Star Wars Rebels contains some of the finest Star Wars storytelling we’ve ever seen.
The animated series ran for four years and, despite being written off by some as a childish show for kids, reached some highs that rival the best of the best in the galaxy far, far away. With Dave Filoni as showrunner, the series focuses on a band of rebels who become a family: there’s the ace pilot Hera Syndulla, the Jedi Kanan Jarrus, his apprentice Ezra Bridger, the Mandalorian Sabine Wren, the Lasat Garazeb “Zeb” Orrellos, and the sassy droid Chopper. Together they find themselves swept up into a much larger story, joining the Rebellion and running into characters like Ahsoka Tano, Rex, Darth Vader, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mon Mothma, Maul, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Leia Organa, Lando Calrissian, and many others.
It’s a great show that’s worth watching in its own right, but also because it seems massively significant in the current Star Wars canon, such that I would argue it’s basically essential viewing if you want to keep up with what’s going on in these other shows and stories. Fortunately the showrunners of these other stories seem to be well aware that most of their viewers won’t be familiar with these animated shows and books and comics and do a good job of bringing in familiar elements even if you’re unaware of them (like Cad Bane, Cobb Vanth, and Krrsantan, for instance). But I’d put Rebels up there with the films as core, essential viewing if you want to really track with what’s happening (and The Clone Wars too, but I think you’ll see why I am singling out Rebels here as we go on).
For those enjoying The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and The Bad Batch, and for those looking forward to upcoming stories like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ahsoka, and the continuation of The Mandalorian, here are nine different ways in which Rebels is so important to keep up with and sheds significant light on what’s happening.
She first appeared in The Clone Wars and that’s really where you see the most development of her character. But I think you can watch Rebels and come away with a much better idea about Ahsoka even if you’ve never seen The Clone Wars (although those two shows are very closely connected), and in fact I think many of the most significant stories in her life that fans would need to be up on happen in Rebels. If you watch Rebels, you’ll understand a lot more about who she is and what she’s dealing with in this period, as well as see what’s driving her when we encounter her again in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett and the upcoming Ahsoka series. In fact, I would basically say you need to watch at least the Ahsoka episodes of Rebels before watching Ahsoka – because that show is, from the sound of it, going to be the long-rumored sequel to Rebels.
READ MORE: Who is Ahsoka Tano?
Similar to Ahsoka, Bo-Katan is most known for The Clone Wars and that’s where you’ll encounter her to the fullest. In fact, I think that’s even more true for Bo-Katan than it is for Ahsoka, as Kryze only shows up in two episodes of Rebels. But there are some statements made that help viewers get to know who she is even if you haven’t seen TCW, and most importantly, it is in this series that Bo-Katan is gifted the darksaber – something that comes very much into play in the second season of The Mandalorian. It’s only because of Rebels that we thought to ask why she wouldn’t just take the darksaber this time, since she had already taken it before, something that was answered in The Book of Boba Fett. In Rebels, we see Kryze taking the darksaber and preparing to unite Mandalore with it… and then in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett we learn that it didn’t go well. There is key context provided.
READ MORE: Who is Bo-Katan Kryze?
This lightsaber is featured in The Mandalorian and in The Book of Boba Fett, and though there’s information given that provides the viewer enough context in those shows, Rebels (and The Clone Wars before it) provides some important and key information. Rebels explains the history of the lightsaber and why it is so important. Rebels shows that Maul still had the saber until Sabine Wren took it. Rebels shows Sabine training with the lightsaber (in a scene that parallels one from The Book of Boba Fett and helps explain why the saber felt so heavy for Din Djarin) and then winning and wielding it in combat. Rebels shows Sabine giving the saber to Bo-Katan. In other words, if you want to know more about this mysterious darksaber, and its significance to the Mandalorian people, you need to watch Rebels.
