Star Wars Rebels interfaces with the film saga just fine. Some where confused by the idea of Jedi characters in Star Wars Rebels yesterday. First, I have to say, you can decide to cross your arms and decide these things cannot fit with your preconceived notions. If there be Jedi at all during this era offends your sensibilities, nothing is going to change that. But if you’re open to hearing me out, I might be able to help one see that these new characters are not creating plot holes or trampling on previously spoken words on screen.
Up front, I would like to say that Kanan and the lines of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi are not problematic if you’re open to some wiggle room. It is presumptuous to think that Yoda and Obi-Wan knew everything, even though they were in seclusion for years. Sure, Yoda watches Luke while in seclusion. Yoda says “This one a long time, have I watched,” in reference to Luke Skywalker. But it kind of implies he’s watched others and even says “there is another.” This article doesn’t pretend to know if Yoda knows about Kanan or not. You can really take it both ways and the story group at Lucasfilm would have to comment on that for us. The problem with the majority of the criticism is it denies huge parts of the film’s story points and sometimes is ignorant of the timeline in which the events take place and assumes everyone lives to run parallel to Luke Skywalker’s story when there’s no guarantees that happens at this point.
There is a scene in Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith where Yoda and Kenobi reconfigure the Jedi Temple’s signal that was calling all Jedi back to the temple to save them from Clones and Darth Vader who would execute them. Yoda and Kenobi alter the signal telling the Jedi to never return to the temple and the Clones aren’t smart enough to figure that out in time. Why did that scene happen? Why did George Lucas write that? It was written to open up story opportunity during The Dark Times on television (probably for Star Wars: Underworld). The film was telling us Jedi besides Kenobi and Yoda are out there. Such Jedi either quit the Jedi ways or they are killed off in the ensuing twenty years. Star Wars Rebels roughly takes place in year fifteen of that twenty year period.
Kanan is a Jedi. However, he isn’t the kind of Jedi you would expect. In fact, he quit being a Jedi for the most part. We see Kanan taking his lightsaber out of retirement in the announcement video. So for all intents and purposes, Kanan isn’t even really a Jedi in the ensuing fifteen years after Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith. Kanan is out there using a gun and he’s looser than the Jedi we have met before. He seems cynical and was probably fairly young when Order 66 killed off most of the Jedi. He clearly wouldn’t behave that way in the Jedi Order had nothing gone wrong. In some ways, he barely seems like a Jedi.
With all of this in mind, anything Ben Kenobi and Yoda say about the Jedi to Luke Skywalker, while they’re locked away in hiding for twenty years, communing with Qui-Gon Jinn, means they could be ignorant of recent developments. How would they know a guy named Kanan, who they might not have ever met before, picked up the lightsaber again and decided to fight against the Empire? Sure Yoda could have watched him through the Force, but he also might not have, instead choosing to devote his time to Luke and his twin sister. We also have to take into account Kanan and Ezra might be dead by the time Luke Skywalker starts on the Jedi path. Ahsoka lived sure, but these two might not be so lucky.
There are lines in the films that many fans are hung up on. When Obi-Wan Kenobi says the Jedi are “all but extinct,” he is saying they’re nearly extinct, not that they are extinct. So that means there can be other Jedi at this time. It isn’t until Return of the Jedi that Yoda utters the line “When gone am I, the last of the Jedi will you be.” So assuming Yoda is cognizant of Kanan and Ezra, Star Wars Rebels won’t violate Yoda’s line until around eleven to twelve years after Star Wars Rebel’s story begins. Remember that The Clone Wars took place over three years time. So Star Wars Rebels has three times the amount of timeline space to play in compared to The Clone Wars. That’s a huge amount of story time to play with.
“That boy is our only hope,” can’t refer to Luke’s powers or what he will be as a Jedi that can fight. Luke saves the galaxy by not fighting! Yoda and Ben Kenobi couldn’t kill Darth Vader and his Emperor. That means another path was going to need to be taken. If simple power clashing against power worked, it would have been resolved in Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith. It wasn’t. The one thing that worked, the one thing the Emperor could not have calculated against was the love between a father and a son. With that in mind, you can create a hundred more Jedi and it still doesn’t take away from Luke Skywalker being “A New Hope.” I also feel I should mention that the title “A New Hope” doesn’t necessarily have to refer exclusively to Luke Skywalker, as it can pertain to the rebel’s success in general by the end of the film. Kanan is not going to ever kill the Emperor or tug on Anakin Skywalker’s heartstrings enough to make him throw Sidious down a reactor core. There is nothing anyone can do to take away from Luke being the hope of the galaxy.
It is okay for Kanan and Ezra types to be out there in the galaxy at this time. These Jedi aren’t practicing the Jedi arts during the Dark Times for the full twenty years. It seems like some pick up the practice again, or at least a version of the Jedi arts. That said, this doesn’t fall out of line with our thinking that Darth Vader and the Empire hunted down the Jedi during the Dark Times if they found them. In fact, I would say that was the common presumption before the prequel era and we had no idea Order 66 went down.
The elders of the Rebel Alliance in A New Hope and in Return of the Jedi both say “May the Force be with you!” That is kind of a weird thing to say at that point in time. In A New Hope, they surely didn’t say it because Luke showed up. It could be because there have been Jedi aiding the rebellion in various ways over the years (remember The Force Unleashed isn’t in this continuity). That line clearly tells us the rebellion is interested in restoring the Jedi. I guarantee you they aren’t holding that torch for Obi-Wan Kenobi, who is in hiding and presumably hasn’t helped them out in years. A jaded rebellion would probably see Kenobi as sitting on his hands. Only Bail Organa might know where Kenobi is and why it is important he does what he is doing, protecting Luke Skywalker and learning an art that can restore freedom to the galaxy.
One last thing, before I go. You probably loved when there were “Sith” outside the rule of two, such as Maul, Savage, and Ventress in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Those characters who were on the outside of the official order of things, made for some of the most compelling storytelling in Star Wars on television. I fail to see how characters like Kanan and Ezra are so different from the Sith acolytes during the The Clone Wars.
“When gone am I, the last of the Jedi, will you be,” Yoda told Luke. Does that mean Ahsoka dies? Does it mean Kanan and Ezra die? It might mean they give up the Jedi ways. Or as I keep writing, Yoda doesn’t know everything. There was a rumor via Jedi News that Ezra will go on to Star Wars: Episode VII.
In Star Wars: The Clone Wars the rules were bent a little to get the Sith or Dark Jedi types in the show. In Star Wars Rebels they aren’t bending the rules at all. The first instance gave us greatness, so I refuse to see how the latter is a bad thing at all.