*There are spoilers in this review.
After four terrific seasons, Star Wars Rebels ended with a 90-minute series finale that lived up to all expectations. There are the space battles, firefights on the ground, and exotic and strange creatures (in this case the Loth Wolves and the space whales) that we have come to expect, but series creator Dave Filoni and his team also gave us complex characters that we cared about and wanted to see make it through the finale.
The mistake people have made about Disney XD’s animated series Star Wars Rebels – as some did with its precursor Star Wars: The Clone Wars – is to dismiss it as a children’s series rather than give it the respect it deserves. That is unfortunate because both series are definitive parts of the Star Wars Canon, meaning that they both have deep connections to the all the films and help fill in the blanks for gaps in time between them that fans greatly appreciate.
The nine films (counting Rogue One which is considered part of the canon) in the series each give us a limited point in time with the characters and we get to know them based on that moment in the saga. We fans do understand that time elapses between the films, and these characters have lived during those times and we don’t see what happens in that period.
The Clone Wars and Rebels have given us a deeper look into that galaxy far, far away and the characters we know and love who inhabit it. These series also introduced new characters like Captain Rex (Dee Bradley Baker) and Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) who have become beloved as much as any characters from the films.
The biggest question that bothered my son and me as we watched these four seasons of Rebels was the obvious problem with this series – these characters are (like those from Rogue One) moving into the same time frame of the film A New Hope – Episode IV. As we saw in Rogue One, that meant all of the characters (good and bad) had to perish, except for ones we knew continued on in A New Hope.
My young son and I have watched every episode of the series together, and we were both excitedly anticipating the finale as well as dreading it. Not only did we not want the series to end, but we were both afraid that we were going to have a similar ending as Rogue One. I am happy to report that this was not what happened.
We had every reason to think this way because Kanan Jarrus/Caleb Dume (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) died when he sacrificed himself to save the team in the midseason premiere a few weeks ago. Kanan, being a Jedi knight, was logically on the hit list because he would have to go in order for Luke Skywalker to truly be the last Jedi.
We had justifiable fears that the remaining Ghost crew of Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray), Hera Syndulla (Vanessa Marshall), Sabine Wren (Tiya Sircar), Zeb Orrelios (Steve Blum) and droid Chopper (Dave Filoni) were in danger and, while they all found themselves in life and death situations, they do survive, though in Ezra’s case there is a big question mark.
In a bold move devised by Ezra with the help of the Loth wolves, the team defeats the imperial forces on Ezra’s home planet Lothal, takes Governor Pryce (Mary Elizabeth McGlynn) prisoner, and all seems right until Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen) and his fleet arrive and threaten the team and the citizens of the planet. Since Ezra’s whole plan was to save the people of his planet, he feels obligated to do something and agrees to surrender himself to Thrawn.
In this selfless act Ezra proves that he is worthy of the Jedi training he received from Kanan, and when Thrawn turns Ezra over to the Emperor (voiced by the great Ian McDiarmid) via a hologram video, it is hard to escape the feeling that Ezra is walking down the same path as Luke does in Return of the Jedi.
The Emperor does not appear as his battle ravaged self but rather as the more benevolent-looking Palpatine, and as always is the case with this character, there are ulterior motives. The Emperor pretends to give Ezra a tour of the Jedi temple, but his goal is for Ezra to access the World Between Worlds as Palpatine knows that Ezra has entered it before. If the Emperor can enter this realm – where there is access to the past and the future – his power would be invincible.
The Emperor tempts Ezra with the possibility of an alternate life where his dead parents can be alive again. Despite Ezra’s misgivings, he looks at a gauzy wall (reminiscent of Rey’s experience looking for her parents through a smoky wall in Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and wants to go through it and be with his parents again. As the wall becomes more transparent and the images of his parents become clearer, Ezra has a profound Jedi moment when he understands it is a false hope and runs away.
Seeing that his ruse did not work, the Emperor morphs into his current disfigured shape and tries to attack Ezra, but Ezra uses his considerable powers in the Force to bring down the walls of the temple. Surprisingly, even though the Emperor is only a hologram, he is unable to restrain Ezra who escapes and goes to confront Thrawn. This tantalizing scene is a way to not only connect Rebels directly to the Original Trilogy but also foreshadows the Emperor’s plans for Luke, a boy approximately the same age as Ezra.
When Ezra confronts Thrawn on the bridge of the ship, it seems as if Ezra may be killed until the arrival of the Purrgils (space whales) that crash through the windows and envelope Thrawn in their tentacles. Ezra had anticipated Thrawn’s attack on Lothal and had summoned the Purrgils to help defeat Thrawn’s fleet.
Just as Kanan sacrificed himself to save the team, Ezra also gives himself up to allow the Ghost and its crew to escape. The Purrgils take the ship and Thrawn and Ezra along with it and jump into hyperspace, so we can say Ezra survives but his whereabouts are very much unknown.
At the end of the episode we get an epilogue in the form of Sabine’s voice-over, and she tells us the crew survives until the Emperor and his forces are defeated at the Battle of Endor, taking us right to the end of The Return of the Jedi. We also learn that Hera and Kanan did indeed consummate their relationship, and the proof is her young son Jacen, about whom Sabine tells us, “Born to fly just like his mother, and well, we all know what his father was like.”
Filoni teases us with a final scene of Sabine meeting up with Ahsoka, who looks older and much wiser than when we first meet her as Anakin’s young apprentice in The Clone Wars. Now we learn that Sabine and Ahsoka are going to team up and search the galaxy in order to find Ezra. The possibilities are tantalizing as we contemplate that duo joining forces.
There are many unanswered questions such as: Will Jacen be Force sensitive and grow up to be a Jedi like his father? Will Sabine and Ahsoka find Ezra and bring him home? Will Ezra then train Jacen as his father Kanan trained Ezra? The exciting possible answers may come in a new series, hopefully with Filoni back at the helm.
For now, my son and I are extremely pleased with the finale. Star Wars Rebels ends well and with an understanding that we are left right at that place between The Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, which certainly leaves room for another series to fill in that large gap of 30 years, with characters like Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Leia Organa all in the mix for possible guest appearances. Here is hoping that Filoni will get that on the air sooner rather than later.
Until that time comes, may the Force be with you all!