– By J.W. Fox –
WARNING: SPOILERS OF SERIES FINALE FOLLOW
While the Star Wars saga marches on with Episodes 8 and 9, Disney is filling in some of the gaps with its Star Wars Stories and its animated series. Star Wars Rebels was their first, tying into to the events before A New Hope but separate from Rogue One. It introduced its own characters, planets, with a few cameos here and there (Ahsoka Tano, Obi-Wan, Maul, Vader, etc.). Its fourth and final season concluded barely a week ago bringing a strong and satisfying close to a show worthy of the franchise.
The series finale brought a decisive end to the occupation of Lothal, something that did not seem possible when the show began. Many wondered how the story could end well, considering the Empire endures for years with the decisive battles all far away. How would Disney and Creator David Filoni tie them in to the greater epic? Some theorized the crew of the Ghost would inevitably find themselves either at the battle of Scarif or Yavin 4. They could not be the big heroes of course, but at least they could say they were there. Others wondered if the show would pass the events of the movies and end with the battle of Endor. That arc would have to cover years, requiring the characters to age (especially Ezra Bridger).
There wasn’t much room for these new heroes to make a big difference in the rebellion. We know who the heroes of the rebellion were and they did not include a fallen Jedi knight and his apprentice. Luke Skywalker destroyed the Death Star and was the last of the Jedi after the death of Yoda. Tarkin comments that Darth Vader is the last known practitioner of the Jedi religion (albeit as a Sith). The question I had throughout the show was “how do Kanan and Ezra fit?”
The writers found creative answers to the many questions. Lothal is liberated from the Empire. After Yavin IV, the Empire is so distracted with tracking down the Rebel Fleet and Luke Skywalker, they do not bother retaking the remote backwater world of Lothal. Strategically this makes sense and fits with the rest of the epic. Kanan dies saving the crew of the Ghost, Ezra Bridger vanishes with a bunch of space whales, thus removing the plot complication of their presence in the latter part of the rebellion.
The other members of the crew have satisfying ends to their stories. Hera Syndulla fought at the battle of Endor. Zeb brought Kallus to his new home world to show that he did not wipe out his race. Sabine Wren stayed on Lothal as a guardian along with a modest rebel contingent, ready to do battle if the Empire returned. At the end of the show, she is visited by Ahsoka Tano with a new call to action. They must find Ezra.
A clean, satisfying end and a gentle reveal of what could be the next Disney Star Wars animated feature: Sabine and Ahsoka. Both are popular characters. Ahsoka in particular has been a fan favorite, resulting in her getting her own novel. She deserved better than an off-camera death. Although her resurrection was a deus ex machina moment, I am happy to see her story is not over. Best of all, the show will not be another original trilogy prequel. It will take place after Endor. At last! A story that takes place before the first movie.
The time travel from the Jedi temple, force-sensitive wolves, and space whales all added some wrinkles to the canon that are more Disney than Star Wars. Talking animals is a common trope in Disney movies and shows, but not part of George Lucas’s epic. Jedi can manipulate animals at times but they are still just animals. Their miraculous intelligence allows them to save our heroes, which to me is a little too convenient. Hopefully, these remain animated creations and will not find their way into live-action movies. I know Star Wars is basically a fantasy but that doesn’t mean we need to start incorporating talking animals.
Don’t expect Ezra or Ahsoka to be around once the time line reaches The Force Awakens. If Luke Skywalker was rebuilding the Jedi Order, you’d have to think that Ezra at the very least would have been there. He would be around Luke’s age by then. Ahsoka would be nearing retirement age. Their stories fit snugly between Episodes 6 and 7, more than enough time.
It also leaves open the possibility of bringing back Thrawn. If Ezra survived the hyperspace jump, Thrawn may have as well. Thrawn’s character loomed large in the old EU and the recent novel all give juicy teasers of great things to come. It would have been a shame to end his story so early. Thrawn ought to play a role after the fall of the Empire, as he did in the Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy.
Overall, Rebels delivered more in four seasons than Clone Wars did in six seasons. At the same time, Rebels didn’t always look so promising. It featured yet another obnoxious teen as a protagonist, yet another force-sensitive potential “chosen one” character. The detour into the holocron and Darth Maul was disappointing and felt like a desperate attempt to include another legacy character. The single-serve adventures in Season Three were all pretty underwhelming. The Bendu character also felt like a cheap plot device to help the writers.
There is word there are more animated series on the way. Hopefully they do not try as hard to include legacy characters bending the events of the epic to the point of breaking. I also hope they do not start with another brat as the main character, although they may not have much choice. Disney may feel the protagonist must be someone their TV audience can relate to with ease. Most of all, it is time for Star Wars to move past the prequel era. There are plenty of gaps among the original trilogy and between Episodes 6 and 7.
The first two seasons were strong, with a mix of one-off adventures and broader story arcs. Season One introduce us to the Ghost crew and brought the revelation that Fulcrum is Ahsoka Tano. Season Two brought the inevitable duel of master and apprentice, and the apparent demise of Ahsoka. Season Three lost its way despite the exciting introduction of Thrawn. All is forgiven with the what we got in Season Four. Several dramatic moments, better adventures, and a great ending.
J.W. Fox is the Editor of Prescientcifi.com and author of two novels: The Fifth World and the sequel The Fifth World: The Times That Try Men’s Souls under the pen name Jacob Foxx. When he is not reading or writing science fiction, he works for a small biotech company in Raleigh, North Carolina.