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In the final run of Star Wars Rebels, the Emperor wants to corrupt Ezra Bridger, perhaps as a replacement for Darth Vader. Clearly, the fourth and final season of the animated series – set just before the events of A New Hope – holds many surprises for the crew of the Ghost. Naturally, fans aren’t expecting everyone to live, although something darker may be in store for one hero.
Since the show first introduced the troubled if gifted Force-sensitive, fans have theorized about Ezra’s fall to the dark side. His brief “mentorship” with Darth Maul and connection to the Sith Holocron, established during the third season, certainly drove home the possibility.
Palaptine’s introduction to the show and interest in the impetuous Jedi certainly raise some interesting questions; after all, Star Wars fans know the Emperor often hedged his bets, apprentice-wise. Could Ezra have truly caught the attention of the galactic tyrant?
Few in galactic history were more scheming and duplicitous than Sheev Palpatine, better known by his Sith alter ego Darth Sidious. Ambition pushed him towards his destiny: ruling the galaxy with an iron fist. To those ends, he had no problem playing chess with the lives around, even his own apprentices.
Despite supposedly being an adherent to Darth Bane’s Sith “rule of two,” Palpatine often took on alternative understudies. His first recognized apprentice in Star Wars canon was Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace. After Maul’s apparent death, Sidious replaced him with disillusioned Jedi Count Dooku, dubbing him Darth Tyranus. But Dooku and his unfortunate last name didn’t last long either; even as he perpetuated Sidious’ Clone War, his replacement, Anakin Skywalker, was being groomed.
Vader was constantly on the chopping block himself, despite doing everything his master asked. Matthew Stover’s Revenge of the Sith novelization includes a sequence where Palpatine hesitates to save his apprentice from a fiery demise on Mustafar for failing to defeat Obi-Wan Kenobi. He only rescinds the death sentence after realizing how much effort he put into shaping the Sith Lord.
In addition, Marvel Comic’s Darth Vader ongoing series, written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Salvador Larocca, revealed that the Emperor had a 20-year-long contingency plan for Vader. Palpatine tasked cybernetics expert Dr. Cylo with engineering cyborg warriors to take over for his apprentice, if necessary. The destruction of the Death Star put Vader in the hot seat, and only his devious scheming and dark side moxie got him back in his Emperor’s good graces.
Speaking of apprentice issues: Ezra Bridger began his stint on Rebels as a teenage criminal with a chip on his shoulder. After he signed on to the Ghost, former Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus took him under his wing, developing his Force powers. Ezra became a key member of the crew and the Rebellion. Much like Anakin and Luke Skywalker, though, he grew disillusioned with the Jedi path, in part due to Kanan’s own insecurities. On several occasions – such as when he’s tempted by the Grand Inquisitor or forces an Imperial walker driver to kill his own troops – Ezra surrendered to his sinister urges, albeit for good reasons.
His negative trend escalated after his parents were killed, leading him to delve further into the dark side. On Malachor, he joined with Maul to locate the Sith Holocron. In his possession, he tapped into the dark side tome to supplement his training. Fortunately, Kanan recognized its corrupting influence and eventually gave it to the Bendu, a neutral Force being.
Ezra also saw the error of his ways, in part thanks to Master Yoda, and stepped up as a leader in the Rebel Alliance. Even though his Force abilities progressed, Ezra still struggles with his powers, his place in the universe, and the uphill battle against the Empire. The pull of the dark side remained, though. Worse still, his prowess and high-visibility in the Rebellion made him a target for the Emperor’s twisted schemes.