*There are BIG spoilers below. Read at your own risk*
Star Wars Rebels aired its final episodes on Disney XD this week, with a positively spectacular series finale. Ezra calls in every favor he has and leads a risky mission to finally reclaim and liberate his homeworld of Lothal.
Immediately, one of the things that was striking about this episode is that the Rebel Alliance is not involved in it whatsoever, and Phoenix Squadron is on their own. It’s fitting for the finale because we’ve come full circle – it’s reminiscent of the beginning of the series prior to their involvement with the Alliance. Plus it allowed them to bring in a bunch of characters not affiliated with the Rebellion like Hondo, Ketsu, and the clone troopers Wolffe and Gregor. Also, from a continuity perspective, it actually is important as the Rebellion’s only victory against the Empire by the time A New Hope starts was the Battle of Scarif and spoiler alert, since Ezra and company successfully liberate Lothal in this episode, that surely would have been seen as a victory.
While this is largely the end of Ezra’s journey, one of the brilliant things about the finale is how they did every one of the characters that we’ve come to know and love – or hate – their proper dues. Not only are there great moments for our main characters like Zeb defeating Rukh, but small moments like Ketsu unlocking the first blast door so the rest of the Rebels can infiltrate the Imperial base. No character was there without having a purpose and they accomplish this deftly with the episodes still feeling like a cohesive narrative throughout. This is especially impressive considering all the various twists and turns to the plot in such a short time.
Most importantly, they knocked every one of the more emotional moments out of the park. Though there are a couple of really good moments like when Hera overhears Ezra talking to his parents or when Gregor says goodbye to Rex after falling in combat, the best one might have been the last moment Ezra and Sabine share together. It’s amazing the kind of emotion that can be conveyed through a simple locking of eyes, even in the animated world. You instantly see that Sabine recognizes what Ezra is going to do and understands where he’s coming from, having had to fight the Empire to free her own people.
Before we dig into the last couple minutes of the finale and the implications they may hold for future Star Wars projects, here are a couple of other quick things worth mentioning:
- The Emperor was clearly trying to manipulate Ezra into opening that gateway to his parents, but for what purpose specifically? It seems unlikely that it was simply a plot to imprison Ezra, it’s much more likely that he hoped to gain something specific but needed Ezra to open it the same way Maul needed Ezra for the Jedi holocron.
- It seems another character from Star Wars Legends has been brought into canon. Near the end of the finale, Thrawn tries to contact one Captain Pellaeon. We don’t hear a first name so we can’t be 100% sure, but Gilad Pellaeon was Thrawn’s second in command in the original Thrawn trilogy by Timothy Zahn. He went on to lead the Imperial Remnant for a couple of decades following Thrawn’s demise.
Now, Ezra’s solution to dealing with Thrawn’s forces is unique, to say the least, and may rub some the wrong way. The purrgil – the space whales capable of interstellar travel – come to the rescue by absconding with Thrawn’s entire fleet to who knows where. The reason this is so perfect is that it effectively gets rid of both Ezra and Thrawn for the rest of the Galactic Civil War between the Empire and the Rebellion. Hera, Sabine, Zeb, Chopper and the rest make sure Ezra’s sacrifice is not in vain as they are able to liberate Lothal with Thrawn’s fleet gone.
It’s an effective solution to the problems that would potentially arise if they were alive and around during that time. You might recall that Yoda only says there is one other hope during The Empire Strikes Back when Luke leaves Dagobah and heads to Bespin. The line is obviously a reference to Leia meaning that neither Kanan, Ezra or even Ahsoka could be around and factoring into galactic events. As for Thrawn, it seems unlikely that we wouldn’t have at least heard of an enemy as cunning as he is in the original trilogy if he were around. This way, both Ezra and Thrawn live to potentially fight another day while still being unavailable to take place in the rest of the Galactic Civil War.
With the immediate events on Lothal wrapped up, the finale does something unprecedented for the franchise by flashing forward. We find that the rest of Phoenix Squadron survived the war with the Empire. As interesting as that is, they proceed to drop two bombshells during the flash forward. Hera gave birth to a child and Kanan is the father. Not only does that mean there’s yet another potential hotshot pilot that was born around that time – considering Jason Syndulla would be a few years younger than Temmin “Snap” Wexley and a few years older than Poe Dameron – both of whom are a part of the Resistance against the First Order. Moreover, if Jason shows any sensitivity in the Force it would make him a potential candidate to have been one of Luke’s students.
Then there’s the arguably even bigger moment where we catch up with Sabine watching over Lothal in Ezra’s stead when Ahsoka reappears. Together the two get ready to set out on their next adventure – to find Ezra. Not only does it connect beautifully with Ezra and Ahsoka’s last interaction – with Ezra telling her to come find him when she gets back – it sets up what has to be one of the upcoming shows planned for the Disney streaming service. It will be interesting to see if it turns out to be the live-action project or another animated show, and there are certainly arguments that can be made to support either option.
With Sabine, Ahsoka, and Ezra being adults by this point, you would think that the story might be told in the upcoming live-action show planned for the streaming app. For starters, the animated shows have generally focused on young characters and Sabine, Ezra and Ahsoka have aged out of that bracket. Not to mention the three of them happen to be three of the most popular characters that fans have been wanting to see make the jump to live-action, Ahsoka especially. On the flip side, Filoni created Ahsoka and would surely be involved in the telling of that story and based on recent comments it doesn’t seem like he’s done with the world of animation.
Either way, after that brief scene at the end of the finale that story needs to be told. Not only does it offer a perfect opportunity to have a series feature Sabine and Ahsoka together, the potential for interesting story lines involving Ezra and Thrawn still exists. They could very well end up being forced to work together to survive on a planet in the Unknown Regions and the thought of that is tantalizing. Though they’re bitter enemies, both are intelligent enough to be able to put aside their differences.
On the whole, it was a fantastic series finale that served all of the characters and the narrative very well. Plus it offers a ton of connective tissue linking Rebels to the Star Wars universe at large – even just with little things like knowing that Hera and Rex fought in the Battle of Endor. Most importantly, it sets the table for future tales to be told in the Star Wars universe.
Images: Disney, Lucasfilm