The Mandalorian season 2 is over. The Clone Wars has wrapped up its run. The Skywalker saga has concluded and we don't have new Star Wars movies coming our way for a couple of years at least. That may leave certain fans with a hole that needs filling. There are plenty of books, comics, video games and other bits of media taking place in a galaxy far, far away that can help to fill that void. But, for those who have never seen Star Wars Rebels, there has never been a more perfect time to watch the animated series.

Star Wars Rebels debuted, somewhat quietly, in 2014 on Disney XD as one of the first major projects set within the franchise following Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012. The show was headed up by Dave Filoni, along with Simon Kinberg and Carrie Beck. Filoni had already made himself known to many fans as the man behind The Clone Wars, which had provided a great deal of Star Wars storytelling at a time when not much else was happening. This time, Filoni and his team opted to tackle a new story, at the dawn of the Rebellion before the events of the original trilogy, with an entirely new cast of characters.

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Taking place five years before the events of A New Hope, the series sees the Galactic Empire continuing to tighten its grip on the people of the galaxy. It centers on the rag-tag crew of the starship Ghost who start out as simple disruptors to the Empire, but end up providing the spark that ignites the Rebellion. The crew consists of Ezra Bridger, a young orphan who is strong with the Force, as well as former Jedi padawan Kanan Jarrus, captain Hera Syndulla, Mandalorian warrior Sabine Wren, the might Zeb of the Lasat and a rambunctious droid named Chopper.

For four seasons, we follow the Ghost crew as they contend with the Empire on a series of adventures all across the galaxy. As was the case with The Clone Wars after it found its footing, Rebels managed to contribute a huge amount to Star Wars lore and served as an excellent source of storytelling within the franchise. This was not merely a show aimed at children. While it may be true on some level that the show was made with younger viewers in mind, Rebels came to embody much of what Star Wars can be at its absolute best. Granted, not every one of the 75 episodes is a home run. There are a few stinkers in the bunch. But the hit ratio is impressive and the great episodes represent some of the best Star Wars of the Disney era. Period.

This is the show that reintroduced Grand Admiral Thrawn to the current canon. Thrawn was a beloved villain introduced in author Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire trilogy of novels. He served as an adversary to the Ghost crew in seasons 3 and 4 of Rebels. This show gave us some truly incredible moments with Darth Vader that could arguably contend with that epic finale to Rogue One. We get more Darth Maul, including a big moment people had been waiting for years to see. The show deeply enriches our knowledge of the Jedi and the Force. It is a treasure trove for those who love this universe.

But it's not just about exploring more of what we know. Part of what makes the show so effective is the characters. These new characters are rich, well-developed and fit perfectly into the franchise. Much like Ahsoka, who was introduced in The Clone Wars and became a true fan-favorite, the likes of Ezra, Kanan and the rest of the Ghost crew are truly outstanding characters. Not just limited to animation either. These are characters that could stand up in any medium as strong representations of what people love about the Star Wars universe. Dave Filoni has proven time and time again that he understands Star Wars exceedingly well and it shows with the core ensemble in Rebels.

But getting more specifically to the point, now is the perfect time for fans to soak up what Rebels has to offer largely because of what is coming down the pipeline. The Mandalorian season 2, at times, almost played like a Rebels sequel series. It picks up with Ahsoka Tano's quest from the show. We get a Thrawn name-drop. We learned more about the Darksaber. And the adventures of Mando and Baby Yoda set up plot threads that will surely be explored in shows like Ahsoka and Ranger of the New Republic and will likely connect to Rebels. Those who have enjoyed The Mandalorian so far may not realize just how much of it owes to this beloved animated series.

Disney made a pretty bold decision after purchasing Lucasfilm in 2012. The Star Wars canon had become quite messy. Rather than try to contend with everything that existed, the studio opted to reset the canon, thereby designating everything in the expanded universe (except for The Clone Wars) produced before the acquisition as "Legends" tales. Not only did it take a lot of beloved lore away from the franchise but it cemented that idea that everything going forward, comics, books, games, movies, shows, would be connected. It would all count. That is a lot to manage. And, what's more, it puts a great deal of pressure on these stories as they all count. If the ball is dropped, to some degree, it affects everything else.

With Star Wars Rebels, Dave Filoni and the new era of Lucasfilm proved what that could mean at its best. A chance to revisit the past with characters like Thrawn and to introduce that past to modern fans. A chance to examine much of what we already love with characters like Vader and Maul in new ways. A chance to explore the galaxy with fresh faces such as Ezra and Kanan, shedding new light and offering unique perspectives. A chance to prove that these stories can not only work, but work unbelievably well on television, ultimately paving the way for shows like The Mandalorian. This is a gold mine for fans who have yet to tap this particular well. There has never been a better time to soak in the riches that the show has to offer. Star Wars Rebels is streaming now on the Disney+ streaming service.