‘Star Wars Rebels' Season 4 Just Broke A ‘Rick And Morty’ Rule

Ezra Bridger stands before a time portal in the Jedi Temple on Lothal. Lucasfilm Animation

Star Wars Rebels is barrelling toward its series finale, premiering two episodes on Monday — “Wolves and a Door” and “A World Between Worlds” — that significantly expanded the power and possibility of the Force.

Searching for guidance after the death of his master Kanan Jarrus in episode “Jedi Night,” Ezra Bridger opens the Jedi Temple on Lothal, an ancient structure that Emperor Palpatine believes to be a “conduit between the living and the dead.” Inside, Bridger discovers a strange, infinite space, built of arcane symbols and crackling energy. He hears voices, both from the past and the future: Obi-Wan, Qui-Qon Jinn, Anakin Skywalker, even Rey and Kylo Ren.

He soon discovers that the Lothal Jedi Temple is more than a nexus of time and space, but also a portal through which time can be manipulated. Through the portal he witnesses the duel between Ahsoka Tano and Darth Vader, all the way back from Season 2. But instead of allowing her to die at the hands of her former master, Anakin Skywalker, Bridger pulls Tano to safety, yanking her forward through time.

The ability to alter time and save his friends has its limitations; Bridger is unable to change the fate of his fallen master, Kanan. Forced to destroy the temple to deny its power to the Emperor, “A World Between Worlds” ends with time travel and the manipulation of the timeline once again out of reach.

But some boxes can’t be closed again.

After the Enterprise discovered time travel in Star Trek: The Original Series episode “The Naked Time,” Kirk and Spock contemplated its possibilities. “Since the formula worked, we can go back in time, to any planet, any era,” Spock muses.

“We may risk it someday, Mister Spock,” Kirk says.

Star Trek couldn’t resist for long, returning to time travel stories later in the first season and then dozens of times after, including in four Star Trek movies. The allure of futzing with the past and altering the future opened up too many irresistible storytelling possibilities.

The obvious allure of time travel plots in a sci-fi series lead Rick and Morty creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon to explicitly reject the concept in their show. “Time travel is a real shark jumper,” Harmon told Comic Book Resources in 2015. “Once you introduce it into the canon of your show - it’s just a dangerous toy to pull out.” Sitting in Rick’s workshop is a box reading “Time Travel Stuff,” literally shelved.

time-travel-rick-and-morty Time Travel Stuff: up on the shelf, never to be taken down. Adult Swim

The general prohibition on time travel stories became so well-known among Rick and Morty fans that the writers inserted sly nods to it in episodes like “The ABC’s of Beth,” including Rick’s fourth-wall-breaking assertion, “By the way, that wasn’t time travel, there were just a couple pizzas on the counter. I grabbed them.”

Star Wars has dipped its toes in time travel before, but mostly in the now non-canon “Legends” stories. But will Rebels’ new understanding of the Force, which expands the concept beyond even the new powers introduced in The Last Jedi, become a part of series going forward? Will Star Wars take the Rick and Morty or the Star Trek path?

For now it looks like time travel was more about providing an emotional closure for Ezra Bridger than opening up new plot possibilities for the Star Wars galaxy. But the box is open.