“Star Wars Rebels” Season 1 Retrospect – A Band of Outcasts Against the Empire

StarWarsRebelsSparkofRebellionDVDCover

     “Star Wars Rebels” is a great series. Such a great series in fact that it has inspired me to eventually review “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” which was made by some of the same creators. What was it that made this series great? How would this series be defined? What made this series work were the characters, the themes and the writing and within that the fact that this is the only series besides “Firefly” that really captures the feel of a band of outcasts fighting against a force so much more powerful and overwhelming, all of which made this series work.

      The series was created by Lucasfilm and Lucasfilm Animation with Dave Filoni as Executive Producer and Supervising Director while also being joined by Simon Kinberg and Greg Weisman.

      The premise of the series is that a band of rebels fights against the Empire in the Outer Rim world of Lothal as Ezra Bridger learns he is force sensitive and must deal with his role as a force user with potential to become a Jedi as all of the crew of Ghost deals with the threats of the Empire and The Inquisitor.

Rise of the Old Masters Star Wars Rebels ep 3

The Pros: The Soundtrack – Kevin Kiner does an amazing job adapting John Williams’s original score to fit the television series. The music is one of the strongest parts of the series as it creates tension and adds to the characters.

The Premise – The premise is wonderful as we explore the lives of one rebel cell and get to see what life is like for the Rebels in the Outer Rim and how complete Galactic control really is from the Empire.

The Characters – The characters are mostly all fantastic! Whether it is the Imperials, Rebels or even some minor characters, most of them get explored and it lends great power to the series since there is still room for all of them to grow, even though they have grown this season.

The Imperials – I really enjoyed the Imperial characters. Some of them weren’t completely bad and even the bad ones had moments of empathy or mercy and we were given a chance to sympathize with them even though they are the wrong side for obvious ethical reasons.

Agent Kallus – Kallus committed genocide against Zeb’s people and is a very hands on commander. We see him put himself out there on multiple occasions and be in the thick of battle. He is not underhanded and is very Mandalorian in how he does things. You can tell how much he loves battle and he does have respect for his troops.

Minister Tua – Tua is the one trying to put a nice face on what the Empire does and she does a good job at it as she isn’t outwardly cruel though she endorses the open cruelty that others do. She does have a conscience though and we see it when The Inquisitor executes Aresko and another Imperial Commander under orders of Tarkin. So much of what she does is truly ruled by fear even if true belief is there.

Commandant Aresko – I like Aresko, we see him train the recruits and he’s actually a kind guy who looks out for those under him. He may not always succeed but it certainly isn’t from lack of trying. For this reason I actually mourned this characters death.

The Inquisitor – Jason Isaacs is wonderful once more as a fantastic animated villain!  The Inquisitor is cold and calculating and does a good job at getting into Kanan’s head. He’s introduced as a force of nature and in defeat we see his humanity as he fears things worse than death that the Emperor or Vader would do to him for failing to stop Kanan and Ezra.

Grand Moff Tarkin – Tarkin is brutal and we see why he was put in charge of the Death Star as it is thanks to his fighting the rebels as a war and not a police excercise that leads to Kanan’s capture and forces the fledgling Rebel Alliance to reveal itself to save the Lothal Rebels. After his failure to stop them and the reveal of the Alliance he decides that Vader will be brought in to deal with this new Jedi and Rebel threat.

The Crew of Ghost – The crew of Ghost is a band of misfits and comparable to the crew of Serenity in the show “Firefly.” From the witty chemistry they have with one another and wounds they carry for being refugees and the last of their people or kind we see a rich humanity to them.

Zeb – Zeb is one of the last of his people the Lasat and is an intelligent guy who doesn’t put up with Ezra’s crap, though they do become quick friends when they are forced to work together. Like Sabine he is the primary muscle and the one who causes distractions though he is good at pulling his weight for whatever the mission needs. He has a lot of pain over all he has lost and deals with it by being rough around the edges and first and valuing the time he has alone. He still has to kill Kallus for being one of the primary ones responsible for the genocide against his people.

