Star Wars Rebels – REBEL JOURNEY
For four years, Star Wars Rebels has brought new characters to life and traced the formation of the Rebel Alliance. With the final season complete, we look back on the paths that Ezra, Hera, Kanan, and the rest of the Ghost crew have walked.
In the dark days of the Empire, a courageous band of freedom fighters comes together to make their stand against tyranny and exploitation. Star Wars Rebels follows their adventures as they go from being a small group of trouble-making insurgents to a team that operates at the heart of the Rebellion. The series reveals dramatic new elements of Star Wars lore on the small screen as it explores a period in galactic history in which the Jedi have fallen mostly into memory. Starting with Ezra Bridger’s discovery of his own Force powers, over four seasons the series becomes a history of the Rebellion itself, and of what it means to be one of the last of the Jedi. Through Ezra, the show explores triumph and loss, and the desire for understanding and self-empowerment that at times led him dangerously close to walking a darker path. Rebels tells the story of a galaxy in chaos, framed through the lens of a boy and his newfound family of heroes.
Rebels and Ghosts: A Story of Found Family.
The crew of the Ghost have become family to one another in their time together. One way in which Star Wars achieves its mythic weight is to explore universal stories of parents and children, of family gone wrong or right, and of shared experiences that make friends closer than blood. Each has experienced the consequences of decisions made by members of their families, whether those decisions are good or bad. In Rebels, the Ghost family is held together by Hera’s leadership and decisiveness. Each member has to deal with their blood family in their own ways, too. When Ezra Bridger joins the crew, he has to learn how to work with others instead of following the independent spirit that has kept him alive on Lothal. It isn’t easy, especially when his mentors include the no-nonsense Hera and former Jedi Kanan Jarrus, who was tossed from his own version of family life when the Jedi Order was destroyed. However, the Ghost brings them all together, and along the way they experience the ups and downs of many different types of family. Ezra himself is searching for his parents throughout Season One, knowing that they have been part of anti-Imperial efforts, but not exactly what happened to them. The Bridgers follow in the footsteps of other Star Wars families, such as the Organa’s legacy of peace and activism that encouraged Leia to fight, but their decision to fight didn’t come at quite the right time.
The ultimate fate of Ezra’s parents is tragic: dying just after their son announces open rebellion across Lothal using the planet’s communication system. Ezra just missing out on meeting his parents is his call to heroism come late, their deaths breaking one of the many strands that is holding him on Lothal. Yet his concern for the planet doesn’t fade—and neither do his parents entirely. He is later granted closure in the form of a Force vision of his family. The Bridgers’ deaths aren’t a pivotal, on-screen shock, like those of Beru and Owen, or Han Solo at the hands of his own son. Instead, their fate is presented almost as an accident of wartime. This discourages Ezra, but ultimately galvanizes him into action, with the support of his Ghost family to help guide him. Kanan steps into the role of father figure for Ezra, but in doing so he reveals his own insecurities.
The Force ties the Jedi and his Padawan together, and also connects them to Lothal (witness Ezra following a Loth-cat to the place where he is shown a vision of his parents, or Kanan heeding the guidance of the Loth-wolf that calls him by his family name). But bereft of the structure of the Jedi Order or a galaxy at peace, Kanan has a lot to learn about being a de facto parent. At first, Kanan lets his uncertainty stop him from training Ezra, but wartime necessity forces him to grow. Hoping that Jedi Master Luminara Unduli is still alive and can help him train the boy, Kanan is forced to learn upon discovering her death—that the responsibility is his own. However, this is far from the first loss that Kanan has experienced, having never known his own parents and with no way to begin to track them down. For Kanan, some of his uncertainty about becoming a Master may come from the fact that he never received that title before the fall of the Jedi Order. For Ezra, learning that his parents died helping others escape from an Imperial prison teaches him a bit about himself, too. He can continue their legacy by helping others and staying hopeful. Hera Syndulla also comes from a family with a legacy of rebellion and leadership. While little is known about her mother, her father, Cham, was both a political activist and a guerrilla fighter during the Clone Wars on his home planet Ryloth. At first, their different approaches to rebellion drove Hera and Cham apart. Both thought they were doing something good, driven by their determination to travel unerringly in the direction their moral compasses led.
