Through Four Seasons, Star Wars Rebels Has Been a Storytelling Bridge

See the many ways that the animated series connects with the Star Wars films, The Clone Wars, and more.

The Star Wars galaxy has become a lot larger over the last few years with the release of numerous films, novels, comic books, and video games. The TV series Star Wars Rebels is a part of that expansion, and it holds a unique place in the Star Wars timeline. In many ways, Rebels is a bridge between the prequel and original trilogy films showing audiences just how connected everyone is in the galaxy far, far away.

Star Wars Rebels had the difficult task of creating a group of entirely new characters for audiences to fall in love with while bringing in characters from previous Star Wars productions to continue their stories. These familiar characters serve to expand the viewpoints of Ezra, Hera, Sabine, and the rest of the Ghost crew as well as help to tie up loose ends from previous Star Wars storylines.

Star Wars Rebels begins with a familiar face — none other than Darth Vader. The conversation between Darth Vader and the Grand Inquisitor at the beginning of “Spark of the Rebellion” picks up a storyline directly from the end of Revenge of the Sith. Darth Vader makes it clear he knows there are Jedi out there who survived Order 66, as well as Force-sensitive children. He sends his Inquisitor out to hunt down these younglings and any Jedi who might train them. Enter Jedi Kanan Jarrus and Lothal youth Ezra Bridger.

A hologram of Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Rebels.

Kanan, a Jedi who survived Order 66, starts to train Ezra Bridger in the ways of the Jedi at the beginning of Rebels and familiar faces are easy to spot as their journey together begins. Ezra finds a hologram of Obi-Wan Kenobi warning Jedi about Order 66 in “Spark of the Rebellion,” and the “Rise of the Old Masters” storyline revolves around an attempted rescue of Jedi Master Luminara Unduli who was last seen in Revenge of the Sith. Ezra first hears Yoda’s voice in episode 10 of Season One, “Path of the Jedi,” and Yoda interacts with Kanan and Ezra throughout the series.

Bail Organa and R2-D2 in Star Wars Rebels.

In “Droids in Distress,” Ezra returns C3-PO and R2-D2 to Bail Organa, who we last saw with Obi-Wan Kenobi and the newborn Skywalker twins in Episode III. Bail Organa’s character didn’t have much screen time in the prequel films (and only briefly appeared in Rogue One) but in The Clone Wars series and now Rebels, we get to know his character much better. By the end of the first season, everyone on the Ghost knows Bail Organa is an ally of the rebels, as well as the senator from Alderaan.

Kanan Jarrus looks over his shoulder at Ezra Bridger and Captain Rex.

Many Rebels episodes focus on Kanan trying to resolve his feelings about surviving Order 66 after his Master Depa Billaba sacrificed herself to save him. These feelings go into overdrive in the Season Two episode “The Lost Commanders,” when clone troopers from The Clone Wars TV series Captain Rex, Commander Wolffe, and Commando Gregor re-appear. Kanan and Rex’s relationship in subsequent episodes show the emotional fallout Order 66 created for both the few remaining Jedi who survived and the clone troopers who managed to not take part in the killings.

While Kanan and Rex try to figure out a way to work together in a post-Order 66 world, another twosome reunites at the end of Season Two — Ahsoka and Anakin Skywalker. As the first Fulcrum agent, Ahsoka’s storyline brought the Ghost crew into a larger world of rebel activity just as she found out the terrible truth about her old Master. Ahsoka had an open-ended exit from The Clone Wars television series after years of Jedi training with Anakin. Her relationship to Anakin was so strong that her discovery of just how far Anakin had fallen to the dark side created one of the most emotional moments in Star Wars history.

Other Clone Wars characters that have appearances in Rebels are space pirate Hondo, Hera’s father Cham Syndulla, and Bo-Katan Kryze, the sister of the Dutchess of Mandalore Satine, who died in an episode of The Clone Wars. Throughout four seasons of Rebels, the crew of the Ghost helped piece together small groups of rebels across the galaxy and reveal to audiences just how long some of these groups have been fighting for their freedom against the Separatists and the Empire.

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul, characters who first met all the way back in The Phantom Menace, at last find closure with each other in Star Wars Rebels. Kenobi and Maul had an epic lightsaber duel in Naboo that left Kenobi’s Master Qui-Gon Jinn, and it appeared, Maul dead. After a resurrection of sorts in The Clone Wars, Maul spent several episodes doing everything he could to destroy Kenobi, which lead to the death of Satine Kryze among others. In the Rebels episode “Twin Suns,” after much time attempting to lure Ezra into being his apprentice in previous Rebels episodes, Maul seeks his final revenge against Kenobi.

The end of “Twin Suns,” where Maul dies in Kenobi’s arms (mirroring Kenobi holding Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace), also includes a shot of young Luke Skywalker and the voice of Aunt Beru outside their home on Tatooine. This episode ties together the beginning of current Star Wars storytelling from The Phantom Menace with the beginning of A New Hope, while also pushing Ezra Bridger’s character development forward after his interactions with both Maul and Kenobi.

By the fourth season of Rebels, the Ghost crew have found their way to Yavin 4 (complete with General Dodonna) in the rebel base later seen in Rogue One and A New Hope. Saw Gerrera and Mon Mothma’s tense relationship, referenced in Rogue One, is on full display in the Season Four episode “In the Name of the Rebellion.” Mon Mothma and Gerrera also appeared in multiple episodes of The Clone Wars, so fans of both that series and the feature films can get a feel for what motivated these characters at different points in the Star Wars timeline in their Rebels scenes.

Lando Calrissian smiles in Star Wars Rebels.

Fans looking for appearances and backstories of some of their favorite characters from the original trilogy films are also in luck in Star Wars Rebels. R2-D2 and C3-PO show up in Rebels episodes, as does Lando Calrissian in the episodes “Idiot’s Array” and “The Siege at Lothal.” The story of how pilots Wedge Antilles and Hobbie found their way to the Rebellion is told in the Season Three episode “The Antilles Extraction,” and Wedge also plays an important role later on that season in “Double Agent Droid.”

Princess Leia is escorted by a stormtrooper and young Tarkin in Star Wars Rebels.

Two icons of Star Wars are also featured in Rebels: Princess Leia Organa and Wilhuff Tarkin. Leia and Tarkin have a complicated past before the events that brought them together in Episode IV; even though they don’t appear in any of the same episodes of Rebels, their appearances add much to what we know about them and their journeys. In many ways, seeing them at this time in Rebels takes their interactions on the Death Star in A New Hope to a whole new level.

What’s your favorite Rebels appearance from a character who debuted in another Star Wars film or television series? Let us know in the comments!

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.