Why Ezra Bridger Will Ultimately Choose the Light Side

Season 3 of Rebels is only 2 days away!

Season 2 wrapped up with a show-stopper finale that left us with so many questions and very few answers.

Is Kanan blind for life?

Is Ahsoka truly alive after her duel with Darth Vader and will we ever see her again?

But I think the biggest question on everyone’s mind is….

….will Ezra turn to the Dark Side?

Our last shot in the Season 2 finale was of Ezra Bridger seated alone in his room, full of anger and sorrow. As he sat there, the Sith holocron he collected at the Sith temple opened in his hand, a sign that he had tapped into the Dark Side of the Force. And, for just a moment, his eyes had glowed orange.

Ezra has been a volatile member of the Force wielders since the beginning. His biggest moments and steps forward often come piggybacked on intense emotions. Ezra himself is a person who feels things very deeply. When he loves, he overcomes any obstacle to fight for his loved ones. And when he is angry,  he becomes an almost unstoppable force. Ezra is also fiercely protective, he hates seeing the innocent suffer and he wants to protect all those he loves from harm.

Darth Maul definitely manipulated Ezra’s fierce emotions during their shared time in the Sith Temple. Maul senses in Ezra a powerful Force user, one that Maul would like to use for his own agenda. Ezra showed some pretty concerning signs by tapping into his anger, sorrow, and hate to accomplish things while he was in the temple. There is no doubt that he was beginning to toy around with the Dark Side.

Still, here is my biggest question.

Is all of that enough to truly turn Ezra to the Dark Side?

And to that, I would say….

….no, it isn’t.

Here’s why.

1. Ezra’s No Anakin Skywalker

Anakin Skywalker is everyone’s go-to guy when it comes to an example of someone turning to the Dark Side. Well, of course he is! He is actually the only main hero-turned-villain that we have ever experienced. However, Anakin’s story has led to some over-generalized statements and black and white beliefs about how you turn to the Dark Side that simply don’t add up with regular human, or alien nature.

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This is probably the most over-used and wrongly applied statement in Star Wars history. In this scene, Yoda was speaking about what he sensed in young Anakin Skywalker, a specific person. He sensed much fear. Yoda was concerned about where Anakin’s unstable soul might lead as he grew in the Force. There is a downhill pattern created by continual choices made out of fear, anger, and hate. And the consequences of those poor choices always leads to suffering. I don’t deny any of that, what I take issue with is applying the one situation and character to every new character who hyperspeeds onto our screen.

We all know what happened to Anakin Skywalker. He was volatile and reckless, he gave into fear, hate, thirsted greedily for control, and he hurt the ones he “loved”. Anakin came up against the hardships of life and he chose the Dark Side to fix them instead of clinging to the Light.

People pull the above quote and Anakin’s story out of the hat every time a good Force-wielding character shows any hint of anger or poor decision making. But that’s not very realistic, nor does it fit into this larger story and huge cast of characters we have been introduced to. The only character we have thus far seen this apply to would be Anakin himself.

Despite the fact that Star Wars is a galaxy far, far away, a place full of strange worlds and species, it is still a story that reflects our reality. Every great story has to reflect our reality in order to make sense in our minds, if it doesn’t, we reject it because we know that things don’t add up. I know for a fact that I don’t become a serial killer every time I get angry and react; so why is it assumed that will happen to any Force-wielding hero who gets angry and reacts in the Star Wars world?

People in reality feel things. We feel sad, we get angry, we face fear. We loved people, we lose people. Hardships and experiences change us. We go through times of triumph, and times of trial. Some of us wander but are eventually brought home to the Light again. Some of us give into the Dark Side and never come home.

We make good choices, we make poor choices. We face the consequences for both. We are regularly faced with a question of, “Who am I and how am I going to live my life?”

This is our reality, and since Star Wars must reflect our reality, that means it is also Ezra Bridger’s reality. And if the makers of Rebels understand that as well as I hope they do, then they know Ezra Bridger is no Anakin Skywalker, he is his own person.

Ezra Bridger is on a journey. He has had people come and go in his life. He has loved and he has lost. He has been frightened, angry, devastated, happy, and he knows what it means to love and be loved. Ezra is us, a person trying to navigate life in a scary world, where the Light and the Dark sides are both pulling at him.

