I honestly cannot comprehend all the positive reviews for the premiere of Star Wars: Rebels. Everywhere I look, folks are saying what a great triumph it was over all those pre-release haters, and how it’s the best thing since sliced bread, and it revitalizes the Star Wars universe in a way that only Dave Filoni can, and the animation was spectacular, and the writing was brilliant, and…
And I’m baffled.
Because it was none of those things. I thought the writing was bland, the voice-acting was lackluster, the plot was rushed, and the characters were cookie-cutter representations of everyone’s favorite elements (why else would we need a Mandalorian, a hairy alien, a Jedi, and a mysterious orphan who unwittingly is Force-sensitive?), and the animation is the sort of thing you’d expect to find in a 1990’s CGI animation class at the college level. The characters are as realistic and expressive as Duplos (especially the gaunt Wookiees).
Honestly, it has potential, but they really have to rein in the nonsense. They told more than they showed. (This is probably my greatest complaint.) “We have to get to Kessel, the Empire’s prison planet, and rescue the Wookiees!” (next scene) “Here we are at Kessel, rescuing the Wookiees!” How did we get to Kessel? How did we avoid Imperial patrols? How did we dodge planetary defenses, orbiting Imperial vessels, ground-based turbolasers and ion cannons? So much could have–should have–gone wrong, but it proceeded flawlessly. There were no hitches, no hiccups, en route. There were a few minor ones, easily overcome, during the actual rescue, but… they left out so much great story just by telling us that it proceeded easily. They tried to develop Ezra’s character with a monologue from Hera about being a good person. It just comes across as lazy storytelling. “You remember that time we saved the galaxy? That was great.” “How’d you do that?” “Oh, there was this really mean bad guy, and we beat him up, and saved everybody. Now you know what a great team we are.”
There was enough material in that one episode to last half a season, but they crammed it all into one episode. Why? They could have led us on with clues about Kanan’s status as a Jedi, could have given us insight into the characters, helped us develop an attachment to the people we’re watching. They could have made discovery of Kanan’s identity and Ezra’s Force sensitivity an actual plot point, instead of a foregone conclusion. Sure, that would have given us more time with just Agent Kallus and no Inquisitor, but that would have been a good thing. Imperial Intelligence is a scary bunch of people; if the Empire is the Nazi regime and Stormtroopers are stormtroopers, then I.I. is the Gestapo. People fear Imperial Intelligence. But we don’t see that; we see a moderately clever Imperial officer chase down a bunch of rebels, then hand things off to the Big Scary, the Inquisitor. If the Inquisitor were really a Big Scary, we’d have met him halfway through the season, or later, so that we have an escalation of villains and dangers. What’s above an Inquisitor in terms of personal villains? Where will we go in Season 2… or 3… or 6? What would escalate things for our heroes? We’re not likely to get James Earl Jones as a regular, after all. So instead, we’ll end up with the clumsy villains who get trounced every episode (and every season) by the heroes, resulting in a very boring show (especially long-term).
What else did they do in this jam-packed pilot? They eliminated all intra-team conflict. Zeb could have been genuine opposition for Ezra’s continued presence on the ship (basically, Star Wars: Rebels‘ Jayne Cobb), but instead, by the end of the episode, he’s practically hugging the kid. He’s sorry for being so mean, and everyone can live happily ever after. There’s no conflict between our main characters.
What’s interesting about that, you ask? Nothing.
I have not cataloged my full list of complaints about this show, but I’d need to watch it again with a pause button, a red pen, and paper (preferably in the form of a copy of the script) to get all of my objections. Like I said, it has a lot of potential, and before its release, it had a huge amount of hype and promise, and all I see is a mediocre kids’ show set in the Star Wars universe. Maybe next episode, they’ll start breaking into song while boarding the ship, so we’ll know it’s time to board the ship.