When Disney announced they were acquiring Lucasfilm and would begin production on stand-alone Star Wars movies, fans were more excited than an ewok invited to a Harrison Ford barbecue. On December 15th, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will hit theaters. Filling in a crucial piece of missing information from A New Hope, Rogue One will finally reveal how the Rebels acquired the plans for the original Death Star.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars was one of the few series to survive the Expanded Universe being turned into the non-canon Legends. and Star Wars: Rebels explores the era between the Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Together, the shows give us our best look at what we can expect to see in Rogue One. The film will not only see similar themes and locations, but for the first time a character that originated in one of the Star Wars animated series will have a live action counterpart. The animated series both teased Rogue One in ways that are only now becoming clear. So strap in folks, because here are the 17 Episodes Of Star Wars: Rebels And Clone Wars You Need To See Before Rogue One.
17 Spark of Rebellion (rebels)
Set 15 years after Revenge of the Sith and 5 years before A New Hope, Star Wars: Rebels brings viewers back to a familiar period in Star Wars history. In the pilot “Spark of a Rebellion”, viewers are introduced to the crew of the Ghost-- Rebels fighting to free the galaxy from the rule of the Empire. The unit includes a former Jedi named Kanan, Twi’lek pilot Hera, Mandalorian Sabine, Lasat warrior Zeb, and a mildly insane droid called Chopper. The ragtag group encounters a Force sensitive street urchin named Ezra Bridger when both he and the crew attempt to steal a cache of weapons from the Empire.
From an orphan discovering his talents in the force to the use of classic Ralph McQuarrie designs, Rebels is loaded with nods, eggs, and connections to the original trilogy. The show even makes sure to have a desert planet with a connection to the Force, subbing Tatooine, Jedha, or Jakku for Lothal. We’ve also gotten a quick glimpse of the Ghost in action as part of the Rebel fleet in a recent TV spot. To see how the Phoenix Squad gets from Lothal to Yavin, you’ll need to start here.
16 The Onderon Arc (clone warS)
When Lucasfilm revealed who Forest Whitaker would be playing in Rogue One, fans of The Clone Wars rejoiced. It was announced the Academy Award winner would portray a character named Saw Gerrera, who was actually introduced in the 5th season of Clone Wars, but was originally created for the live-action Star Wars TV show that never escaped development hell. Once George Lucas realized the show was too expensive, they spread the ideas around into other projects.
On the planet of Onderon, Separatist forces are supporting a false king in a bid to keep the planet in the Confederacy. Saw and his sister fight against those forces, while also trying to win the allegiance if the people. The Jedi Ahsoka Tano and Anakin Skywalker are sent to train the insurgent Rebels in tactics and weaponry, but are prohibited from engaging the enemy.
These four episodes see Saw Gerrera go from brash punk to a battle-hardened soldier who knows the true cost of a rebellion. Just as the audience is introduced to Saw, they are also introduced to the basis of the Rebel Alliance. It was during the insurgency of Onderon that Ahsoka Tano would get her first taste of fighting and spreading a guerrilla war.
15 The Forgotten Droid (rebels)
The tradition of droid companions is as essential to Star Wars as poison is to a Shakespeare tragedy. Naturally, Rogue One will have a few robotic support staff members of its own. Alan Tudyk's K-2SO is the first droid in the films to be shown as a turncoat from the Empire. Reprogrammed to serve the rebellion by Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), K-2SO has developed his own personality in a post-Imperial life. Though K-2SO is serving in the Rebellion, his existence isn’t exactly one of servitude. He's got more in common with the astromech Chopper from Rebels than C-3PO.
While there’s no shortage of amazing Chopper moments to choose from, the Season 3 episode "The Forgotten Droid" is a stand-out solo astromech adventure. After managing to get himself left behind on an Imperial refueling station and finding his way on board another ship, Chopper meets an inventory droid. After commiserating over past battles as a strategy droid during the Clone Wars and their shared lack of respect from others, Chopper removes AP-5’s restraining bolt and recruits him into the Rebellion. The astromech droid even sacrifices his newly acquired leg to save AP-5-- a turn for the character who had, during a previous episode, kicked another droid into the atmosphere in a fit of jealousy.