Like Saw Gerrera, Cham believed that the Rebellion was not being aggressive enough in its fight against the Empire. When Hera tells her father that he inspired her to join the Rebellion, the thing that separated them also brings them together. The Syndulla family shows how the Clone Wars informed the Rebellion politically. The conflict between the Republic and the Separatists left in its wake Twi’leks such as Numa, who became a freedom fi ghter with Cham, and Cham himself, who thinks that the only way to win is to concentrate on local struggles and send small forces up against impossible odds. Hera teaches him that by joining with a wider movement he could be more effective. The Syndullas’ home region on Ryloth is still in disarray at the time of Star Wars Rebels. With Cham’s home taken over by the Empire and freedom fighters living in canyons, the Empire has ruined the planet economically, as well as pulled families apart. The Syndulla family tragedy also means that Hera can understand what it’s like for Ezra to grow up without his parents, or for Sabine to clash with hers in the delicate tribal landscape of the Mandalorian clans. If things had gone differently, Hera could have grown up happily in the house where she knew the Kalikori heirloom would one day be hers, watching Cham and her mother meet with local politicians and keeping the people of Ryloth fed and cared for. Instead, her family was broken by one confl ict after another.
Sabine also endures clashes with her blood relatives, but her journey to understand her relationship to her family is different in one significant way: she leaves the Ghost because of it. Until this point, the story of Rebels had largely been told from the perspective of Ezra, so seeing what Sabine has been through at roughly the same age is a startling contrast. Once a prodigy in the Imperial academy, Sabine had created a weapon that the Empire would later use against the Mandalorians, an act for which she carries a heavy guilt. Her reconciliation with her mother shows the core of what they both stand for. Like the Twi’leks, the Mandalorians have been thrown into disarray by the Empire’s violent occupation. Sabine’s mother, Ursa, believed that she had to work with the Empire to keep her family strong. This kind of loyalty can lead to tough decisions for people: should Ursa have prioritized the independence of her clan and the honor of her daughter if that honor would probably have led to their deaths? She made a tough decision, the same one faced by Sabine’s brother, Tristan, later on. When Ursa and Sabine meet for the first time since Sabine’s exile, they have to agree to disagree on what is best for their family. Like many parents, what Ursa thought was an act of protection and love for her daughter didn’t look that way to her child. Sabine had not considered the fact that Clan Wren allying with her, or separating themselves from Gar Saxon’s Imperial-allied Mandalorians, would bring fire raining down upon them. Her desire to be accepted by her family was outweighed by the needs of the Ghost crew. She wants both of her families to be proud of her. Receiving that pride is overwhelmingly important to her, so much so that she stops Kanan from telling her outright. Though their family stories are perhaps less central, Zeb and Chopper also have their own histories that make the crew of the Ghost their most important family members. Zeb believed he was the last of his species until the discovery of a hidden colony of Lasat. Chopper is also somewhat of an outcast, his former life forgotten in the wreckage of the Y-wing he crashed in. Hera and Kanan created a framework for the Ghost family, but each of its members found something that they were missing in the camaraderie and reliability of the crew. They make the Ghost their home, decorating with Sabine’s art and Zeb’s posters. When one suffers, the others suffer—and do whatever they can to help ease that suffering. The Ghost family represents the best of the Rebellion and its ability to bring together people willing to put their lives on the line for the good of the galaxy.
Figureheads: A history of Rebellion.
“So, this is how liberty dies…with thunderous applause.” Senator Padmé Amidala witnessed the formation of the Empire under Supreme Chancellor Palpatine’s rule and noticed the support he held, the way his words swayed people. What appeared to be the end of one war against the Separatists was actually the beginning of another wave of subjugation, of the Jedi and the common people of the galaxy alike. On Lothal, the change is gradual but unsubtle—first through increased mining operations and valuable business ventures, then in factories devoted to building weapons and restrictive Imperial Academies. Onto this stage step Ezra, Kanan, Hera, and their crew. The thunderous applause Padmé heard has become acquiescence to, or support for, the Empire on many planets. In a story that had not yet been told in Star Wars, Rebels bridges the gap between the Empire’s rule and the long fight that began on Scarif. With the release of the prequel trilogy, we started to see some of the people, events, and decisions that led to the formation of the Rebellion against the Empire. The Petition of 2,000 formally stated opposition to the use of emergency powers by Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, planting the seed of resistance that Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, and their compatriots in the senate would nurture for as long as possible.
