Rebels Reconnaissance: “Out of Darkness” Review

*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the STAR WARS REBELS episode “Out of Darkness.”

Even though “Spark of Rebellion” premiered just a little over a month ago, it seems like we’ve been waiting for much longer to see an episode of Star Wars Rebels focused on its female protagonists, Hera Syndulla and Sabine Wren. Throughout the show’s run to this point, viewers have been treated to stories that featured solid character development for Kanan, Zeb, and especially Ezra. But up until now, the women of Rebels have–more often than not–been relegated to the background of episodes that focused on the other crew members. “Out of the Darkness” obliterates that trend with an explosive episode that thrusts Hera and Sabine into the forefront.

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Rebels Reconnaissance: “Breaking Ranks” Review

*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the STAR WARS REBELS episode “Breaking Ranks” and THE CLONE WARS story reel arc “Crystal Crisis.”

Like a finely crafted wine, Star Wars Rebels continues to layer on the intrigue and work in character development, all the while building its own narrative in the context of the greater Star Wars saga.  With the latest episode, “Breaking Ranks,” Rebels provides us with a fascinating look at the inner workings of an Imperial Academy on Lothal overseen by Commandant Cumberlayne Aresko and Taskmaster Myles Grint (two characters we first met in “Spark of Rebellion”).  Unfortunately for these two officers, the Imperial Academy under their supervision has been infiltrated by Ezra Bridger, Jedi-in-training and the Spectre-6 operative of the Ghost.

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Rebels Reconnaissance: “Rise of the Old Masters” Review

*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the STAR WARS REBELS episode “Rise of the Old Masters.”

If you’re not watching STAR WARS REBELS, you really are missing something special. The premiere movie “Spark of Rebellion” was quite good and the first two episodes, “Droids in Distress” and “Fighter Flight” were highly entertaining forays back into the classic Star Wars Trilogy era. But with this week’s episode, “Rise of the Old Masters,” the stakes have never been higher, the action has never been more intense, and the obstacles facing our heroes have never been so dangerous or so formidable.

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Rebels Reconnaissance: “Fighter Flight” Review

*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for “Fighter Flight.”

Practically since Rebels was first announced, we’ve been told by the show’s creators that Kanan, Hera, Zeb, Sabine, Chopper, and Ezra would be like a family, and we’ve seen plenty of evidence to support that claim.  However, the latest episode, “Fighter Flight,” illustrates that particular dynamic more explicitly and powerfully than previously explored in any previous Rebels media.

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Rebels Reconnaissance: “Droids in Distress” Review

*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for “Droids in Distress.”

Written by Greg Weisman, the second episode of Star Wars Rebels, “Droids in Distress, continues the trend that began in “Spark of Rebellion” of knitting together the sometimes disparate corners of the Star Wars fan base.  Apparently not content to simply bridge the Prequel and Trilogy eras, “Droids” manages to also include some clever nods to the Disney Theme Parks’ Star Tours attraction and even goes so far as to have Paul Reubens reprise his role as the pilot droid RX-24.  Some have expressed concern over the “Disneyfication” of Star Wars, but Rebels seems to be turning that on its head and acknowledging the premise rather than running from it.

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Rebels Reconnaissance: “Spark of Rebellion” Review

*Spoiler warning: This review contains full spoilers for both the premiere episode of STAR WARS REBELS and John Jackson Miller’s A New Dawn.

After months of previews and discussion, Rebels is finally here and Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg, Greg Weisman and company have given us an addition to the Star Wars canon that looks and sounds amazing.  While not nearly as hyper-stylized as The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels does have an approach of its own that employs not only imagery based on Ralph McQuarrie’s designs for the original Star Wars, but also a crisp animation technique and smooth lines reminiscent of the Disney animated features Tangled and Frozen.

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The Dawn of REBELS (Reconnaissance)

It’s a fascinating time to be a Star Wars fan with all the new content on the horizon. For some, there is nothing but excitement as they don’t hesitate to embrace anything new bearing the STAR WARS moniker–be it books, games, TV, movies or other merchandise in its various forms. But for others, there is a certain amount of fear associated with the changes that have recently occurred or are coming soon. Perhaps they embraced the Expanded Universe and were disappointed by its transition to “Legends” status. Or maybe they were big fans of THE CLONE WARS television show and are still hurt by its cancellation. Still others might be Original Trilogy purists who hated the Prequels and now look at the Sequel Trilogy with trepidation as it will feature “their” characters but under the stewardship of Disney.

