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If you’re interested in knowing the key moments, plot arcs, and themes from this top-rated TV show, this Star Wars: Rebels summary is for you. Personally, I’m a big fan of this series. At first, I thought it looked like a child’s show – compared to Clone Wars, the animation is a little softer, the dialogue more straightforward, and the plots less deeply intertwined with the overall lore.
That, however, was the first season. It was a little similar to Clone Wars in that way, growing into itself as time went on. Each season improved on the last, and while it began very child-friendly (as did Clone Wars, let’s remember), it was soon creating a detailed plot arc of its own.
Star Wars: Rebels focuses on Ezra Bridger, an orphan living on the planet Lothal (also central to the show). He lives as a pickpocket, con artist, and thief, making a living by stealing from anyone he comes across. For him, it’s all about survival. He’s soon to be picked up by the Spectres in their ship, the Ghost. From here, he’ll be transported into the world of a localized Rebellion, learn to be a Jedi, and develop into the solid young leader he needs to be.
Along the way, he’ll be led astray by characters such as Maul, Hondo Ohnaka, Thrawn, and even Palpatine. Nevertheless, he’s always guided back to the light through his master, Kanan Jarrus, Ahsoka Tano, and visions of Yoda and his deceased parents.
I’ll focus on some of the story arcs one by one in this article. Of course, there are far too many episodes to talk about in detail. Instead, I’ll just consider the main storylines and how they pan out across the four seasons and 75 episodes of Rebels. This isn’t an in-depth explanation of everything that happens. Rather, it’s a summary of the key plot points. If you’ve yet to watch it, I hope it’s enough to get you hooked.
Let’s get into it.
Plot arcs – Star Wars: Rebels summary
Ezra’s character is actually fairly typical for the Star Wars universe. The Jedi have little to no relationship with their parents. Anakin loses touch with his mother and has no biological father. Luke has no memory of his parents before his guardians, Owen and Beru, are slaughtered. Leia’s in the same situation, with her adopted parents dying on Alderaan. Rey’s parents die protecting her, as do Jyn Erso’s. Basically, orphans aren’t unusual characters in this galaxy.
Where Ezra really comes into his own as an original character, though, is his rebellious streak. He doesn’t wallow in his emotion and instead takes it out against the establishment, becoming almost cockily confident in his skills. When we first meet him, he’s a slightly irritating, overconfident boy. The Spectre team cautiously welcomes him as one of their own, and one by one, they begin to trust him more and more. This slowly wears him down, and he becomes a kind, giving individual.
He develops different relationships with each of the team (intentionally done by the creative minds behind the show, no doubt). In figure, Kanan is his surrogate father. Hera is his mother. Sabine is his older sister, Zeb his older brother, and Chopper his younger sibling. He learns leadership from Kanan and Hera and gets direct support and strength from the other three.
Eventually, he’s deceived by Maul and led astray, very nearly falling to the Dark Side out of his frustration, hatred, and loneliness. However, the combined calming influences of Kanan and Ahsoka bring him back. Although he almost makes a serious mistake, they save him, although Tano assumingly dies.
Later, Kanan, having been blinded by Maul, sacrifices himself to allow the Ghost crew to escape. After his passing, the entire Spectre squad mourns him. As the surviving Jedi, Ezra is now the most powerful team member and possibly the most consequential in the Rebellion.
Ezra’s main struggles lie around his family. His parents were taken by the Empire, and although he wouldn’t find out for many years, they died in prison. All his life, he’s fought hard against the concept of family, finding it too hard to bear to lose those he loves. The topic is rarely broached throughout the first season, and when it is, Ezra immediately shuts it down. It’s only when he learns of their deaths and Maul begins to lead him astray that the problem is ever fully addressed. Although he understandably finds this almost impossibly difficult, he eventually accepts that his mother and father are gone, and nothing can be done to bring them back. He has a new family in the Spectres and the broader Rebel Alliance instead.
