By: Matthew J.R. Kohler
It has been a couple of weeks since the “big” finale of Rebels, so I wanted to take a step back to analyze why the season finale did not work for me.
We all knew it was going to happen—Ashoka Tano versus Darth Vader. What we didn’t know is that in the same episode Darth Maul fights Ahsoka, and the Inquisitors, who are fending off a temple. The episode sure was filled with a lot. In fact, too much. All I ever hear about is this show has cool ideas, but a lot of filler. Why would you utilize three of your biggest characters in the show in the same episode? Not only does that diminish the impact they have on the show, but also it’s a wasted opportunity to explore such potentially rich material. I feel that this episode could have been spread over a few episodes.
For the most part, the episode is hard to watch because of the extreme difference between this show and Clone Wars. The most annoying difference is in the tone. This show tries to be serious, but comically stumbles. When Darth Maul appeared and told Ahsoka his plan to train Ezra, I laughed. We know Maul to be a brilliant mastermind in war, yet he picks this loser to be his apprentice? What also makes this show less serious are the color tone, drawing schemes, and direction. For a second, let’s compare the two Clone Wars shows (the most recent one, and the one from 2003). We can agree that the animation is totally different, but they remain serious. I think it’s because the two shows portray their characters “equally”, and they work in the universe that each of them built. With Rebels, that’s not the case. One minute you have Vader destroying an entire fleet. The next you have Inquisitors escaping via lightsabers that are used as helicopters(?). It seems like this show can’t decide if it wants to be like the cartoonish 2003 Clone Wars show or the dead serious 2008 version.
I mentioned that Ahsoka, Maul, and Vader are all in this episode. That is another problem–none of those characters are Rebels characters. You can even say that the story is not even a Rebels story. Instead, this episode felt like Dave Filoni’s attempt to finally finish his Clone Wars series. That’s cool and all, but don’t make the main characters take the back seat in their own show.
Yes, we got to see Ashoka versus Vader. That’s a great idea, but the execution was poor. Lighting and color did so much for The Clone Wars. I remember many episodes where Maul would be enhanced by lighting, to where his eyes and diabolical speeches were you knew he wasn’t a throwaway character. Each time I see Darth Vader in this show, I instantly say, “This is a kid’s show.” I know people are going to say to me, “Well, dur!”, but don’t forget that this show, prior to its premiere, was advertised as “the new Clone Wars.” So, how can the two shows not be compared? Whether or not you agree with the right to compare, the bottomline is that the lighting and animation of the villains are too cartoonish, which robs them of being convincing threats.
I used to think that Rebels was a new direction for the better. Instead, we are seeing that this show is not intended for people who get what Star Wars is. Instead, the powers that be are looking for a new audience. By doing so, they not only have to retell stories, but also tell it in a less mature way. Hopefully, Rebels is just a stepping stone for Filoni’s next adventure.