Star Wars Rebels and the “Shiny” Force

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Disney X-D’s Star Wars Rebels: unintentionally helping fill that Firefly void. Image: Lisa Kay Tate.

When Star Wars Rebels: The Complete Season One was released September 1, we received a review copy for our family blog.

I hadn’t gotten a chance to get into the series yet, and although I was expecting to enjoy it, I didn’t expect it to help fill a little aching sci-fi void that has been lurking around since 2003.

Star Wars Rebels, at least the first season so far, has helped to satisfy that little craving for new episodes of Joss Whedon’s Firefly  (which we all know aren’t coming).

Okay, okay, hold on a second; bear with me on this one.

For those who are either hardcore Firefly Browncoats or longtime Star Wars aficionados, please hear me out. I’m not saying Whedon’s television masterpiece has been replaced by an animated series. Neither am I saying the premise of the original series Star Wars Rebels was based in any way on Firefly. No, these two series are standouts in their own right.

What I am saying is, for me, Star Wars Rebels brought back to television the edgy, rebellious “space western” spirit that has been long missing in the genre since Fox’s “sudden but inevitable betrayal” of Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his crew.

Here’s why:

There’s great interaction between crew members. Part of what made Firefly so much fun was the grab bag of personalities bouncing off each other on a regular basis. There was bickering, bantering, flirting, and insult flinging, as well as some really great dinner table conversations. Rebels brings us the same. There’s such a casual, natural way they interact that makes the crew as much fun to watch, especially for an animated series. There’s the obvious blooming bromance between Ezra and Zeb, but there are also those little subtle actions, like Kanan bringing Hera coffee (or whatever that world’s equivalent is) before a conversation. It just makes this crew more laid back and believable.

There’s the “outlaw” appeal. This is the most obvious comparison. We loved Firefly because they were a wild bunch, worthy of any spaghetti western, lookin’ for justice (sometimes), but mostly for trouble. Yes, Jedi are elegant, honorable, and fantastic warriors, but rebels are the bad boys and girls of the galaxy. Think of the image conjured when one says “Luke Skywalker” versus “Han Solo.” I’m going out on a limb that the latter conjured more sly grins and metal thumbs up. That’s how the outlaw effect works. That’s how the Rebels effect works, too. Kanan certainly fits that bill. He was even billed as the “cowboy Jedi” before the series was released. You’ll want to hold on for the ride in this series and maybe steal a TIE Fighter or two in the process.

There’s Kaylee and Sabine. It’s not a stretch to see a resemblance in the leadership skills between Firefly’s Zoë and Rebels’ Hera, but on the surface Kaylee seems like an innocent school kid compared to Sabine’s more street-savvy attitude. Look a little closer and there’s a wonderful connection between them. Their knowledge of mechanics and technology is inspiring, and they each have this absolute free-thinking artistic edge that gives them color and vibrancy from their personal appearance to their personal space amidst a sea of brown and battleship grey. These are my kind of independent-minded, artsy girls.

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The crews of Firefly’s Serenity and Star Wars Rebels’ Ghost would either make a great team or worthy foes. Image: Lisa Kay Tate.

They have places to go, people to see. Firefly always had a “road movie” appeal to it, with a new adventure (sometimes an ill-fated one) around each turn. Star Wars’ animated predecessor, The Clone Wars, did its share of visiting other places and introducing new characters, but the story was more linear, heading towards an end game we all knew wouldn’t be too happy. In Rebels, not only do we know there’s a brighter future ahead for the rebels and Jedi someday, this is an entirely new bunch of characters whose fate isn’t quite as set. This means there’s still a wide galaxy of adventure ahead, and we want to go there.

There’s the “repeat-viewer” factor. Firefly may have only lasted one season (not counting the movie Serenity), but it’s a frequently watched one. Viewers return again and again to their favorite episode, often quoting the lines along with the characters. We’re already quoting some of the dialogue from Rebels:

“What does that even mean? How can I do something if I don’t try to do it?”

Ezra, questioning the classic logic of Yoda.

These are episodes we know we already want to watch again, just for fun and excitement.

However, one of the things I really enjoyed about Star Wars Rebels, unlike Firefly, it was more geared towards family viewing. I have no problem with my 13-year-old rewatching old Firefly episodes with me, but there are a few risqué or scary moments I’m not ready to share with my 6-year-old. Star Wars Rebels, however, has taken the entire family by the collar and roped us into an adventure we can all travel on without worrying about any cringe-worth moments.

Honestly, I still miss Firefly, even with the comics, online universe, and cult culture that makes a fair attempt at keeping the series’ spirit alive, but nothing has come as close to bringing back that excitement of adventuring to new places with a rebellious band of assorted heroes and outlaws as Star Wars Rebels.

Firefly might never return to the airwaves, but at least with Star Wars Rebels, the world of science fiction seems, once again, a little more, well, “Shiny!”

Originally ran in GeekMom Sept. 23, 2015.

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