. The episode is essentially two acts, each of with centered on an aerobic-heavy action sequence. The episode finds our heroes more confident and capable than ever as they take on an UNDISCLOSED of UNDISCLOSED at UNDISCLOSED to UNDISCLOSED UNDISCLOSED’S UNDISCLOSED.

My take away from this episode really was the action. Humor and drama are both present and deftly wielded, but more than any previous episode I can think of, Heroes of Mandalore felt relentless and almost out of breath. The second action sequence in particular felt akin to something between Indiana Jones and (a more grounded) Fast and Furious. There’s a lot of momentum in this episode, which is a promising sign given that the Rebels panel also brought with it tidings of the show’s ending with this coming season.

That aerobic momentum is what you want from a final season, a sense of barreling for the finish line like an insane person, limbs flailing, breath be damned. The episode left me with the impression that Rebels’ would have a lead boot on the pedal for its final season.

Also that part where UNDISCLOSED UNDISCLOSED SPOILERS SPOILERS HAHA I SAW AN EPISODE OF REBELS YOU PROBABLY HAVEN’T SEEN YET UNDISCLOSED SPOILERS was something else!

Star Wars Rebels Season Three, or, Oooooo Oooooo Growin’ Up

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*laugh track*

Coming off of one of the GOAT achievements in Star Wars storytelling with its second season finale, Star Wars: Rebels’ third season launched the interquel animated series into adolescence in more ways than one.

Rebels has always been something of a Star Wars sitcom in that it revolves around a core family with parents and kids and a grandpa and family pet. This season the family dynamics began to shift as the kids, Sabine and Ezra, started to come into their own as young adults, leaving the rest of the family (and the audience) uncertain, annoyed and surprised by their developments. But beyond its characters, Star Wars: Rebels as show exhibited signs of maturation in its third season.

The more Rebels defines itself as an entity the more comfortable it has become in interacting with other clearly defined Star Wars entities. In a sense it’s like the show has gotten old enough to have play dates with other corners of the Star Wars mythos. Part of the excitement of season three was watching week to week as Rebels reached out and interacted with the Prequels, the Clone Wars, the Original Trilogy, the old expanded universe and now it’s closest sibling, Rogue One. With two years of fairly insular soul-searching under its belt, Rebels is now sure-footed enough to interact with other Star Wars stories without being utterly overpowered by them. By the time the season finale rolled around Rebels was actively, seamlessly consorting with elements from The Clone Wars, the expanded universe, Rogue One and the Original Trilogy.

Rebels may not be entirely out from under the shadow of its predecessors, The Clone Wars (never forget, never forgive, Disney), but Star Wars has never felt like more of a single, cohesive narrative than it does on this show.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, or, Gererra/Two Tubes 2016

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PEOPLE. DOING. STUFF.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the direct predecessor of the original 1977 Star Wars. It’s a premise first conceded by LucasFilm visual effects supervisor John Knoll some ten years ago. It started filming in August 2015 and was initially slated for a May 2016 release date. But Rogue One didn’t come out in 1977, or 2005, or 2015, or May 2016.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story came out in December 2016, and it can be hard to pry it free of that context.

Rogue One offers the first cinematic look at a galaxy under the rule of the Empire and explores what that rule inspires, costs and means to those without Skywalker blood in their veins. It’s a film that winds up being startlingly timely, as its backbone is an examination of how we respond to political discontent.

When the status quo twists your guys in a knot, how do you respond and with what level of passion?

In the words of Saw Gerrera, that somewhere between trailer and final film ended up on the cutting room floor, when subjected to intense pressure “what will you become?”

Saw Gerrera himself violently lashes out against the status quo while frothing at the mouth. On the opposite side of the conflict are those like Orson Krenick who look to defend the status quo and prop themselves up with it. Between the two we see a myriad of effects and responses.

Some allow themselves otherwise unjustifiable moral and ethical luxuries in the name of fighting for what they believe in. Some enshroud themselves in their beliefs while others abandon them entirely. Some abandon their posts. Some sacrifice their souls.
As the events of Rogue One are set into motion, Jyn Erso has decided to react by looking away. Her days of fighting the status quo are over, her days surviving in its shadow sprawl endlessly ahead of her. Jyn is not only our window into the conflict between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance, she’s a surrogate for our own views on an imperfect world. She’s the shackled potential of the first steps toward change – an understanding that things are not as they could or should be that is never acted upon.

