Following the success of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars: Rebels is the second Star Wars animated series created by Dave Filoni. Shifting from the Clone Wars to the dawn of the Rebel Alliance, Rebels delves into the Force, the Empire, and the state of the galaxy before Rogue One and A New Hope. Because it's Star Wars, it includes all sorts of little goodies and Easter eggs for eagle-eyed superfans. Some are references to beloved things from Legends, others are little in-jokes about out-of-universe stuff. Others still tie the Star Wars universe together, in an ever-expanding web of interconnections. A lot of these references demonstrate the strength of the Star Wars universe, allowing a lot of easy interconnection without needing much explanation (we still want to know who Snoke is, though).
While there are a lot of obvious references sprinkled throughout the series, including characters, ships and aliens from the movies, this list is more about the stuff you might have missed: references to obscure things from Legends, split-second cameos, a few movie references you might have missed, even some possible sneaky foreshadowing to the futures of the characters. So you're not going to see DID YOU KNOW THRAWN WAS A GUY FROM BEFORE? on this list. And no, we won't tell you Saw Guerrera is in Rebels too. We respect you too much for that.
15 OBI-WAN ISN'T QUI-GON
A long anticipated confrontation, Maul and Obi-Wan meet again for the last time on the sands of Tatooine. After their fateful duel on Naboo, Maul miraculously survived, becoming a cyborg monstrosity obsessed with revenge. His brother found him and restored him to (relative) health, he meddled in the Clone Wars, causing problems for the Republic and Confederacy alike. After walking away relatively unscathed, he later joined the crew of the Ghost, finding his way to Tatooine with them.
Confronting each other in the desert, Obi-Wan offers him the chance to walk away, but Maul is blinded by his desire for revenge. The duel ends almost immediately, with Maul attempting the same trick that let him kill Qui-Gon Jinn way back in The Phantom Menace. Of course, Obi-Wan is much older and more experienced, and sees through the move easily, cutting his old foe down.
14 HERA, CHOPPER AND THE GHOST IN ROGUE ONE
While the cartoon is still several years out from the main action of Rogue One, that's not to say its presence isn't felt. Irascible droid Chopper is seen for a fleeting moment on Yavin IV, Captain [Hera] Syndulla gets paged on the intercom, and the Ghost can be seen both on Yavin IV and frequently in the Battle of Scarif. This raises a few interesting questions for the future of the show and its characters.
Obviously, they don't show up in the original trilogy, but where does that leave Ezra and Kanan? Two powerful Force users would have been a great asset to the Rebellion, particularly with Luke and his training. While the creators of Rebels have said they plan for the show to extend past Rogue One and A New Hope, it seems likely that Ezra and Kanan will be going through a pretty big change of circumstance in the near future.
13 THE LAST COMMAND
The introduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn to the official canon was a huge deal for a lot of Legends fans. One of the most beloved characters from the old canon, Thrawn was famous for his masterful strategy and calm demeanor. In Rebels, the crew of the Ghost find themselves up against Thrawn, and make several attempts to take him out.
One of these attempts involves reprogramming Thrawn's personal assassin droids to kill him. When they attack him, he attempts to override them with the codeword Rukh. In Legends, Thrawn met his eventual demise at the hands of his bodyguard, an alien Nohgri of the same name. While Rukh the Nohgri appears in Rebels, still as Thrawn's bodyguard, the sly reference to his killing of Thrawn through the assassin droids perhaps foreshadows Thrawn's eventual fate.
12 ASHLA, BOGAN AND THE BENDU IN THE MIDDLE
Long before Rebels was even a twinkle in an animator's eye, George Lucas wrote a first draft for Star Wars. In it, the Jedi Bendu followed Ashla, and faced off against the followers of Bogan. These concepts eventually evolved into the Jedi, the Force, and the dark side. Eventually, these concepts would find their way into the Legends canon as the names for ancient Force traditions and planets.
In Rebels, Bendu is an ancient Force user, who develops a friendship with Kanan and Ezra. He mentions the concepts of Ashla and Bogan, equating them with the light side and the dark side of the Force. He then identifies himself as "the one in the middle. The Bendu." His existence presents a new aspect to the Force that had henceforth been represented in The Clone Wars by the Father of the Ones.