14 The Gathering (clone wars)
Central to the story of Rogue One is what powers the Death Star’s devastating laser cannon. While we know the Rebels were able to take advantage of an exhaust port to destroy it, it was never fully detailed how the space station’s laser weapon functioned. Guidance by Rogue One director Gareth Edwards gives us a pretty good idea about what is giving it that extra kick-- kyber crystals.
Audiences' first non-Legends exposure to kyber crystals was in the Clone Wars episode "The Gathering". It follows a group of Jedi younglings who are escorted to the planet Ilum by Ahsoka Tano. There, Yoda would guide the younglings in a ritual to earn kyber crystals for building their first lightsabers. The characters from the episode were originally slated for their own spin-off, but, considering the younglings' fate in Revenge of the Sith, it’s probably better that "Young Padawan Adventures" didn’t move forward.
In the Rebels episode "Path of the Jedi", Ezra must face a spiritual challenge from Master Yoda to earn his kyber crystal. Unique among lightsabers, the hilt that Ezra has built can do more than focus energies into a blade, it can also be used as a blaster. While this may be the first time you’ve seen a kyber crystal focus a laser, it seems it won’t be the last.
13 Breaking Ranks (rebels)
Just as the Nazis conscripted scientists to work in their war machine, so too did the Empire. With Death Troopers flanking him, Director Krennic (Ben Mendehlson) recruits Mads Mikkelson’s Galen Erso to work on the Death Star in an international trailer for Rogue One. In recent TV spots, Jyn’s mother is seen giving her a crystal necklace while telling her to trust in the Force. It’s been widely assumed that this is a kyber crystal and Galen Erso is being forced to weaponize them for the Empire. If this is true, it would definitely connect with what’s been happening with kyber crystals on Rebels.
In the sixth episode of the show, Ezra has to go undercover at the Imperial Academy on Lothal in attempt to gain access to a decoder. Hera and Kanan need the device to locate and destroy a kyber crystal shipment. While the episode shows Ezra making friends and influencing Rebels at the Academy, it would appear this one-off tale may have been playing a larger part in the Star Wars narrative. Now that we are getting a peek at the bigger picture, it's easy to assume those kyber crystals were probably heading to Scariff and an under-construction Death Star.
12 Tartokovsky’s The Clone Wars
In much the same way that Luke had to imagine his father’s victories as a hero of the Clone Wars, Star Wars nerds would have to wait over 20 years to see them in action. While promoting Attack of the Clones, George Lucas acknowledged the third film would start at the wrap of the war, leaving (at that time) most of those years unexplored. In 2003, Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartokovsky would step up to show us wartime through a Star Wars lense in The Clone Wars. Thanks to Tartokovsky’s unique perspective, the series was one of the first breaks from George Lucas’ vision of the universe. Tartokovsky said his goal was for the show to be Star Wars “with a Band of Brothers-feel to it.” The pairing worked and thankfully it's one we’ll be seeing again soon.
In addition to Gareth Edwards's unique perspective as a filmmaker, Lucasfilm also brought some of that Band of Brothers-feel to Rogue One via producer and current president of production at Lucasfilm, Tony To. To was the co-executive producer on Band of Brothers and its follow up The Pacific. When Edwards first spoke about Rogue One, he mentioned they would be delving into "the nature of war." Positive reaction to the first 28 minutes of the film confirm that stylistically, this war film is going to be the bomb.
11 The Honorable Ones (rebels)
The planet Geonosis is now deeply entrenched in Star Wars lore. From the site of the first battle of the Clone Wars in Episode II to being the initial construction site of the Death Star, Geonosis has seem some sh*t. While the planet itself may not be featured in the upcoming Rogue One, its legacy will live on.
