Rebels Re-Watch: Who Are You?

I’m re-watching Star Wars: Rebels, one of the best things ever to come out of LucasFilms, providing episode summaries (of varying length and quality) along with comments on Christian faith connections with the show. The upcoming Ahsoka show will extend characters and plots from Rebels into the era of the New Republic. Some fans are already referring to Ahsoka as Rebels Season Five – a high compliment.

Season 1, Episode 1 Spark of Rebellion, Part 1
S1E2 Spark of Rebellion, Part 2
S1E3 Droids in Distress
S1E4 Fighter Flight
S1E5 Rise of the Old Masters
S1E6 Breaking Ranks

S1E1 Spark of Rebellion, Part 1 We get plenty of what you’d expect for the opening episodes of a new series: we meet our main characters, introduce some of the show’s main themes, and paint the landscape of the early Imperial Era.

The show centers around a crew of rebels based on the outer rim planet Lothal, and the Imperial forces also based there. The crew of the Ghost, a Corellian freighter slightly larger than the Millennium Falcon, engage in a kind of Robin Hood mission of taking from the Empire to help the poor – in this case, to help those whom the Empire victimizes.

The Ghost, coming in for a landing to meet up with the sketchy arms dealer Vizago

We meet the crew of the Ghost while they’re executing a mission to steal crates of weapons from the Empire to sell to a sketchy arms dealer/smuggler named Vizago (a recurring character throughout the four seasons of the series). Ezra Bridger, an orphan and self-described “street rat” who survives by petty theft (imagine “Space Aladdin”), stumbles upon their operation and decides to steal what they’re stealing.

Setting up the hapless stormtroopers we’ll meet in the original trilogy, the Imperial forces in Rebels are fairly inept and useless. Ezra and the crew, working in tandem but not quite together (after all, they each want the goods for themselves), succeed in stealing several crates of weapons from the Imperials.

During the operation Ezra demonstrates slight but clear Force abilities, causing Kanan Jarrus – a survivor of the Jedi purge and member of the Ghost crew – to ask, “Who is this kid?” As he watches the crew work together in a rather sophisticated heist, Ezra asks, “Who are these guys?” This question of identity – that of the kid and of the crew – will linger for the first several episodes, echoing questions the audience itself is asking. As Ezra is pursued by multiple tie fighters, the Ghost crew comes to his rescue. Showing off his nascent Force skills, Ezra makes a spectacular leap into the ship while holding a crate of weapons.

Questions of identity are all over the Gospel narrative. Who is Jesus? Isn’t he the carpenter’s son? Pshaw. Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Is he Elijah? John the Baptist? One of the prophets? “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am? … Who do you say that I am?” The question of who Jesus is, and why the way we answer that question is important, is one of the fundamental themes of the Gospels.

We meet Agent Kallus of the Imperial Security Bureau, whose mission is to find rebellious people/factions and eliminate them. We also meet, briefly, the Inquisitor, one of Darth Vader’s Force-wielding enforcers whose job it is to find and eliminate any remaining Jedi and Force sensitive children who could be trained by them.

The Ghost crew takes several crates to Tarkintown, a refugee camp of sorts. Kanan and Hera Syndula, the Ghost pilot who leads the rebel cell, sell the stolen weapons to Vizago. While Kanan and Hera negotiate with Vizago, the rest of the crew gives out free food to the refugees of Tarkintown, who are grateful for the food and their care. Their gratitude takes Ezra aback, causing him to ask why they’re thanking him. “I … I didn’t do anything.”

Ezra talking with Sabine about the families they no longer have.

Ezra later asks Sabine Wren, a Mandalorian member of the Ghost crew, “Who are you people?” He is genuinely baffled by the group’s mission to risk themselves for the sake of others. Later he asks, “Why would I risk my life for a bunch of strangers?” Hera responds, “If you only fight for your own life, then your life is worth nothing.” A life lived for others is a life worth living.