Initially, he struggles with the responsibility but rises to the occasion, becoming a leader, tactician, and inspiration to everyone around him. Ezra’s no longer a boy, but, through almost impossible odds, he becomes a Jedi and a man. Ultimately, he – in a way – sacrifices himself by calling the purrgil to carry him, Thrawn, and the Imperial fleet into the Unknown Regions of space, liberating Lothal. Once the war is won, a manhunt is sparked to find and rescue him.
What happens to Ezra next? That’s still up in the air, but I’m sure one of the upcoming Disney+ series (probably Ahsoka) will address it.
Growth of the Rebellion
Rebels shows part of how the Rebel Alliance grew from various pockets of Resistance to the Empire throughout the galaxy and how they united under characters such as Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, and finally, his adopted daughter, Leia.
On Lothal, there isn’t much going on in terms of rebellion – not visibly, at least. Ezra later learns that his parents were arrested by the Empire for running a sort of pirate radio station where they promoted liberation and unrest against their Imperial overlords. The Rebel Alliance grows on the planet – it’s one of many tiny “sparks” (to use broader Star Wars terminology) that will collectively fuel the fire to destroy the Empire.
Rebels primarily focuses on the Spectre team. While not so much a Rebel cell, they’re more of a ragtag special operations unit and regularly move around to meet different influential leaders. Rebels also shows that Ahsoka Tano, the ex-Jedi and former Padawan of Anakin Skywalker, going by the codename “Fulcrum”, is one of the leading players in creating organized resistance to the Empire.
Sabine Wren, Spectre 5, is a Mandalorian from Clan Wren. She’s the descendent of one of the most powerful families on the decimated planet.
Although it’s not yet been covered in exquisite detail, the Great Purge of Mandalore was when the Empire laid waste to the planet and the vast majority of its proud warrior population. During the Night of a Thousand Tears (hinted at in The Mandalorian), TIE Bombers almost utterly destroyed the planet. The Empire couldn’t control it… so no one could.
The Darksaber was an ancient symbol of Mandalorian rulership, created by Tarre Vizsla, the first Mandalorian Jedi. Whoever had it could claim the title of Mand’alor, the true leader of the planet. It was passed down through Viszla’s descendants, ending up in the hands of Pre Viszla, the leader of Death Watch. Viszla was bested and killed in combat by Maul, who claimed the title for himself. After being beaten by Sidious, the Darksaber was lost for some years until Sabine Wren found it in the Nightsister lair on Dathomir, where Maul had left it.
Rebels details this key stage of the plot. Sabine brought it back to Mandalore, ashamed for her part in creating a superweapon that decimated her fellow warriors. She had been an Imperial student at the time. Although she leads her world to freedom and begins work uniting the clans, she’s not ready for the mantle of leadership and passes the weapon freely to Bo-Katan Kryze.
Shortly after, the Night of a Thousand Tears commences, in part led by Moff Gideon. He takes the Darksaber from Bo-Katan and keeps it until he’s defeated by Din Djarin. You can find out more about this in The Mandalorian.
Kanan and the Jedi
Kanan Jarrus (real name Caleb Dune – see Bad Batch, Episode 1) was a young Jedi Padawan studying under Depa Billaba at Order 66’s execution. The clone troopers quickly gunned down his master, who instructed him to run.
Rebels sees Caleb, now known as Kanan, sporting a ponytail and a concealed lightsaber. He’s fallen head over heels in love with Hera Syndulla, a Rebel Twi’lek pilot and daughter of Ryloth’s freedom fighter Cham Syndulla (see Clone Wars). Together, he and Hera form the parental guidance aspect of the Spectres.
Kanan is strong with the Force but never completed his official Jedi training. Thus, when Ezra comes along and needs a teacher, he’s highly hesitant. At first, he tries to find another Jedi to teach the reckless, arrogant young boy, but this only leads to understandable feelings of rejection from Ezra. Instead, Kanan realizes he must teach the boy himself, passing on what he knows.
Kanan carefully instructs Ezra in the ways of the Force, telling him to be mindful of everything around him – especially his emotions. He can feel how much the boy struggles and often becomes exasperated. Nevertheless, he learns as much from his student as his student learns from him. At one point, Kanan is attacked by Maul, who blinds him. He thus becomes even more dependent on the Force and grows much stronger again.