But to me, what is most interesting is that this is not a new phenomenon. Because STAR WARS has always been about change–and defying expectations. For instance, in the novelization of RETURN OF THE JEDI, Owen Lars is said to be Obi-Wan’s brother, anyone who’s read Leigh Brackett’s original draft of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK can testify to the fact that Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader weren’t always the same person, and of course STAR WARS was not given the subtitle “Episode Four: A New Hope” until it was theatrically re-released in 1981.

There’s a reason that attachment is forbidden for a Jedi, because if you think about it, the Prequel Trilogy films are some of the most subversive movies ever made because they continually challenged the audience’s perceptions of the Force, the Jedi, and the general context of the Original Trilogy. By having a new character like Qui-Gon Jinn confront and ultimately become the teacher (in regards to joining the Force and retaining one’s identity after death) of established icons Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, George Lucas seems to be suggesting that there is always more of the story to be told.

Which brings me to STAR WARS REBELS.  This show will be, in essence, a weekly re-defining of the Saga in general and of this time period specifically. Just as the Prequels and THE CLONE WARS did before it, this show will canonically explore the events of a history we only thought we knew. And though we’ve only seen clips to this point (including the first 7 minutes of the pilot), we’ve already been challenged to accept the fact that a few Jedi did escape Order 66 and the previously established FORCE UNLEASHED subplot no longer “counts.” These revelations and everything still to come from STAR WARS REBELS have reframed the context of Episode 4 –and will continue to do so.

I will be writing up a full review of the first episode of STAR WARS REBELS upon its release, but for now, here are some quick thoughts on what’s been released to this point:

** The voice cast is top-notch and is full of huge STAR WARS fans who really seem to appreciate being a part of this project (previous REBELS REACTIONS guest Vanessa Marshall for example), and it’s especially cool to see James Arnold Taylor back–albeit briefly to this point–as the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi.  One has to wonder if any other CLONE WARS actors, particularly Ashley Eckstein’s Ahsoka Tano, will make an appearance at some point.

** Many people have made the comparison between Ezra and Aladdin from the eponymous 1992 Disney film, and while I can see the similarities, I’m also reminded of the descriptions of a young Han Solo from early drafts of REVENGE OF THE SITH.  That, combined with Lucas’ well-known aversion to throwing away concepts, provides another potential source for Ezra’s appearance and behavior. Besides, if we’re going to see a form of the Hero’s Journey with Ezra, he’s gotta start off as a bit of a scoundrel and stealing food from someone he just helped certainly qualifies.

** The Inquisitor is not a Sith and this was recently confirmed by Pablo Hidalgo.  For some, this might not be that big of a deal, but I appreciate this greatly as I believe the “Rule of Two” plays a huge part in the Palpatine/Vader/Luke Skywalker dynamic, and the presence of another Sith–even one that could be disposed of before the Original Trilogy–creates an unnecessary distraction. Additionally, this clarification potentially opens the door for Dark Side Force users in the Sequel Trilogy who don’t have to be Sith and while preserving their destruction by the Chosen One in RETURN OF THE JEDI.

** The show’s portrayal of Ezra and Kanan being able to sense each other through the Force reminded me a bit of HIGHLANDER, and yes, that’s a good thing.

** Kanan, Zeb, and Sabine make for a very tight and disciplined unit. The introduction of Ezra into this dynamic will be fun to watch.

** The repetition of dialogue was fun (“…he’s gonna end you/I’m gonna end him”) and I especially enjoyed the whole “Who is this kid?”/”Who are these guys?” bit as it called to mind BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID–and that’s definitely a good thing.

** I loved the music cues and sound effects–especially the TIE fighter. Overall, REBELS felt like it belonged in the STAR WARS universe and I can’t think of a higher compliment to make.

Thank you for reading! If you have feedback or just want to say hello, you can leave a comment on this page or email me at cdickinson@coffeewithkenobi.com. You can also contact me on Twitter @influxman or check out my Rogue page on “Star Wars in the Classroom.”

And don’t forget to check out the latest Rebels Reactions for even more insight, discussion, and analysis.

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