In the face of Imperial subjugation understanding is not enough. Belief is not enough. The rebels of Rogue One aren’t heroes because they believe the Empire is evil. They’re heroes because they believe the Empire is evil and they do something about it.

Rogue One is a film that compels the viewer not to let their beliefs become accessories, to use them as fuel for honest, actual, boots-on-the-ground action. Retweeting Wikileaks post on the Emperor’s baller new laser iMoon isn’t enough. Change requires you to stand up, go outside and steal those Death Star plans!

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story lucked into being the halftime locker room speech that’s come smack in the middle of a divisive and grueling 2016 and an uncertain and daunting 2017. It finds itself burdened with not only the immense fan expectations of being the first Star Wars spin-off film, not to mention one that is meant to serve as a prelude for the original Star Wars, but also by being a film about political rebellion released in period of particular political resentment.

Despite the weight of its preceding films and whatever intentional or unintentional political readings punk ass bloggers might saddle it with, Rogue One is a thrilling blockbuster in its own right, one that may serve as a pop culture touchstone for a particularly heated period it couldn’t have predicted.

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.

Rambling, Rampant, Irresponsible Speculation, or, Star Wars: Rebels

Spoilers for The Clone Wars ahead.

By the time I’d wrapped my trembling hands around the worn leather handle of the knife in my heart that was the cancelation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and ripped the blade from my limp body the only sensation that survived was my singular thirst for vengeance. Disney will pay for what they have done, all in due time, be it through a strongly worded blog post or several strongly worded blog posts or several more witty, strongly worded tweets.

The Clone Wars marched the Star Wars banners forward into a new generation and revitalized a franchise that had been kept afloat largely by nostalgia and a handful of cool video games, comics and novels. This was due in no small part to the series’ supervising director, the fedora-clad Dave Filoni. Since heading up Clone Wars Filoni has becoming something of an ambassador to fans from a galaxy far, far away and, arguably, George Lucas’ creative heir apparent (eat your heart out Kathleen Kennedy, you know what you’ve done).

And it was Filoni who finally lured me out from my dank cave of malcontent when, a month ago, he posted an image of a sketch on Twitter with the caption “Hard to believe that I’ve worked at LFL almost 8 yrs, & this is the first time I have gotten to draw a TIE fighter.”

All my hopes and dreams, by Dave Filoni

All my hopes and dreams, by Dave Filoni

Oh shit.

It was easy to be optimistic. If Dave is in than so am I. But Disney had wronged me, egregiously so. While I was anxious for more information I wasn’t holding my breath.

Then, weeks later, the announcement came that Fall 2014 would bring a new animated Star Wars series, Star Wars: Rebels. The series is said to be set in the expansive nineteen-year period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. One can surmise the show will follow the escapades of the pre-Solo/Skywalker rebellion. An exciting prospect made all the more thrilling by the news that Filoni would be returning alongside Art Director Killian Plunkett and CG Supervisor Joel Aron. Anyone who has seen the making-of footage on The Clone Wars Blu-rays and DVDs (me, me, a thousand times me) knows how intense these guys, along with the rest of the Clone Wars crew, are when it comes to making a baller as shit Star Wars story. If Disney gets nothing else right with this new animated venture they at least nabbed a few of the right people.

So theoretically the pieces are all set for a solid successor to The Clone Wars. But we won’t really know until Fall 2014 so, amongst the violent flames of my rage, let the rampant speculations-turned-suggestions ensue.

If Disney ever wants to get off of my shit list, and believe you me they do, a key move going forward will be the exact timeframe in which Rebels is set.

It isn’t simply the cancelation of Clone Wars that drove a wedge between myself and the entertainment juggernaut I’ve been ambivalent to apathetic about since I reached the age of ten, it’s the abruptness of it all. When Disney forced Clone Wars onto the guillotine and let that blade rip the cut was far from clean. Sure, sure, that thing is definitely dead, but there are tendons and sinews and muscles hanging to and fro, clinging from a blood spurting neck to a cold pale head like a stubborn hangnail.

