– By J.W. Fox –
***Warning: Season 3 Spoilers Follow***
The season 3 premiere of Star Wars Rebels was a little less fun and a bit more serious than expected. With a title like “Steps Into Shadow,” I guess we should’ve known things were going to get a little darker for the Disney cartoon. It’s predecessor, Clone Wars, also trended toward a more serious tone in its later seasons. Its place in the timeline places it on a clear downward trajectory, with the near eradication of the Jedi and the dominance of the Empire.
The season premiere was primarily a side adventure episode, which was a little disappointing given the huge events of the season 2 finale. Ezra leads a mission to break Hondo Onaka out of prison then use his intel to find an imperial junkyard where fighters are being dismantled for scrap. With a fresh promotion, Ezra leads the Ghost crew, minus Kanan and Hera, to the junkyard where things go awry. Back at their secret base next to the spider nests, Kanan runs into a giant moose-like creature calling itself the Bendu. It is a force-wielder but is neither Jedi nor Sith. Kanan has an epiphany that really did not make a whole lot of sense then rushes to save Ezra.
So, basically a side adventure with some character development and the introduction of a new villain. No answers as to Ahsoka’s fate, although Ezra and the others seem to believe she died. The rebellion is growing in strength and daring. To counter their rise, the Emperor has sent one of the nastiest villains from the expanded universe: Thrawn. Unfortunately, he did not factor into this particular adventure. Many fans of the EU are psyched about his arrival, which promises a possible shift away from light saber duels towards larger conventional battles.
The rise of the alliance is the only bright spot of this period in the saga. Unless Disney intends to depress its young audience, the show will have to focus more on this optimistic note. Since the cartoons and movies are considered canon, the writers will want to avoid any contradictions. Remember, by Episode V, only two Jedi remain: Yoda and Luke. If Kanan were alive during the original 3 movies, Yoda would know. He is already aware of Kanan’s existence thanks to his interstellar ghost communication powers. This leads to only one, very sad conclusion: Kanan either dies or abandons the Jedi path by Episode V, probably before. Ezra too.
So what role can the character Ezra Bridger play in the saga if he is not the “new hope”? Ezra reminds me a lot more of a young Anakin than a young Luke.
The family dynamic among the crew of the Ghost continued to play out as Kanan becomes emotionally distant, struggling with guilt and disability. Some strange teachings from the Bendu seemed to pull him out of his depression. According to Wookipedia, Bendu was a collection of non-confrontation beliefs, or rather a pacifist philosophy practiced by monks long before the emergence of the Jedi and Sith. The ancient monks called themselves the Order of Dai Bendu. If the Bendu is meant to be a monk of this ancient order, he represents a third path for force wielders. This new path might be where Kanan and Ezra are heading.
Perhaps both are destined to abandon the Jedi path and become neutral force-wielders like Ahsoka. Based on Ezra’s character development, that makes a lot of sense. I am still mystified as to why Yoda would send Ezra to a Sith Temple in the first place. Was that all a test for the young padawan and his master? Maybe they failed the test, forcing Yoda to look to another hope on the other side of the galaxy. There probably isn’t much concern in losing either of them to the Sith, with the rule of two and all.
Anyway, an interesting start to the season. I look forward to more confrontations between the guile of the rebels and the evil genius Thrawn. From the trailers, we know Maul will make another appearance as well. Also look for the Bendu to play a growing role in the development of both Kanan and Ezra.
Jacob Foxx is the Editor of Prescientscifi.com and author of two novels: The Fifth World and the sequel The Fifth World: The Times That Try Men’s Souls. When he is not reading or writing science fiction, he works as a regulatory affairs consultant for small biotech companies in Raleigh, North Carolina.