Sabine – Sabine is a Mandalore and ex-stormtrooper who expresses herself through her art. She does a bunch of different kinds of art but specializes in graffiti and protest art. She’s a great actor and is the most witty against opponents. She also has a lot of awareness to and saves a data disk from Ezra’s home so he has a picture of his family again. Her biggest issues are trust issues because of how she was betrayed by the Empire when she served them.

Hera – Hera is the mother of the group and has to make the tough decisions. We see this in her withholding information in case the Empire captures them and the chances she chooses to run or stay low so the entire Rebellion doesn’t get eliminated. She sees the big picture, where none of the other members of the crew really do. She also gets people and is the one who makes Ezra aware of others.

Kanan – Kanan is one of the last of the Jedi who was never trained to be a Master but is forced to become one. He is unsure of himself but when he chooses to fight for his crew and to raise Ezra we see a will of iron born as he withstands torture and sacrifices himself so the Lothal rebellion lives on. He doesn’t die and they rescue him of course, but it shows that he is no longer about just surviving and is not afraid of being known as a Jedi.

Ezra – Ezra goes from a selfish thief to someone who is willing to sacrifice himself to protect his new family. He has a lot of anger and fear towards the Empire and the loss of his parents by the Empire but has potential to forgive as we see him do just that to the family friend who abandoned him as a child. He invents his own lightsaber (that also functions as a gun) and gets his first scar in the final fight against The Inquisitor. He has a lot of force potential but is very much a Padawan in training in over his head, which makes him human and gives him a lot of room to grow.

Chopper – Chopper trolls everyone but comes through in the end. Whether it’s conning Lando to steal his fuel while Lando was conning them or saving the crew on multiple occasions, Chopper may grumble an groan the entire time…but he or it comes through.

Minor Character Shout Outs – The informant Fulcrum is Ashoka (Want to “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” to know fully who she is beyond Anikan’s apprentice), Lando makes an appearance and uses the crew to his own ends and R2-D2 and C-3PO are in the first episode and show the role they play in the Rebellion. Yoda also makes an appearance in “Path of the Jedi” as a voice guiding the Jedi, which I think is what was his primary role in hiding. For those who seek the force he is there to guide them.

The Themes – The themes are fantastic! From dealing with the consequences of Genocide as Zeb’s people were wiped out, what it means to teach when training was never finished (Kanan teaching Ezra) trust and sharing of information during war (The ruling among the Rebels that they should reveal themselves and come together and Fulcrum’s secrets and Hera and Kanan being the only ones who know individual missions) and that just because you are a Rebel or Imperial does not automatically make you good or evil (which fits into the theme of the “Gundam Universe”).

The Potential – There is so much potential in this series and I love it! From showing that the Rebels could do unjust things for just ends and getting the perspective of the Empire and the players within both factions and putting them through arcs. Bringing Vader in and saying next season will be “The Empire Strikes Back” of this series is just what I needed to hear and I hope they follow through with that promise. So much potential to be a great series beyond just the first season.

The Cons: Empire Needed a Major Victory – The Empire needed a victory for me to give this show a 10. The rebels were always on the run but the one time they are “defeated” is only because Kanan surrenders himself to buy them time. It’s something he chose to do, a Imperial Victory is one where the Rebels don’t have a choice and are forced to surrender or lose one of their own. This did not happen, hope it does next season though.

   I really enjoyed Season 1, it did so much right and makes me want to watch a series I was worried about due to how much of a failure “The Prequel Trilogy” was in relationships to “Star Wars.” Not many shows can do that. I hope it will stay good all the way through but I’m not counting on anything, and for what it’s worth this first season was amazing and I highly recommend it to any “Star Wars” fan. You will see characters who grow and change, be in a world that feels lived in and experience some powerful and enjoyable stories.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Vision_of_hope_4

Star Wars Rebels – Season 1, Episode 11 – “Call to Action” -The Horror of Tarkin

Call_to_action_8

     This is the episode that shows us just how kind the Lothal Empire was by comparison to the changes in Imperial Policy happening on a larger scale. The symbol of this power and terror and the action behind it is Grand Moff Tarkin who is Governor of the Outer Rim. I’ll get into the details of his brutality later but I’m really curious now how he was handled in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” as I know he appears in it and he makes direct reference in this episode to fighting in the Clone Wars and knowing what it takes to win a war because of it.