11 HE SAYS THEY'VE ALREADY GOT ONE!
Thrawn is a master strategist, skilled combatant, and above all, a big art nerd. He believes that he can gain insight into a person or society through the art it creates. Thus, he has a large collection of art ready at hand. Naturally, this provides plenty of avenues for cheeky Easter eggs.
One of the less obvious ones is a simple wooden cup. One would wonder why such simple thing would be in such a place of honor in Thrawn's treasure room. What insight can be gained from a carpenter's cup? It's not immediately obvious, but art director Kilian Plunkett confirmed that yes, that's the Holy Grail from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. How Thrawn managed to get it out of that cave has yet to be addressed.
10 EZRA SKYWALKER? LUKE BRIDGER?
At the very end of Ezra's brief detour to visit Obi-Wan on Tatooine, Obi-Wan is on his way home. He stops by the Lars homestead, and watches from a distance as the twin suns set in the distance. Complete with audio from A New Hope, Aunt Beru calls out to Luke. A silhouetted figure runs to answer. Aside from the obvious New Hope references, there's an even more subtle Easter egg hidden in this scene.
While we never get close enough to actually see it, the model used for Luke is actually Ezra. Since we never see him up close, the animators didn't make a separate Luke model. While most of the parallels between Luke and Ezra are pretty obvious, this one is probably a little too obscure for most viewers.
9 SHADOWS OF SHADOWS
A long time ago (1996), in a galaxy far, far away (California), Lucasarts released Shadows of the Empire. One of the earlier pieces of the Legends canon, it served to bridge the gap between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Starring definitely-not-a-Han-Solo-knockoff Dash Rendar, it showed, among other things, Luke building his green lightsaber and the theft of the second Death Star plans.
Dash's ship, the Outrider, was a YT-2400 freighter, and like Dash, definitely not a knockoff Millennium Falcon. Naturally, fans of Legends were excited when a YT-2400 appeared in a trailer for Rebels, hoping for an appearance by Rendar himself. Unfortunately for them, it turned out only the ship would be appearing. But that's not to say Dash Rendar isn't out there somewhere.
8 LEGENDS REBORN
One of the more fun aspects of Rebels is the reintroduction of obscure ships from the movies and Legends. The most obvious, making their first appearance in Rebels, later having a moment in the sun in Rogue One, are the iconic Hammerhead cruisers from the Knights of the Old Republic video game series. The TIE Defender, a major part of Thrawn's strategy, first appeared way back in 1994 in the video game TIE Fighter.
Thrawn's personal Star Destroyer is called the Chimaera, just as it was in Legends. Interdictors also make an appearance, although they don't go into widespread use like Legends. Even an obscure ship from Return of the Jedi, the Dornean gunship, gets an updated look and a bit of prominence in Rebels.
One of Thrawn's more iconic aspects in Legends, the ysalamiri lizards were introduced along with Thrawn in Heir to the Empire. They created a bubble in the Force, where Force powers didn't work and Force sensitives couldn't sense whatever or whoever was inside the bubble. Used to manipulate a crazed clone Jedi Master (Legends was a trip sometimes), Thrawn kept one near him at all times.
In Rebels, the ysalamiri aren't a physical presence, but Thrawn is introduced flanked by carvings of lizard-like creatures that sure bear a lot of similarity. Even further, after Thrawn's disastrous encounter with the Bendu, it seems likely that he will start seeking out defenses and countermeasures for the Force. Whether he finds the ysalamiri or something else remains to be seen.
6 BALMORRA RUN TO THE ARCHEON PASS
One of the more well-known arcs of The Clone Wars involves the Separatist superweapon the Malevolence, a massively powerful dreadnought capable of disabling entire fleets. Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano would disable it, along with some early Y-Wings, in a smuggler's run known as the Balmorra Run through a treacherous nebula.
