Star Wars Rebels Season 1 introduces a new, compelling cast of characters in a recognizable period of Star Wars history, and sets the stage for some daring adventures with a fun, classic sensibility.
STAR WARS REBELS SEASON 1 IS PART OF THE CURRENT STAR WARS CANON. CHECK OUT THE TIMELINE.
In a lot of ways, Star Wars Rebels Season 1 picks up exactly where The Clone Wars left off. Yeah, sure, it’s set much further along the galactic timeline, taking place only a few years before Episode IV: A New Hope, and intentionally evoking the style and tone of the original Star Wars trilogy. But from the one-hour premiere all the way through the first season, it’s obvious that Star Wars Rebels began as a fully-formed, energised show, with a quality that was reminiscent of – if not yet quite equal to – its animated predecessor at its very best.
Once again helmed by Dave Filoni along with executive producers Simon Kinberg and Greg Weisman and a number of pilfered Clone Wars creative personnel, Star Wars Rebels Season 1 sets the stage for a core group of heroes taking the fight to the Empire in a fun, old-fashioned adventure series. It has the feel of classic Star Wars while incorporating a lot of visual elements and characters that defined the franchise’s early period, long before George Lucas sullied a galaxy far, far away with his very earthly parental anxieties.
Primarily following the exploits of teenaged Jedi-in-training Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray), Star Wars Rebels Season 1 also introduced the crew of the Ghost: Hera Syndulla (Vanessa Marshall), a Twi’lek pilot whose father has feature prominently in other corners of the canon; Kanan (Freddie Prinze Jr.), a Jedi who survived Order 66; Sabine (Tiya Sicar), a Mandalorian former bounty hunter; Zeb (Stephen Blum), a hulking Lasat; and their droid, Chopper, who for all intents and purposes is kind of a working-class R2-D2. Kanan’s status as a Jedi forced to hide his identity and Ezra’s untapped affinity with the Force made for some unusual wrinkles in the typical mentor and student dynamic, with the allure of the Dark Side an ever-present threat – especially with the Jedi Order having been all but eradicated.
An unfortunate consequence of the focus on Kanan and Ezra was the rest of the main characters feeling a little short-changed, with Star Wars Rebels Season 1 succeeding in making them instantly diverse and likeable without necessarily doing a great job of explaining their particularly grievances with the Empire. Of course, everyone in Star Wars hates the Empire because they’re space-Nazis, but that’s hardly a substitute for backstory.
Luckily, there wasn’t much time to care. Thanks to its proximity to the Original Trilogy, Star Wars Rebels Season 1 could include beloved old favourites like Darth Vader, C-3PO and R2-D2, Master Yoda and Lando Calrissian, as well as legitimately threatening villains like Grand Moff Tarkin (Stephen Stanton), who arrived on the scene later in the season to give a proper dressing down to the lacklustre hired help, including the Inquisitor (Jason Isaacs) and a somewhat inept Imperial agent, Kallus (David Oyelowo).
Tarkin’s presence certainly helped to make the Empire feel like the Empire, and if it took a while for Star Wars Rebels Season 1 to really raise the stakes, that’s only because it had a lot of legwork to do in introducing the Ghost crew and establishing a new galactic status-quo. During those moments, and admittedly some instances of rather forced fan-service, the first season of Rebels felt like exactly that – a first season. But the confidence with which the show churned through episodes and compelling storylines helped to set the stage for bigger, more daring things to come, especially after the reintroduction of Ahsoka Tano (rejoice!) and a standout season finale.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.