Lucasfilm has smartly been using Rebels to connect the threads of the Death Star’s story. In the second season episode “The Honorable Ones”, the crew of the Ghost journey to Geonosis only to find Imperial building platforms orbiting the now-dead planet. The secret weapons project that started here had moved on years ago, leaving the planet “sterilized” by bombardment. The upcoming 3rd season finale, “Ghosts of Geonosis”, will see the Rebel crew return to the planet, though fans will have to wait until January to find out how the episodes connect to the Death Star and Rogue One.
10 The Malevolence Trilogy (clone wars)
If Rogue One is the “Lost Film” of the original Star Wars trilogy, then The Malevolence Arc is easily the classic Star Wars film we all wanted from the prequel era and never received. Starting in the third episode of The Clone Wars, the Separatists have a new weapon and flagship in the Malevolence. Commanded by General Grievous, the ship uses a massive ION weapon on its hull to render entire fleets inert and useless.
The three episode arc has all of the trappings the prequels failed to include, like our heroes facing an overwhelming weapon of mass destruction, a small squadron of pilots disabling said weapon, and rescuing a princess from the weapon while getting separated from two droids. The storyline is essentially an out-of-sequence answer to the plots of A New Hope and subsequently The Force Awakens. Additionally, we would see the in-story introduction of the Y-Wing Bomber, though Star Wars fans recall them from the Battle of Yavin. Unfortunately for us, this was not the saga that Lucas would create for The Clone Wars' release in theaters.
9 a Call to Action (rebels)
The cadre of villainy in Star Wars is nothing short of “impressive. Most impressive.” But the calculating and cool demeanor of one Imperial in particular has us excited for his return. While Darth Vader may get all the cool points for his lightsaber, shiny helmet, and Force-choking, the true villain of A New Hope is one Grand Moff Tarkin. Governor of the outland regions and charged with hunting down the Rebellion, Tarkin would order the torture of Princess Leia, destroy Alderaan with the Death Star, and generally outsmart the Rebels at every turn-- even using Leia’s rescue to locate the Rebel base on Yavin. Had it not been for an exhaust port, Tarkin would have earned the win for Palpatine.
To see Tarkin’s rise to power, watch the Rebels episode “A Call to Action”. As the Rebellion on Lothal grows, the Empire reassigns Moff Tarkin to the planet in an effort to break its spirit and get it in line. Knowing that the Rebels are targeting a communication array, Tarkin lays a trap for the crew of the Ghost. The episode is great because it introduces one of the classic Star Wars villains to the cast of Rebels, but it also introduces the rebellion to the wider planet of Lothal. For even more Tarkin duplicity, watch the Clone Wars arc "The Wrong Jedi" to see Admiral Tarkin play prosecutor against a falsely accused Ahsoka Tano, leading her to leave the Jedi order.
8 Crystal Crisis on Utapau (clone wars)
Kyber crystals were always intended to be a large part of the Star Wars universe. In a draft of what would become A New Hope, Jedi actually wore the crystals around their necks to focus the energies of the Force. Wanting to remove the hokiness from the Order, the crystals were cut. They would return as the crystals that Jedi use to focus the energies in their lightsabers. And apparently, as we’ll see in Rogue One, Emperor Palpatine will use them to power the Death Star’s laser weapon. As we saw in Rebels’ “Breaking Ranks”, the empire is attempting to get kyber crystals from across the galaxy for a secret weapons project. How long has the undercover Darth Sidious been searching for these crystals? Since before he was Emperor.
After the cancellation of Clone Wars, StarWars.com released the completed story reels for the "Crystal Crisis on Utapau" arc. The completed animatics tell the story of Anakin and Obi-Wan on a mission to disrupt a weapons deal. At the center of the deal was the largest kyber crystal Kenobi had ever seen. In the animatics, we find out from Yoda there were once great weapons in the galaxy that many believed were myth. These weapons had massive destructive powers with kyber crystals at their core. The arc is a fantastic epilogue to the series, even if incomplete.