Anakin Skywalker lived his story and made his choices, for better and certainly for worse. He chose wrong for the majority of his life. But his pattern doesn’t instantly become every other character’s. Let Anakin Skywalker be, Ezra Bridger is no Darth Vader.

2. Anakin Was Easily Seduced Because He Was Alone, Ezra Is Not Alone

“I know you have to go, but that doesn’t mean you have to go alone.” (Kanan)

“We support you. We’re family.” (Hera, Season 2, Ep 11)

As I mentioned in Tuesday’s post, Rebels has a family structure. Our characters are not isolated and alone, they are not left vulnerable. Those who are alone are more susceptible to deception.

Palpantine preyed upon Anakin’s sense of fear, lack of control, and isolation. He made Anakin feel safe and in control, two things he had always craved. Obi-Wan Kenobi was Anakin’s strongest support, but he was absent on the day that Anakin really needed backup the most. I believe had Obi-Wan been there the day that Palpantine turned the tables, Anakin wouldn’t have given into the Dark Side.

But instead, Anakin was alone. He was frightened, he was angry, and he craved power. And he was seduced.

Ezra spent several years of his life alone on the streets of Lothal. He shares the characteristics of Anakin in that he has felt isolated. However, Ezra is now a part of a family who will never let him go. They are his greatest strength and his greatest allies. When one member of the family falls down, the others crowd in to carry that person through.

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Ezra may wander, he may struggle, but he will never be lost. His family will not lose him. The power of the Dark Side pales in comparison to the power of their family bond.

3. There is No Room For Family In the Dark Side

Family is everything to Ezra. It matters the most to him. The Dark Side is no place for family, it has no room for love, compassion, and unity. Even if Ezra is drawn in somewhat by the illusion that he can have greater power by using the Dark Side, he will eventually be repelled by the fact that the Dark Side comes in conflict with the thing that matters to the most to him….his family.

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“I already lost my parents, I’m not about to lose my new family.” Ezra (Season 1, Ep 13)

4. Ezra’s Legacy IS One of Hope

From childhood on, Ezra has been surrounded by hopeful and good people who are willing to stand up for what they believe it. It began with his parents, who would broadcast messages of hope and resistance to the desperate people on Lothal.

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Ezra was bitter and angry about his parents’ disappearance for a long time, but truly, deep down, he was just heartbroken. He loved his parents so much, he loved their courage and their hope. The Bridgers planted a seed in Ezra’s heart that took root and the finally bloomed when he met the crew of The Ghost.

“What’s wrong with us?” Ezra 

“We have hope; hope that things can get better. And they will.” Hera (Season 1, Ep 10_

Even after learning about the death of his parents, Ezra’s hope shone out like a lightsaber. He no longer carries their memory with regret and sorrow, he now sees the beautiful legacy that they have left him. It is a legacy of hope.

There is no room in the Dark Side for hope, it chokes the life out of anything beautiful and hopeful. Hope is who Ezra Bridger is, who he was made to be. From the moment he was born he has been surrounded by people of hope.

Ezra may have forgotten that part of who he is for a short time. I think at one time or another we all forget who we are when the pain and anger gets strong. But, those who are lost are often brought home again, especially when they are surrounded with the people they love.

Ezra has a wonderful family who will not let him forget who he is. Ezra’s family is everything to him. He will wander, but he will come home again.

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Ezra is going through a difficult time right now, no doubt about it. His soul is weary and his heart is torn. He has made some poor choices and some mistakes.

However, he still carries a huge heart of compassion, a sense of right and wrong, and a deep desire to do good. Ezra has grown into a very self-sacrificing person during his time with the Rebels. None of these characteristics fit into the Dark Side, they are the complete opposites.

Ezra Bridger is a hero. Like all heroes he will struggle, he will be tempted, and he will make wrong choices. He wouldn’t be a realistic hero if he didn’t experience those things.

But he also wouldn’t remain a hero, if the Light didn’t ultimately prevail.

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6 Ways that StarWars: Rebels Differs From StarWars: The Clone Wars

Both Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars The Clone Wars have been a wonderful addition to the Star Wars canon. Making serial stories for the small screen has enabled Star Wars storytellers and fans to dig into some of the meaty details and behind-the-scenes plots that just cannot fit into a 2-and-a-half hour movie time.

