The various animated shows that dot the history of Star Wars have always, at some point, received a bad rap. Slow starts, a couple of silly side plot lines, and even new faces have been initially met with disdain from older generations that grew up dedicated to the magic of the movies. For a fandom like this -- unique in both its dedication to various forms of Star Wars lore and its outwardly stubborn attitude to change (admit it, folks, we've all been there) -- acceptance can be a little difficult. But Star Wars is something more, a story that spans generations not only because of the timeless epic that was the original trilogy, but due to the fresh stories, concepts, and characters that continue to build our galaxy far, far away even further out into space.
Such is the case with Star Wars Rebels, the second computer animated show in the saga, that focuses on an era rarely touched before in canon. When Obi-Wan Kenobi grimly recalled the "dark times" of the Clone Wars in the original trilogy, one can safely assume that he also referred to what followed: a period of desolation, where the power of the rapidly growing Empire seemed unstoppable, and misery spread throughout the galaxy under its armored boot. Here, our heroes have no hope whatsoever; the Jedi, who were once revered as timeless saviors of the galaxy, are all but wiped out. The only two that seem to be left (outside of Yoda and Obi-Wan) are untrained, with little guidance to help them follow their path.
Before Luke Skywalker ever pointed his father's lightsaber directly at his face for the first time, former Jedi Padawan Kanan Jarrus was learning what it meant to be a Master, with eager young hero of Star Wars Rebels under his wing. Ezra Bridger is a charismatic force-sensitive street rat from Lothal with a patience problem and an unending need to find justice -- the Empire took his rebellious parents away when he was seven years old. Young and ambitious, Ezra sits in a position that icons such as Anakin and Luke Skywalker have before him. Bridger serves as our connection to a seemingly hopeless fight.
Ezra fills those shoes well, and with an audience that broke records among its young viewers, he is undeniably the eyes of those children in this story. Ezra knows almost nothing about the lore of the Jedi. His home planet of Lothal was left relatively untouched by the Clone Wars (according to Captain Rex in an upcoming episode from Season 2), so he knows not of Anakin, Obi-Wan, Yoda, or any other Jedi aside from Kanan.
This new hero is a clean slate, eager to delve into the world and impatient when it comes to learning everything about it. For children interested in Star Wars, but overwhelmed by the rich history of lore that existed decades before they were born, seeing the world through Ezra's eyes is as magical as it was when the young adults who grew up with Anakin first saw the vast sands of Tatooine, similar those of us in the older crop who saw outer space through Luke's eyes.
Not every child will relate to Ezra, of course, and the cast of characters that surrounds him is much more diverse and unique than most others that came before them. But, finding a favorite is different, as Ezra serves his purpose as a "point-of-view" role within the cast. Ezra's complex story mirrors that of most Star Wars heroes -- including what little we know about Rey and Finn, from the upcoming seventh installment to the epic film saga, [Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens](tag:711158).
The difference between the live-action heroes that we'll see on-screen, and Ezra's position in his narrative, is that they are part of a "lived-in" world. Connected to the stories of Luke, Leia and especially Han in some form or fashion, Rey and Finn don't necessarily offer the clean slate that Ezra does. This doesn't make them any better or worse than the animated hero, but it does make Bridger a much, much better gateway for new fans.
What's more, no one knows what happens to Ezra in the end, including Taylor Gray, who brings the character to life with his voice, and the cast of Star Wars Rebels. Creative mastermind (and the show's creator/executive producer) Dave Filoni recently asserted at an LA press day that at this point, the actors don't even know what happens at the end of Season 2.
There is no resolution yet, and years of "No, I am your father"-style revelations cannot be spoiled for the young viewer who turns on Rebels. Instead, unknowing adults watch alongside these kids, waiting to see how the Rebels will win when the stakes are so high, and they're doomed to fail. After all, the Alliance's first "major victory" was not canonically achieved until the first Death Star is destroyed. No matter what happens, Ezra will have to watch he and his friends lose in the end.
Serving as a unique new addition to the long lines of heroes and heroines that have dotted the saga's stories, Ezra Bridger is a new kind of hero, and for kids across the world, he is one that seems just like them. New, unaware, and ready to explore the incredible stories that spirited older generations willingly into the wild galaxy far, far away.