How the Theme of Family is at the Heart of Star Wars Rebels

From the beginning, the show has been a tale of families lost and found.

The crew of the Ghost in Star Wars Rebels has always been a family. They aren’t related to one another and they didn’t come from the same home worlds, but they are bound together by a common cause, respect, trust, and love.

Like all families they fight. They bicker. They keep secrets from and confide in one another. They ask for help. And they risk their lives to keep each other safe time and time again. Even though they mostly stick together in Rebels storylines, Ezra, Kanan, Hera, Zeb, and Sabine have also had to confront their individual pasts to be able to come back to their Ghost family stronger than ever. With the final episodes of Star Wars Rebels airing tonight, starting at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on Disney XD, here’s a look at how they became a true Star Wars family.

Hera, Zeb, Kanan, and Ezra gather in Star Wars Rebels.

”This is where I’m supposed to be. You’re my family. And we should go home” – Ezra, “Twin Suns”

Ezra Bridger was the newest addition to the Rebels family at the beginning of the series. He went from a kid who asked Hera, “Why should I risk my life for people I don’t know?” in “Spark of the Rebellion” to broadcasting to the people of Lothal that they will be stronger when they stand up together in “Call to Action.”

Hera and Kanan both had a parental hand in showing Ezra why standing up for others was a deed worth doing. Hera told Ezra early on that “If all you do is fight for your own life, than your life is worth nothing,” which is a lesson Ezra’s imprisoned parents, Mira and Ephraim, may have very well taught Ezra had they been able.

Ezra sits aboard The Ghost in Star Wars Rebels.

Ezra’s return to Lothal to track down the truth about his family was necessary for him to find emotional closure with his past before he could embrace his future as a Jedi. It also served to bring him closer to his new family. In “Gathering Forces,” Sabine, in a gesture of kindness, gives Ezra an image she was able to extract from a disc from his family home. Kanan later helps Ezra to forgive family friend Tseebo for not protecting his parents. Ezra may not be able to rescue his parents from the Empire, but he has a new family to support and guide him as he discovers the sad truth in later episodes that his parents were killed trying to escape the Empire.

Kanan wears an eye shield as he wields a weapon in Star Wars Rebels.

“Know this family will stay by you, no matter what you choose.” – Kanan, “Trial of the Darksaber”

Kanan tells Ezra that he must let go of his own past to become a Jedi and later reveals to Ezra that he never knew his own parents. But Kanan has his own reconciling with his past to do in several Star Wars Rebels episodes. Kanan is, in many ways, like an unprepared and insecure parent with Ezra early on. He’s sure Jedi Master Luminara Unduli would do a better job training Ezra than he would in “Rise of the Old Masters,” and is concerned with how fast Ezra’s powers are growing and his own ability to protect the boy from these new powers. Hera helps Kanan realize that he is the one who can best train Ezra and pushes them both to work through their ups and downs as master and apprentice.

Kanan’s character is relatable to audiences because even though he is a Jedi, he is still full of self doubt. If Kanan had his way at the beginning of Season Two, the Ghost crew would have never joined up with Phoenix Squadron and the larger rebellion. Kanan’s painful past prevents him from seeing the hope that a greater rebellion movement holds.

Kanan Jarrus and Captain Rex wear stormtrooper armor in Star Wars Rebels.

When he struggles to work with Captain Rex because of his memories of Order 66 (and the guilt he feels over surviving it), Kanan’s fellow crew members are there to help him emotionally heal and grow as a Jedi and a friend. Kanan may be the character who is strongest with the Force in Star Wars Rebels, but he is a much more powerful force for good with his Rebels family than he is on his own.

Hera pilots the Ghost while Chopper stands behind her in Star Wars Rebels.

“All right kids, do mom and dad proud!” – Hera, “The Siege of Lothal”

As the pilot of the Ghost, Hera is already in a commanding position, but she’s much more than just a chauffeur in Star Wars Rebels. She’s the leader of her crew and a mother figure to Sabine, Ezra, and even Zeb and Chopper. Hera knows how to keep her group on track and moving forward, but even mother figures can struggle when they are confronted with people from their past.

Cham looks over his shoulder at Hera while aboard the Ghost in Star Wars Rebels.

Until the Season Two episode “Homecoming,” Hera appears to be the perfect, selfless hero to audiences — and her fellow crew members. But when Hera is reunited with her father Cham Syndulla, we learn that not everyone approves of Hera’s current fight against the Empire.

In this episode we learn that Hera’s relationship with her father has been strained since her mother’s death. While Cham felt all of his energy should be spent freeing their home world of Ryloth, Hera felt the call to join a larger fight against the Empire. Cham is disappointed in Hera, going so far as to tell her that she wasted her life “for outsiders,” as Hera is similarly disappointed in her father for putting Ryloth’s needs ahead of those of his own family.

