Star Wars: The Clone Wars ended when the Star Wars franchise was acquired by the Disney Company, which decided to cancel it halfway through the final season. Though a few stories were not produced as a result of this, the series ended on an appropriate story line to lead into Revenge of the Sith.
Following this, Disney developed their own animated Star Wars TV show, Star Wars Rebels with a lot of the same people who worked on The Clone Wars. Specifically, Dave Filoni (who has my vote to take over as head of the franchise), the creator of The Clone Wars, was heavily involved in its production, and the similarities between the two shows are evident, especially with several characters appearing in both.
Rebels is set about 5 years before A New Hope, a time when the Empire has a firm grasp on the galaxy and the Rebellion is just starting to form. The main characters are the crew of a ship of outlaws who join the Rebellion, among them two Jedi (Kanan and Ezra), the captain/pilot (Hera), a demolitions expert/artist (Sabine), the (at first glance) muscle (Zeb), and Chopper, a droid with more attitude than R2-D2. The interactions between the crew members remind me somewhat Firefly, though here our heroes have more of a moral code that they adhere to and they become part of something bigger than themselves.
Unlike The Clone Wars‘ story-arc format, Rebels mostly has stories that are resolved within a single episode, with a few 2 or 3 part continuations for some of the more important stories. There are plot threads that continue throughout a whole season, but they’re sprinkled throughout several stand-alone episodes and usually involve the season’s villain. In Season 2 the villain is Darth Vader, and we see a confrontation between him and the characters build until the EXCELLENT 2-part season finale.
Some of these episodes will advance the plot, others focus on a specific character and filling in part of their story. Zeb in particular has an excellent episode, “Legends of the Lasat”, devoted to why he’s lacked direction and what he’s going to do for redemption in his own eyes. Hera is the daughter of a prominent character in The Clone Wars and her relationship with her father is a factor in a few stories. Of course, a lot of viewers want to know what’s going to happen with Kanan and Ezra as they weren’t around in the original trilogy, and this hasn’t been answered in the show, but my pet theory has led me to start calling Ezra “Starkiller”.
For fans of the now non-canon Legends stories, Rebels continues to add a lot of these elements to the now official canon, with the biggest addition so far being Grand Admiral Thrawn. I’ve been waiting for 20 years for this character to be in a Star Wars movie or TV show, and so have a lot of fans. If you watch the video where the trailer for Season 3 is played at a Star Wars celebration, the entire crowd roared when Thrawn is revealed. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sold on him being a faithful representation of the original character for a few episodes, but a scene where he conducted an interrogation has convinced me that he’s being portrayed faithfully.
I only have 2 significant complaints about the series, the first being that there are a few standalone episodes that don’t add much to the plot or characters, and the animation style. In regards to these episodes, this show is part of a big story and it’s unfortunate when we get sidetracked by something that could just be skipped, when instead we could have gotten more of Thrawn or Vader. In The Clone Wars it was rare for an episode to not add anything to the overall story, but unfortunately Rebels takes these detours more often.
My other main complaint is the animation. The lightsabers are too thin for my liking and seem too solid; I get more of a sense of a rapier instead of a weapon that can be used in duels. The characters have more movement both in their facial features and bodily movements than in The Clone Wars, but with less definition of facial or body features. This unfortunately can make the characters look rubbery to the point where it’s sometimes hard to take them seriously, something not helped with their bouncy movement. This animation style works great in movies like Wreck-It Ralph, but it seems out of place here.
When I was speculating about the future of Star Wars before The Force Awakens came out, this show demonstrated to me that Disney was taking the franchise seriously. Definitely recommend checking out if you get a chance, but as several plot lines from The Clone Wars are resolved in this show I’d recommend watching that first.
Rating: 4.5/5 ★★★★1/2