Star Wars Rebels, much like its predecessor Star Wars: The Clone Wars got off to a bit of a rocky start. While the "mini-movie" that kicked off the series had a lot of fun elements to it, there wasn't a whole lot of substance there, following in footsteps reminiscent of the Clone Wars "mini-movie" premiere which showed glimmers of promise but was ultimately forgettable.
The good news for Star Wars fans is that Clone Wars found its footing and became an incredible journey that, I could argue, was more satisfying and impactful than the three prequel movies.
And good news for Star Wars Rebels: it appears to continue to follow in the Clone Wars series' footsteps. Progressively getting better and better with every passing episode. Now seven episodes into the series with "Gathering Forces", and at its mid-season hiatus, the one-off character building exercises seem to be out of the way and the show is spreading its more serialized wings. Seemingly one-dimensional characters are finally getting a little bit of depth and intrigue to them, and the stakes are abundantly higher for all the characters than they were in the first two or three episodes out of the gate. Ezra, the character meant to be the audience's point-of-view in this first handful of episodes has journeyed from street-rat, to vicarious aspiring Jedi, to a conflicted youth who is on the edge of giving into his anger and hate. His master, Kadan (who at first seemed like a Hollywood pitch meeting of, "It's Han Solo MEETS Luke Skywalker!") is now showing his lack of experience and training himself, having been a young member of the Jedi Temple at the time of Revenge of the Sith.
Even the bad guys are getting a little more well-rounded as "The Inquisitor" who looks cool and certainly has a super-cool lightsaber as seems to be the pre-requisite for all Sith after Darth Maul, is starting to feel like a bit more than just the heavy who is always running two steps behind our heroes. Though I still question why he's so dedicated to hunting and tracking Kadan and Ezra and not venturing out throughout the rest of the galaxy on the hunt for other Jedi? I know Luke Skywalker was the one and only hope of the Force, so does this mean that Kadan/Ezra are quite literally the last two standing Jedi at this point in time?
But by far, the most intriguing aspect of Star Wars Rebels that's keeping me engaged at this point are the mysteries and larger storylines that it keeps hinting toward that I'm sure will play a bigger part in the remainder of this season and beyond. Hera continues to answer to a larger string-puller in the Rebellion who is known only as Fulcru" in these first seven episodes. There have been some theories as to Fulcrum's true identity, but in "Gathering Forces" the mystery source seems to be flying a vessel incredibly similar to Bail Organa's Tantive IV. This ragtag band of Rebels' destiny in the larger Rebellion is also a big question mark as it seems they're going to prove integral to plot points in the original trilogy (and possibly even the new J.J. Abrams headed sequel trilogy), so you can't help but hang on the introduction and current whereabouts of every character that the show introduces, including a Force-sensitive Imperial cadet who decided to hang back and investigate what happened to his sister at the Academy...
All-in-all, any worries that I had about the series being too squeaky-clean after the mini-movie seem to have been assuaged and the show has become must-watch television for me. You can feel it exuding potential for greatness now, much as Clone Wars did when it truly was firing on all cylinders. I have a feeling that the rest of the first season, and those to follow, are going to be a whole lot of fun.