All eyes are fixed on the December release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but there’s plenty more happening in the Star Wars universe outside the films. Most significantly, we finally got the Season 3 premiere of Star Wars Rebels, having been left with plenty of questions following the climactic Season 2 finale in early-2016. For the upcoming run of episodes, the series will be treading into some new territory. We’re seeing the reintroduction of familiar faces, a couple new ones, and a story that stands alone as a stellar Star Wars saga in and of itself.
So what did we see in the premiere for the third season of Rebels? Let’s jump in and take a look.
1. Ezra is journeying perilously close to the Dark Side
The Season 3 premiere opens on a rescue mission at an Imperial prison, led by young Jedi-in-training, Ezra Bridger. We see hints at the darkness now lurking in the corners of his personality, as he walks a man straight off of a cliff with a Jedi mind trick. After returning home, he retreats to his quarters, where he pulls out the Sith holocron from the end of Season 2. It begins to speak to him, promising him the power he needs to protect his friends. As Anakin Skywalker learned in the prequels though, this promise comes at the cost of your humanity.
It’s definitely something to keep an eye on as the season progresses. Ezra is still inexperienced in the ways of the Force, and with his mentor dealing with his own problems, he’s largely on his own right now.
2. The Rebellion is beginning to take shape
Early episodes of Star Wars Rebels showed us a Rebellion that had barely begun. Rather than the well-organized, Death Star-destroying force of nature we saw kicking ass in the original trilogy, what we saw instead was a scattered, barely-formed assemblage of military-types doing what they can to battle the Empire’s oppression in small doses.
It’s slowly evolved since then, bringing in Princess Leia in Season 2 as an undercover ally, while cobbling together a fleet of star-fighters ship by ship. The Season 3 premiere shows the Rebellion adding a cadre of Y-Wing bombers to their growing fleet, while the Empire begins to realize that they might soon be dealing with a galaxy-wide uprising. It all sets the stage well for Rogue One, which is set to take place shortly after the Rebels timeline.
3. Grand Admiral Thrawn is here, and he has a plan
Easily the most exciting addition to the Rebels universe this season, Grand Admiral Thrawn is a character who’s been around for awhile. He was originally conceived as the main villain for Timothy Zahn’s now de-canonized Heir to the Empire trilogy, and only found himself inserted back into the Star Wars canon by popular demand.
He’ll act as the main foil for Rebels in Season 3, and it’s clear that the master strategist already has a meticulously constructed plan for victory. Teasing at a strategy to pull apart the fledgling Rebellion piece-by-piece, he could very well end up being the most formidable enemy our heroes have ever come across.
4. Kanan is still dealing with the fallout of his injuries
Our main heroes suffered their fair share of casualties last season, but no one got dealt a worse hand than Kanan Jarrus. Blinded by Darth Maul, he starts Season 3 a broken man, trying to process his new life without sight, and subsequently distancing himself from his impressionable apprentice as well as the rest of the team. Much of his new arc will likely center around how he adjusts to his blindness, although we’ve already seen Donnie Yen’s Rogue One character doing just fine with a similar affliction. Of course having the aid of the Force certainly doesn’t hurt much either. It’s something that will be more important now more than ever for Kanan as he learns to see in a different sort of way.
5. Who (and what) is the Bendu?
We’ve seen all sorts of different creatures wielding the Force in some way throughout the Star Wars saga. The animated Clone Wars series even showed us the godlike analogues for both the light and dark side. Rebels gives us the “one in the middle” in the Bendu, voiced by Doctor Who alum Tom Baker.
Little is known about who or what the Bendu is, but he seems to possess a fair share of useful wisdom, coaching Kanan back from the edge of despair. We haven’t seen the last of the cryptic creature this season either, and with Kanan giving him Ezra’s Sith holocron, odds are that the Bendu’s role will be a significant one as Season 3 continues on.
6. We’re starting to see the bigger picture
A large majority of Rebels‘ first two seasons has revolved around the crew of the Ghost, and their various run-ins with the Empire. Even after officially joining the organized Rebellion last season, the primary story thread dealt in small-scale, self-contained missions with a handful of characters involved. The stakes are much larger now, and it’s something that characters on both sides of the conflict are coming to realize.
For Thrawn, we see him committing to the long-term goal of tearing the Rebellion up from its roots, rather than trying to win small, often meaningless battles. Meanwhile, our heroes are beginning to understand that the actions of a few affect many, and that ultimate victory will end only when the Empire is entirely vanquished.
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