   “Call to Action” was directed by Steward Lee and written by Greg Weisman and Simon Kinberg.

    The story involves the arrival of Grand Moff Tarkin who has arrived to rid Lothal of it’s Rebel movement and to shape up the Imperials stationed there for their failures in stopping the Rebels prior. His first act is the execution of Commandant Aresko and Taskmaster Grint before sending probe droids around the planet. At the same time the crew of Ghost is planning the hijacking of an Imperial Communications Tower to tell the truth to Lothal and other systems of what is going on under Imperial Rule.

The Pros: R.I.P. Grint and Aresko – Grint and Aresko were actually pretty kind by Imperial Standards. They sought to protect their men and we never saw them act in opression of the population if anything they just trained people who wanted to join the Empire and I really like Aresko. Aresko could be kind and I liked how aware he could be of others. Their deaths show just how much of a bastard Tarkin is and that he doesn’t tolerate failure in the same way Vader doesn’t tolerate failure…which is probably going to cause more problems for Tarkin later in this series.

Agent Callus and Minister Tua – Much like Grint and Aresko Callus and Tua are kind compared to Tarkin, at least to the citizens of Lothal who are Imperials. They react with horror when Tarkin has the Inquisitor kill Aresko and Grint and you get the idea that they are questioning everything they do now since to some degree they are ethical and have standards in war.

The Rebel Plan – Hijacking the communications tower to deliver messages of resistance is brilliant, especially since folks probably remember Ezra’s parents. It’s a great answer to Senator Trayvis’s attempts to turn the people against them now that he’s openly loyal to the Empire now. We get to see Sabine and Chopper in action and they do a fantastic job as well as see Ezra live like his folks and give the message of hope to the people of Lothal. The seed of rebellion has been planted, though at a price.

The Inquisitor – The Inquisitor is successful in this one as the Empire manages to capture Kanan since he sacrifices himself to let his friends escape. We see a different side to The Inquisitor too as he fears and respects Grand Moff Tarkin. We also see he has the least qualms about the new horror of the Empire as he doesn’t even react when he kills Grint and Aresko. He is the closest member of the Old Guard of Lothal who most willing to take the cruelty to the fullest, though even he was willing to let the rebels go if Kanan would surrender so he does still have some measure of practicality.

Kanan’s Sacrifice – Kanan’s moment of sacrifice is one of the hardest moments for Ezra and Hera as both try to stay as long as they can before the escape with Ezra still fighting to stay after. It is his sacrifice that makes the crew ready to fight on and resolved to find a way to save him and make things right on Lothal.

Grand Moff Tarkin – This guy is brutal and I can understand why everyone fears him. He doesn’t tolerate failure and has a habit of inspiring action that brings results. We see this in his destruction of the Tower to stop the transmission and his recognition that the Rebels don’t kill so they don’t have what it takes to win against the Empire. It’s a powerful realization and we see how willing Tarkin is to kill with the execution of Grint and Aresko. What his plans are for Lothal and total victory remain to be seen but I’m glad he is in this series as Tarkin was one of the characters that made “A New Hope” so memorable as a film.

 The stakes have rose as we now have only 2 episodes remaining in the season which Tarkin in charge as the bigger bad than all the villains we’ve met prior who have been hunting our rebels. What they do and what Tarkin does are really the big questions as well as the question is can the rebels win without killing? How does Tarkin’s work in the Outer Rim contribute to him being put in charge of the Death Star? He must be victorious to some degree, so I’m curious how that will be shown, unless we don’t see his greater victories until next season. This was a favorite and stands strong on it’s own even though it is part of the final arc of the season 1 Finale.

Final Score: 10 / 10.

Star Wars Rebels – Season 1, Episode 6 – “Empire Day” – Moves of Resistance

Empire_Day_25

 

“Empire Day” is the first of a two part story with the final part being “Gathering Forces,” because of this much of “Empire Day” is setup but it still manages to be a really good world building episode and showing us more of what Imperial life is like in the Outer Rim and what it has meant for people in the present and past.

“Empire Day” was directed by Steven G. Lee and written by Henry Gilroy.