Story tendons and narrative sinews and plot muscles! Clinging from a blood spurting neck of five awesome seasons to the cold pale head of a future cut short by Mickey godamn Mouse!

Since the brilliant season five finale, which has since become series finale, Dave Filoni has gone on record as to say that he finds the ending of Ahsoka’s story appropriate and in a lot of ways he’s right. It was an effective, moving ending that sent the young warrior off into the sunset toward an uncertain future free of the murky morality of the Jedi order. The series finale gave viewers a definite conclusion to a large chapter of Ahsoka’s life while leaving the horizon wide open for future chapters.

Which is great or whatever, I guess. But Ahsoka isn’t the only character on The Clone Wars.

Sure we know what happens to Anakin and Obi Wan and Yoda and all those rascals, and some long running characters like Pre Viszla and Dutchess Satine had their stories wrapped up neatly, but what about Cad Bane?

Its cool cause its noir.

Its cool cause its noiry.

Cad Bane is not only a blue cowboy monster, he’s also the reason I started watching Clone Wars – a compelling, original villain that snaps peoples necks and talks in a slow southern drawl. What’s not to like? Last we saw of Cad Bane he was sent to prison for like the hundredth time for trying to kidnap Palpetine. That’s it? He just finally stays in prison? We saw the hint of a Boba Fett team up in season four. Nothing on that front? Nice try, Disney.

And let’s not forget that after Darth Maul’s galactic onslaught Mandalore, the planet of Boba Fetts, is in a freaking awesome civil war! Boba Fetts versus Boba Fetts! Some of whom literally with horns! And that just sort of happens and then… goes away? Cool, yeah that’s great. I definitely didn’t care at all about a planet full of Boba Fetts killing the shit out of each other. So glad that got cut short.

And Captain Rex too. What about that guy? Eh? Eh? We’ve seen the Captain doubt orders and eventually even go against them when his morals conflict with their end result. Are we to just assume he throws that doubt to the wind and slaughters Jedi left and right come Order 66.

Are we to assume, Disney? Are we to assume?!

And of course my personal favorite loose end, Maul. After the rampant publicity, criticism and outrage surrounding the Phantom Menace villain’s return from the dead The Clone Wars pulled off the impossible and made his revival worthwhile, while simultaneously improving on the stoic character tenfold. The epic finale to Maul’s last arc not only left Mandalore in shambles, it may have been the greatest episode the series’ has ever produced. But when it wrapped up the vicious, cunning Maul had lost what power he’d gained and lay begging at the feet of Darth Sidious who exclaimed “I’m not going to kill you. I have other uses for you.”

Look out behind you cool guys! It's a load of bullshit, courtesy of Disney.

Man it sure would have been lame to have let this continue…

Is there a line for people who are glad that we may never figure out what those uses are? Because I’d love to be at the front. Because I’m so godamn glad I’ll never get to find out what those uses are because that would be dumb and I way prefer being left hanging as payment for my years of loyalty to a show for godamn ten year olds!

However, this can all be remedied. All of these questions and characters can be revisited against a new and exciting backdrop should Disney decide that Star Wars: Rebels is set in the early section of that nineteen-year timespan between Episodes III and IV. Is it a stretch to catch up with these guys ten or fifteen years later? Maybe. But two or three years after the end of the Clone Wars? Works for me, yo. And if they want me to suspend my blood feud with the Disney Corporation, the Disney Channel and the Disney Family they will be very interested in what works for me. Yo.

Or they could set it in the mid to late section of those nineteen years and we can all frolic about on Saturday mornings at the prospect of watching animated Leah hone her political skills and animated Luke bull’s-eye womp rats in his stupid T-16. Boy wouldn’t that be great.

Do the right thing Disney. Give me more horns and robot legs and brutal murders on a kid’s television show. Give me more Maul.

Or so help me God I will tweet Downey Jr. and tell him not to do Avengers 2. I will tweet Downey Jr. so godamn hard.