Eventually, Kanan dies protecting Ezra, Hera, and Sabine from a colossal fuel refinery explosion while rescuing Hera from captivity. He holds the explosion’s blast back using the Force, turning to look at his friend, the woman he loves, and the pupil he cared for one last time before pushing them away, only to be engulfed by the explosion. In this moment, his clouded eyes clear, and his mind is set on the future. He has given it his all. It’s up to them now.
Clone Wars saw Ahsoka train and grow under the mentorship of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Captain Rex. When she was forced out of the Jedi Order by the Council, she opted to leave. She only returned, jointly with Bo-Katan Kryze, when she needed help from her old master and clone troopers in freeing Mandalore. On the planet, she, Rex, Kryze, and the troopers defeated Maul and his fellow conspirators, only for Order 66 to be issued shortly after. Ahsoka freed Maul, who escaped, while she and Rex were forced to crash their starcruiser, killing all their brainwashed friends. (Jesse… noo…)
Now in Rebels, she’s operating under the codename of Fulcrum. Older, wiser, and more careful, she’s coordinating alliances and creating connections between systems, laying the foundations for the later Rebel Alliance. Ahsoka still uses the Force but declines to consider herself a Jedi. She’ll still help train Ezra at various points and always protects him.
During the siege of Lothal, Ahsoka and Kanan both feel an intensely evil presence during the Ghost‘s narrow getaway. She recognizes it as the twisted mind of her old master, Anakin Skywalker, but refuses to outwardly admit it. Now, she suspects that Vader is her old friend under the mask. Later, in the Lothal Jedi Temple, a vision confirms it. She then travels to Malachor, searching for information to help them destroy the Sith. Here, they find an old Sith Temple and are confronted by many foes: three Inquisitors, Maul, and Darth Vader himself.
Maul allies with Ahsoka, Kanan, and Ezra to defeat the three Inquisitors with relative ease. Meanwhile, he’s almost convinced Ezra to become his apprentice, sending him into the Temple with the Sith Holocron to activate the superweapon. After Maul betrays them, blinding Kanan, Ahsoka leaves them to fight (which Kanan wins) while she goes to rescue Ezra.
At the top of the Temple, she finds Vader about to execute the boy and intervenes. She uses the Force to push Ezra and Kanan clear, saving them but stays behind to duel Vader. Although it looks like she’s been killed – something Bridger carries with him for two long years – she, in fact, survived. Later, Ezra would open the portal to the World Between Worlds and pull Ahsoka from her imminent death. Thanking him, she returns to a different point on Malachor and flees.
Later, Ahsoka joins the hunt for Ezra after he sacrifices himself in Kanan’s example, pulling Admiral Thrawn’s Imperial fleet into hyperspace. That’s where the Ahsoka series, along with The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, pick up the story.
As mentioned previously, much of Maul’s story is tied in with Ahsoka and Mandalore. For more information on his story, watch the latter Clone Wars seasons – here, it’s covered in great detail. For the relevance of this article, I’ll focus on the end of his life.
Since his return from madness and exile, Maul’s all-consuming desire has been revenge. Revenge on the Jedi who took his legs: Obi-Wan Kenobi. After escaping the blinded Kanan Jarrus and Malachor, he finally tracks the old man down on Tatooine. Living the life of an exile has aged Obi-Wan, something Maul is all too keen to point out.
They then engage in what I consider the second-best duel in all of Star Wars (just behind Obi-Wan vs. Anakin and just ahead of that Throne Room scene from Episode 8). Maul takes up his usual stance, as does Obi-Wan. However, he then shifts his position to emulate Qui-Gon’s fighting style. Maul sees this but opts to remain with his current technique. He then flies at Kenobi, slashing before trying to butt him in the face with his lightsaber handle – the method he used to kill Jinn. However, Obi-Wan has anticipated this and brings his saber blade down through Maul’s hilt, slicing him across the torso.
As he lies dying, he asks Kenobi if he’s protecting the Chosen One, who will destroy the Sith. In a moment of respect for the hardship Maul’s endured, Obi-Wan tells him that he is (although he’s incorrect). He then buries his body in the Tatooine desert. It’s surprisingly emotional and incredible how the writers create empathy even for Maul. His sendoff is touching, respectful, and brings rest and closure to the once-mighty Dark Side warrior.
