This past weekend, Star Wars Rebels returned in full Force. (Nope, that’s not a typo.) Season three began with “Steps Into Shadow,” an hour-long special that first premiered at Celebration Europe back in July. Between Ezra Bridger‘s new and darker path, Kanan Jarrus‘s struggle to overcome his blindness, and the debut of Grand Admiral Thrawn, the season premiere of Rebels covered a lot of ground. Let’s jump right in and see what “Steps Into Shadow” had to offer.
Where’s the Rest of the Rebellion?
Since season two, Star Wars Rebels has incorporated a growing array of concepts from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. This time, it was the Y-wing starfighter. Thanks to intel from pirate Hondo Ohnaka, Ezra and his strike team — Sabine Wren, Zeb Orrelios, Captain Rex, and Chopper — steal five outdated Y-wings from an Imperial scrapyard. However, the Y-wings aren’t meant for them.
After Ezra’s mission, Commander Jun Sato and Hera Syndulla reveal that they will send the Y-wings to General Jan Dodonna. It’s an important reminder that the rebellion is always growing, especially off-screen. Soon, rebel cells throughout the galaxy will coalesce into a formal Rebel Alliance. Yet, we still haven’t reached that point, which is a bit disappointing — especially since this is the show’s focus.
So far, Rebels has concentrated on the Ghost crew, with Commander Sato and Phoenix Squadron joining the series’ cast last year. When Rebels began, the show wisely maintained its focus on Ezra, Zeb, Sabine, Hera, and Kanan. Nevertheless, season three jumps ahead six months after season two. Thus, we’re only two years away from Episode IV: A New Hope. That means the rebels don’t have much time to finish preparing for their head-on confrontation with the Empire.
For now, the rebels are turning their attention back to liberating Lothal from the Empire. Hopefully, this season of Rebels will also examine the rebellion’s development more closely. It’s unclear whether General Dodonna will appear, but it would be interesting if he did. In any case, Wedge Antilles is set to appear soon (voiced by iCarly‘s Nathan Kress, no less), so fans can look forward to his debut.
Kanan vs. Ezra
When Rebels first started, Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger were Master and Padawan. However, their bond has grown more complicated since last season’s finale, “Twilight of the Apprentice.” After Darth Maul blinded him, Kanan has spent the last six months retreating inward. He reacts to his trauma by shutting out Ezra, Hera, and his friends. Only the Bendu, a mysterious Force wielder, helps Kanan break out of his shell.
Actor Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor of Doctor Who, delivered an amazing guest performance as the Bendu. Thanks to the Bendu’s guidance, Kanan realizes he’s been filled with grief and fear ever since the events on Malachor. The most poignant moment of “Steps Into Shadow” is when the Bendu shows Kanan how to see through the Force, past his physical blindness. Kanan thus takes his first step toward healing.
Whereas Kanan is on a journey out of his self-imposed exile, Ezra is slipping into a descent into darkness. Master and Padawan are on opposite paths, which makes it difficult for them to connect with each other. In “Steps Into Shadow,” Ezra has a brief stint as a lieutenant commander, which evoked Ahsoka Tano‘s first command position back in The Clone Wars.
In “Storm Over Ryloth,” Ahsoka disobeyed orders and lost her entire unit of pilots, Blue Squadron. Even more so than Ahsoka, Ezra is focused on achieving his objectives at any cost. He’s willing to put himself and his friends in harm’s way, and he nearly gets himself killed while salvaging the Y-wing bombers. Perhaps the moral of the story is that teenagers shouldn’t be military commanders. We’ll just have to wait and see whether Kanan will be able to help Ezra reject his inner darkness.
Due to Darth Vader‘s defeat of the Jedi at the end of season two, the rebels no longer have to deal with Vader or the Inquisitorius. However, they have a new enemy: Grand Admiral Thrawn. Actor Lars Mikkelsen gives Thrawn a gravelly tone, and he certainly doesn’t disappoint as the voice of the Grand Admiral.
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to define Thrawn’s impact on the rebels in “Steps Into Shadow.” One of the character’s strengths is that he’s a long-term strategist, always ten steps ahead of his enemies. That means his short-term decisions seem unpredictable — at least to those who aren’t in the know. The fact that Thrawn allows the rebels to escape in “Steps Into Shadow” shows that he sees the larger picture. The rebels probably won’t know what Thrawn’s larger objective is until it’s far too late.
Thrawn doesn’t have the brute, unstoppable force of Vader or the Inquisitors. In many ways, he’s more like Darth Sidious, since he relies on tactical strategy and manipulation to achieve his goals. Those same qualities allowed Sidious to manipulate the Jedi Order into losing the Clone Wars. Thrawn will be the rebellion’s most menacing enemy yet, and it’s safe to say that victory won’t come easily to the rebels.
Some other stray observations, with help from fellow Fan Contributor Robert Mitchell:
- Sabine has a new hairstyle, and it’s even more colorful than her last one!
- The Bendu added a nice touch by referring to the light and dark sides of the Force as Ashla and Bogan, respectively. Both terms originated in George Lucas‘s early drafts of A New Hope.
- For fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Bendu strongly resembles the lion turtle, an ancient being with similar perspectives on power. Since Rebels showrunner Dave Filoni worked on Avatar, perhaps the connection is intentional.
- However, it was way too convenient that the Bendu just so happened to reside on Atollon — the same planet where the rebellion planted its main base.
- Ezra stepped into darkness very quickly. Hopefully he won’t go the way of Nahdar Vebb, a Jedi Knight from The Clone Wars who answered power with power.
- Actress Nika Futterman continues to voice the Presence within Ezra’s Sith holocron. Futterman famously portrayed Asajj Ventress for The Clone Wars.
- It’s nice to finally see Lothal’s governor, Arihnda Pryce. She’s voiced by actress Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, who has dubbed various anime in English.
- Some habits never fade: Captain Rex refers to Reklam Station’s dismantler droids as “clankers,” the clone troopers’ old nickname for battle droids.
- Agent Kallus needs to have an important story line this season, especially after his fascinating encounter with Zeb back in “The Honorable Ones.”
- R.I.P., Phantom. We’ll miss you.
Also, it looks like Darth Maul will return very soon. The preview for the next episode, “The Holocrons of Fate,” mentions a “red blade” who’s after Ezra. Stay on the lookout for our next Recap and Reaction for Star Wars Rebels! “The Holocrons of Fate” airs next Saturday, October 1, at 8:30 P.M. on Disney XD.