“Rebels” follows a ragtag group of characters as they band together to fight the Galactic Empire’s forces on the planet Lothal at the onset of the galaxy-wide Rebellion. It was fairly light-hearted at first; where “Clone Wars” dropped viewers right into the middle of the titular conflict, the Galactic Civil War was only warming up when “Rebels” began. What’s more, the villains in the series’ first season were fairly broad and incompetent, and rarely seemed to pose any genuine danger. Not at first, anyway.
Describing “Rebels” as “Clone Wars”-lite in its early episodes, Henry Gilroy indicated this was mostly Disney’s doing. “At one point I had to send my responses to the Lucasfilm executive before they went to Disney,” Gilroy explained. Having previously served as a writer on “Clone Wars,” Gilroy believed his job going into “Rebels” was “to protect the ‘Star Wars’ brand, not the Disney brand. And at the time, there was a difference [between] that and what they wanted that to be.”
That difference in creative vision manifests itself in the first half of “Rebels” season 1. One often gets a feeling in these episodes that the show wants to delve deeper into its characters’ tragic backstories and psychological complexities (as it would in later seasons), but is forced to hold back, lest it becomes too serious for Disney’s liking. It could have been far worse, though. Gilroy remembered that, at one point, the Mouse House pushed for the series’ youngest hero, Ezra Bridger, to ride his droid companion Chopper like a skateboard:
“I hated that image from the beginning. It’s so Poochie. It’s extreme Ezra to the max. So I made a commitment to myself. I’m never going to have Ezra riding his droid like a skateboard. Droid’s not a freaking skateboard.”