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The Star Wars franchise is going from strength to strength, and Star Wars: Rebels is at the heart of it! Season 3 has tied in dramatically with Rogue One, introduced us to Grand Admiral Thrawn, and teased the Emperor's Hand. But perhaps most excitingly of all, it's also brought the much-loved Knights of the Old Republic games back into the Star Wars canon!
When Disney purchased Lucasfilm back in 2012, they eventually decided to restart the canon — meaning the games, comics, and novels that preceded the buy-out were said to be 'Legends'.
In the years since, Lucasfilm has gradually reintroduced fan-favorite elements of the old Expanded Universe, mostly through #StarWarsRebels. In the Season 3 episode "Trials of the Darksaber", one character made a throwaway comment that got fans seriously excited:
"History lesson: The Jedi won the war with Mandalore."
This is a reference to the much-loved Knights of the Old Republic games that were launched in 2003. It's no surprise that Lucasfilm are bringing these games into the canon: The first game in particular is viewed as one of the best computer games of all time, winning multiple awards. For many Star Wars fans, Knights of the Old Republic is as important an element of our beloved Galaxy Far, Far Away as any of the movies.
What does this add to the Canon?
Knights of the Old Republic dives deep into the ancient galactic history that has always fascinated fans. The games were scripted by Drew Karpyshyn, an excellent writer who went on to pen a trilogy of novels centered on Darth Bane, the Sith lord who established the famous 'Rule of Two', which dictated that there must only ever be two Sith lords: One master and one apprentice. Karpyshyn then fleshed out the era with a Revan novel, too.
The games are set before this Rule of Two, so feature a desperate war between armies of Sith and Jedi. These interstellar battles lead to conflict with the Mandalorians as well, who were basically acting as pirate-raiders at the time. Although the Mandalorians ultimately lost the war, Rebels showrunner Dave Filioni has explained how this conflict defines the Mandalorians.
"The Mandalorian-Jedi War that I have in my mind is very much derived from the oldest style of thinking of Mandalorians, which was that their weapons, their arsenal, their technology had a massive increase once they collided with the Jedi and found these force-wielding people that had abilities they didn't understand. Their armor is a reaction to the Jedi, and I've always believed that because that seemed to be something that would be in the DNA of the Joe Johnston [concept artist on the original Star Wars trilogy] designs of them as super commandos."
There's a sense that we've been building up to this for a while. Knights of the Old Republic was so popular that elements of the game were absorbed into George Lucas's Clone Wars animated series and thus have remained canon. The Darksaber itself — a key element of the current Rebels arc — is conceptually similar to the black lightsabers of the games.
What about Revan?
At the heart of the Knights of the Old Republic games stands the character of Revan, a Jedi Knight who played a key role in the defeat of the Mandalorians. The war between the Jedi and the Mandalorians culminated in a duel between Revan and the Mandalorian leader, Mandalore the Ultimate, and it was Revan who emerged victorious. Unfortunately for the Jedi, Revan discovered that the Sith had influenced the Mandalorians, and tracked the Sith Emperor back to his base. There, Revan was seduced by the dark side and became a Sith Lord for a time. Although Revan's mind was wiped the dark side would always tempt him, meaning players — who took on the role of Revan — could choose either a light side or a dark side plot.
It's too soon to say whether or not Revan himself will appear in the Star Wars movies or animated shows: Although the Mandalorian Wars are canon, that doesn't necessarily mean that Revan's legendary role is.
Here's where things get really exciting, though. Before Disney's purchase, Star Wars movies had focused on the "Skywalker Saga". With the success of Rogue One Lucasfilm is considering future spinoff films. We know they're working on a Han Solo film, with Woody Harrelson playing a young Han's mentor, Garris Shrike — this character is lifted straight from the old Expanded Universe novels, suggesting that we may actually see core EU elements transition to the big screen.
Fans are confident that, sooner or later, Lucasfilm is going to head back to ancient galactic history, as a film or, as many fans are hoping, some sort of Netflix series. Shrike's appearance in the upcoming Han Solo movie suggests that Lucasfilm is more than willing to adapt old EU content for the movies, and Knights of the Old Republic is already a tremendously strong brand due to the success of the games. Personally, I think there's a real chance we'll actually see Revan star in his own film, or possibly even a trilogy set in the distant past. The tantalizing throwaway comment in Rebels doesn't just leave us open to the possibility that the games are canon — it means that the character of Revan, one much-loved by Star Wars fans, may ultimately make a big-screen debut!
Right now, this is just a possibility; but with Rogue One, Lucasfilm proved that spinoff films can be blockbuster hits. Whether Lucasfilm choose to develop Knights of the Old Republic into a movie or not, Rebels has at least hinted to Star Wars fans that their much-loved, award-winning games are still acknowledged as important. These are definitely exciting times to be a Star Wars fan!