Even though Hera and her father don’t see eye-to-eye about the right way to help the people of Ryloth, there’s never any doubt that Hera feels strongly about her people and her family history. In “Hera’s Heroes,” the crew of the Ghost risk everything to help Hera retrieve a Syndulla family heirloom. This mission ends up bringing Hera closer to her father, as well as her fellow rebels who support her effort to save a connection to her past. The same heirloom, called a kalikori, plays an even larger symbolic family role for the members of the Ghost crew in Season Four’s emotionally-charged episode “Dume.”

Hera, Ezra, and Zeb.

“I don’t deserve to be called captain. I failed my people that day.” – Zeb, “Legends of Lasat”

Zeb is an at-times volatile but always-loyal member of the Ghost crew who sadly has a past full of pain and regret. In “Droids in Distress,” we learn that the affable Lastat, who plays an older brother role to Sabine and Ezra, is the last of his kind. The Empire destroyed his homeworld of Lasan, so Zeb’s only choice for a family is one he makes for himself. When Zeb’s past as a captain is revealed (a fact even Hera was unaware of) in “Legends of Lasat,” Ezra is there to support his hurting friend.

Zeb confides to Ezra about the shame he feels because he believes he failed his own people. Zeb and Ezra have a common bond of losing their families to the Empire and wondering if they could have done more to protect them. So much of Zeb’s screen time is dedicated to comic relief in Star Wars Rebels — it’s striking to see his vulnerable side in a few episodes and the support he receives from his friends.

Sabine Wren in Star Wars Rebels.

“I have a family on this ship.” – Sabine, “Ghosts of Geonosis”

Of all of the characters in Star Wars Rebels, Sabine Wren undertakes perhaps the most powerful journey to face her past. It would be easy to peg Sabine at the beginning of the series as just another rebellious, artistic young person looking to take a stand against authority. But there’s so much more to Sabine. Season Two of Star Wars Rebels dips into Sabine’s past with the episode “Blood Sisters,” where she comes face-to-face with Ketsu Onyo, who broke out of the same Imperial Academy as Sabine. But it’s Sabine’s past with her family and other Mandalorians that bring a greater understanding to the audience and her fellow rebels of just how strong Sabine truly is.

Sabine Wren kneels in front of a blaster rifle wielded by an Imperial officer in Star Wars Rebels.

Sabine is the only member of the Ghost crew who has not lost the majority (or all) of her family to war, which leads to a number of touching yet complex reunions. Sabine’s rift with her family and other Mandalorian clans is introduced in the storylines of “The Princess of Lothal” and “Imperial Supercommandos.” When Sabine returns to Mandalore to face her past, her family, and her people later on in Season Three, we learn more about Sabine as a person and the family dynamics of the Ghost crew.

In “Trials of the Darksaber,” when Sabine hesitates to wield the Darksaber because she believes it has caused nothing but trouble for her people, Hera and Kanan walk a fine line between encouraging parents and Sabine’s rebel superiors. Hera asks Sabine to help get the Mandalorians on the rebels’ side, even though she knows that this choice will put Sabine face-to-face with her painful family history — while Kanan tells Sabine, “We need to ask you to do this, but it doesn’t mean you have to.”

At the same time, Ezra, who has a sibling-like relationship with Sabine throughout the series, is close to rolling his eyes at the idea of his peer taking on such an important leadership role. Ezra is quick to change his tune, however, when he later sees Sabine training with the saber, and encourages her to not give up when she’s distraught by the idea of facing her family. Ezra reminds her that even though she has a troubled relationship with her parents, at least she has parents to go home to.

Sabine feels guilt for both leaving her clan and for the weapons she developed during her time at the Imperial Academy. Kanan helps her conquer that guilt and to see the truth behind her actions. When Sabine cries out, “I left to save everyone. My mother, father, brother. Everything I did was for family. For Mandalore,” she has grown into a leader worthy of the Darksaber and has earned the loyalty of all those around her. Sabine’s acceptance of herself and then by her fellow Mandalorians, followed by her return to her crew mates when they were in desperate need, showed the strength of Sabine as a warrior and the depth of her bonds to the Ghost crew.

Watching all of the Ghost crew members develop relationships with a fledgling rebellion wouldn’t be as meaningful without the moments of individual growth, risk, and love between Hera, Sabine, Kanan, Ezra, and Zeb. The personal journeys into these characters’ pasts provided fascinating storylines and highlighted the communities that the rebels were fighting for in their war against the Empire.

Amy Richau is a writer, lifelong Star Wars geek, and diehard Denver Broncos fan. You can find her on Twitter @amyrichau and more of her writing on FANgirl Blog.