7 Fire Across the Galaxy (rebels)
In the season 1 finale of Rebels, the crew of the Ghost find themselves out of options when attempting to rescue their spiritual leader Kanan from Mustafar. Throughout the season we’ve known Hera is getting her assignments from someone name Fulcrum and suspected the Rebellion was actually larger than Ezra and the team were aware, but it was a Hail Mary call for back up that brought the Rebel Fleet to save the day, revealing itself for the first time in canon. By the episode’s end, Fulcrum is unmasked to be former Jedi Ahsoka Tano, once again training and organizing rebels as she did for Saw Gerrera on Clone Wars.
The season finale closes with Darth Vader on the hunt for the titular Rebels. The Ghost goes on on to form the heart of Phoenix Squadron, an arm of the Rebel fleet as they transition from a cell-based organization into a mobile military. It looks like we may see the Ghost in action in the film’s climactic space battle. Though we don’t know who’s on board during the film, here's hoping that some of the current cast of Rebels survive the two years until the Battle of Yavin. So keep an eye out for a Rebel Twi’lek pilot or a Mandalorian among the ranks of the rebels on Yavin 4!
6 The Final Test of Yoda (clone wars)
After Disney bought Lucasfilm, Clone Wars was canceled. While fans would get a new, arguably better series in Rebels, many demanded the release of the half completed final season. "The Lost Missions" were released on Netflix and featured a three episode Yoda-centric arc. The Jedi Master’s former student and friend Qui-Gon Jinn has been speaking to him from the dead-- desperate to know what this means, Yoda travels the galaxy in search of answers. His quest takes him to the Sith planet of Moriband, also known as Korriban in Star Wars Legends lore, where he must face a final test before he can train with the ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn. Exploring the Sith planet can give you a small taste of what’s to come in Rogue One, as it will explore the Jedi-equivalent location Jedha.
According to Gareth Edwards, Jedha is a Mecca of sorts for worshippers of the light side of the force. The desert moon was home to the first devotees of the power that binds the galaxy. Eventually it became a place of great importance to the Jedi Order because of a connection to kyber crystals. The onc- holy city is now occupied by Imperial Stormtroopers that are being fought in the streets by rebels like Jyn Erso. While we don’t expect to see Yoda in Rogue One, a reference to the hidden Jedi Master wouldn’t be unexpected, especially in a city like Jedha.
5 A Princess on Lothal (Rebels)
It’s looking more and more likely that the first Star Wars Story is going to have an appearance from Princess Leia Organa herself. She’s the first member of the Rebel Alliance we meet in A New Hope as Vader boards her blockade runner to search for recently liberated plans for the Death Star. Whether we see her as a fully de-aged Carrie Fisher akin to Tony Stark’s flashback in Civil War or only get a brief glimpse like Arnold’s return in Terminator Salvation, Industrial Light and Magic and Disney have been at the forefront of de-aging performers since Tron: Legacy.
On the planet Lothal, Ezra Bridger has lost his parents to the Empire. Ezra’s folks were part of the local uprising, broadcasting messages of resistance against the Imperial occupation. In the Rebels episode "Legacy", Ezra would find out his broadcast against the Empire in "A Call to Action" inspired his parents to stage a prison break. Though they died in the attempt, many others escaped. In the episode "A Princess on Lothal", Leia Organa comes the embargoed planet in an effort to have her Alderaanian cruisers “stolen” by the Rebellion. The fifteen-year-old princess empathized with Ezra’s loss, reinforcing that his parents died serving a greater good, convincing many to rise against the Empire.