This is the heart of Jesus’ teaching of discipleship, right? We are called to love and serve our neighbor (Leviticus 19:18, Mark 12:31, etc.), give of ourselves to others (Luke 12:33, Matthew 19:21), to put the needs of others before our own (Philippians 2:4), to bear another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). This is a life worth living – a life lived for the sake of our neighbor.

S1E2 Spark of Rebellion Part 2 Before they can return Ezra to his street rat life on Lothal, the crew speeds away to take advantage of a tip gained from Vizago. They hope to intercept an Imperial transport to liberate Wookiee prisoners.

Hera Syndulla, the intrepid pilot and moral center of the Ghost crew

Their mission to free Wookiee prisoners goes bad (in general, most of their missions will go bad in some way – that’s where the drama comes in). Agent Kallus captures Ezra during the botched mission. The crew debates whether to go back for him, but ultimately – and of course – they go back. Ezra, however, doesn’t think they will rescue him. When being interrogated by Agent Kallus he says, “They’re not going to come for me. People don’t do that.” Ezra still doesn’t believe that people will risk themselves for others … or for him, an orphan street rat.

“Found family” is a recurring theme in Star Wars. Like Chewbacca and Han Solo in the original trilogy, Rey, Finn, and Poe in the sequel trilogy, the crew of the Ghost is a “found family.” So too is the church, a community of siblings in Christ joined not by bloodline but by the spiritual kinship granted by baptism and fellowship in Christ. Jesus himself affirms a different kind of family in faith – one comprised not of biological mothers or brothers or sisters, but of people who do the will of God the Father (Matthew 12:46-50, Luke 8:19-21).

While held in the cell, Ezra closes his eyes, sighs, puts his head in his hands, and seems to let go of his emotions for the moment. As he does this, the Jedi holocron (which he had stolen from Kanan’s bunk in the Ghost) opens up, and he hears part of the message Obi Wan Kenobi sent to surviving Jedi after the fall of the Jedi Order – to trust in the Force. A Jedi holocron is a small, cube-shaped repository of Jedi teachings and can only be opened by someone using the Force. This is yet another sign that Ezra is an emerging Force-user growing in his skills.

Kanan reveals himself to Agent Kallus and the Imperial forces, buying time for the Wookiees and his crew to get away safely

The crew breaks Ezra out of Kallus’ ship, and they immediately fly to the spice mines of Kessel to free the Wookiee prisoners. They are ambushed by Agent Kallus’ Imperial forces, who had a good guess as to where the Ghost crew was going. Pinned down in their desperate escape with a few dozen Wookiee prisoners, Kanan resorts to his final strategic advantage – revealing his Jedi identity and using the full complement of his Force skills to rebuff the Imperial forces and allow the Ghost crew to escape. Agent Kallus, thwarted from capturing the crew, has nonetheless learned an important piece of information. We later see him reporting the sighting of this Jedi to the Inquisitor, ultimately ramping up the number of Imperial forces on the hunt for the crew of the Ghost.

After the mission the crew returns to Lothal, where they intend to leave Ezra. He and Kanan talk about the Force, and the calling of the Jedi. Ezra is clearly a bit overwhelmed by this power that has been revealed to him. The decision whether to leave his current life to join this crew is one that weighs on him. Kanan returns to the ship and meditates as he listens to Kenobi’s message recorded near the end of Revenge of the Sith. The message speaks of the fall of the Republic and of the Jedi Order, but also of a new hope to come. “Trust in the Force,” he tells any who will hear this message. Ezra walks onto the ship and into Kanan’s bunk. He is answering the call to “trust in the Force.” He wants to join their crew and be trained as a Jedi.

S1E3 Droids in Distress On a mission to intercept a shipment of illegal, highly lethal weapons, the audience is treated to guest appearances by C3P-O and R2D2. These well-known droids are accompanying an Imperial official on a transport, where the Ghost crew is working undercover to recover a shipment that the official is herself sent to retrieve. We overhear a familiarly anxious C3P-O talk to R2 about a “secret mission.” We learn later that they, too, were sent undercover to track this shipment.

