As Master Obi-Wan taught us, the Force flows through every living thing and binds the galaxy together. The Force can be used for good or for evil, to strengthen or to destroy. Both the Jedi and the Sith begin their Force training in same way and but then diverge, typically based on the Master who trains them. But not all Jedi have masters, and certain Force users like Kanan Jarrus prove that formal training isn’t everything.
Kanan Jarrus began his life as Caleb Dume and started his training like many Jedi did, as a youngling in the Jedi Temple. His talent and rather unconventional attitude caught the attention of Jedi Master Depa Billaba, who took Caleb as her apprentice. While others may have found Caleb’s penchant for bending the rules a non-starter, Billaba recognized her apprentice’s quick mind and strong ability with the Force and trained him in the field. As the Clone Wars escalated, she taught him both strategy and tactics.
When Darth Sidious executed Order 66, Caleb saw his master killed by the same clone troopers who had been their allies just moments before. Billaba fought bravely and told her young apprentice to run, giving her life to protect him.
As much as he hated running, he followed the words of his master. Running became a way of life, and soon Caleb Dume became Kanan Jarrus: a wanderer, a scoundrel, a bar brawler, and anything but a Jedi.
Jarrus may have lived that life forever had he not met Hera Syndulla, a Twi’lek rebel pilot who was recruiting others to help fight the Galactic Empire. But Kanan didn’t need convincing. Immediately smitten with both Hera’s voice and her fighting skills, Jarrus joined her on her ship, the Ghost, and they became partners.
During this time, Kanan didn’t let on to most people who he really was. While the growing crew of the Ghost learned some of it, the whole truth wasn’t revealed until young Ezra Bridger came into his life. During a fight to save Wookiee slaves on Kessel, Kanan revealed himself to both Ezra and the Empire, igniting his lightsaber to give the others time to save the Wookiees. Kanan soon realized Ezra was strong with the Force and needed a teacher so he reluctantly took on the role.
No longer suppressing his Force connection, Kanan’s abilities grew as he trained Ezra but he never lost the charm, swagger, or fighting abilities that has served him well in the past. As comfortable with a blaster as he was a lightsaber, Kanan became a cowboy Jedi. His lack of formal training also meant a lack of many of the strict rules that guide a temple or Jedi Master-trained apprentice. Kanan formed multiple attachments, both familial and romantic. He understood that certain emotions and connections gave him more to fight for but always seemed to understand what emotions would lead both he and his apprentice down a darker path.
As Ezra aged and grew in his abilities, so did Kanan.
Kanan and Ezra
In their first trip to the Jedi Temple on Lothal, both Kanan and Ezra had Force visions of Yoda. Ezra passed his first trial and was rewarded with a Kyber crystal for his first lightsaber while Kanan was forced to wait outside. It was here he had a discussion with Yoda, who hadn’t been able to sense him before. What had changed? Kanan had taken a Padawan and in doing so, Yoda informed him, he’d become a teacher in his own right.
Even so, Kanan was unsure of his ability to train his Padawan. There were times Ezra’s training took him dangerously close to the dark side. Around this time, the crew of the Ghost discovered that their rebel contact Fulcrum was none other than Anakin Skywalker’s former apprentice, Ahsoka Tano. Tano’s abilities with the Force had clearly grown and Kanan grew as both a master and a Jedi under her tutelage. Tano also helped guide Ezra, but never so much that she supplanted Kanan.
The next step in Kanan’s evolution as a Jedi came courtesy of Darth Maul in the season 2 finale of Rebels, “Twilight of the Apprentice”. Following Yoda’s advice, Ezra and Kanan went to Malachor and discovered an old Sith temple there. It was there Ezra first met Maul, who had shed the title of Darth and befriended Ezra, portraying himself as a helpful stranger in need of help himself. His real goal, however, was to acquire a Sith holocron at the heart of the temple and destroy the Sith Lords who had wronged him so many years ago.
In a fight over that holocron, Maul blinded Kanan with a swipe of a lightsaber. Soon after, Ahsoka fought Vader in that same temple and was believed to have died.
Now Kanan was left blind and without Ahsoka, feeling both hopeless and helpless. However, over time Kanan learned how to more fully use his other senses to compensate for his inability to see and his Force abilities grew exponentially, as did his connection to the Force.
Once a cowboy Jedi, Kanan became a Blind Master Jedi. His fighting skills and Force skills, along with his love of Hera, Ezra, Sabine, and Zeb helped him forge connections that only enhanced his abilities further. Again, Jarrus took the things he had learned and, because he lacked formal training, improvised and found his own way to a better and more powerful understanding.
It was this power and understanding that led to Kanan Jarrus’ final heroic moment. Hera was captured by Governor Pryce on Lothal and Kanan, understanding that he was in love with Hera and his decision making could be compromised, tasked Ezra to lead the mission. In this way, he could be a part of the mission without knowing what it was and that knowledge couldn’t be used against him. He did, indeed, rescue Hera and the two finally declared their love for one another.
But, sadly, there was no happily ever after for them. Just as all of them were about to escape the Imperial compound, Governor Pryce fired a missile at the fuel pod the escape ship was hovering over. Kanan had just enough warning to hold back the force of the explosion using the Force, but the explosion could not be stopped. In this moment, Kanan had a choice, sacrifice himself to save the others or potentially kill them all in an effort to escape with them.
Like his master before him, Caleb Dume gave his life to give those he loved time to run. I believe, in the end, he understood why his master gave her life and he realized that a true Master chooses the lives of others over their own. In that last moment, Kanan Jarrus became a true Jedi Master using the lessons he’d learned and the life experience he’d gained along the way.
Star Wars Rebels Season 4 hits DVD on July 31, 2018.