The part of me that’s a Star Wars fan has been in overdrive these past few months. With the release of Rogue One, the new season of Rebels, and Carrie Fisher’s death, I’ve been having all the feels. Due to health reasons, however, I actually fell behind watching Rebels this year, and I didn’t manage to get caught up until recently. I’m still not happy that my favorite character Ahsoka Tano is gone from the story, but she has never been the only reason I watched the show. There are still plenty of good things about Rebels to go around, and at this point, if you’re a Star Wars fan and you haven’t been watching the show, you need to.
Our season opened up with the Bendu’s introduction and Ezra’s struggles with the dark side of the Force. Unfortunately, while Kanan managed to pull him back toward the light, Maul is still lurking about, convinced that he can turn Ezra into his apprentice. Ezra keeps denying him, but he still teams up with Maul from time to time, and it looks as if the two of them accidentally formed a Force Bond just a few episodes ago—a mental link that’s normally established between Jedi and their Padawans.
Maul is still out looking for Obi-wan in order to avenge himself, and it turns out that Ezra is looking for Obi-Wan too. Ezra seeks the destruction of the Sith, and by combining the Sith holocron and a Jedi holocron together during one of our Ezra-Maul team-up episodes, the Force showed both of them where to find Obi-wan—on a desert planet with two suns. Ezra has no idea where that is, but Maul does, and according to the new midseason trailer, we’re going to get a showdown between Maul and Obi-wan in the future.
The other big thing of note this season is the introduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn. Despite the Empire being a human-supremacist clusterfuck, Thrawn is a Chiss who managed to climb ranks due to his quick mind and ingenuity. He’s spent the whole season thus far out-thinking all our Rebels and has even managed to lead them into traps a few times. Thankfully, our characters have managed to escape, partly due to Agent Kallus, an ISB imperial officer who turned rogue and has been sending his former adversaries vital information. Thrawn has quickly figured out that there’s a mole, and I suspect he already knows it’s Kallus.
Kallus’s redemption arc is something that I’m all for, in theory, but am worried about in practice. There’s something about redeeming a space Nazi that just doesn’t sit well with me, especially considering that he played a part in the extermination of Zeb’s entire species. We later learn that Kallus didn’t support the decision and that needless destruction and death do bother him—but in the first season, we see him murder a storm trooper for annoying him and he boasts about killing Zeb’s people. Either he was putting on a front, or redemption was not originally planned for his character. Regardless, for his redemption to be believable, he needs to answer for his past crimes, and hopefully that will happen. Right now, he and Zeb are our best hope for any kind of LGBTQ+ representation in the show.
Last season Kallus and Zeb had to work together to survive an icy moon with cave monsters. They saved each other’s lives a few times and even fell asleep on each other’s shoulders. The episode ended with their rescue. Zeb was warmly received by the other Rebels, while Kallus realized that if he had died, no one in the Empire would have missed him. Kallus’s interactions with Zeb were what drove him to betray the Empire and take on the dangerous role of double agent. Considering that Thrawn knows there’s a mole and suspects Kallus—which Kallus seems to know as well—any message Kallus sends the Rebels can endanger him. In order to stay alive at this point, he needs to not pointlessly call attention to himself. Despite that, the most recent episode in the series “Warhead” ends with Kallus contacting the Rebels anyway to congratulate Zeb for a recent victory against the Empire, something he definitely didn’t need to do.
Any romantic relationship between Kallus and Zeb is a long shot, but they wouldn’t be our first LGBTQ+ representation in the Star Wars universe. The recent canonical novel Ahsoka introduces a gay character, I hear, but I haven’t read it, and it’s about time to get some canonical LGBTQ+ characters on the screen. Our existence is not inherently unfriendlier for a children’s narrative than a heterosexual pairing is. It’d be nice to see ourselves represented for once.
