Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Is Star Wars Rebels a Worthy Successor to the Clone Wars?

Warning: The article will contain spoilers for the Star Wars Rebels season finale.

I never cried watching Revenge of the Sith, until the last time. Although it's the best of the prequels, any moments of emotional drama are fairly ruined by the lackluster acting and directing, and I never felt enough of an emotional connection to Anakin's story or any of the Jedi Knights to really feel anything other than morose watching their tragedy play out.

Then came Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Dave Filoni and Lucasfilm's take on the Clone Wars started as a semi-goofy children's movie with farthing Hutts, and over the course of six seasons developed into a treatise on the nature of war disguised as an animated series with Jedi. When I came back to Revenge of the Sith after watching Clone Wars, I found myself watching the deaths of old friends, instead of a random collection of alien makeup. I broke down.

After the unceremonious (but still potent) ending of the Clone Wars, we found ourselves looking to the now-Disney-owned Lucasfilm's successor, Star Wars Rebels, to fill that hole in our lives. So now that it's first season is up, did it live up to its predecessor?

When Rebels first started, I admit I was a bit...concerned. The opening episodes were interesting, but too much about the show seemed toned down from what we'd seen Lucasfilm was capable of. The characters seemed flat and stereotypical. There were two characters, Chopper and Zeb, who seemed to only be there for the comic relief. The light-hearted, joking nature of the show seemed to clash with the characters' constant danger from the Empire (and their constant slaughter of Stormtroopers).

But thankfully, I gave the show the same chance I gave early Clone Wars, and it grew and began to shine. The characters grew, and became flawed. Mistakes were made, with a heavy cost. Halfway through the season, the supposedly seasoned Jedi, Kanan, revealed his utter naivete when he fell into an Imperial trap trying to rescue a long-dead Jedi Master. And throughout the whole season, we've seen the main character, Ezra, battle with a darkness inside him that comes directly from the death of his parents. Instead of being an analogue for Luke, he's a flawed young man who's affinity for the Force is clashing with his desires for revenge.

At the end of the season, Grand Moff Tarkin appeared and nearly ruined our heroes' lives, capturing Kanan and torturing him for information. The show spent two episodes with the crew of the Ghost wrestling with whether they should even attempt to save him - Kanan specifically knew nothing about the Rebellion or its plans, just in case he ever was captured. While they end up making the choice to save him, the two episodes of agonizing about it show the realities of the guerilla war they're fighting.

The season finale, with the rescue attempt and battle against the Inquisitor, is a soaring, epic adventure and worth the time to watch. And for long-time fans of the Clone Wars, there's a special surprise - the return of Ahsoka Tano, the heart and soul of that show, as a mentor figure for the crew of the Ghost.

So is Rebels a worth successor? It's close, and it's getting better all the time. The promises that were made for Season 2 by Monday's finale are exciting, and the show certainly looks to continue to grow. It's not there yet - but then, neither was Clone Wars when it began. I'll continue watching in interest, and you should, too.

Mike Fatum is the Editor in Chief and one of the podcast hosts for The Ace of Geeks. He loves Star Wars more than pretty much anything else.

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