Set five years before Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the newest Star Wars animated series begins by following a small cell of rebels have a limited perspective on the rebellion. They’re doing what they can, but they don’t realize that they are part of a much bigger movement. Nevertheless, they press on. Comprised of various raggedy, but likable characters, the crew is introduced to us, one by one, in various detail as the first few episodes go whizzing by. The show follows Kanan, seemingly your standard smuggler-type. He leads his crew through various black market jobs, nothing too nefarious, mind you, but definitely stealing cargo, and the like. It’s during the pursuit of one of these smuggling runs that the Kanan and team run into the errant soul, and future protagonist of the series, Ezra. Ezra, while a capable young boy, has lost his parents and is a bit of a rouge, left to fend for himself. During one of Kanan and team’s jobs, Ezra trips across the company of these strangers, and of course, gets tangled up in their affairs. He finds himself belonging, much to his surprise, for the first time in a long time. Ezra rejects the feeling at first as he doesn’t want to feel the vulnerability that comes from being attached. He soon shakes that feeling off, little by little. Having nothing to hold him back, perhaps similar to Luke Skywalker when he realized his Aunt and Uncle were dead – killed by the empire, Ezra decides to join forces with Kanan and crew to become part of something bigger than himself. Thus begins a wonderful, albeit, semi-slow-to-start journey. The series actually picks up significantly after a few key details about the characters are revealed. It was fun for me either way. First, I’ve loved Star Wars since I was a child. There were themes I identified with, for sure. Then, there was a sense of nostalgia as I watched this with my youngest son. I kind of felt like I could check the duty box in that I had introduced him to another chapter in the Star Wars saga. For me, the pivotal moment in Season 1 was when Ezra was considering his future with the crew, and receives a premonition of sorts, almost as if the wind is calling to him. He follows the impression into the ship, to Kannan’s room. He puts his hand on the door, as if feeling for something. Then he breaks into Kanan’s room and starts rummaging around for things. He finds a strange cube (Holocron) in a locker under Kanan’s bed, and then pulls the drawer out further, and discovers a compartment with a lightsaber. He activates it, and after a few ceremonial swings in the air, Ezra gets discovered. (Review continued below) [mybooktable book=”themagicshop” display=”summary” buybutton_shadowbox=”true”] “Look, I know you’re not going to believe me,” Ezra explains, “but it’s like this thing (lightsaber) wanted me to take it.” Kanan demands the lightsaber, and invites Ezra to leave. Ezra goes, but doesn’t divulge that he actually kept the Holocron he discovered in Kanan’s room. Kanan and the pilot, Hera, exchange a few mysterious comments about Ezra, almost as if this was all planned, and they had now but to watch and see how Ezra would respond to the situation. These scene definitely gave the impression that there were bigger things afoot than simple black market deals, secret agents, and smuggling runs. The show really started to pick up for me, however, once it revealed that Kanan was actually a survivor of Order 66 (The infamous charge by the republic that labeled the members of the Jedi Order as traitors. Subsequently, all troopers were ordered to execute all Jedi’s immediately. ) Kanan instantly became more to me than the shell of a smuggler type archetype, but rather, an escaped fugitive. As things move forward, Kanan becomes very interesting. We learn that he and is a survivor (are there more, then?) of Order 66. Remember, Order 66 is the infamous charge by Palpatine that labeled the members of the Jedi Order as traitors. When the order was executed, all troopers were ordered to turn on, and kill all Jedi on sight. Additionally, we learn that Kanan’s training was never completed – similar to Luke Skywalker – and now he is called to become Ezra’s trainer and master. This sets up a very interesting situation that should expose a lot of Kanan’s vulnerabilities, making him relatable and interesting to watch as he will struggle to grow into a role he doesn’t exactly know how to perform. Over the course of Season 1, we meet a lot of characters with which we are familiar. Among others, we see cameo appearances of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Ahsoka Tano. However, we get to spend a little more time with a few other characters we know. For example, Lando Calrissian gets a whole episode, and Grand Moff Tarkin becomes a regular by the end of the season. These appearances help connect the Star Wars universe and lore to the new story line. Outside of the canonical characters, we’re also introduced to several new and interesting characters as part of the Rebels story arc, not the least of which are the soldier leader, Kallus (Rebel Hunter,) and The Inquisitor. Kallus is a no-nonsense killer that is out to hunt down the rebellion, one traitorous cell at a time. A few early episodes show us that Kallus is, if anything, cold, and merciless. He’s not always effective though, as the good guys (that we care about) tend to get away. Of course, from a plot perspective, this must be. Because Kallus shows his lack of effectiveness, and blames it on the appearance of a Jedi, the empire calls in the big guns. The Inquisitor. This super shady character is really the rockstar of the show, at least from The Empire’s perspective. Up till now, there has been a rebel force supported by a secret Jedi which is increasingly comfortable bringing out the force, and using it to achieve their ends. I imagine, from a writer’s perspective, this couldn’t go on too long without having an equally strong power on the opposition. Enter The Inquisitor. First of all, his name itself brings back images in our history that are bloody and ugly (The Inquisition.) That carries its own weight to great effect. Then, when you see him, there are several visuals working together to the same end. He is tall and slender, with leathery white skin and red tattoos. While he doesn’t have horns, the way his tattoos are placed on his face and head, he looks a bit like the Zabrak, Darth Maul. His eyes are iridescent yellow, like Maul’s, and he also has sharp teeth. When I first saw him, I was reminded of a documentary I saw When I first saw him, I was reminded of a documentary I saw on the creation of General Grievous. It was curious how, at least with Grievous, they tried to tie in elements of other Sith Lords to help bridge between generations. I believe they may have done this as well with The Inquisitor. He’s eccentric, like many of the Sith, but relentless, and cold as you might expect. As these forces clash over the course of the season, we get to witness the point-counter-point strategic fighting as the Empire tries to thwart the rebellion, and the rebellion tries to dismantle the Empire one job at a time. Rebels has a growing sense of itself as the season progresses. Everything escalates. The rebels realize there are more rebels cells out there than just them, and as they branch out and team up, the empire continues to bring in more iconic figures, and key players on the ground to stem the tide of the rebels progress. Season 1 was great fun. If you are not a Star Wars fan, you might find Rebels pulling you in, and leaving you wanting to explore the rest of the universe. If you are already a fan, then you will very much enjoy Rebels, and by the time the season is over, you won’t be able to wait for season 2. 8/10 – Great stuff!