This season has also introduced us to two female imperial officers—Captain Brunson and Governor Pryce. This is pretty awesome, because the Empire is also really sexist, so just like with Thrawn’s species, I have to wonder what these two overcame to get into their current positions. Unfortunately, neither one of them is really developed. Captain Brunson makes a rookie mistake the one episode we see her, which gets her ship destroyed, and Governor Pryce is overzealous and doesn’t think through her own actions. Every scene between her and Thrawn just elevates how irrational she is when she is constantly being compared to his calm demeanor. The show presents her as headstrong and impulsive, while Thrawn gets to chide her for being impatient and unable to think through a given situation. I wouldn’t say the story goes out of its way to present her like this, but that’s what’s happening nevertheless, and this could easily be offset by a scene or two developing her character.
While I am a bit annoyed by what’s happening with the Imperial characters, I’ve been more than happy with the Rebel characters. We get to spend a whole episode learning about Hera’s home planet and are introduced to more of her culture. It’s also really neat to watch her use people’s established perceptions about her people against them. The Star Wars galaxy has a long history of enslaving and subjugating Twi’lek people, and as a result, a good number of people often view the Twi’lek as lesser, cowed, and easily controllable. The Star Wars universe has showed how this treatment of the Twi’lek people affects them before and isn’t afraid to touch on the horrors of slavery—in The Clone Wars we see a Twi’lek woman commit suicide in order to escape her owner. Hera has, many times, acted the part of a subjugated slave in order to trick people, and it works every time, because they don’t see her as an equal. The only character this doesn’t work on is Thrawn, and even then, that’s only because he recognizes her as General Syndulla’s daughter.
I am really excited about Hera’s character right now considering the events of Rogue One. At one point in the movie, we hear a call for a General Syndulla, and while at first I thought that was for her father, the show’s creator, Dave Filoni, did confirm that the call is in fact for Hera. Rogue One takes place about two years from Rebels’s current timeline, meaning that Hera is not only due for a promotion soon, but that I don’t have to worry about her dying in the near future. During Rogue One, we also see Chopper at one point, as well as the Ghost on the landing pad on Yavin IV. The Ghost later also shows up during the battle over Scarif. Filoni has also talked about eventually showing that battle from the point of view of the Rebels characters.
Saw Gerrera also marked the first character invented for one of the cartoons to show up in the movies. Saw appears as a minor character in a three-episode arc during the fifth season of Clone Wars. His sister Steela is the character the show is more focused on. Working with Ahsoka, she manages to liberate Alderaan from Separatist control. Unfortunately, despite Ahsoka’s best efforts, Steela is killed. It’s totally a problem that one of the few women of color we get was killed off, but her death wasn’t used to justify any other character’s pain or motivation. Instead, Steela was simply a casualty of war. Fast forward to Rebels and Rogue One, which both take place more than fifteen years later, and we are reintroduced to Saw. Unfortunately, during his Rebels appearance, it becomes clear that Saw’s motivated by Steela’s loss. I’m not saying that he can’t be upset that she’s dead, but his motivation needed to be something other than the extremely cliché “I’m going to commit murder and war crimes because my sister died.”
At this point, we are over halfway through Rebels’s third season. Right now, my biggest excitement is getting to learn more about Sabine’s past—we know her mother currently leads Death Watch, and if Sabine can master fighting with the dark saber, it’s possible that she can get her mother to convince Mandalore to join the Rebel cause. I also really want to know what’s going to happen to Thrawn. His only noticeable weakness is that he gets angry and loses his calm demeanor over any potential destruction of art. He’s also stolen a sacred family heirloom of Hera’s, and although Hera’s decided that she doesn’t need it back, it’d be super awesome if she could stab Thrawn and then reclaim it. As the show nears Rogue One, I am getting more and more worried about the characters. Once again, something has to happen to both Kanan and Ezra, and now I have to be worried that Kallus won’t make it as well and that my ship will die. If you get a chance, be sure to catch up on Rebels. The show has its problems, but its strengths now far outweigh its weaknesses, and it’s just a fun way to get more involved with the Star Wars universe.