Why Star Wars Rebels Matters

I’ve really enjoyed this first season of Star Wars Rebels.  In part because I’m just starved for new Star Wars content (although I’ll probably keep binge watching Clone Wars until I’m 90).  But mostly because it feels like Star Wars done right.  There are interesting new characters playing with some old favorites.  There is so much that is familiar matched with so much that is new.

But there’s a lot of significance to this new and probably short-lived series.   Star Wars Rebels is the swan song of the George Lucas era of Star Wars.  Since the focus of Episode VII and an associated animated series, this will probably be the last time we see these characters.  It’s a wonderful cycle – finishing these set of stories where George Lucas began (just before Episode IV).  The ending of Rebels could very much be the exact point where Episode IV begins.

So Rebels has significant importance to how Star Wars is made into the future.  Rebels, while being a kind of Lucas Era swansong, is definitely a Disney product.  I don’t think there could be any more ways to compare Ezra with Aladdin.  But it’s thematically part of the Lucas Era.  We’ve already seen Lando and Bail Organa.  We’ve seen Ahsoka Tano.  We’ve had 3 episodes with Tarkin!  We’re about to be full-on Vader + DeathStar in the coming seasons (we  hope).  You can’t get any more Lucas Era than that.

But it also means that it has to be careful to maintain some level of continuity with the forthcoming Episode VII/Disney era as well.  One of the challenges that Ep7 will have to manage is forging new Star Wars ground while preserving the volumes of canon established in the George Lucas era (Eps1-6; TCW) plus Rebels.  That’s a tough feat.  We know the original Star Wars cast will be in Ep7.  And we also know we need to move past them with people and characters that are compelling.

Rebels, then, is an emotional lynch pin for this transition.  It must treat the Lucas era characters respectfully, but also must have the writing and story quality that we want/expect/hope from Star Wars – and in ways often lacking from the Lucas era (like the timing problem of Empire Strikes Back or, like, uh, Leia kissing Luke…inappropriately).

The Clone Wars was really Lucas’ crowning Star Wars achievement, except it didn’t end correctly.  The stories were great. The new characters were interesting.  Its additions to the Star Wars canon were awesome.  Rebels must do and be the same, only better.  It has to do and be the right thing by Lucas and by Disney.  That’s significant.