Bigger galactic gambits in penultimate ‘Star Wars Rebels’ season

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Sabine and Ezra Bridger

Just like the “Clone Wars” animated series before it, “Star Wars Rebels” gives a definitive look at the goings-on during pivotal periods in the beloved films.

It’s “Star Wars,” sans the sometimes questionable acting, and the central Skywalker saga—which continues to work well in these sturdily done ancillary series.

Taking place close to “Episode IV” of the original film trilogy, the third season of “Rebels” (airing on Disney XD) further saw the development of the teen Jedi, Ezra Bridger, and to a lesser extent, his now-blind mentor, Kanan Jarrus.

There are showcases for the other characters—the pilot and leader Hera; the brutish warrior Zeb; the artist-soldier Sabine; and the expressive droid Chopper—in well-told arcs.

Like the big-screen spinoff “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” the series is proof that there’s more to “Star Wars” than the Skywalkers’ fractured family.

While managing to stand apart from the seminal blockbuster trilogies, it also adds canonical details to the overall mythology. And, there were even cameos by Chopper and the Rebels’ ship in “Rogue One”—moments that, however brief, can’t be dismissed.

Like the “Star Wars” films, the show explores the mysteries of The Force—through a newly introduced non-human character, Bendu, who offer a more complex perspective on the omnipresent and invisible power source.

It’s not demystified, though, like in the prequel “Episode I”—where it’s clunkily explained away as influenced by certain space “organisms.”

In any case, the third season is an improvement over the uneven but still watchable Season Two. Missing this time around is a rematch with Darth Vader, but another Sith Lord, Darth Maul, returns to tempt Ezra to the Dark Side anew. Oh, and there’s the long-awaited appearance of the older Obi-Wan Kenobi, just prior to his fateful meeting with the galaxy’s future heroes in “A New Hope.”

Also menacing is Thrawn, a villain from the books that were rendered noncanon upon the addition of the new “sequel trilogy” movies. He leads Imperial fleets in chasing the ever-growing Rebel forces.

The political conflict in Sabine’s home planet, meanwhile, are likewise unsurprisingly presented and settled, but just the same, they give that important bigger picture of the ongoing war with the far-reaching Empire.

While Kanan’s blindness feels like “business as usual”—he’s accepted his fate rather easily, as Jedi are wont to do—his apprentice Ezra has developed quite favorably, however, maturing well after going through crucial tests of his own.

Hopefully, the coming final season will expound on this near-familial dynamic, as well as reveal the fate of the ex-Jedi Ahsoka Tano, who disappeared after dueling with her former master, Anakin/Darth Vader, last season.

Some of the intrepid “Rebels” heroes should eventually cross over to the live-action film realm.

But more importantly, may they flourish in and survive that final season, hopefully an even more memorable set of episodes than this penultimate one.

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