First published in the Holyoke Enterprise January 21, 2016
If you don’t have Star Wars fever by now, I applaud you. It’s inescapable! I saw Star Wars clementines in the grocery story the other day. CLEMENTINES. Calm down, Disney…
For those who remember my previous review of The Clone Wars series, Rebels is another brilliant animated series that premiered last fall on Disney XD. And believe you me, if you liked Clone Wars, you will LOVE Rebels.
Set four years prior to the events of A New Hope aka Star Wars: Episode 4 aka The First One, the story centers around Ezra Bridger, a street-rat on the planet Lothal, who meets a rag-tag band of smugglers led by Kanan Jarrus (voiced by Freddie Prinze, Jr.) who is later revealed to be a Jedi! After the Emperor executed Order 66 to kill all the Jedi Knights, Kanan’s master was killed by clone troopers and he escaped (which is told brilliantly in the Marvel comic “Kanan: The Last Padawan”), took to smuggling, and eventually formed the current crew of his ship, The Ghost.
Ezra is strong with the Force but lacks any training. When he finds Kanan’s disassembled lightsaber, he’s shocked to learn not only that he’s a Jedi, but that any Jedi survived. As the Resistance grows stronger, the crew of The Ghost take on new missions to disrupt the Empire, deliver supplies to impoverished worlds, and lead the good fight against their oppressors.
Great new characters are introduced, such as C1-10P aka Chopper, the crew’s astromech droid whose design is based on the original drawings for R2-D2. A hodge-podge of replacement parts and full of sass, Chopper is described by one by the creators as “If R2’s your favorite dog, Chopper’s a cat.” He’s hilarious. Pilot of The Ghost is Hera Syndulla, heart and moral compass of the crew, Sabine Wren is a former cadet of the Imperial Academy, an explosives expert, graffiti artist and just super cool in general, and Zeb Orrelios, one of the last of his kind after they were the first to rise up against the Empire and the muscle of the crew. He and Chopper butt heads frequently and hilariously because Zeb is one of the few who still can’t understand his bleeps and blerps.
But by far the coolest part of the show is an hour-long movie between the seasons where Darth Vader is the central villain AND is voice by James Earl Jones. Not only does it remove some of the stink to the character that Revenge of the Sith left behind, it actually makes his storyline in the prequels make sense: he IS incredibly strong with the Force and he IS an amazing pilot. He single-handedly fights off a squadron of rebel fighters in a dog fight. And even though he’s the bad guy, you still say, “Man, he’s cool!”
The design of the show is based on original concept art for Star Wars and is gorgeous. Not the same “carved out of wood”-look that Clone Wars had, but still a rough, lived-in world full of bandits, smugglers, and outlaws all on the side of good against the ever-growing Empire.
Two seasons are currently available on Amazon Prime and the third season is rumored to premiere in November 2016. Great show for kids and very strong female characters in a mostly male-dominated universe (remember how only two female characters speak in the entirety of The Empire Strikes Back?). If you’re champing at the bit to see Force Awakens (again, in my case) or just love the Star Wars universe, you’re going to fly through this show in no time. Also, pick up the comic book too! It’s a great read.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Snack Packs
Lincoln L. Hayes is a former writer, columnist, and lapsed-Jedi of the Holyoke Enterprise. He now lives in Vermont where he seeks to be one with the Force. Read more of his words and watch his videos at www.lincolnlhayes.com. May the Force be with you.