On this mission Ezra’s growth in using the Force is on display, particularly through impressive jumping skills that allow him to sneak into the hanger where the illegal weapons are stored. The crew steals a shipment of disrupters – massively powerful weapons that were banned by the Imperial Senate and used to wipe out nearly all of the Lasat people in a horrible genocide. After a skirmish with stormtroopers in a hanger, they escape with the illegal weapons.

There’s a moral quandary around this mission. Zeb wants to destroy these weapons, having seen them kill so many of his people. Hera and Kanan know they need to sell these weapons to Vizago for credits. (The crew’s financial bottom line – the nitty gritty of needing to buy food, fuel, etc. – is a recurring theme early in the series, and a relatively new detail for Star Wars to include in its stories). Their dealings with Vizago often enter a morally gray area, one of (eventually) many examples of the early Rebellion’s ethically questionable acts (see also Andor and Rogue One).

As they’re trying to sell the weapons to Vizago, Imperials arrive and Vizago flees. Another firefight ensues, including a duel between Agent Kallus and Zeb (Garazeb Orrelios), a Lasat member of the crew and one of the few remaining Lasats alive. During this duel Agent Kallus callously tells Zeb that he ordered the genocide on the Lasat people, raising the emotion in their duel just as Kallus seems to have Zeb defeated. Ezra, afraid that Kallus will kill Zeb, reaches out in fear for Zeb and exerts a powerful Force push – a new skill for him – sending Agent Kallus flying away from Zeb and crashing into a large rock formation. The crew escapes. Seeing Ezra’s unfocused growth in the Force, Kanan promises to start Ezra’s Jedi training tomorrow.

Agent Kallus knocked to the ground at the start of his duel with Zeb, who always has an expression rich face

C3P-O and R2D2 escape with the Ghost crew, who still think these droids are Imperial. R2 secretly sends out a signal to Senator Bail Organa, who had sent the droids on this mission to track the disrupter shipment. Organa retrieves the droids and pays the Ghost crew handsomely for their safe return. We begin to learn of the existence of a broader network of rebels. This show isn’t just about the crew of the Ghost.

S1:E4 Fighter Flight Zeb and Ezra, who have become roommates and developed a bit of a playful rivalry, are sent into Lothal’s Capital City (yes, that’s the name of the city) to buy food and supplies. While out on their shopping trip Ezra tests out some of his Force skills and – surprise surprise – they get in trouble with the Empire. As part of their get-away, they ridiculously steal a tie fighter. Ezra uses his emerging Force skills to sense obstacles before they can see them through a clouded windshield. Each time he experiences a new Force ability, Ezra displays a sense of surprise, awe, and overwhelm.

In this early days Ezra experiences a sense of awe and wonder he wields the Force – or, perhaps better said, whenever the Force acts on and through him unwittingly. It is humbling, awe-inspiring, and not always comprehensible. Ezra receives this power, these signs, and doesn’t always know what to do with it. These first moments of his experiences/encounters with the Force are not unlike Moses beholding God in the burning bush, Saul’s encounters with Christ on the Damascus Road, or the experience of some of those whom Jesus healed. It’s an overwhelming experience of the Holy, a humbling and wondrous encounter with a power that is well beyond our capacity to understand.

Meanwhile, the Empire seizes the farm belonging to a friend of Ezra’s (deceased) parents. Zeb and Ezra – while still flying the stolen tie fighter – head out to the farm, where they saw smoke rising from where Imperial forces had fired upon the farmhouse. Rather than ditch the tie fighter and return to the crew, Ezra is learning how to risk himself to help others. He uses yet another new Force skill to free his parents’ friend along with a few others who had been taken as prisoners by the Empire.

S1:E5 Rise of the Old Masters Kanan, having begun his training of Ezra, is frustrated – with himself and with Ezra. This establishes a dual arc we’ll see in the series, of Kanan struggling with his own confidence and identity as a master teaching an apprentice, and of Ezra’s ebbs and flows with learning to use the Force and accept the responsibilities of being a Jedi.

