Kanan and Ezra have become surprisingly deep characters on a Disney network show. Their relationship continues the theme of mentorship throughout the Star Wars Saga. Rebels has several interesting scenes that underscore this relationship and the impact its having on the them both.
Rise of the Old Masters: We see a number of emotional interchanges between Kanan and Ezra in this episode. The conflict surrounds around Ezra feeling that Kanan wants to abandon him because he’s too difficult to teach. Kanan, however, is focused on finding Master Luminara to be Ezra’s teacher as he feels inadequate. This dynamic continues into subsequent episodes, but this one is significant on its own.
It’s important to remember that both Kanan and Ezra have spent much of their time alone and on the run. They both suffer from a sense of loss (Kanan’s Master, Ezra’s parents). Both have never really had to confront these fears in a meaningful way. The Master / Apprentice relationship is a critical relationship for both (perhaps Kanan understands this best). It requires a commitment that neither really have ever made to another person. This episode was the first time that we see the two of them making a real commitment to each other.
Fear is the Path of the Dark Side
Perhaps the most significant interaction occurs at the Anaxis base in Gathering Forces. Kanan’s plan to connect with the Fyrnok’s to help them fight off The Inquisitor and his troops. In this battle, we see Ezra respond to Kanan’s injury by making a dangerous connection with the Dark Side.
This is an interesting scene as it shows how Ezra would react when faced with both losing Kanan and having his life threatened. This was compounded by the stress of being angry at Tseebo for not saving his parents (somehow).
We know that Kanan, in a similar situation with his Master, ran rather than fight. Ezra chose to use his power to try and harm the inquisitor, an act of fear and anger. This provides an insight into Ezra. We certainly know he is powerful, but also knows that his fear and anger make him vulnerable to the Dark side. This may be something that Kanan isn’t really prepared to handle.
You can keep the light saber…
Spark of Rebellion is still one of my favorite episodes. One of the best moments was at the end when Kanan offers Ezra the option to come with him and the crew and learn the ways of the force or not and *keep Kanan’s light saber*. This is an important and telling element to Kanan’s offer to him. It’s a very significant offer that Ezra could very easily have taken.
It also articulates Kanan’s willingness to sacrifice his light saber – one of the final elements of his Jedi past. There was no expectation that Ezra would have accepted. There doesn’t seem to have been anything Kanan would personally gain from it (in fact, it becomes a source of consternation for him). So why did he do it (other than we’d have no story otherwise)?
We have to give Hera some credit for this. She was the one pushing to see if he was force sensitive. But ultimately this is something that he had to choose. This is a big step for someone who had been running from personal attachments for his entire adult life. While the ghost crew had become his family, Ezra is really something much more personal. Ezra is functionally the same as Kanan was at the same age (though Ezra seems like he was more self-sufficient but we don’t quite know that). In many ways, Kanan is offering himself at that age to accept the guidance that he himself lacked.
You’d do the same for me. In fact, you have…
Perhaps the most telling interaction between Ezra and Kanan have been their personal sacrifice to save each other from the Empire (Kanan in Spark of Rebellion and Ezra in Fire Across the Galaxy). Ezra even comments about this fact in Fire Across the Galaxy. This act is a simple, yet significant act of faith. Even though there are clear reasons not to attempt to rescue each other, they each go out of their way to do so. Ezra rescuing Kanan solidifies this relationship in a way that shows each other how much they value each other.
What’s most interesting is seeing Ezra use his training to rescue Kanan. He finds where he is being held, figures out where on Tarkin’s Star Destroyer he’s being held, and helps him defeat the Inquisitor (albeit indirectly). This really is a testament to Kanan and his teaching.
It’s also an important lesson for Ezra. We see him struggling with reconciling what he believes about his parents fate (Empire Day). Ultimately, it may be through the force – and maybe intel from Tseebo – that he is able to reconcile what happened to his parents and if he can/should/will do something about it. It’s also a trial of separation – being able to let go of attachments so as not to foster the fear that they engender.