In addition to taking a look at the Legends Continuity of the Expanded Universe, I’m continuing my look at the modern continuity of the Star Wars Universe with the third season of Rebels.
Season 3 shifts up the dynamic of season 2. Season 2 had the crew of the Ghost striking back against the Empire as best as they could while being pursued by Inquisitors chasing after Kanan and Ezra, until their final defeat in the finale of the season. Season 3 ups the ante further by having the Empire put in a more concerted effort to stamp out the growing Rebel Alliance, led by Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Thrawn was a particularly beloved part of the Legends continuity, and the version we see in this series meshes well with this earlier incarnation. He continues to basically serve the role of evil Space Fascist Sherlock Holmes, though with his Watson being not Captain Pellaeon (who does not appear in this season), but rather Agent Kallus, a character who closer to an intellectual equal to Thrawn than Pellaeon was. Not that Pellaeon was a slouch, but more that Kallus, through experience, is fully aware of what the crew of the Ghost is capable of.
This season also has some dramatic character growth for our protagonists. In particular, Kallus joins the side of the angels, first by being revealed to have flipped and been working for the Alliance as a Fulcrum operative, and second at the end of the series fully defecting to the Alliance.
Additionally, Sabine’s backstory as a Mandalorian who had been working for the Empire before joining the Alliance comes to a head. Due to the Alliance’s need for help, now more than ever, Sabine ends up having to lead her people in joining the Rebellion. We also have the conclusion of Maul’s story, with him journeying to Tatooine for his final battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The animation this season has continued to improve, particularly with some of the massive space battles that are featured this season. The forces that the Alliance can muster have grown dramatically, but with it has grown the forces set against them, and in turn, we get much larger scale conflicts on screen.
The ending of this season is, in some ways, darker than the last, with the Alliance facing a significant setback. However, the failure is not remotely as personal as the conclusion of season 2. Season 2’s ending was an emotional blow not only to the viewers, but also to the characters. Here, while the Alliance has taken a beating, their resolve, and with it the resolve of the crew of the Ghost, hasn’t.
If Season 2 made it clear that Rebels wasn’t messing around, Season 3 makes it clear that this is Star Wars. It’s on TV and it’s animated, but that doesn’t make less Star Wars.