WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!!
With the conclusion of the first season of STAR WARS REBELS fans can finally take a step back and consider how Disney is handling the STAR WARS Universe and, in my opinion, they are handling it very deftly and carefully. Like most new TV shows, REBELS starts off by slowly allowing us to get to know the various characters on the show, and while some of these ‘getting to know you’ episodes may have been a bit cheesy, they never degraded into true childishness. In fact, for the most part the series handled pressing themes that fans have long been curious about, such as how the empire was operating in the interim between episodes 3 and 4 and how the rebel alliance came to be what it is when we were first introduced to it in A NEW HOPE. As the season progresses we begin to get a firm grasp on who the characters are, and once that corner is turned, the show’s pacing accelerates a bit and it’s not long before the tensions between the rebel cell and the empire reach a boiling point that will leave you jumping up and down in excitement.
The storytelling in STAR WARS REBELS is absolutely phenomenal, and I think any fan of the Star Wars universe should tip their hat to Simon Kinberg, Carrie Beck, and Dave Filoni for giving us a wonderful new chapter in the STAR WARS saga. While the series is certainly a drawn out hero’s journey focusing on young Ezra Bridger, that is far too narrow of a premise to base a whole show around, so the story is expanded to gradually include more background information and development of the other members of the rebel cell. One of the reasons this is so effective is that the rebel cell, all crew members of the ship Ghost, is made up of different races from a variety of backgrounds and all having their own unique interests and motives, this allows long time STAR WARS fans to have plenty to pour over and read into while simultaneously allowing younger viewers to find someone on the show who they can identify with, thus capturing the attention and imagination of the two target viewing demographics, but doing so in a way that feels true to the STAR WARS Universe as a whole. Another great aspect of the story is how the antagonism with the Empire is handled. Rather than jump into the deep end and have the rebels deal with major players in the Empire such as Darth Vader, the show begins with their chief enemy being the local Imperial enforcer and gradually escalates as their actions and abilities become more and more of a threat to the Empire. This gradual increase allows for the introduction of several antagonist while simultaneously giving the audience a closer look into how the Empire operates, particularly in regards to dealing with dissent. While these are great tactics for telling a story, it’s no good if you can’t bring them all together, and that is where REBELS truly takes things to a whole new level.
The combination of Ezra starting his journey to become a Jedi, Kanan accepting his role as a master, and the ever increasing threat of the empire culminates into one of the most exciting conclusions I’ve seen come out of the STAR WARS universe in years, although maybe not in the way you’d expect. While there is plenty of action and excitement, not to mention some very clever references, what really makes the final episodes of the season so exciting are the familiar faces that pop up and the larger implications they have. It should come as no surprise to see Tarkin take control of the investigation as the rebels begin to be a substantial threat to the Empire in Lothal. However, the two reveals in the season finale not only kick open the door to mass speculation as to what exactly has been happening since CLONE WARS concluded, it also sets up some incredible possibilities for next season. Dying to know what I’m talking about? Then you should check out the series because I refuse to completely ruin something so fun as it should be experienced first hand.
STAR WARS REBELS certainly has a polished look about it, but it is some of the subtler production values that really elevates the show. Any fan of STAR WARS can point out what a Wilhelm scream sounds like, imitate the sound of a light saber, or identify the noises a droid or Wookie makes, as such, getting these auditory noises right is a huge must for any STAR WARS venture, and REBELS succeeds with flying colors. In fact, REBELS may be one of the most ‘STAR WARS’ feeling productions to be made in years, as the plot and characters feel like they are more tied closer to the original trilogy than the new one, while still having a hint of the new about them that allows fans of all ages to make a connection.
Another enjoyable aspect of REBELS are the wonderful voice actors. Up and coming actor Taylor Gray provides the voice of Ezra, and he does a nice job of portraying a young man on his way to adulthood, easily conveying the wide range of raging emotions that encapsulate the tumultuous teens. Freddie Prinze Jr. (TV’s 24) lends his voice to Kanan, former Jedi and usual leader of the crew of the Ghost. While I wouldn’t have thought of Prinze as the right type to voice a rebel Jedi, he actually does a great job with the role, giving Kanan the right combination of confidence and doubt to make him an intriguing and relatable character. Voice acting legend Steve Blum (Nearly everything, seriously, go look him up if you don’t believe me) gets gruff and grumbly as Zeb, a Lasat who serves as the muscle of the rebel cell. Blum does an excellent job with Zeb, particularly as I love Blum’s work but had no idea it was him without some investigating. He voices Zeb with the right combination of mean, arrogant, and clueless that makes the character a key point for comedy relief, but one you wouldn’t want to mess with too seriously. Long time voice actor Vanessa Marshall lends her voice to Hera, the Twi’lek pilot of the Ghost. Hera is one of the more subdued characters on the show, and Marshall plays her accordingly, giving her the steady voice of a tough woman who is in control, even when no one else is. Her performance is quite impressive, and even though her character is understated, there is no denying her amazing vocal talents. Tiya Sircar (THE INTERNSHIP) provides the voice of Sabine, a Mandalorian artist with a taste for explosives. Sabine is definitely the most private member of the crew, but she has a terrific personality and Sircar delivers a perfect vocal performance, creating a character that is at times bubbly, serious, vengeful, or just plain fun. Lastly, Jason Isaacs (THE HARRY POTTER FILMS) provides the voice for the Inquisitor, and he is delightful as this stooge for the Empire. Isaacs has a long history of playing villains, so it comes as little surprise he does such great voice work here, but even though it is expected, that doesn’t make his performance any less fun. In addition to the main cast, some classic Star Wars actors appear here and there throughout the season, so keep an ear out for Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, and Frank Oz.
I don’t care what age you are, if you like good science fiction than you should definitely be checking out STAR WARS REBELS. While it may have some comedic moments aimed at children, it is a Star Wars story at heart and you can tell everyone working on it is trying to get it right, and succeeding. If you have even the slightest interest, don’t wait, check this show out as soon as possible and get ready for some terrific fun.
Final Score: 9 out of 10