Friday, April 12, 2024

Endings lead to New Beginnings in Rebels Series Finale

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Star Wars Rebels (Rebels) has finally come to an end. This week’s three-part finale extravaganza certainly pulled out all the stops, supporting characters, references, and wildlife to let the series finally reach its final destination. This finale is almost a perfect microcosm of the series. It’s equal parts exciting, moving, and fun, as well as being frustrating, confusing, and leaving you wanting more (the last one isn’t always a bad thing).

I’ll dive right into the recaps, which will be done as first “Fool’s Hope” and then “Family Reunion & Goodbye Parts I and II” as a single episode. After that, as usual will follow a review of various key parts.

As always, massive spoilers to follow for Rebels.

“Fool’s Hope”

The episode opens with Hera (Vanessa Marshall), Rex (Dee Bradley Baker) and Kallus (David Oyelowo) landing on the Rebellion’s Joopa Base, a converted Imperial AT-AT. It’s the first of many callbacks to earlier episodes and even earlier series in these three episodes. They meet up with a motley crew including Hondo Ohnaka (Jim Cummings), former Clone Troopers Gregor and Wolffe (both Dee Bradley Baker) and Ketsu Onyo (the always wonderful Gina Torres). Even though saving Lothal isn’t sanctioned by the Rebellion leadership, they all agree to do it for Ezra (Taylor Gray).

Did someone say “ragtag group of freedom fighters”?

Meanwhile on Lothal, Ezra, Sabine (Tiya Sircar), Zeb (Steven Blum), and the rest of the Lothal resistance including Ryder, Jai, Mart and Vizago hatch a plan to lure Governor Pryce (Mary Elizabeth McGlynn) to their base. Pryce is freaking out about Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen) returning and executing her so she swallows the bait out of desperation. Battle ensues between her forces and the Rebels.

The timely arrival of Hera and company, Ezra and Sabine’s maturity as warriors and a pack of hungry, angry Loth Wolves turn the tide of the battle in the Rebels’ favour. They defeat the Imperials and capture Pryce. Ezra tells them all that the battle is not over yet.

“Family Reunion and Farewell”

The Rebels have a plan to sneak into the Imperial command dome in Lothal and initiate “Protocol 13”, which mandates all Imperial forces evacuate to the dome. They then plan to launch the dome into space using its thrusters. The self-destruct would be set and the base will explode, ending the Imperial occupation in one fell swoop.

This photo will never not be hilarious

Pryce is convinced to go along with this insanity by Ezra’s logic and the motivation of not being literally thrown to the wolves. Everyone goes on the mission except for Vizago, Mart, and Wolffe, who stay behind with the Ghost to lead the extraction team.

Everything, surprisingly, goes pretty smoothly to start with. Then we see that Rukh (Warwick Davis) has survived being thrown off about four different cliffs; he contacts Thrawn and tells him what has happened. He then goes off to sabotage the planetary shield generator in the command dome.

Thrawn arrives and Ezra threatens him with the deaths of all his troops. Thrawn threatens him back with the deaths of Lothal’s citizenry and bombs part of the city to show he’s not kidding. Ezra surrenders to buy everyone some time and they work out a plan to get the shields back up.

Thrawn and Ezra chat, and Ezra calls Thrawn on all his bullshit art collecting. Thrawn just condescends back and takes Ezra to see Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) via a hologram. He’s looking fresh and not at all Darth Sidious-ish. In a kindly father guise he offers Ezra through the magic of an excavated, stolen piece of Lothal’s Jedi Temple, the chance to see and live with his parents again. All he has to do is open the gateway and from last week’s episode we know why Palps wants this so bad.

Except Ezra doesn’t do it. He realizes he needs to let go of the past and his parents and he destroys the last piece of the temple in a very satisfying “fuck you” to Palpatine.

Meanwhile, the gang back in the command dome re-establish the shields in the nick of time, stopping Thrawn’s bombardment in its tracks. It comes at the cost of Gregor’s life but Zeb also kills Rukh in a rather gruesome fashion. Gregor tells Rex that he was glad he got to fight for something he chose to.

Ezra storms Thrawn’s bridge all by himself and gets some more face time with the Grand Admiral. The shoe is on the other foot this time when Thrawn thinks he has all the cards yet Ezra is still eerily calm. Turns out Ezra called for back up in the form of dozens of gigantic fucking space whales that promptly tear Thrawn’s fleet to pieces. The Pergill wrap Thrawn’s flagship in their tentacles and jump to hyperspace with Ezra and the Grand Admiral inside.

Little Jacen!

The people of Lothal subdue the remaining stormtroopers and the Rebels celebrate a hard earned victory. Then comes the epilogue. Hera has Kanan’s son, Jacen Syndulla. Zeb and Kallus go to live on Lira-San together (I ship it). Rex fought at the battle of Endor. Lothal was safe and Sabine kept watch over it for years. Five years after the battle of Endor though, her and Ahsoka Tano go into deep space to look for Ezra Bridger. On that note, Rebels comes to an end.