Other Summary Points of Rebels
Star Wars: Rebels is actually quite unique in one thing – unashamed and direct environmental activism. The series constantly highlights the beauty of nature and the creatures residing within it. Ezra’s most unique Force powers are his intimate connections to these beings and what they represent. The most prominent are the lothwolves and the purrgil, both of which are instrumental in his eventual defeat of the technologically and tactically advanced Thrawn.
The lothwolves may not represent anything other than the overall idea of “mother nature” and the balance brought about by harmony. They’re a manifestation of the Force in this way. The purrgil, however, are most certainly symbolic of planet Earth’s great whales. Hunted almost into extinction, they were the subject of vast worldwide campaigns like Save The Whales. We might believe that the problem’s over, but it isn’t really. These incredible creatures continue to die completely avoidable deaths from hunting and plastic pollution. Rebels does a fantastic job of highlighting their supreme intelligence and the tragedy of destroying them.
Star Wars: Rebels key moments
Highlighting just a few key moments across this expansive series is very difficult. As I’ve briefly touched on above, there are many plot points, arcs, characters, and lore facts to learn.
I’ve decided to narrow this list of key moments by explicitly focusing on Ezra’s character-building moments – the things that turn him from a boy into a man, a street urchin into a Jedi Knight, a thief, and scoundrel into a valued member and leader of the Rebel Alliance. Rebels is, after all, really all about Ezra.
- S1E1-2 – Spark of Rebellion – meet Ezra Bridger and the Spectres: Kanan, Hera, Zeb, Sabine, and Chopper.
- S1E5 – Rise of the Old Masters – Kanan and Ezra’s father/son relationship develops in the face of extreme hardship.
- S1E9 – Gathering Forces – Ezra learns that his parents were abandoned by their friend and struggles to connect to the Force.
- S1E10 – Path of the Jedi – Kanan and Ezra head to the Lothal Jedi Temple. They receive instructions and lessons through visions.
- S1E15 – Fire Across the Galaxy – the Spectres face off against the Grand Inquisitor and Vader while Fulcrum reveals herself.
- S2E1-2 – The Siege of Lothal – the crew of the Ghost return to Lothal, but Vader has set a trap. They manage to flee, but the Sith Lord attacks the fleet.
- S2E11 – Legacy – Ezra returns to Lothal and learns of his parents’ death for certain.
- S2E15 – The Call – we meet the purrgil, friendly space-dwelling hyperspace whales, with whom Ezra develops a deep Force connection.
- S2E18 – Ezra, Ahsoka, and Kanan return to the Lotha Jedi Temple for answers to their questions and fears.
- S2E21-22 – Twilight of the Apprentice – on Malachor, the three ally with Maul as they try to learn more about the Sith. Maul almost turns Ezra to the Dark Side, but he’s saved by Ahsoka, who “sacrifices” herself. Maul blinds Kanan, who then defeats him in combat anyway.
- S3E1-2 – Steps Into Shadow – some years later, a short-haired Ezra and the Spectres rescue Hondo from an Imperial prison. Meanwhile, Admiral Thrawn is brought in to deal with the Rebellion.
- S3E3 – The Holocrons of Fate – Maul returns in an attempt to finalize and carry out his plan, forcing Ezra and Kanan to intervene.
- S3E11 – Visions and Voices – Ezra goes with Maul one more time to try to sever their connection. Maul seeks answers and direction.
- S3E12-13 – Ghosts of Geonosis – in these episodes, Ezra displays his confidence, leadership skills, and Light Side tendencies.
- S3E20 – Twin Suns – Ezra tries to warn Obi-Wan of Maul’s impending attack, temporarily abandoning his Rebel squad. As it turns out, Kenobi needs no assistance.
- S4E7 – Kindred – Ezra’s connection to Dume and the loth-wolves deepens.
- S4E9 – Rebel Assault – Hera gets captured.
