Let me start by saying that Star Wars Rebels is good and I like it. That said, the way it introduced Wedge Antilles, the greatest X-Wing pilot in history, is deeply frustrating.
Wedge, Sabine and Hobbie in Star Wars Rebels (Image: Disney)
In the movies, Wedge shows up as a pilot in all three of the original prequels. You’ll know him from his famous lines “Look at the size of that thing,” “Nice shot, Janson,” and “Copy, Gold Leader.” He’s the only pilot to survive both Death Star runs.
I’m already on the record as being a sucker for the old Expanded Universe X-Wing books, which is where Wedge’s backstory mostly resides. Back before Disney dumped the canon status of the books, Wedge was a Corellian with parents who owned a fuelling station. Fleeing pirates destroyed it when Wedge was 17, and his parents died saving others from the resulting fire. Wedge was friendly with a smuggler, Booster Terrik, and he used his friend’s connection to track down and avenge his parents’ death.
Wedge used the insurance money to start a legitimate trading business, which, under the Empire, had a lot of trouble making money without smuggling. Which Wedge refused to do. Eventually, he saw the Empire bomb a town and take people prisoner, which resulted in the death of someone he loved. And that’s when he joined the Rebel Alliance.
In Rebels, and thus the new Star Wars canon, Wedge is now an Imperial defector, which is deeply frustrating for a number of reasons. First of all, that’s basically the default background for Star Wars pilots. It’s a lazy way to explain someone’s skill in a ship and it basically says that the best way for people to join the Rebellion is to be a part of the Empire to see how bad it is and then decide they should fight it. A lot of pilots have this background. Hell, Biggs Darklighter did the exact same thing as his minor storyline way back in A New Hope. (Also, Tycho Celchu’s version of this story back in the EU is much more compelling anyway.)
Second, Rebels has Wedge decide to defect partially because a simulator he does at the Academy demands he fire on unarmed ships. That shows the morality we expect from a hero like Wedge. But the part of his old background where he has such a strong sense of justice that he hunts down the guys who killed his parents? And kills them instead of turning them over to the police? That’s a much more interesting character, morally.
Wedge is interesting because, fundamentally, he’s normal. In comparison to everyone else who warrants a leading role in Star Wars, he’s almost comically normal. Even the death of his parents and his friend the smuggler are, by this universe’s standards, pretty banal. Wedge doesn’t have special training or the Force or an important family. He’s a guy who saw the Empire do evil things from the outside and decided to fight them. He didn’t need to be part of the Empire first to make that choice.
Wedge not coming to the Rebellion from the Empire also makes a more interesting character. Imperial Academies are for elites; originally, Wedge wasn’t an elite anything, he was the son of regular people on Corellia. He was a guy just trying to have a legitimate, legal business who eventually decided he couldn’t let the Empire stand, and he became the leader of the most famous X-Wing squadron in history.
That’s the guy that’s worth following the story of. And I’m still annoyed that Rebels wiped most of that away for the sake of shoehorning him into their story.