Imagine, for a moment, that you had the chance to go back in time and stop the greatest tragedy in the history of the world. And all it took to stop it was the death of a handful of innocent bystanders. Do you still do it?
That’s the question Rebels set out to explore in the third and fourth episodes of Season Four, “In the Name of the Rebellion.” Jedi Ezra Bridger and Mandalorian warrior Sabine Wren find themselves wrestling with questions of morality in war after the Rebel base on Yavin 4 is contacted by the militant cell leader Saw Gerrera.
Gerrera denounces the Cold War-style tactics and reliance on the Senate of the Rebellion, while championing his Partisans’ more direct approach. Ezra and Sabine begin to question whether he’s right, given the need for assistance – denied by Mon Mothma – to Lothal and Mandalore.
This same theme runs through the entire arc across both episodes, allowing the leads to be faced with a several versions of the same problem. Ezra and pilot Hera Syndulla want to blow up an Imperial relay, rather than maybe-tapping into it. The feeling of success from hurting the Empire in some way, any way, is more attractive than long-term plans that often fail.
It’s wonderful to see these ethical questions continue to play out in a show that is known to be “for kids.” Rebels continues to prove two important points:
1) Star Wars has always dealt with deep ethical questions, especially those related to war. If anything, shows like this have a deep thematic continuity to the “source” material.
2) A show being labeled as “for kids” and also having thematic depth, dramatic character arcs, and morality questions are not mutually exclusive. When the latter is present, it also doesn’t make it “not really a kids show.” If anything, it supports the idea that people of any age can grapple with these questions, just at different levels.
Rebels continues to impress, and as the timeline of the show moves closer to Rogue One and A New Hope, the connections are growing ever deeper. While liberties of continuity are taken (how the heck does a U-Wing take out an Imperial cruiser all by itself?), it never strays beyond reckoning.