Hera’s Balance

So, does this finale conclude the journeys of our heroes in a satisfying way? For the most part, the answer is yes. Let’s look at Hera to begin with. When Hera started the series she was kind but strong space mum in many ways to the younger members of the crew.

However, despite the fact that the entire crew agreed on the need to fight the Empire there was some disagreement on how to do this best. This disagreement led to Hera almost isolating herself at the top, emotionally. She didn’t share secret intel with Sabine, she came into conflict with Kanan and sacrificed the personal in favour of the cause. Hera almost had a tendency to try to do everything herself sometimes because she was so capable, cared so much and trusted no one else more.

Over the course of the show, especially in this last season, it has been brilliant to see Hera find her balance between her natural progression as a leader and her personal feelings towards her adopted family. She has become more trusting and allowed the kids of her little family more room as they age and the result is a flourishing of all. In these three episodes alone it’s amazing to see how Sabine and Ezra have developed as both warriors and leaders and much of that is down to General Syndulla.

Sabine and Ezra Take the Lead

Ezra and Sabine lead the charge in a big way in these episodes and it is lovely to see the kids ascend to a point where they become the primary actors. Indeed, they almost have to be, without Kanan there to fight with them.

In a purely action/physical sense, Sabine mows through at least three gunships in about thirty seconds in the first episode. A Mandalorian with a jetpack is indeed a weapon. Ezra as well, with his use of the Force and his prowess with his lightsaber is more like a Jedi of old than the half trained boy that Thrawn alleges he is.

Sabine takes leadership of Ezra’s mission once he surrenders himself, formulating the plan that helps save Lothal’s capital and the planet itself. It’s the natural culmination of her arc of learning to be a leader. Her aiding Ezra in surrendering himself when everyone was against the idea was also telling. They’re both around the same age and have grown a lot together during this series. It makes sense that they’d understand each other a lot better than anyone else.

The art behind her and adult Sabine are life

Speaking of Ezra, it’s rather beautiful to see how many people are willing to come together to help him. It may not be an army but it’s definitely one of the better rag-tag groups of freedom fighters I’ve ever seen. It’s a testament to how many people the Ghost crew have touched through their actions. Not just the big actions either, but the smaller, more human interactions. Saving Vizago, rescuing Jai Kell and even doing business with Hondo have all come to matter in some way here at the end. Bail Organa said to Kanan in the first season:

“The simplest gesture of kindness can fill a galaxy with hope.”

This finale is active proof of that.

Pryce and Rukh

We may as well examine the episode’s villains in chronological order starting with Pryce and Rukh. Pryce, once again, displayed her knack for screwing things up with her attack on the Rebel compound in what was very obviously a trap. I found her actions here very understandable however, given her desire not to be executed and who can blame her? I can also readily accept her desire not to be eaten by a giant freaking wolf, even her begging seemed a little out of character. That begging squared oddly with her dignified facing of death later in the episode. In any case, I am glad we got to know Governor Arindha Pryce over the last two seasons, she’s been effective and engaging adversary for our heroes.

Moving on to Rukh, who’s basically just been a ninja without any character traits despite some unexplained dislike of Jedi and Lasats. He dies what sounds like a really horrible, slow death at Zeb’s hands and I can honestly say his function could have been filled by literally anyone else, whether it be a royal guard or an ISB agent to replace Kallus or even some random bounty hunter. I guess it’s nice have a shout out to Legends?

Thrawn’s End

When Bendu told Thrawn that he saw his defeat around him like many arms in a cold embrace, I really didn’t expect it to be this literal. Thrawn was in full-blown bastard mode this episode, as he seemed to relish telling Ezra that his friends would be dead soon. I loved that Ezra finally stood up and told Thrawn how full of shit he was when he was bleating on about his art collection:

“You think you can take whatever you want. Things you didn’t make. Things you didn’t earn. Things you don’t even understand. You don’t deserve to have this art, or Lothal.”

Thrawn is a fucking bully and his might is right philosophy is just fascism cloaked in pretty words and an appreciation for art. He isn’t a nice dude, he’s only honourable when it suits him and he isn’t one of those “good Imperials” fanboys love to talk about. It’s great that Ezra calls him out for exactly what he is.

Not so smug now are you?

All this being said, I dislike how he was ultimately defeated by what I can only term “space whale ex machina”. Thrawn is a character I personally would have liked to see hoisted by his own petard, but instead we got something akin to what Ramsay Bolton suffered in the Battle of the Bastards. He got mowed down by a force he couldn’t possibly have known or predicted. Still, it was nice to see the Smug Snake finally lose his cool and panic a little bit.

I guess the question we are left with is, what happened to them both? According to Dave Filoni, neither of them are dead so I guess we’ll have to wait to find out.


The scenes with Ezra and Palpatine I absolutely loved. These last three episodes were choc-a-block with Lord of the Rings references like one episode being named “Fool’s Hope” and the Pergill being the Star Wars version of the eagles. However, this scene called to mind Lord of the Rings more than any for me as Palpatine did his best Saruman impression to try and get Ezra to do what he wanted him to.

