Star Wars Rebels review: "Legacy"

Like viewers of "Legacy," Ezra doesn't know what's next—but he's content.

"Legacy" stands out as one of Star Wars Rebels' best episodes yet. Not only did it answer one of the show's first questions in a compelling way, testing Ezra Bridger's maturity, but it also raised bigger questions about the nature and will of the Force. On a practical level, I enjoyed watching Ezra's journey through confusion, frustration, optimism, sorrow, and hope. On a metaphysical level, I was thrilled to get to grapple once more with the idea of the Force as a living entity, a character in a story. As fun as it is to watch space battles and cantina shootouts, it's equally fun to wrestle with how our favorite characters are connected to that all-encompassing energy field.

I appreciated the mixture of stubbornness and maturity that Ezra showed in this episode. It was, I thought, a realistic portrayal of how someone like him would respond in this situation. Yes, had developed tremendous talents and learned important lessons—including the temperamental nature of Force visions—but when the situation played to an instinctual need, like the need for closure and connection to family, he reverted to the more headstrong person he was in the past.

In the first act of the story, Ezra was insisted on finding his parents, ignoring Kanan's reminder about his last experience following a vision. When, during his rescue of Chopper and Zeb, stormtroopers and Kallus hold up their escape, Ezra's anger at being delayed propels him into a confident, masterful lightsaber performance that sends Kallus flying into a wall. Even Kanan, who no doubt saw the potential for darkness in Ezra's reflexive behavior, couldn't help being impressed. When the Inquisitors showed up, though, Kanan understood that it was time to yield—but Ezra didn't. They were blocking the path he had chosen—although, as we saw, they had another way out—and Ezra was furious that they were doing so at such a critical moment. "You are not going to get in my way," he said, sounding more like late Episode III Anakin Skywalker than anything else. When the Seventh Sister taunted him, there was real anger in his eyes.

When Kanan cut off the fight by blasting the door between them closed, it led to another important moment. Ezra looked angry at first. He wanted to return to the Ghost through those doors, and Kanan was responsible for preventing that. In his anger, he didn't consider the fact that there was another route back to the ship. Or perhaps he did know that but he was actually looking forward to confronting the Inquisitors. That would certainly be the more disturbing explanation. But either way, his anger at Kanan dissipated as soon as the older Jedi pointed out that he never even knew his parents. For all of Ezra's fixation on finding an important piece of his old life, his reaction to Kanan's comment showed that he hadn't lost sight of the importance of his new life.

Earlier in the episode, two moments showed Ezra flitting between a fixation on finding the vision and an acknowledgment of his gratitude for what he already had. Ezra thanked Hera when she shared Tseebo's fragments of information about his parents' whereabouts. He didn't learn anything significant, but he recognized that it was important to convey his appreciation. That alone was a sign of maturity, as was Ezra's insistence, despite the time crunch he obviously felt, on rescuing Zeb and Chopper before heading to Lothal. He understood his responsibility as a young rebel and he was mature enough not to let his personal quest interfere with his job.

Ezra continued to impress me with his maturity throughout the rest of the episode. When the Imperial fleet began targeting rebel ships, Ezra defied Hera's suggestion to blast into hyperspace, saying, "We're not leaving until the fleet is safe." Again, he made it clear that he understood the big picture and wasn't willing to jeopardize it to accomplish his own goals. That could not have been easy for him. By delaying his attempt to gain closure, he might have been squandering a time-limited opportunity to attain it. Whether it was due to his Jedi training or simply his immersion in a supportive, mission-driven environment, Ezra had learned how to make tough decisions for the greater good. In this respect, he had already grown wise beyond his years.

"Legacy" offered no shortage of rewards for fans who love the relationship between Kanan and Ezra. As soon as the master and apprentice arrived in Lothal's orbit, Ezra again expressed his gratitude—this time to the person who was the closest thing he had to a father. "Thank you for everything you've done for me," he told Kanan, in a heartfelt tone of voice. "You're always there when I need you most." As Kanan observed, he was trying to give Ezra something that had mostly been missing from his own childhood: someone who would stand by him when things got tough. Kanan had Jedi Master Depa Billaba as a teenager, and her loss had shaken him to his core. He wanted to give Ezra a different young adulthood—a better young adulthood. This was a really great emotional beat.

As we have seen, Jedi more seasoned than Ezra sometimes struggle to open themselves up to the Force and yield to its will. That was a major theme in "Legacy," as it has been in many Rebels episodes in years past. When Ezra was scanning the Imperial prisoner records with the Force, Kanan warned him, "Don't try to see what you want to see. Let the Force be your guide." Ezra faced the same challenge when he arrived at the ruins of his childhood home and Kanan urged him to be patient. "The Force is trying to tell you something," he said. "Listen to it." There are moments in Rebels when Ezra gets ahead of himself and tries to push the Force to answer him rather than letting it guide him of its own accord. But each time, when he finally just listens to it, he gets what he needs—as he did in "Legacy," when the white Loth-cat appeared.

