This post contains major spoilers for Star Wars Rebels: Twilight of the Apprentice. You have been warned.
When Star Wars really wants to make an impact, it doesn’t pull any punches and it certainly didn’t in the Season 2 finale of Star Wars Rebels. Twilight of the Apprentice was a game changer for everyone involved. Bodies hit the floor, the dark side was flirted with, fates are left ambiguous, and oh yeah: Maul burned Kanan’s eyes out with his lightsaber.
(Just take a moment and absorb how that’s something that happened on a DisneyXD show.)
With the status quo in shambles, it is Kanan for whom the story will likely have the most lasting ramifications… if handled correctly. Rebels is now not only a show with diversity amongst its leads but also a show where its main character is now disabled. Some people have posited that this will only be a minor setback. After all, the galaxy far far away is one in which the loss of a hand is just a minor inconvenience. Hands can be replaced with mechanical ones and so eyes shouldn’t be too much more of a challenge. What sets Kanan apart from the Skywalker boys is circumstance. When Luke lost his hand, he was a decently high ranking hero of the Rebel Alliance. They may not have always had the smoothest cash flow but they were certainly able to spring for the expense for that particular freedom fighter. On the other hand, (pun intended) the Jedi were well-funded by the Republic. Getting Anakin a replacement arm wasn’t likely much of a struggle especially given that he was friends with the Supreme Chancellor. Fast forward a few years and you have the now-Emperor sparing no expense to save the life of his apprentice. Kanan does not have any of these privileges. The Rebellion is still struggling to really establish itself and the Ghost barely has the funds to cover fuel and supplies let alone undoubtedly costly replacement eyes which are likely a more intricate piece of tech than a limb.
The story itself also dictates that Kanan’s injury can’t just be brushed away because of how integral it was. When Anakin and Luke were dismembered, the fight was done for them. They stay down. They don’t rise to their feet and continue the battle and while we remember their wounds, that wasn’t the main point. Kanan, on the other hand, has to find a way to fight on despite his injury. No one expects him to. Maul basically ignores him after the lightsaber to the face. Against the odds, Kanan rises up again and finds a way to fight despite the loss of his vision but with the help of the Force. It’s a defining moment for him and walking it back by letting his sight return in time would undermine it.
Given his connection with the Force, Kanan does have an advantage that most of his teammates would not if their situations were reversed. As was pointed out in Rebels Recon, Jedi younglings learn how to deflect blaster bolts without using their eyes from a young age. It’s been suggested by some that he can just use the Force to see but it shouldn’t be that simple. Using the Force to sense and respond to your surroundings should take effort and concentration; an amount of concentration that most of us don’t usually expend on tasks like walking around our home. Adapting shouldn’t be something that he accomplishes in an episode or even in two. It should be something that takes time. It should be something that Kanan has to work for.
Interestingly enough, this does give Filoni and company the perfect opportunity to bring forth a species from Legends—the Miraluka. They’re a near-human race with no eyes who use the Force to see. It’s a slightly more specific and, one would assume, eventually instinctive power, differentiating it from how Jedi are usually able to see with the Force. The Miraluka would not only be a fun nod to Legends but could also help expand the galaxy a little more and hey, who knows? Maybe the Ghost might find a few new allies while they’re there… Either method of sight would help move the story forward and also permanently incorporate this new challenge into who Kanan is as a person.
Kanan’s blinding is a terrible, terrible moment in his life but it has the potential to leave a lasting mark on the story. Rebels can seize this opportunity to show that anyone really can be a hero even with a disability. The story and the characters won’t be served by an adjustment period that happens too quickly or one that’s hand-waved with a time jump and neither will it benefit from a lightning fast explanation that he’s just using the Force. Rebels already began to lay the groundwork in the finale for Kanan to need more than a nap and meditation time and if they continue to do so when the show returns for Season 3, they’re going to be doing something really really special.