"...Before the dark times...before the Empire."
Shortly after Disney's purchase of the Star Wars franchise, the cancellation of Cartoon Network's Star Wars: The Clone Wars (see our review here) was announced much to the chagrin of its legion of fans. Many felt that the show could not be replaced and that it was ending at a time when story lines were really hitting their peak. Following the cancellation, a new Star Wars animated series, Star Wars: Rebels, was announced by Disney set to premiere in fall of 2014. The announcement was met with doubt and apprehension from fans as this new series would be Disney's first released Star Wars project since it had claimed the franchise. It is safe to say that those doubts no longer exist after the conclusion of what was an exciting and thrilling debut season for Star Wars: Rebels.
The series takes place approximately 15 years prior to Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope (1977) when the Empire has a tight grasp on the galaxy and Rebel sects are few and far between. The first season opened with Ezra Bridger (voiced by Taylor Gray), a teenaged orphan on the planet of Lothal, who has been living on his own and fighting against the Empire presence on his planet. When he interferes with the mission of a Rebel sect, he joins up with them to help and eventually becomes a part of their team. Comprising this Rebel sect are Kanan Jarrus (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.), a Jedi survivor of Order 66, Hera Syndulla (voiced by Vanessa Marshall), a motherly and talented Twilek pilot, Zeb Orrelios (voiced by Steve Blum), a former Lasat honor guard who is the muscle of the group with a tough exterior, and Sabine Wren (voiced by Tiya Sircar), a Mandalorian explosives expert with a flair for graffiti. Traversing the galaxy in their ship, the Ghost, this space family evade and fight against the frightening Inquisitor (voiced by Jason Isaacs) and the entire Empire as they help those who need it as directed by Fulcrum, an unknown person who is on the side of the Rebels. Warning! There are spoilers for season 1 moving forward.
It is also discovered that Ezra possesses Force abilities and thus enters into Jedi training with Kanan as his master. Together they learn about each other and what it means to be a Jedi master and a Padawan. A notable episode, "Path of the Jedi", saw the duo go to an abandoned Jedi Temple on Lothal to determine if Ezra was ready for Jedi training after he displayed the dark side in a fight with the Inquisitor. This episode enters dark territory as it explores Ezra's fear of the Inquisitor and losing his new found family while also exploring Kanan's own self doubts in his ability to train Ezra. In the end, Ezra passes the test of the temple and receives a kyber crystal which he uses to build his own lightsaber that is unique to him.
The series progressively became darker and more mature as the series progressed, with story lines consisting of Kanan's capture and subsequent torture by the Inquisitor as well as the abrupt and unexpected execution of two Empire officers who had failed in their mission. The season wrapped with Kanan's rescue by his team followed by the Inquisitor's defeat and subsequent suicide. The finale also revealed that Fulcrum was none other than Ahsoka Tahno (voiced by Ashley Eckstein), officially linking the series with Star Wars: The Clone Wars to many fans' excitement.
With the success of the first season, the next season promises to be even bigger and more exciting as more Rebel sects join in the fight with Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) now in pursuit of our heroes. The second season will have twice as many episodes as the first season with the premiere set to occur on June 20, 2015 on Disney XD and the rest of the season slated for Fall 2015. Fans are waiting with bated breath to see how everything plays out for our heroes, especially now that the ultimate villain has entered the battlefield. In the meantime, you can watch all of season 1 of Star Wars: Rebels right here for free! So catch up now and get ready for season 2 which promises to be one wild ride. May the force be with us all.