Many let a cry of outrage when The Clone Wars was cancelled, only to be suddenly silenced when they realised that Star Wars: Rebels, also from the mind of Clone Wars creator Dave Filoni, was a more than ample replacement.
That’s not to say Rebels is a straightforward placeholder for Clone Wars though. While its forebear at times seemed like an anthology series, with different cast members taking centre stage one week after the next, Rebels is more tightly focused, centring on the escapades of the crew of the Ghost: former Jedi padawan Kanan Jarrus (Freddy Prinze Jr), Force-sensitive orphan Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray), Twi’lek pilot Hera Syndulla (Vanessa Marshall), brawny gunslinger Zeb Orrelios (Steve Blum), Mandalorian armour-clad graffiti artist Sabine Wren (Tiya Sircar) and permanently irate droid Chopper.
Heading up the antagonists are the on-the-nose-named Imperial officer Agent Kallus (David Oyelowo) and the Inquisitor (Jason Isaacs), a minion of Darth Vader sent to hunt down the Rebels.
Initially, it’s all very Disney XD: the first couple of episodes are very standalone, focusing on more comic-relief escapades like Ezra and Zeb nicking a TIE-Fighter and various Stormtroopers getting their heads bashed in rather than any particularly heavy focus on the wider Star Wars universe (although there are nods, like that hologram recording of Obi-Wan Kenobi warning the remaining Jedi to avoid Coruscant). More than anything, they’re focused on allowing us to get to know the characters and establishing a sense of fun.
Come ‘Rise Of The Old Masters’, and the first appearance of the Inquisitor, everything changes. Even when at its weakest, the Star Wars saga has consistently produced memorable, iconic villains, and he is no exception. Articulate, charismatic and deadly, he is Maul by way of Dooku, and as long as he’s involved, there’s always a sense of impending danger.
With the status quo established, from here Rebels is able to have a little more fun, bringing in old favourites like Grand Moff Tarkin and Lando Calrissian and observing the way they bounce off the new creations. Filler between two films this may be, but this never feels like it: independently it works, and that’s the most important thing.
Equally importantly, it doesn’t pander to the young target audience. Danger is always present – especially in season finale ‘Fire Across The Galaxy’, in which major characters look decidedly unsafe on a number of occasions – and it goes to places you wouldn’t necessarily expect Star Wars to go.
There’s still things that can be improved on though. Some characters don’t receive the development others benefit from, with Sabine in particular remaining a frustrating blank slate despite the intriguing origins that her armour hints at.
With Season 2 imminent though, there’s time for this. For now, we can bask in a solid first year.