Four years and 75 episodes ago, Lucasfilm Animation embarked on a project that would bridge the gap between the Clone Wars and the Original Trilogy. After Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, several developments were lined up that would ultimately lead to the release of the long-awaited new trilogy, starting with The Force Awakens in 2015. Before that, Dave Filoni and Henry Gilroy, along with most of the production team from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, set out to create another animated television series, that would introduce new characters to the saga (and bring back some old favorites to boot). Thus began the birth of Star Wars: Rebels, a four season-long series that would take place 14 years after Episode III, and five years before Episode IV.
During the last four years, viewers both young and old have enjoyed the adventures of the little skeleton crew of the ‘Ghost’ as they rose from humble beginnings, join with a larger cast of characters from the burgeoning Rebel Alliance. Fans applauded the highly diverse crew, comprised of Hera Syndulla, a female, green-skinned Twi’lek starship captain, Kanan Jarrus, a one-time Jedi Padawan, left masterless in the aftermath of Order 66, Sabine Wren, a talented Mandalorian demolitions expert with a penchant for tagging Imperial property, and ‘Zeb’ Orrelios, a gruff Lasat warrior, without a people. And not to mention the crews’ feisty little Astromech droid, Chopper.
The final and perhaps most important new member of the crew appeared in the one-hour pilot episode “Spark of Rebellion,” Ezra Bridger, a young orphan with a knack for getting into trouble, and a collector of stolen Imperial helmets. Ezra quickly became the focus of the show. For the next four years, audiences followed his development from a whiny, petulant teenager, into a driven young man with a strong talent for the Force, who would soon become Kanan’s apprentice.
Since the first episode, there have been a number of wild adventures, new allies, and worthy foes. Clone Wars fan favorite, ex-Jedi Ahsoka Tano even made her return at the end of the first season. Recurring villain, Darth Maul, was revealed to be alive by the end of the second season. With the third season, another fan favorite from the now non-canon Expanded Universe appeared, in Grand Admiral Thrawn, who became the central villain for the next two seasons.
The third season also started a much darker journey for Ezra, with the discovery of a Sith holocron, which (no thanks to Maul) showed Ezra the possibilities of the Dark Side and with it, an almost drug-like addiction to his new-found powers. As their travels brought them full circle to Ezra’s home planet of Lothal, he had a renewed zeal for freeing his people from the Empire, which had allegedly been the cause of his parent’s death. Just as Luke Skywalker faced (or would face) the death of a mentor, Ezra finally accepts the call to adventure and becomes the ‘grown-up’ hero he was meant to be.
Ezra’s return to Lothal marks the beginning of the end for the series as the 2-part finale aired this Monday on Disney XD with the episode “A Fool’s Hope”, serving as a prologue to the final fight between our rebels and the Empire. With the death of Kanan still fresh on the crew and audience’s minds, the rebels finally put their plan into action, ultimately driving the Empire from Lothal. A seemingly small victory would prove to the team, now led by Ezra, that the Empire can, in fact, be defeated.
The final episode began with an hour-long story, “Family Reunion & Farewell,” in which Ezra and company make their final attack on the base of operations for the Empire’s occupation of Lothal, and subsequently, the final confrontation with Thrawn. While this climax has been building through much of the fourth season, two very specific events marked the inevitable end of the series that many fans may not have been ready to accept. It ultimately had to happen for the show to come to a satisfying conclusion.
Kanan’s self-sacrifice in the episode “Jedi Knight” proved once and for all that the supposed “kids’ show” could take a step forward and become something different, both dramatically and maturely. Fans had no idea that the next act of selflessness would come from Ezra, finally having become the hero and the man that the whole series has been leading to: With Thrawn’s forces ready to annihilate the citizens of Lothal, and the Emperor himself having failed at tempting Ezra with the one thing he always wanted but finally realized he always had, a family to fight and even die for.
While the show has featured a few time-jumps, both between the second and third seasons, three of the main characters have gone through several life-altering changes (and hairstyles). From Sabine’s acceptance of her responsibility to her clan, to Kanan being blinded by Darth Maul, Ezra’s story remained the focal point for the show, and the final inspiration for the rebel’s continuing confrontation with the Empire, eventually leading to the ultimate showdown at the Battle of Endor.
The show ended with very little possibility of continuing as this little, but impactful, chapter in the Star Wars saga as a whole, comes to a close. Although Rebels may go down in Star Wars history as a side-note in the ongoing struggle between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire, fans of the saga will hopefully remember fondly the short-lived adventures of this motley crew of misfits which grew, in their stories, as well as our hearts.
May the Force be with you.