The Clone Wars took on the great task of filling in the very rich and colorful background that we were given only a taste of in the Prequel films. The world that Anakin experienced as a boy and Jedi was far richer than was the world of Luke Skywalker. The movies only had time to skim the surface of all of this material, but in The Clone Wars we were given a chance to experience this vast world on a episode by episode basis.

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We learned about the clones, senators and rulers, the underworld of Corusant, smugglers and bounty hunters, many different Jedi, and multiple unique races and cultures. Clone Wars gave so much more meaning to the Prequels by filling in  the background and giving us all of the individual stories that fed into the bigger story.

Star Wars Rebels is another great gift to the Star Wars universe, but it is a gift uniquely its own. Here are 6 ways that Rebels is different from The Clone Wars.

1. Rebels Keeps it Simple and Intimate

The Clone Wars was layered and complex. Even though we had a primary group of characters (Obi-Wan, Anakin, Ahsoka, Padme, Captain Rex), we were introduced to literally hundreds of new characters and story lines, and we only got a fraction of the available stories. The Clone Wars was a very busy series.

Rebels by contrast, is very simple and intimate. We have 6 main characters (Hera, Kanan, Zeb, Sabine, Ezra, Chopper) that we stay with all the time. Even our cast of background characters (Ahsoka, Kallus, Rex, Commander Sato) is kept to the minimum. This enables us to just focus on our Rebels, day in and day out. We see everything through their eyes and perspective.

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The Empire destroyed the connections and layers of the Republic. It destroyed trade, government structures, and long-living groups like the Jedi. Even as it encompassed most of the galaxy, the Empire managed to disconnect the peoples in the galaxy more than ever before. Therefore, it makes sense that we are going to experience fewer people at a time, fewer people are having shared experiences that they can communicate about.

This simplicity also sets the stage for our Rebels to begin fighting to join with other rebel forces. The Empire knows it cannot face a united front, so it fights tooth and nail to keep people apart through military and propaganda. In Rebels we get a front-row seat to the beginning of the unifying of the Rebellion. It starts small, but we know it will become something more.

2. Animation

The animation of The Clone Wars was very angular and structured. There were far more harsh angles and lines. This kept up with the fast pace of that series where a large-scale war was constantly raging.

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Rebels by contrast has very soft, rounded animation. It is richly colorful with layers and tones to both the settings and the characters themselves. This animation is very approachable and puts you at your ease with the more focused pace of the series.

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Both series have used the beautiful designs created by the talented Ralph McQuarrie, but the animators also managed to give each series its own unique look, thus separating them in our minds.

3. Rebels Has a Family Structure

This is one of my absolute favorite aspects of Rebels, and it goes along with the smaller cast and more intimate setting.

While The Clone Wars showed us people in all occupations and social levels, we never experienced a “family”. Everything was formality and rules. Sure, we knew that Obi-Wan and Anakin loved each other as brothers. Anakin and Padme carried their love as husband a wife secretly. And we especially know how much Anakin loved and cared for Ahsoka as a mentor and older brother. But none of these things could ever be acknowledged because of stifling rules and protocols that ended up contributing to the downfall of the Jedi and the Republic.

A family unit and affection is the strongest bond known to anyone. It’s stronger than any government, organization, or group. That is part of why our Rebels are so strong and effective, because they are a family first.

The writers have recognized this fact and how much we love it about their show, as a nod to it they even put in beautiful lines and scenes that accent the “family” side of Rebels.

Kanan and Hera love each other deeply. They have this subtle current of love that is built on shared strength and experiences. They function as husband and wife or mom and dad. This gives the rest of the crew something to depend on and take comfort in.

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“Kanan’s family, and we do anything for family.” Hera (Season 1, Ep 15)

“Alright kids, make mom and dad proud.” Hera (Season 2, Ep 1)

“He takes after Hera sometimes.” Kanan (referencing Ezra, Season 2, Ep 9)

“Sabine, you’re sounding more like a Jedi than a Mandalorian.” (Hera)

“Well, I guess I’ve just been raised right.” (Sabine, Season 2, Ep 13)

Hera has a tenderness for those on her crew that is very motherly. She makes Sabine feel acknowledged and understood. Ezra finds deep comfort and sympathy in his and Hera’s shared hope. Zeb and Chopper would be lost without Hera’s gentle compassion and strong leadership.

hera-and-sabine

Kanan’s attitude towards the crew of The Ghost is one of protection and leadership. He prioritizes their well-being first and values each of their skills. He has taken Ezra under his wing with a very fatherly hand and Ezra soaks it up like a sponge.

