Star Wars Rebels: S03E00 Steps Into Shadow
Star Wars is a cinematic icon, but it is much more than its movies. Blaine and Josh dive deep into the universe of Star Wars Rebels, the fantastic animated show on Disney XD, with reviews of the third season of this fantastic show. As a show aimed at kids, but also clearly for the kid in every adult Star Wars fan, they’ll also have a discussion section to talk about the themes covered in each show.
Star Wars Rebels is back! After a pulsating season finale culminating in a showdown between Darth Vader and former apprentice Ahsoka Tano, six months have passed in the story since we last left the Ghost crew. Kanan went blind fighting the Maul formerly known as Darth, Ezra has a new lightsaber, and our heroes have new looks. We even begin to see some of the original prequel iconographies in Hera’s Captain rank insignia, rebels wearing those elongated bucket helmets we see at the beginning of Episode IV, and the A plot of this episode will bring a squadron of Y-Wings destined for placement with General Dodanna and the rebels who eventually attack the Death Star! Oh yeah, and Thrawn has arrived (pause for one second to have a fanboy freak out)!
The opening episode of Season 3 reunites Ezra and the Ghost crew with Hondo Ohnaka, rescuing him from an Imperial prison with the promise of Hondo having important Imperial intel. He delivers on his promise with information about a secret Imperial salvage yard containing a squadron of Y-Wings headed for melting down. Commander Sato puts Ezra in charge as a Lieutenant Commander, having proven his meddle on previous missions and the rebels head out to claim the Y-Wings with one minor exception; Kanan is nowhere to be found.
Despite his lack of involvement in the planning and execution of the operation, this episode is really an Ezra and Kanan-centric episode. Kanan has been reclusive, blaming himself for the perceived loss of Ahsoka, who surprisingly goes unmentioned in the episode, and for Ezra’s luring towards the dark side by Maul and the Sith Holocron. After a contentious conversation with Ezra, he confiscates the Sith Holocron and scolds Ezra for keeping a dangerous dark side item. When the rebel crew leaves, Kanan is lured into the desert beyond the borders of the rebel base and he meets Bendu, a Force-wielder who claims to be neither dark nor light.
It is quite daring for Dave Filoni and the Rebels writers to spend a good deal of the premiere philosophizing and setting up the spiritual and existential drama of, what I assume will be, most of season 3. In the opening of the episode, Ezra has a chilling moment where he saves his friends from harm by taking over the mind of the AT-DT pilot to eliminate the threat of capture. His justification for using this force power sounds a lot like Anakin Skywalker’s justification in Revenge of the Sith for embracing the dark side to save Padme. Kanan has a lot to be concerned about, as his apprentice is skirting along a dangerous path.
However, Bendu, voiced by former Dr. Who star Tom Baker, exposes Kanan’s fear as being the catalyst for Ezra’s actions and motives. A Sith Holocron is a mere trinket, as Bendu demonstrates by harmlessly opening and keeping the dark side item, incapable of corrupting someone. What can corrupt our actions and lead down a dangerous path are the motives in our heart. Fear has driven Kanan away from Ezra, and without guidance Ezra’s fear of losing his friends has him hungry to become more powerful to avoid losing them. It becomes clear to Kanan, similar to some of the realizations he came to in Season 1, he will only see Ezra slip further away unless he is willing to overcome the fear that keeps him at arm’s length from those he loves. The episode dramatizes this when Kanan and Hera arrive in the nick-of-time to save Ezra from plunging to his death along with the now defunct Imperial salvage station.
On a slightly different note, to wrap up the review of this episode, I am very curious how this season will treat the Force and Bendu. In his five to ten minutes of philosophizing and teaching time with Kanan, I got a Tom Bombadil from Lord of the Rings vibe. much like Bombadil was on no one’s side in the war of the ring. Bendu strikes me as a neutral party wielding a neutral force and standing outside of the normal conflict between Sith and Jedi. Not only do I think this means we will see plenty of LOTR-like arcs in Season 3, but we might also see the continued rise of Force-users and orders in the Star Wars universe who do not ascribe to either the dark of the light.
While some of us might see this as a negative, I generally see this as an intriguing and positive development. It certainly does not mean the end of the significance of the dark and light, as is evidenced by Ezra’s rather ominous dabbling with traditionally dark side powers and the continued menace of Maul, Vader, the Emperor, etc. It is a chance to explore the grayer areas between dark and light, something Luke Skywalker inadvertently did when he left Yoda’s training to rescue his friends. His act could be seen as selfless or selfish, from a certain point of view, but it ultimately gave him the choice to selflessly sacrifice when confronted with the lure of power. And this might be the greatest danger or potential for good in Ezra. He wants to save his friends and defeat the Empire, but as Yoda told him in Season 2, it is how we choose to fight that matters. Will he choose the easy path of fear and power as Anakin did, or will he sacrifice as Anakin’s son would? Season 3 will most likely answer this question.
Star Wars Rebels is a family show. Parents love watching as much as their kids. Infusing the spiritual with the fantastic and adventurous, Rebels continues the spirit of what makes Star Wars great. In order to foster the young minds and hearts of your Reel World Theologians, each week there are questions you can use during or after the show to talk about with your kids. Enjoy the show and then enjoy conversation, but always remember that story is powerful and Star Wars Rebels is not mindless.
Why do you think Ezra wants to take the easy path to defeat the Empire? Why are power and aggression a path to the dark side?
Is it selfish to want your friends to live? Is it selfless to do whatever you can to keep them safe?
Why is Bendu different than the Jedi or Sith? What do the Sith value that Jedi would reject? What do Jedi value that Sith would reject? Would Bendu reject or accept all of this?
- Governor Pryce is not completely new to the Star Wars Universe. She was introduced in the junior novel series of books by Jason Fry, Servants of the Empire which follows Zare Leonis, a character from the Imperial Academy on Lothal from Season 1 of Rebels. She was also mentioned a few times in the first season of the show, as well. It will be very interesting to see how her role expands.
- In more Imperial trivia, if you recognized the Imperial heading up the Imperial Salvage Yard is Brom Titus, who apparently has been demoted to “trash duty” after letting the rebels destroy the Interdictor Cruiser in Season 2. Poor guy.
- The Phantom Menace makes an appearance in the episode! Not only was “The Phantom Menace” the nickname for the writer who pitched destroying the Phantom in this episode, but there is a pod racing poster in Ezra’s room featuring Ben Quadinaros, the pod race in Episode I who has engine trouble at the beginning of the race.