That same nebula's animation model would later appear in Rebels as yet another smuggler's run, the Archeon Pass, again through a nebula. While the Balmorra Run had to deal with space mantas, the Archeon pass was even more dangerous, running through a stellar nursery, filled with unstable fledgling stars. The Ghost has to smuggle Mon Mothma through under Thrawn's nose, but Thrawn anticipates there movements and sends an assassin droid to hinder their progress.
5 I AM THREEPIO. NO, I AM THREEPIO!
Anyone who's delved into Star Wars beyond the movies has probably heard of Ralph McQuarrie. He designed many of the characters, and provided concept art for many of the sets of Star Wars. In Rebels, his designs and style were used extensively, from the thinner lightsabers to the longer face mask of Darth Vader.
One of his most iconic paintings is an early concept of C-3PO and R2-D2. While his R2 concept was adapted into Chopper in Rebels, his C-3PO concept would reappear as an assassin droid in disguise, alongside Chopper, R2, and Threepio, causing general confusion for everyone. An infiltration unit sent by Thrawn, his combat form also resembled a Legends droid, the Dark Troopers of the Dark Forces video games.
4 GENERAL LUKE SKYWALKER
In the first draft of Star Wars, the characters were all very different. The hero was Annikin Starkiller, being mentored by Jedi General Luke Skywalker. Although they still fight the Empire, almost everything else would be unfamiliar to a Star Wars fan. While obviously the character did not physically appear in a rough draft, the script was later adapted into a comic, The Star Wars, where Luke would get an official design.
Based off Sterling Hayden and Alec Guinness, General Skywalker's look immediately called to mind a more robust Ben Kenobi. This design would later appear in the foreground of a market scene on Lothal. He buys fruit and walks away as Ezra walks up behind him. While the character is unimportant, it's still an interesting reminder of what might have been.
3 THRAWN VISITED RALPH MCQUARRIE
In Thrawn's treasure room, among the various bits of art and artifacts of the past hangs a painting of Lothal. In actuality, this painting is by Star Wars concept artist extraordinaire Ralph McQuarrie, and the inspiration behind Lothal. This painting served to inspire another civilization in Legends, the Kiliks, as well as another planet, Maridun, in The Clone Wars
The large mounds became hives inhabited by a species of giant, intelligent insects. They would make their first visual appearance on the planet of Alderaan in the 2011 video game The Old Republic, complete with some very Lothal-esque mound hives. The Kiliks would be presumed extinct for thousands of years, only to re-emerge and cause a bit of a ruckus for Luke's New Jedi Order in the aftermath of a devastating war.
2 COMMANDER GREE('S HELMET)
Most will remember Yoda's effortless dispatching of the clone troopers assigned to kill him in Revenge of the Sith. What they might not know is the clone's name, Gree. Gree appeared several times in The Clone Wars, participating in the capture of Nute Gunray and the second Battle of Geonosis alongside Ahsoka Tano and Luminara Unduli.
After meeting his demise at the hands of Yoda, his helmet, or one that looks a lot like it, apparently found its way into the hands of Grand Admiral Thrawn. Displayed prominently in his office, it gets shown quite a few times throughout the series. Hopefully the aging clones allied with the Rebels will be able to rescue the helmet in the near future, and give their brother a bit more respectful resting place.
1 OLD WOUNDS
The confrontation between Maul and Obi-Wan is much talked about. It brings an end to a character that no one expected to develop as much as Maul did. It also shows Maul and Obi-Wan realizing that there is still hope in Luke Skywalker and a sort of shared, even sweet closure in the end. But most of all, it's riddled with references and Easter eggs for the discerning fan.
Most obviously, it is an homage to Akira Kurosawa's samurai films, a confrontation preceded by a staredown that is finished in a single stroke. But just before, Obi-Wan sends Ezra off, telling him "I will mend this old wound." Now that's a REAL deep pull. "Old Wounds" was a story in the comic Star Wars Visionaries, a collection of not-really-canon stories focused on artists and their visions of Star Wars. It also featured the return of Maul on Tatooine, and a dual between Maul and Kenobi. Most notably, it was the source of Maul's chicken-legged cyborg form from The Clone Wars.