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Sabine, Ezra, Zeb, and Chopper fall into place under Kanan and Hera’s strong leadership. They all love each other and fight fiercely together. They are able to be brave because they know their family has their back. Each of them knows what they have lost, and they deeply value what they have gained….a new family. This love drives each of them to be better.

“I already lost my parents, I’m not about to lose my new family.” Ezra (Season 1, Ep 13)

4. Rebels is in a Harsher, more Primitive Setting

The glamor of The Clone Wars seems to be just a distant memory, just like the Republic is.

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All that once was has fallen into ruins and is now under the dark shadow of The Empire. We were introduced to some very poor and desperate corners of the galaxy in The Clone Wars, but since the Empire came into being more systems have fallen into poverty and despair.

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This sets the stage beautifully for the ragged Rebellion that will welcome Luke Skywalker in just a few years.

5. Tying Together the Republic, and the New Hope

The Clone Wars filled in the missing years between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the SithRebels fills in the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New HopeIt sets the stage for not only A New Hope, but also the upcoming story of Rogue 1 where we will get more of the behind-the-scenes story.

Rebels has done its job beautifully in taking the last remnants of the Republic and Clone Wars, and tying that in with the new generation. We have gotten to see beloved characters from the Prequels and Clone Wars series such as Obi-Wan (via hologram, but perhaps more one day), Ahsoka Tano, Captain Rex, Hondo, Sentaor Bail Organa, and Tarkin.

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As we have revisited these old characters and few of their stories, we have also been seamlessly introduced to the new generation of characters. Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian, and more to come in Season 3.

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Rebels has been a place where the past is meeting the future.

6. Rebels Introduces a New Generation of Jedi, One That is Much Stronger

The old Jedi Order has been wiped out. Kanan Jarrus is one of the few remaining Jedi, and he has now taken on Ezra Bridger as a padawan. As far as they know, they are the only ones in the entire galaxy. Kanan, whose training was cut short by Order 66, never officially reached “Jedi Knight” status. He was forced into hiding as a teenager, and since then has developed his own methods of survival and fighting.

Kanan has a much more loose and raw way of fighting than the Jedi of old. He can wield his fists and a blaster as well as he does a lightsaber or the Force. He doesn’t just rely on Jedi knowledge, but also his own wits and tricks of the trade to accomplish his goals. He’s scrappy and agile. And let’s be honest, he’s really, really good at it.

Kanan’s version of being a “Jedi” is also far more familiar and less formal than the Jedi of old. He doesn’t hold Ezra and those around him at arms length and keep all emotion at bay. Kanan engages his feelings for those he cares about, and he isn’t hindered by those emotions, he is empowered by them. This is so much more natural than the emotional sterility that the Jedi of old attempted to practice.

Kanan is the perfect mentor and father figure to Ezra, who is also scrappy and skilled. Ezra is very down to earth, he feels things very deeply, and he has skills outside of just being a Jedi. These two are a master/padawan match made for each other. Ezra loves his master like a father. He trusts Kanan, he takes comfort in Kanan.

My favorite scenes involving these two is when Ezra experiences something so horrible or sad that he starts to weep. Kanan doesn’t tell him to be quiet or get control, he holds Ezra in his arms and comforts him. This is natural, the Jedi of old were not.

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Kanan and Ezra open the doors to introduce the new breed of Jedi, a breed that isn’t steeped in stale tradition and zero emotion. This new kind of Jedi is more compatible with the galaxy as it is and far more effective than the aloof old Jedi. Kanan, Ezra, Luke Skywalker, Rey, Finn, and hopefully more in the future are all members of this “new” order.

Rebels has been a delight for Star Wars fans old and new. A major shout-out and thank-you to the makers (we love you Dave Filoni) and actors behind this amazing series. You have given us a new Star Wars family to fall in love with and cheer on.

*****

Star Wars Rebels Season 3 premieres Saturday, September 24th on Disney XD! And I for one, cannot wait to return to a galaxy, far, far away. Keep fighting Rebels!