Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels is finally upon us and its opening two-part episode “Steps into Shadow” aired just a few days ago. After the fallout from Season 2, all of the characters are struggling to find their place in the galaxy as they attempt to figure out how to move forward. The opening episodes answered a few questions, but they left us with many more, and as the season progresses, we’re probably going to start seeing the Rebel cause become bigger and bigger.
Potential spoilers up ahead.
“Steps into Shadow” showed us that Ezra is indeed struggling with the dark side. Last season, we saw him manage to open the Sith holocron, and this season we see him using it to learn more about the Force. Ezra blames himself for what happened to both Kanan and Ahsoka. Sadly, even though Kanan doesn’t hold Ezra responsible, he’s cut himself off from the rest of the group and neglected his role as teacher, prompting Ezra to use the holocron.
The trauma from last season has left Ezra a completely different person. He’s gone from someone who tried his hardest to avoid killing to someone who Force-controls enemies into committing suicide. His personality overhaul hasn’t gone unnoticed by his friends either, and after being promoted and put in charge of a mission to steal more ships for the Rebels, Ezra’s recklessness almost costs both himself and his friends their lives.
Kanan, meanwhile, meets the Bendu this episode. We saw the Bendu make his appearance in the trailer for this season, but thus far we still don’t know all that much about him. We know that he’s Force-sensitive, and that he resides in the middle between the light and the dark. He helps Kanan come to terms with his blindness by reminding him that he still has the Force to guide him. Kanan, in turn, gives the Bendu the Sith holocron as a gift. Not everything the Bendu says in the trailer appeared this episode, and as he’s a mysterious Force-user who’s taken on the role of being Kanan’s guide, I highly doubt we’ve seen the last of him. There are a lot of questions left open here about what the Bendu actually is and how he’ll affect the characters in the future.
Looking up the Bendu on Wookipedia, Bendu monks were an actual thing in the Star Wars universe before this episode. Interestingly enough, their symbol is a circle connected by eight spokes, which is reminiscent of a Buddhist symbol of similar design. I already wrote a post talking about balance in the Force and comparing that to Buddhism, but allow me to reiterate. Buddhism focuses on the Middle Path. Essentially, what this means is that to find balance within yourself, you have to find the middle between two opposing vices. For instance, being completely selfish is a vice, because a selfish person only looks out for himself. At the same time, being completely selfless is also a vice, because then that person doesn’t look out for himself enough. Balance comes from a healthy mix between the two, where everyone benefits. I have the feeling that the Bendu’s purpose in the show will embody this belief. He tells us that “he’s the one in the middle”, and thus far, all he’s done in the show is attempt to help Kanan.
The Order of Dai Bendu has existed in the extended Star Wars universe for thousands of years and there’s not all that much known about them. Furthermore, as a lot of the extended universe has been thrown away, we can’t be too sure what about them will remain canon. The Bendu that Kanan meets introduces himself as “the Bendu”. This might even mean that he’s the only one left, but Kanan honestly didn’t seem all that put off from someone who practices both the dark and light sides of the Force. I also got the impression that he’s at least heard about the Bendu before this episode. As for the Bendu, although he acts as a guide for Kanan, he seems amused that Kanan finds the Sith holocron dangerous and shows that he can open it himself using the dark side of the Force as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.
The Bendu’s introduction is also preceded by a shot of a convor. Convorees are a really popular type of bird in the Star Wars universe and native to multiple planets somehow. They are yet another thing that we don’t know all that much about, but from looking back at some of the previous episodes they’ve appeared in, both Rebels and The Clones Wars, there’s a pattern. They always show up when a character, normally Ahsoka, has some kind of challenge they need to overcome, specifically if that character is lost, confused, or uncertain of their place. We first see them during “Padawan Lost” and the following episode “Wookie Hunt” during The Clone Wars’ third season, when Ahsoka is stranded on a planet and hunted for sport. There, she finds herself in charge of other Padawan learners and their safety. We later see them when Ahsoka is captured by Hondo Ohnaka and his pirates and finds herself working with them to stop General Grievous.
Last season also ended with a convor watching both Ahsoka and Vader limp away from their battle together. Dave Fiolini has been pretty silent thus far about the significance of convorees, but he has let us know that there is a deeper meaning to them. Maybe with the Bendu’s introduction, their purpose will become more apparent.
Looking at the prequels and reading between the lines, I’ve always felt that the Jedi themselves didn’t actually understand what balancing the Force means, and outside midichlorians, any explanation we’re given is really vague. Hopefully, this season will teach us a lot more about the Force and what it means for the characters and their spirituality. I feel this will be especially important for the character Ezra and his development as he continues to struggle through his pull to the dark side.
A lot of things happened in the trailer that we didn’t get to see in this episode, and I eagerly look forward to them. And who knows, maybe Maul will finally die. Thus far, Season 3 looks like it’s taking the characters to much darker places and that they’re going to have to confront their own failings and doubts. Kallus is clearly questioning the actions of the Empire; Ezra believes the dark side will stop his friends from being hurt again; Kanan has trouble trusting the Force; the relationship between the Ghost’s crew feels fractured; and in the trailer we know that the Bendu probably has a really big secret—or at the least knows something—that will affect the characters significantly. I really want to say that I would love a happy ending for all these characters, but I know it’s highly unlikely. So instead, I’m just going to hope that we get another really fantastic season as the timeline slowly creeps closer to Rogue One and what will probably be numerous deaths.