Like so many episodes of Rebels, “A Princess on Lothal” features a number of cool callbacks to previous Star Wars designs. Much has already been made of Leia’s outfit and the fact that it references both the original and prequel trilogies thanks to its origins in a New Hope-era Ralph McQuarrie design and its inclusion of a symbol seen on Bail Organa’s clothing in Revenge of the Sith. But as much as Leia’s look for this episode is evidence of the brilliant design work on Rebels, it’s Kanan’s gravity-defying AT-AT assault sequence that I want to focus on here.
I’ve recently heard some complaints that Rebels is taking too many liberties in portraying its heroes as unrealistically powerful or lucky in increasingly dangerous scenarios. While I can certainly understand that perspective to a degree, I’m also happy to see a stylized and even slightly exaggerated approach to depicting the Star Wars universe in animation. Kanan’s attack on the AT-AT is so much fun to watch as he runs toward the massive walker while Ezra, Leia, Ryder, and finally the AT-AT pilots themselves all look on in awe at his ability to single-handedly take the transport down. The shot featured above is part of the first half of the sequence and it communicates most of what we need to know; the walker is a huge, hulking machine, but the momentum and confidence reside in the clearly outsized figure charging it at full-speed with his lightsaber extended.
These kind of set piece moments don’t happen constantly in the show; Kanan and Ezra routinely go multiple episodes without making much use of impressive Jedi abilities. But when the Rebels team does decide to go for a bigger moment like this one it almost always works for me where it couldn’t in film or other mediums. Rebels is smart and layered and even heavy at times, but it’s also a playground in which its creators can have fun with environments and scenarios that wouldn’t necessarily be possible outside of animation. The shot featured above is cinematic, but it also feels in some ways like wish fulfillment for a now-grown group of kids who spent the best years of their youths imagining Jedi disguised in stormtrooper gear slicing through the legs of towering walkers (or probably playing out those very scenarios with their Kenner action figures). It doesn’t make sense to see this kind of thing play out all of the time, or in every medium, but fantastic displays of Jedi power seem best explored in animation and I trust Dave Filoni and the Rebels team to do so tastefully and sparingly.