Best Episodes of Star Wars Rebels

Now that Disney+ is available, the entire series of Star Wars Rebels is streaming there. When it premiered in 2014 on the Disney Channel, Rebels offered brand new Star Wars stories during a slightly fraught period: Disney had acquired the galaxy far, far away and The Clone Wars series was cancelled (a cancelation that lasted six years before its final season was announced for February 2020).

Set five years before the Original Trilogy, Rebels focuses on a family of ragtag rebels: Hera Syndulla (Vanessa Marshall), the Twi’lek pilot who runs the freighter known as The Ghost, a Jedi in hiding who goes by Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Zeb (Steven Blum), an ape-like alien guard, Sabine Wren (Tiya Sircar), a Mandalorian who an affinity for colorful graffiti, and later a young orphan who becomes the Jedi’s apprentice, Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray). 

Here are essential episodes, some that yield larger implications of the Star Wars universe…and some that are just really, really good.

But first, here are the Honorable Mentions that were considered but didn’t quite make the final list:

  • “Out of Darkness”
  • “Gathering Forces”
  • “The Protector of Concord Dawn”
  • “Zero Hour”
  • “Homecoming”
  • “The Honorable Ones”
  • “The Mystery of Chopper Base”
  • “The Holocrons of Fate”
  • “Secret Cargo”
  • “Family Reunion and Farewell”

And now, let’s move on to the list.

“Rise of the Old Masters”

This marks where Rebels took stride by cementing the heart of the series: the father-son, master-apprentice relationship between Kanan and Ezra. The crew gets wind of intel that may reveal an imprisoned Jedi Master. Kanan hopes that the rescue of a Jedi Master may provide Ezra a more competent teacher, while Ezra feels saddened and short of Kanan’s approval. This episode defines the frailties of the master and apprentice that will resonate throughout the series: Kanan’s stern-but-steady way of winging his guardianship to Ezra as well as the latter’s longing for guardianship.

Also, it introduces us to a legitimately intimidating threat in the Grand Inquisitor (Jason Issacs).

“The Lost Commanders”/“Relics of the Old Republic”

The Ghost crew finds three retired clones living on the outskirts of life. And Clone Wars veteran, Rex (Dee Bradley Baker), will end up becoming a worthy addition to the Rebellion. Fans of the clones could breathe a sigh of relief that some clones did manage to bypass their programming and not betray their fellow Jedi during the Great Jedi Purge.

“Fire Across the Galaxy”

The Ghost crew head out to rescue Kanan Jarrus from the Empire’s clutches. Kanan and the Grand Inquisitor have their epic showdown. The ending also revealed the Rebel contact Fulcrum as the fan-favorite Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein). 

“Siege of Lothal”

After the reveal of Ahsoka Tano and their rescue from the wider rebellion, the Ghost crew is transitioning into the militaristic scale of the Rebel Alliance. This season two opener hammers in that nothing is the same anymore. Darth Vader has arrived on Lothal and Ezra’s old house is permanently destroyed.

“Legacy”

In “Legacy,” Ezra has his momentary homecoming to Lothal and learns of his parents’ fate. It’s a devastating closure, one that encapsulates the personal price of standing up to evil in a cruel Empire-dominated world, but it also reaffirms the love that Ezra’s found family has for him.

“Shroud of Darkness”

Kanan, Ahsoka, and Ezra head to the Lothal temple for some answers–and tests. Kanan ascends to Jedi knighthood, Ahsoka Tano faces a terrible version of her master berating the abandonment of her Jedi life, and Ezra converses with Master Yoda.

“Twilight of the Apprentice”

Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka head to a dangerous mission on Malachor to excavate forbidden knowledge at an ancient Sith temple. Ezra discovers an old and wandering Maul, who no longer identifies as a Sith and is seeking revenge on Darth Sidious. Ahsoka faces her fallen master, Anakin Skywalker, Kanan Jarrus receives a permanent injury, and Ezra’s innocence has shattered. Wrapping up with a spellbinding showdown, haunting visuals, and ambiguity, “Twilight of the Apprentice” ends on a note of dissonance. 

“Legends of Lasat”

“Legends of Lasat” is an outlier in terms of what we learn about the Force—or in Zeb’s Lasat culture, the “Ashla.” Zeb comes to terms with his past as an Honor Guard and guides his lost people to their homeworld. It also spins a prophecy cliche into something refreshingly flexible that serves Zeb’s conflict. To the swelling composition of Kevin Kiner, a Force-spirituality echoes throughout this episode.

“Twin Suns”

“Twin Suns” was one that had to grow on me. Sometimes it’s easy to go “That’s it?” over the payoff. Desperate to fix a mistake, Ezra meets an old Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine to warn him of Maul as well as procure an answer about defeating the Sith. Kenobi essentially tells the padawan to go home. Ezra realizes he doesn’t quite fit into this story and returns to his family. Obi-Wan and Maul have their final showdown, a duel that forgoes all flash and goes straight for a clean-sweep. It becomes a surprisingly tragic and appropriate send-off to Maul, who finds his closure in his final exchange with Kenobi.

“Trials of the Darksaber”

When Sabine Wren ends up with the Darksaber, a Jedi-Mandalorian lightsaber with a fraught history, she faces a torrent of thoughts, her past in the Imperial Academy, the family who has abandoned her, the found family she cannot let down, and her dual heritage. Kanan weights out how to teach a non-Force-sensitive Mandalorian the ways of the lightsaber, in some ways trying to subvert his experience with Ezra, but her Mandalorian steeliness and cockiness clash with Kanan’s Jedi ways. The multilayers do not stop at this episode.

It also blows the Chosen-One or “Girl With a Great Calling” trope out of the water, refuting the notion that Sabine is obligated to enact a burdensome grand destiny by holding an invaluable Darksaber. While Sabine is willing to take the emotional burdens, her family reassures her that she can back out. When they engage in a traditional Mandalorian bow to her, they respect her right to say “no.” 

“World Between Worlds”

At the heart of the Lothal temple, Ezra manages to unlock a portal that has access to time (with audio references from across all the live-action movie trilogies, Original, Prequel, and Sequel). Without overstepping plausibility in the mysticism, this dimension of the Force feels visceral while relevant to Ezra’s emotional arc when the realm tempts him to reverse a tragedy.

But while many fans rejoiced over Ahsoka’s confirmed survival, at its core, “World Between Worlds” is about the devastating emotional release for grief and sorrow (that I wrote extensively about). Its heart-wrenching hazy imagery at the end hurts the most because it captures the peaceful and stormy contradiction of grief, its finality and its constancy.

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