I’ve mentioned Sabine a couple of times now, so you might be wondering who she is. Sabine has yet to appear in a live-action series, but you’d better start getting to know her, as Natasha Liu Bordizzo will be starring as the character in the upcoming Ahsoka series. Sabine was created for Rebels and was one of the main characters of the series, and she figures to become a very important character for this inter-connected live-action story moving forward. She’s a Mandalorian who has trained to wield the darksaber and who has a history with Ahsoka and Bo-Katan – I mean, that’s a character who is absolutely perfectly suited for these shows. And she formed a very strong friendship and bond with Ezra Bridger, which will likely come into play in a significant way as well…
The plot of Ahsoka
We don’t know a lot about what the Ahsoka series will be about, but we have enough clues to piece the basics together: Ahsoka is searching for Grand Admiral Thrawn (as we heard in The Mandalorian season two). She’ll be accompanied by Sabine Wren. And as such, the epilogue of Star Wars Rebels basically sets up what this show will be about. At the end of the Battle of Lothal, Thrawn and Ezra Bridger are taken into hyperspace by a group of purrgil. Flash forward several years to some point after the Galactic Civil War (though we don’t know exactly how many years, or when this moment from the epilogue happens) and Ahsoka shows up on Lothal to get Sabine, and the two of them leave to go in search of Ezra together. This is likely a big part of what Ahsoka’s search for Thrawn is really about, and thus this will likely be a big part of what the Ahsoka series will be about. Which means, then, that watching Rebels will likely be even more important for that series than it’s been for these other ones, which is certainly saying something!
READ MORE: With one line, The Mandalorian blew the possibilities for future Star Wars storytelling wide open
Grand Admiral Thrawn
Another person I’ve mentioned repeatedly already is Thrawn, and again, Rebels is key here. Thrawn’s influence certainly extends far beyond just this series, as he’s been a massive figure in Star Wars books for decades, but Rebels is his lone on-screen appearance – so far. But Ahsoka is searching for him in The Mandalorian, and there are tons of signs that Thrawn will emerge to be the main villain of this storytelling era, which we know will culminate in a climactic story event. It seems that Thrawn has returned, and if you want to know who he is – and how he disappeared – you need to watch Rebels. Thrawn is surely coming to live-action at some point soon, and if you want to understand why that will be such a massive deal for Star Wars fans, you can start with Rebels (but also check out the books by Timothy Zahn too).
READ MORE: Who is Grand Admiral Thrawn?
Shifting gears a little bit, let’s talk about the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series. We know that Darth Vader will be in it, but it also seems likely (and rumors suggest as well) that we will see Inquisitors in the show. In fact, this is my guess as to who Moses Ingram might be playing in the series. And should this turn out to be the case, then Rebels will again be vital context to understand what’s happening. The Inquisitors first appeared in this series but have also shown up in comics and books and the video game Jedi: Fallen Order, and in this series we learn that these are Jedi hunters working for Vader and the Empire to track down any surviving Jedi. They are not Sith, but they work for Vader and serve similar purposes.
READ MORE: All the Imperial Inquisitors we know of so far
Why no rematch with Maul
This one is important in the sense of giving context about why something is not happening. I’ve seen fans hoping for Maul to show up in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series to see a final duel between them, but not only is that role being taken by Vader instead (which is far more fitting), Rebels actually already showed that. We learned about how Maul came to find out Kenobi was still alive, how he tracked him down, and then the final confrontation between the two old rivals, which ended with Maul dying in Obi-Wan’s arms. So for those who are hoping to see this in Obi-Wan Kenobi, just watch Rebels! It’s all there instead.
READ MORE: One story the Obi-Wan Kenobi series doesn’t need to tell is a rematch with Maul, because that already happened in Star Wars Rebels
The Bad Batch cameos
One last thing that I will mention here is that Rebels provides context for several of the cameos that we saw in the first season of The Bad Batch, and I’m sure that will only continue in season two. In the first episode of the show, we saw Order 66 happen and Hunter try to help a young Jedi padawan whose master had just been killed. But who is this Jedi? It’s Caleb Dume, who would later be known as Kanan Jarrus, who is one of the main characters of Rebels. Then in a two-episode arc midseason, we saw Ryloth and the Syndullas, Cham and his daughter Hera. Who are they? Both of them show up in Rebels, and Hera is one of the main characters of the series. And then toward the end of the season, we see another clone named Gregor. Who is he? Well, he shows up in Rebels too.
READ MORE: Who is Caleb Dume?
READ MORE: Who are Cham and Hera Syndulla?
READ MORE: Who is Gregor?