The end of Star Wars Rebels season two had more than a few surprises, not to mention some pretty startling long-term repercussions for the crew of the Ghost as they and other rebel fighters try to return peace and order to the galaxy. With the climactic high from “Twilight of the Apprentice” still in the air, and the undying excitement over all things Star Wars, it came as no surprise that the longest line of the morning at Fan Expo Canada today was for the North American premiere of Rebels third season opener, “Steps into Shadow.” So what fate awaits the Rebels this season? Aside from the arrival of Grand Admiral Thrawn, of course.
It’s not a spoiler to say that Thrawn is in the new season, and it’s not a surprise to say that he first appears in the premiere. His goals, aside from just generally crushing the Rebellion and ensuring the longevity of the Empire, are not yet clear, and his appearance seems to be merely a tease that for the season. In Thrawn, evidently, we have someone with his own agenda, a plan to achieve it, but no hint really as to what any of that might entail. I know that a lot of you were very excited to hear about the integration of Thrawn into the new canon, just don’t expect to maximize your Thrawn fix in episode one.
“Steps into Shadow” focuses on the two Jedis, Kanan and Ezra. Kanan is struggling with the loss of his sight, and he’s doubting his ability to be any further use to the Rebellion. Ezra meanwhile has stepped up and taken a leadership role with the team in Kanan’s absence, and has executed several successful missions with the crew of the Ghost. That latest mission is to free Hondo from an Imperial prison so that he can help secure new armaments for the growing Rebel fleet.
The spectre hanging over the episode is the Sith Holocron, which you may recall Ezra had opened at the end of last season, further justifying fears that he might have a future playing for the Dark Side of the Force. “Steps into Shadow,” from its title alone, is unlikely to dissuade any fear that Ezra might be straying a little too close to that dark path, and the episode sets up nicely the idea that Ezra, like Vader and others before him, thinks they can use the Dark Side to do good, and that they can control it. It’s delusional of course, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out for him over the course of the season.
As for Kanan, the way back to the path is just as difficult, but is quietly introspective and compelling as compared to the action happening off-world with Ezra and the others. The episode introduces an interesting new creature that’s Force sensitive, but is neither light nor dark. It’s a fascinating idea that there might be an arbiter when it comes to the Force, a neutral party that can help guide one back to their path. I hope this isn’t the last we see of the new character, especially since Kanan leaves it with something fairly important as a gift of thanks for helping him get his head back into the game.
The episode was a blast, up to the high-standards set by the first two seasons of Rebels, and hopefully it can build on that momentum and continue to push the crew in new and interesting ways. The dangling threads seem fairly well resolved by the end of the premiere, so one hopes that the book isn’t completely closed on the inner-conflict of the main characters even as external pressures start turning the heat up. Forget Thrawn, the real appeal of season three is waiting to see if Kanan and Ezra can maintain their renewed alliance as they carry on the fight against the Dark Side.
Star Wars Rebels season 3 premieres September 24 on Disney XD.