The story takes place on Empire Day which commemorates the day when the Republic became an Empire. It is also Ezra’s birthday and the day he lost his parents to the Empire. This leads to him going off on his own as he looks for a missing Rodian who the Empire is seeking who Ezra also knows. Around the same time the Empire is releasing a new Tie Fighter the Rebels destroy it which prompts them to go into hiding as Ezra brings them to the place that used to be his home where the Rodian Tseebo is hiding, who knew Ezra’s parents and has been transformed by the Empire.

The Pros: Empire Day – So happy that this is an actual thing. It’s a major holiday in the “Star Wars” universe according to “Rebels” which shows just how much influence and power the Empire has, especially since the Imperial Network must be broadcasted at all times. It’s propaganda to the extreme and it obviously gets the job done since the Rebels never grow into a large movement. They are the permanent underdog because the Empire has oppressed everyone to the point where they don’t fight anymore and just want to live.

The Imperials – The Imperials who are represented (The Inquisitor, Agent Callus, Minister Tua and Commandment Aresko) all have distinct personalities and great chemistry with each other…they also work very well together to stall the rebels so that The Inquisitor can defeat them with his fleet of Tie Fighters.

Minister Tua – Is the voice for the Governor and congratulations the population and explains why they are so important due to all the Imperial weapons they construct, especially in regards to Tie Fighters. She loses it though after the new Tie is destroyed during the ceremony and we see that she’s a true believer in the Empire.

Commandant Aresko – The Commandant was the one who was training new Imperial recruits and is one of the nicer Imperials we meet. In this we see that he is great at his job too as he has the road blockaded to attempt to the stop the Rebels who hijacked a troop transport. He doesn’t succeed but he does stall long enough.

Agent Callus – Callus is smart in this and is a one man army trying to stop the transport. He succeeds in stalling and even when he is outgunned and outnumbered still manages to get some hits and take on Kanan one on one. You don’t mess with this guy.

The Inquisitor – The Inquisitor is driven and like a predator thinks ahead at how to catch his prey. When he knows they are escaping he puts a beacon on the ship and besides that we see him using the force to track them as well. In this he’s brilliant and he doesn’t underestimate his foes which makes him a great foe to deal with.

The Rebels – This is an episode that shows our characters coming together and in many cases getting the chance to face off against some of their major foes.

Zeb – Gets helps set off the mine and is throwing the firework bombs that distract the Imperials. We get to see his love of fighting them in this and he’s the closest thing to joy in this and the next episode.

Sabine – Sabine is empathy and we see her  reach out to Ezra when she learns it is home. She also gives him space when he needs it and it is her weapons that are the distraction and used to take out the Advanced Tie Fighter.

Hera – Hera helps them all escape and is the one who Tseebo opens up too. She is the getaway and the connection to the outside and the crew’s escape. She also does a great job navigating against the overwhelming odds.

Kanan – Kanan lays the mine and is the voice of wisdom in this as he respects Ezra’s space as well. We also see that he fears The Inquisitor, from the last time they faced he knows just how outmatched he is against him.

The Chase – The chase is awesome! From the street chase to start, troop transport second and finally ending with a ship chase where The Inquisitor keeps landing hits. You feel the tension of all that is happening and there is really good pacing and action.

Ezra – Ezra gets a lot of exploration this episode. From the fact that his parents went missing and Tseebo is tied to it and didn’t care for Ezra when Ezra needed someone to care for him most…and just how guarded he is around the crew. Ezra opens up to no one about what he says to Tseebo or the pain he feels over the loss of his parents, this goes for the crew too. The crew of Ghost is full of loss and pain.

Okay: Tseebo – He functions mostly as a plot device in this. The Empire wants him because he hacked their system and has troop and ship movements known, Ezra wants him because he knows about his parents and he uses his hacking to help them escape when their ship is hit. Lots of potential but doesn’t feel like a full character yet.

I really enjoyed this episode and would consider it a favorite. It makes the “Star Wars Universe” feel lived and even the minor characters get exploration. The only con he how Tseebo feels like a plot device, but I’d still highly recommend the first part in this story arc.

Final Score: 9 / 10.