4 Siege of Lothal (rebels)
The success of Rebels led to the second season premiere being treated as an hour-long movie event. Making its debut at Star Wars Celebration, "The Siege of Lothal” would feature the return of Darth Vader-- with James Earl Jones providing the Sith Lord’s intimidating tones once again. Picking up with the crew of the Ghost working into a military structure, the Rebellion is contacted by the Governor of Lothal in a bid to supposedly break ranks and join the Rebellion. By episodes end, Vader has revealed himself and fought a duel with Kanan Jarrus, Lando Calrissian pops in for a quick extraction, and Ahsoka Tano makes a shocking discovery about Vader’s identity.
The Siege of Lothal is an example of Rebels at its best, serving as both closure to a chapter of Clone Wars and opening new stories within the Star Wars universe. Fans certainly hope Rogue One can bring a similar balance to nostalgia and pushing forward. The episodes though may hint at a direct connection between Rebels and the new films, when Lothal’s Governor threatens to give the Rebellion the real reason the Emperor is so interested in the planet. We’re starting to think that reason is related to a satellite-- “That’s no moon.”
3 An Inside Man (rebels)
The nature of insurgency and rebellion often relies on the duplicitousness of some to survive. As long as nation states have existed, so too has espionage. In Rebels, an informer known as Fulcrum was revealed to be former-Jedi-in-hiding Ahsoka Tano, but the callsign resurfaced again. Providing information about the Empire on Lothal, this new Fulcrum kept the Rebels one step ahead of the Imperials on Lothal. The spy's identity would be revealed in the episode "An Inside Man", but fans of Imperial Agent Kallus had reason to hope for their favorite mutton chopped mastermind to switch teams.
Having found him to be more than just a cold blooded killer in "The Honorable Ones", Zeb apparently has an effect on Agent Kallus. The transformation is further proven when he assists Sabine Wren in getting Wedge Antilles out of the Imperial Navy and into the Rebellion. The Empire's activities on Lothal are clearly important as this season introduced Grand Admiral Thrawn, a fan-favorite character saved from the Star Wars Legends pyre, to secure the planet and stop the Rebel Alliance. All of these signs point to an important weapon being developed on Lothal, one that will likely lead directly to Rogue One, with the forthcoming season finale "Ghosts of Geonosis" tying to the planet where the Death Star was born.
2 Steps Into Shadow (Rebels)
Between their introduction in the Clone Wars and their use in the run on the 1st Death Star, the legendary starship bomber Y-Wing lost some weight and changed ownership along the way. In their introduction to the Star Wars universe in the "Malevolence" arc of Clone Wars, the Y-Wings were fully armored with bright yellow paint along the hulls. In the third season premiere of Rebels, the crew of the Ghost goes on a mission to secure a unit of Y-Wing Bombers scheduled for destruction. When the rebels arrive to secure the ships, they’re already stripped of their extra armor and awaiting demolition.
The episode ends with the Y-Wings the rebels are able to obtain in the hands of General Dodonna. The military leader is known to fans as the man who plans the assault on the Death Star. Dodonna is the first character to say “May the Force be with you” in the original films. We look forward to potentially seeing the General once again in Rogue One, as the rebel base on Yavin looks to be bustling with activity.
1 Wings of the Master (Rebels)
While the Mon Calamari people are known as incredible starship builders, they weren’t shown to be part of the rebellion until near the battle of Endor, when Rebel wins made recruitment of systems easier. The first Mon Calamari to come to the side of the light though wouldn’t come empty handed though. In the Rebels episode "Wings of the Master", Phoenix Squadron is attempting to break a Galactic Empire blockade of a planet in need of humanitarian aid. Hera, pilot and captain of the Ghost, goes in search of a master starship designer who may have a ship that can break the blockade.
Named to honor the engineer of the Star Wars universe Ralph McQuarrie, Quarrie does indeed have a new ship for the rebellion, the Bladewing, AKA B-Wing. The ship would go on to join the rebel fleet for its cinematic introduction in Return of the Jedi, but we’re positive that Quarrie had plenty of designs left for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Which Rebels or Clone Wars episodes are you watching to prep for Rogue One? Let us know in the comments.