What Ezra faced in these scenes is the paramount challenge of being a Jedi: training yourself to subsume your will, your goals, your priorities, to whatever flows through the currents of the Force—no matter how dire the circumstances are for you or people close to you. Ezra was barely a teenager. It must have been incredibly difficult for him to resist trying to direct the Force to give him his answers—an act associated with the dark side. Kanan urged him to truly let go and accept whatever the Force showed him in the prisoner records, and that's exactly what he did.

The confluence of events in "Legacy"—the Imperial fleet locating the rebels on Garel due to Ezra's slip-up, and Ezra's quest driven by the Force vision֫—made me consider the role of the Force in Star Wars. Although there are no canon sources that give evidence of the Force's sentience, I favor the interpretation that arises from the novel Darth Plagueis: that the Force does have some degree of agency, that it can poke and prod things in certain directions to maintain balance. In that book, Plagueis' dark actions sparked a backlash that led to the pregnancy of Shmi Skywalker. In "Legacy," Ezra suggests that the Imperial fleet's movement from Lothal to Garel was "a sign" that he was "supposed to go." The way I see it, this is correct. The Force was at work, prompting Ezra’s slip-up so that the Imperials' discovery of the Garel hideout could facilitate Ezra's journey to learn the ultimate fate of his parents.

When you're dealing with something as fundamentally inscrutable as the Force, there are many unknowns. It's hard enough for the Jedi to grasp the workings of the Force with any degree of certainty, and they can actually sense it. It's much harder for us, as viewers of Rebels, to know how the creators of those stories want us to see the Force. Along those lines, Ezra's vision in "Legacy" initially confused me. Unlike the one involving Gall Trayvis, which occurred literally as Ezra saw it albeit with a different context, he didn't actually experience many of the moments in the new vision. He was never standing in Imperial prison cell. He never looked down to see his parents sitting in their cell. Why, I wondered at first, did the last vision happen literally, whereas this one had some metaphorical qualities to it?

The white Loth-cat was key to understanding this. Ezra did literally encounter it (though that happened on Lothal and not in a prison cell), and it led him to the final answer. The animal was a metaphor, a symbol of both Ezra's life on Lothal and his previously shown affinity for communing with nature. Once we learned that Ezra's parents had led a prison break after hearing their son's transmission, it made sense that parts of Ezra's vision were metaphorical. The emotional rush from his parents taking action triggered the vision, and their experiences in the prison merged with his experiences to form the vision. They thought of him as they acted, and thus, metaphorically, he was there with them. There was a depth to this metaphor that thoroughly impressed me.

Another part of "Legacy" that impressed me was the amount of character development that Hera received despite not being on screen for very long. There was an expository quality to nearly all of her scenes, further developing her skills and role as a leader. Her insistence to Kanan, despite his impatience, that she had to be picky when looking for bases emphasized the responsibility she felt to avoid deadly mistakes. As the Imperials' treatment of Garel showed, the rebels in the original trilogy had good reason to select remote, uninhabited planets for their bases; they didn't want civilians to get caught in the crossfire, and this no doubt weighed heavily on Hera.

Later, during the escape from Garel, we saw Hera give Ezra an order to flee, then ignore Sato's exact same order to her. Yes, it was a little insubordinate, but in that moment, Hera knew what she had to do, and she was willing to flex her muscle to do it. It was a nice capstone to that scene when she took out the tractor beam—thus saving Sato's command ship—with a death-defying stunt, right after Kanan told Ezra, "She was looking after everyone long before you and I came along."

The end of this episode has proved controversial among Rebels fans. Ezra finally learned the fate of his parents: They died in an escape attempt inspired by his transmission, and dozens of rebel sympathizers are free because of his parents' heroism and his inspirational message. But now there is no chance of the happy reunion that some fans were expecting. Personally, I thought this was the best way to wrap up one of Rebels' longest-running mysteries. The revelation might have been heartbreaking to Ezra, but it also contained a glimmer of light: His words—"Telling Lothal to stand up," as Ryder Azadi put it—had made a difference. He had made a difference.

Ezra had another Force vision at the end of the episode, but this one was different. It was accompanied by Rebels' signature Force audio cue, which is heard whenever Ezra taps into the Force. The cityscape of Lothal changed before his eyes, to the way it used to be, and his parents appeared to tell him that they were proud and that he needed to "stay strong." "Remember Ezra," his mother said, "without hope, we have nothing." Ezra had given his parents hope, and now he needed to grasp a measure of that hope for the dark times ahead. Ezra's hopes had been dashed; he would never see his parents again. But instead of succumbing to sorrow, he sounded confident that he could do what his parents urged him to do. "Legacy" did a fantastic job of bringing Ezra to that transformative moment in his life and showing how mature he had become along the way. It was a tightly packed, deftly written, beautifully scored, and carefully thought-out episode, worthy of its status as a midseason finale. Now we wait to see what events will test Ezra's hope.

You can read all of my Rebels reviews right here.