Spoiler Warning: The following review contains major spoilers for “A Fool’s Hope” & “Family Reunion – and Farewell,” as well as previous episodes of “Star Wars Rebels.”
It is hard to believe that “Star Wars Rebels” has reached it’s final episode; beginning back in 2014 as the first piece of on-screen content we got after the Disney buyout. From the get-go, it carried a lighter tone much like “The Clone Wars” did in its first season, but rather than a anthology series of sorts, we got a consistent cast of characters to follow through all four seasons. The Ghost Crew have all made serious development since their season one selves, especially for Ezra, Kanan and Sabine. Ezra is really the main hero of the story though, and all of his lessons and trials culminate into this one epic finale.
“A Fool’s Hope”
While Ezra begins the final preparations for freeing his home world of Lothal, Hera groups together all the allies the crew has made over the four seasons for this one last operation. The pilot finds two of the clone veterans, Wolffe and Gregor, hiding out where we last saw them in season two, now presiding in a modified AT-AT, an upgrade from their Clone Wars-era walker. The hilarious pirate Hondo Ohnaka and his Ugnaught crewman Melch are already there when Hera arrives, as well as Sabine’s bounty hunter friend Ketsu. Hondo is recruited for his expertise in bypassing planetary blockades, taking advantage of a hyperspace lane for cargo ships to get them onto Lothal.
Meanwhile on Lothal, Ryder Azadi contacts Governor Pryce to exchange the location of the rebels for amnesty in their capture. This is all part of Ezra’s plan in capturing the Governor, who is necessary to get them onto the Imperials’ main base of operations. The rest of the episode is mainly one big action set-piece, which really highlights how far the animation has come. Seeing Sabine flying and taking out Imperial ships and jet-troopers, then transitioning to Ezra dueling the assassin Rukh in the same shot is a one of the best moments of the episode. We finally get to see the Loth-wolves in action, who are a deciding factor in the outcome of the battle. With Pryce in captivity, Ezra is finally ready to enact his plan to free his people. This episode serves as a nice appetizer to the main event, and sets the scales on what is to come in the final episode.
“Family Reunion – and Farewell”
Much like the title suggests, this episode sets up a nostalgic feel as all the pieces of the past seasons come together for one last 45 minute hurrah. With Governor Pryce under their control, the Rebels use her to sneak themselves onto the dome and into its main control center, planning to activate protocol 13 which calls back all Imperial forces to evacuate the planet then blasting it into space to explode. Unknown to the Rebels, Thrawn’s assassin Rukh is able to alert him to the plan, setting the Grand Admiral on a course back to Lothal. When Thrawn arrives, he blocks the dome from leaving the planet and blasts part of the capital city, threatening to do it to the rest unless Ezra comes to him as a hostage. Much to Hera and the rest of the crews dismay, Ezra sneaks through an air vent one last time to escape and comply with Thrawn’s demands.
Once on-board, Thrawn speaks with Ezra and then takes him to a room which houses the remains of the Lothal Jedi Temple where the Emperor himself awaits in hologram form. His appearance is much different than his real deformed face, using the hologram as a way of presenting himself as the regal senator we see him as in the Prequels, and likely what he presents himself as to the public eye of the galaxy. Where we got Ian McDiarmid as the full and unhinged Emperor in last weeks episodes, he plays this one as the much more calm and almost soothing politician, much like he was in the Prequels again. Thrawn leaves the two alone, and while Ezra sees through his ruse, Palpatine presents him with a tempting offer of being with his parents again. He escorts Ezra inside the temple and teases him with the choice of seemingly changing fate, which McDiarmid plays so well you almost believe him. After Ezra tells his parents they’ll always be with him, he closes that part of his past and brings down the Temple around him. As Ezra runs to escape the debris, you see the horror-like image of Palpatine flickering back and forth between his politician and true self.
With the temple collapsed, Ezra watches the wreckage as Palpatine’s hologram strolls out of it still flickering, finally settling on his real look. This segment paired with Palpatine sending in his Royal Guards, the first time we have ever seen them in action, and the “Emperor’s Theme” kicking in is a terrific moment. Ezra sends the debris of the temple flying at the guards, allowing him to escape. On the ground, the crew manage to get the shield generator for the dome active and protect the city from Thrawn’s immediate barrage of fire. Ezra confronts Thrawn on the bridge of the Star Destroyer, revealing a pack of Purgill space-whales which rip through the planets blockade as well as Thrawn’s fleet. The hyperspace capable whales were seen in season two, where Ezra further showed his natural force connection to nature. Ezra tells the crew to finish the job, and then has the whales encase the Star Destroyer, sending the ship with Thrawn and him in it into hyperspace to an unknown location.