The crew receives a message that Jedi Master Luminara Unduli is alive and imprisoned. Learning this, they plan to break her out. Kanan, insecure about his ability to train Ezra, is hopeful that Luminara can trail Ezra. Ezra doesn’t like the idea that Kanan wants to dump him off on another Jedi. Frustrations and conflict continue between Ezra and Kanan on the mission. Yet throughout the mission, Kanan demonstrates a focus and strength in the Force that Ezra haven’t seen from him before. Ezra is in awe of what he sees Kanan do.

They get to Luminara’s cell, but she’s not there – only her bones. As they realize that Luminara is not alive the Inquisitor walks into the cell, blocking their only way out. The Inquisitor engages in a typical evil guy monologue, explaining how they use the bones to lure Jedi and kill them. A duel ensues, and he comments on Kanan’s fighting style, deducing from his fighting form that he was trained by Jedi Depa Billaba. Kanan is shocked by the strength and knowledge of the Inquisitor. Ezra learns about the dark side of the Force for the first time, and already we see the Inquisitor trying to bring Ezra to the dark side.

In this show the Inquisitor, and later Darth Maul, will play a role akin to that of Satan tempting Ezra from the narrow path of the light to the selfish, evil side of the dark side of the Force. Ezra’s growth as a Jedi will not always be a straight path along the pure Jedi way.

The Inquisitor, the leader of a team of Dark Side users who work for Darth Vader.

This duel is important for several reasons. Ezra sees a dark side Force user for the first time ever, and grows in appreciation for the weightiness of his training and path. Coming during a time of friction and uncertainly in their master-apprentice relationship, the Inquisitor tries to separate Kanan and Ezra – both physically and ideologically. This stress imposed on their relationship, however, only draws them together.

Toward the end of their escape, Kanan and Ezra must work together using the Force to open a massive hangar door. Despite all the talk of them going their separate ways, Kanan says, “Together! We must open this door together!” Ezra doubts they can do it, but Kanan insists they try. They use the Force to picture the locking mechanism and open the door. Improbably, they make their escape.

Both master and apprentice have a newfound respect for each other, and a renewed commitment to each other.

S1E6 Breaking Ranks Back on Lothal, Ezra has infiltrated an imperial cadet academy as a student. Each day the cadets go through American Ninja Warrior style trials to earn special perks in the academy. Ezra wins his trial, and gains access to the headquarters. With access to the headquarters, he can steal a decoder that would allow the Ghost crew to track and intercept certain shipments and communications.

While in the academy he befriends a few cadets. One of these cadets, Zare Leonis, catches him stealing the decoder and, unexpectedly, helps him with his mission. Zare’s sister had gone missing while at the academy years earlier, and he holds a grudge against the Empire. However, Ezra and Zare are unable to recover the decoder safely that afternoon, so they have to win the next day’s trial to get back into the headquarters to try again. During the next day’s trial Ezra has to betray another cadet he had befriended, Jai, and the Academy Commandant praises his cunning. “There is no friendship in war. The only thing that matters is victory. Victory at any costs.” Later that day Ezra uses the Force to retrieve the decoder undetected while Zare distracts Agent Kallus.

Zare, Jai, and Ezra, cadets at the Imperial Academy on Lothal

However, rather than leave with just the decoder, Ezra wants to break out a few of the cadets – defying the misplaced praise given to him by the commandant. There is friendship in war. Apparently the Inquisitor has asked the Commandant to look out for any cadets who have exceptional skills that could be signs of the Force. Ezra and Jai are both on that list. Ezra wants to rescue Jai before he is captured and perhaps executed by the Inquisitor (as Zare suspects happened to his sister). Ezra continues to grow in his compassion for others, a trait he credits the crew with teaching him. He escapes with Jai, while the other cadet – Zare – decides to stay back so he can learn more about what may have happened to his sister, and serve as a useful contact for Ezra down the road.

That’s a wrap on the first installment of Rebels Rewatch. I hope to tighten things up a bit while still being able to offer both episode summaries and faithful reflections.

Thank you for reading. Peace be with you.

Published by Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. Veteran. Jedi. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.

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