Rebels reveals the shoots from that seed as they connect different groups of people, allowing us to see how the Rebel Alliance flourished and changed. When he was working on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Rebels’ executive producer/ supervising director Dave Filoni said this of the Rebellion: “Before the Empire takes over, we already have these little groups out there, and what they need is to find a way to come together. And that’s really where your Mon Mothmas and your Bail Organas come in. They’re the way that you can galvanize these rebels.” In Rebels, this idea was fully dramatized. What motivates people to rise up against an administration? Injustice? Famine? What infl uence did the Empire have on the lives of people on planets that were not the location of dramatic conflicts? Rebels—and the series of middle-grade novels, Servants of the Empire, that accompanied it—show this by tracing how the planet Lothal changes during the Imperial occupation. It also shows how the Ghost crew rubs elbows with famous leaders such as Leia Organa and Mon Mothma. For Leia Organa, part of her motivation to rebel comes from wanting to continue in the family business. The novel Leia: Princess of Alderaan shows how she discovered that her parents were aiding rebel causes, and her own early efforts to help. The Organas are in the Empire’s good graces when Leia meets up with Kanan and Ezra, with stormtroopers deferentially following the orders of the princess whose family still holds a strong seat in the Senate. Until she takes the Death Star plans from Scarif, she can use the power of the Empire to her advantage. In Rebels, it allows her to help the Ghost crew steal the Hammerhead corvettes that will later be used in battle over Scarif. Leia’s part in this episode shows how entrenched the Senate remains in Imperial politics, and how narrow the knife-edge on which she needs to tread. For Leia, capture does not just mean the elimination of one rebel cell; it could mean the exposure of the entire Organa family and their allies in the Senate.
Spreading the word.
The rebel message in the Senate is passed from person to person, in whispers and codes. In Rebels, Mon Mothma’s appearance shows how the coalition arrayed against the Empire is growing: Mothma explicitly declares that she has “resign[ed] from the Senate to fi ght for you, not from the distant hall of politics but from the front lines.” She brings together Hera’s Phoenix Squadron and Gold Squadron, enabling the Ghost and its accompanying rebel ships to hold their own against Grand Admiral Thrawn’s TIE defender. Though the Rebellion deploys on mercy missions as often as it does military ones, the convergence of these two fl eets and the Lothal guerrilla fighters marks the formal beginnings of the Alliance. Like the Jedi before them, the rebels are both soldiers and bringers of mercy—and are not capable of bringing peace without more people hearing their message. As their fleet expands, the operation becomes harder to hide, even in the depths of space. This is where Commander Jun Sato becomes a critical member of the Alliance. As the commander of the Phoenix Group, he is the fi gurehead of what will become the Rebellion’s military fleet, as seen in battle over Scarif and Yavin 4.
Having started out as a smuggler, Sato becomes the noble and calm leader of Phoenix Squadron at a time when the Rebellion is choked by the Empire’s hold on shipyards and supply routes. His group paves the way for the strong rebel showing at Scarif, even if he and many of his pilots do not live to see it. Hera’s network of spies and dissident soldiers clearly already use some of the framework that Mon Mothma and other sympathetic senators put in place long before either she or Ezra Bridger made their historic transmissions to bring rebel cells together. Hera’s use of codenames for the Ghost crew and others is a necessity in wartime, especially when the role of undercover agent Fulcrum is taken on by the high-ranking Imperial offi cer Agent Kallus. The Rebellion lives on in secret coordinates and names meant to obscure. Hera remained an important person in the Alliance, and she was certainly at the Massassi Temple before the Battle of Scarif, evidence by her name being heard over the intercom in Rogue One. There is even evidence that she piloted the Ghost against the Empire during the battle, still defying the oppressive regime, which used kyber crystals to weaponize the Death Star. “The strongest stars have hearts of kyber,” Guardian of the Whills Chirrut Îmwe once said. Hera knew more about kyber crystals than most. From the single crystal she found fl oating in space to the shards of crystal at the heart of lightsabers, she knew them—and Hera was the heart of Star Wars Rebels, a key player in the rebel journey, as the Alliance grew from what seemed like an insignifi cant coalition of soldiers, survivors, and pilots into the fighting force seen in A New Hope.