Palpatine mimics Saruman in “The Voice of Saruman” chapter of The Two Towers in how he tries to manipulate Ezra. He takes a gentle form, the kind father reproaching but also forgiving a wayward, prodigal son much like Saruman does to Theoden (I think the analogy there is a king to a loved but erring counselor). Palpatine takes it further (I think maybe his defining characteristic could be described as “taking it further”) and offers Ezra the chance to get back everything he longed for, especially in the days after Kanan’s death. The chance to live a normal life without all the pain and loss with the parents he missed so much.

“You can trust me” “Yeah, sure I can buddy”

It’s so damn manipulative and has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Subtlety, however, is not Palpatine’s method, he finds your one point of weakness and just hammers it until you submit. He did it with Anakin, he did it with the Jedi Order as a whole and he tried to do it with Ezra and Luke. I cannot overstate how fucking satisfying it is to see the surprise and horror on his face when Ezra destroys the fragment of the temple and refuses to choose a pleasant past instead of an uncertain future.

THAT Epilogue

Did I mention I ship this?

As soon as I realized an epilogue was happening I honestly had horrible feelings that it would be like the Harry Potter epilogue, but thankfully that didn’t happen. I loved everything about this epilogue. It was really beautiful that Kallus got to see the new homeworld of the Lasat and be accepted and forgiven by them. It really sticks with the theme of simple acts of kindness and forgiveness giving the galaxy hope and healing.

Hera is a mother! A literal space mum! And not only that but a working single space mum who raised a child while being a Rebellion general at the battle of Endor. She is a literal inspiration and one of my favourite characters in canon.

Sabine’s section too, was beautiful. Seeing her stay as the protector of Lothal during the Galactic Civil War seems oddly fitting for a character that has had issues with belonging but always seemed comfortable being something of a loner. Her and Ahsoka taking off to look for Ezra opens up a whole host of new possibilities and I really, really hope that they include a TV series or a movie. Please.

Closing Statements and Stray Thoughts

  • Again, Zeb and Kallus were both underutilised. Kallus especially (I guess I’m used to it with Zeb), he had the potential for a fascinating arc this season either opposing Saw Gerrera’s extreme methods or fitting in to the Rebellion but we barely saw a whisper of that.
  • It seems like this victory was a pretty cheap one in terms of lives lost, seeing as only Gregor bought it on the Rebel side. I didn’t want a Rogue One style situation but it rang a little false that only one named Rebel character died.
  • It was really cool to see all the old The Clone Wars call backs like the reference to the Wolf Pack, the musical cues and the discussion of how the Jedi functioned as a symbol of hope more than anything else.
  • It was also nice to see Hondo not betray someone in three episodes. I think that’s some kind of PB for him.
  • Interestingly, Ezra also had some dialogue that was very Kylo Ren-esque at the start of the last two episodes, but twisted in a much less sinister way. Talk of letting go of the past and finishing what his parents started and whatnot. It was good to see the flipside of that mentality.
  • An amusing little Easter egg as Captain Gilad Pellaeon seemingly gets killed by a Purgill immediately after Thrawn contacts him. I think that will piss off a whole bunch of Legends fans.
  • Also, Chopper is voiced by Dave Filoni!

So that’s that! Star Wars Rebels has finally ended after four seasons of storytelling. It was, at its heart, a series set much more on a ground level than any of the films of even most of The Clone Wars. It was about small people, fighting small battles and doing comparatively small acts of good whenever and wherever they could. As much as I felt like the final battle should have cost the Rebels a bit more, I think this (admittedly long) quote from Dave Filoni answers that pretty much perfectly:

“The difficult thing is there is so much story after the end of this part of the story. And I wanted people to understand, once they overthrew the Empire, there were expectations of a large battle that never happened because basically our story ends and then Scarif and the whole Luke Skywalker thing happens. When Luke happens, the Emperor’s attention is completely refocused… His fear of Luke Skywalker drives his attention away from Lothal so those people end up benefiting in the end. It was all a matter of timing, but I wanted to get to the part of the story that you understood the happy ending.

So many people were obsessed with everybody dying [on this show]. I was really bewildered by it because I’ve seen the original trilogy of Star Wars that people like so much and it’s not like a death count type of movie. It’s a rather positive outcome, which I enjoy. I’ve always felt the best stories end and other stories begin and there’s no better way than to take two of my favorite characters and have them ride off into the sunset like I’ve seen in cowboy movies and Indiana Jones. And you just wonder, “What do they get to do? “I always like that in stories. One thing ends another begins, the story continues and that’s a saga.”

By the time the series ended we saw that those acts of kindness birthed enough hope to free an entire world from the yoke of oppressive regime. Heroes don’t have to blow up Death Stars or save entire galaxies—they can be something as small as giving food to someone who needs it or helping a child who has lost their parents. Each individual act may be just a drop but eventually the drops create an ocean of hope, which is definitely an encouraging thought.

Let’s see more of this please Dave?

Images courtesy of Disney XD and Lucasfilm

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