Briefly caught in shock, everyone on he ground soon realizes Ezra’s sacrifice and carries out the rest of the plan, blowing the dome and liberating the planet of its Imperial occupation. After listening to a pre-recorded message from Ezra who reveals he had a vision of the events prior, letting them know he would soon be home. We then get a time jump to sometime shortly after “Return of the Jedi” where the Rebellion has been triumphant over the Empire, with Sabine narrating the events that transpired after Lothal’s liberation. Kallus was first introduced in the series premiere as a sort of foil to Zeb, and believed he had wiped out Zeb’s entire species of Losat when he was with the Empire, though Zeb reveals the species was able to continue and survive on the planet Lira San. We then see a shot of Hera flying the Ghost with Chopper and a young boy, who is revealed to be the off-spring of her and Kanan, Jacen Syndulla. The name Jacen is a nice callback from the old expanded universe character Jacen Solo, son of Han and Leia. The final segment shows Sabine remained on Lothal, seeing her heading into the spaceport to see none other than Ahsoka arrive, donning a ‘Gandalf the Grey’ sort of outfit. Dave Filoni has made it no secret about his affinity for “The Lord of the Rings,” drawing inspiration from it for parts of “Rebels.” The episode ends with Sabine and Ahsoka off to find Ezra, with the final shot closing in on a mural of the Ghost Crew painted by Sabine.
One reason the finale works so well is it gives most of the characters a moment to shine, first and foremost being Ezra. Throughout the series, he has shown an affinity to animals in his connection to The Force, presenting a unique attribute to set him apart from all the Jedi we have seen in “Star Wars.” All the lessons he has learned from Kanan and The Force itself build to his last act of the show, one which saves his friends and planet. Last episode he learned the lesson of letting go of his master, carrying over to this episode in realizing he can’t change his destiny and is able to let go of his parents and embrace the new family he has made in this show. In these final two episodes, he carries a resolve as though he finally knows his purpose, and Taylor Gray plays this newfound wisdom in his character extremely well. He has come a long way from being a young and sometimes annoying street-rat to full-on Jedi, and I look forward to what he has in store for future stories.
During Thrawn’s brief encounter with the force-being Bendu in the season three finale, the creature remarks “I see your defeat, like many arms surrounding you in a cold embrace.” From the climax of this episode with the Purgill surrounding him with their tentacles, we know that to be true, and it further plays on the element of something unpredictable like The Force going up against someone who relies on logic like Thrawn. Given how well he was handled and received by fans, it is exciting to know he still has a future in further stories also.
The episode also gives the spotlight to Zeb, who finds himself in a brawl with Rukh towards the end, managing to get the upper-hand by wrapping the assassins foot in the metal bars and leaving him to be fried by the shield generator. The moment where Thrawn attempts to contact Rukh only to have Zeb pick up and hear the shrieks of Rukh is a surprisingly dark one. The war veteran Gregor also meets his end by blaster, remarking to Rex in a touching moment how he was happy to finally fight for a cause they chose to believe in, something the clones were unable to do in the Clone War. Seeing the Royal Guards in action was a very big moment as well, something that fans have been wondering about since they were introduced in “Return of the Jedi” and featured in “Revenge of the Sith.” There has been a theory that the old rebel with a white beard seen in “RotJ” was Rex, which the show confirms through his new outfit and outright saying at the end that he was present at the battle of Endor.
One factor that has played a large part in the entire series success is the music done by Kevin Kiner. The composer has done a phenomenal job at using the already established musical themes from John Williams, and introducing his own which all feel as though they fit right at home. Hearing the “Force Theme” play into the credits and even using the circle screen-wipe to close like the films was a treat, and really ties everything up with a nice bow.
When “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” was ended after the Disney buyout, Director Dave Filoni expressed regret occasionally how he never was able to give a proper ending to the series. With “Rebels” he was given the opportunity to rectify this, and he did so in a fantastic fashion. “Star Wars Rebels” has been a terrific addition to the “Star Wars” canon, one which all ages can enjoy much like the films. Filoni is now overseeing all animation for the “Star Wars” franchise moving forward, and given his success in both of the shows and teachings from George Lucas himself, its safe to say we’ll be in good hands moving forward. We have a lot to look forward to once Disney’s own streaming platform comes, one which will feature a new live-action series from Jon Favreau, who is no stranger to “Star Wars” as the voice of Pre-Vizla in “The Clone Wars,” as well as Dave Filoni’s future projects. It seems all signs point to the next animated series taking place after “RotJ” and will hopefully pick up the cliffhanger for “Rebels” and follow the adventures of Ahsoka and Sabine on their hunt for Ezra. In the end, “Star Wars Rebels” was an excellent follow-up to “The Clone Wars,” one that helps bridge the gap between “Episode III” and “Episode IV.” The future is bright for “Star Wars,” and I am excited to see what adventures await this cast of characters in the future.