- S4E10 – Jedi Night – Kanan rescues Hera from captivity. However, he sacrifices himself to save the crew.
- S4E11 – Dume – without Kanan, the Rebels look for guidance – Ezra, particularly. The lead Loth-wolf introduces himself as Dume, Kanan’s birth family name. The wolf becomes the manifestation of Kanan’s will through the Force.
- S4E12 – Wolves and a Door – Ezra’s connection with Dume and the loth-wolves deepens. He and Sabine infiltrate the Jedi Temple.
- S4E13 – A World Between Worlds – Ezra uses this extra dimension to pull Ahsoka from death. He’s tempted to rescue Kanan, too, but knows he can’t. It turns out to be a deception from Palpatine anyway. Note: this same dimension is how Palpatine survived the Death Star’s shaft.
- S4E14 – Ezra leads the liberation of Lothal with help from all over the galaxy, including Dume and the lothwolves.
- S4E15 – Family Reunion – and Farewell – as Admiral Thrawn appears to have Ezra, the Rebels, and the planet cornered, Ezra surrenders himself. He withstands temptations from Palpatine before using the Force to summon the purrgil, dragging the Imperial fleet away into the Unknown Regions. His sacrifice – his pose mirroring Kanan’s – saves the Rebels and prepares them for the next big fight.
In summary, Star Wars: Rebels is almost flawless. It’s a profoundly moving story disguised behind simplistic plots (on an individual basis) and soft-featured animation techniques. I love it. To be honest, it took me a few episodes to really get into it, but once I was, I never looked back.
Star Wars: Rebels was the original successor to Clone Wars, which was ultimately shelved with Disney’s acquisition of the franchise (um, why?! Anyway…). However, it became its standalone series, with Bad Batch now seen as the true spiritual follow-on.
It’s really all about Ezra and, through him, the Rebels he influences and who influence him. His character shares striking similarities with the techniques Dave Filoni openly discusses using when introducing Ahsoka Tano to the wider story. He begins naive, irritating, and cocky, but through several deeply hurtful incidents (making the audience feel empathy for him), he slowly grows into a mature Rebel and Jedi. Eventually, his mid-length, wavy hair becomes a more sensible short cut, following the pattern of Ahsoka’s outfit change a couple of seasons into Clone Wars. This evidence proves that this is a great way to introduce new, important characters to a much-loved story.
If I had to summarise Rebels quickly, I’d say it’s all about family. Ezra loses his, and the resultant pain is an almost constant temptation toward the Dark Side for him. Rey experiences similar difficulties in The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. However, he fights through these, overcoming himself and thus becoming the Jedi he was always destined to be. He puts off selfishness and puts on kindness and self-sacrificial love – just like Kanan. Following his master’s example to the end, he calls the purrgil to Thrawn’s ship, disappearing into hyperspace along with every last major threat to Lothal. He lost his old family because they died trying to save him and their home planet. Now, he’s saved Lothal and his new family, the Spectres and the Rebels, through his own death-defying actions.
What happens next? I can’t wait to find out.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Who is the traitor in Star Wars: Rebels?
Answer: In Rebels, ISB Agent Kallus is revealed to be a Rebel agent who took on the codename Fulcrum after Ahsoka’s perceived demise. Although working wholeheartedly for the Empire at first, he soon realizes the damage he’s doing and switches sides, providing vital information on Thrawn’s tactics and movements.
Question: How old was Ezra in Star Wars: Rebels?
Answer: Ezra is born in 19 BBY. The first season of Rebels occurs in 5 BBY, making him about 14. Each season then adds approximately one year to the timeline until the final season (Season 4) takes place in 0 BBY – that is, not long before the destruction of the Death Star and the beginning of the end for the Empire. Thus, he’s about 19 when he commands the purrgil to pull Thrawn and his fleet into the Unknown Regions.
Question: How old is Kanan in Star Wars: Rebels?
Answer: Kanan is born in 33 BBY. This makes him about 14 years older than Ezra, and thus 33 when he sacrifices himself to allow Hera, Ezra, and Sabine to escape. Meeting Ezra approximately 5 years before this, he would’ve been 28 in Rebels Season 1.
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