Answers To Your Burning Star Wars Rebels Season 2 Finale Questions

Now that you've seen the Star Wars Rebels season two finale "Twilight of the Apprentice", you're probably wondering what the heck happened. I was at the premiere of the finale and Star Wars Rebels executive producers Dave Filoni and Simon Kinberg were on hand to answer questions after the screening. Hit the jump to find out what they said regarding the epic ending and your other Star Wars Rebels season 2 finale questions.

Obviously, spoilers for the season 2 finale of Star Wars Rebels follow.

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Is Ahsoka Tano Still Alive?

The season finale of Star Wars Rebels season 2 ends with the epic confrontation of Darth Vader and his former Padawan Ahsoka Tano, leading to a very ambiguous moment where we don't know if Ahsoka survives or not. I loved the entire episode up until this moment. Not because I thought Ahsoka shouldn't die — all the Jedi must die before A New Hope begins and her character has very little left to do character arc-wise (unless she joins Vader). I'm also not bothered by cliffhangers – I love serialized television and endings like Empire Strikes Back. But the ending felt more like a cop-out than a cliffhanger. And certainly, if this is how Ahsoka dies, it's lame that we don't even get that dramatic moment of really seeing it.

Anyway, you probably are here for the answers and not my opinion, so let's get to it. When asked whether Ahsoka Tano is dead or alive, Star Wars Rebels showrunner Dave Filoni gave the following answer:

I think that right now what's important is it's really a moment for you as a fan and for me to see more of what you're made of. Like how strong is your faith. What do you believe? What did you see there in the final moments? 'Cause I know what happened for sure. And I think that it would be just cruel and rob you of your own independence if I said blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You know, it's like I didn't put an image of Vader like dragging her head along at the end. That'd be horrible. That would be like I couldn't even get off this lot if that happened. And yet I didn't have a Loth cat come up and purr at her ankle as she picked it up and said "close one." So neither of those is an acceptable outcome. So I never answered your question. But nebulous. Nebulous with complete certainty as to what happened in my own mind and now at conventions I'll be plagued with what people– which is fine. I can deal with that. 'Cause interest is good. 'Cause it means we keep making the show. So that's fine. Fair enough.

Executive producer Simon Kinberg says he knows the answer to the question so he couldn't rightfully answer it outright, but agreed with Filoni that "it's up to your imagination and then eventually you will learn one way or another." Kinberg says it all started when they discussed the possibility of whether or not to bring in Clone Wars characters to Season 2:

That would mean the show and one of the sort of responsibilities we felt was if we were bringing in these characters, we'd have to give them really dramatic arcs. They would have to have as dramatic stories as our main characters. And certainly this at least ending for now was something that we talked about throughout the process of working on the season and knew we were gonna end this way, this season.

Both Ahsoka Tano voice actor Ashley Eckstein and Ezra Bridger voice actor Taylor Gray choose to believe that Ahsoka is still alive, although neither were let in on the truth when they recorded the episode. In fact, neither of them even knew what happened in the ending until they saw the premiere this week. Eckstein explains the process:

Well obviously I knew the lines I recorded. And that was pretty much it. I've been giving Dave an incredibly hard time because we've known each for 10 years now and we do you say ugh? But he's always told me everything. Always the storylines ahead of time. And nobody believed me out there, but I didn't know. And wow. I don't even have much to say. I'm still processing it. It was so beautiful and so amazing. And I do have a million questions but now that I've seen it, you have to be forced to answer.

And Filoni explains that he didn't let them in on the later events because they shouldn't know:

But you couldn't know what happened because Ahsoka didn't know it was gonna happen to her. So if you knew what was gonna happen, it would make your performance false. So I couldn't tell you ahead of time that was what happened to you. 'Cause it wouldn't make any sense.

And even after seeing the episode, they, like you, both stars are still unsure of what went down in the end. Filoni said:

I can tell her, but we won't tell you. Unless of course she is truly dead, which then there's nothing more to tell. And she would know that she's dead so she'd just be dead.

And Eckstein admits whether or not Ahsoka is alive or dead, she trusts Filoni with the character:

And I've always said that no matter what happens with Ahsoka, I trust Dave. So whether she lives or dies, he's always gonna do the right thing for the overall Star Wars story. And so whatever that may be, I promise him I'm always fine with it. And of course I became so attached to her and I didn't want anything bad to happen to her, but he once told me that if Ahsoka and Vader faced off, it wouldn't be a good thing for Ahsoka. So and that was several years ago. And so I always had that in the back of my head. It's like okay, I trust Dave. I want her to live. I want her to live. But oh it's not gonna be good for Ahsoka. So I was just so nervous. And then I would get photos on my phone of Ahsoka with her head chopped off that Dave and Henry would send me from recording sessions. Like ha-ha, have a good day.

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Later in the post-screening Q&A, Eckstein jokingly asked Filoni "So I wanna know, am I reprinting the Ahsoka Lives T-shirt or am I pirating the Ahsoka's Dead T-shirt?" Filoni laughed and responded with the following:

I think what's great about this... Again, it's kind of like you can sell two shirts. This is what I do. I help her out all the time. What you do is you sell this shirt for like the optimists, right? And then you sell a new shirt with just all you have to do to take that design add a question mark. And that's all you have to do. It's a really inexpensive thing. You can even take like back stock you have of additional shirts that can't sell and you can just like boom, put a question mark on it and it's a whole new shirt. It's a brand new shirt. You can sell that one, mark it up.

Hit the next page to hear what they say about Ezra Bridger's possible turn to the dark side and more.

Is Ezra Being Pulled to the Dark Side?

As for Ezra's ending, he is seen holding a Sith Holocron which is beginning to open and he looks up. After the screening Gray asked Filoni about that moment before they came out to the the Q&A:

I think his eyes went red, no? But then I was asking [Filoni] if [it was] just a great animator who was like, oh he had something red in his hands so reflect red off his eyes. Or are we saying something with that? And I can't get a straight answer.

Filoni later explained that Ezra is susceptible to the dark side.

Is Ezra susceptible to the dark side? I said yeah, of course. Everybody is. You don't have to be a Jedi or a Sith to be susceptible to the dark side. The dark side can be, you know, one of the politicians in the Senate that seizes things for his own greed and power. It can be Hera if she decides to be a TIE fighter pilot. And rip things up and do things for her own. When you make it very simple for yourselves in your storytelling. If you're being selfish and self motivated and doing things to gain power for yourself, evil, Sith. Selfless, for others, even sacrificing your own life, you can be more powerful than you can possibly imagine, Obi-Wan Kenobi, good. The Jedi in the Clone War unfortunately are far too to the center and that's why they fail and that's why they lose. So there's a full on answer for you.

As for the unusually dark episode of Star Wars Rebels, Filoni admits that he was outvoted in the writers room and this is the result:

When the story got pitched out in the writers room, we were all excited and you can vouch for this. I was sitting there and I said, look, I have to say this. I know it's really exciting to pitch this really dark stuff and it sounds great here in the writers room and it's awesome and it's just powerful and yet a year from now you're gonna be in a theater with a bunch of kids and family and a good Star Wars feeling and it's a totally different thing, 'cause the dark side isn't dead. This is the cautionary tale here. And I got vetoed so I made it dark and scary for you. You're not gonna get like sunflowers and Jawas when Darth Vader shows up. So be careful what you wish for. [...] We have some really fun episodes which have a lot of comedy as well.  There are some episodes with only droids in them.

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The Internal Struggle of Ahsoka Tano: Did She Know Anakin Skywalker Is Darth Vader?

Filoni also explains Ahsoka's internal struggle with the realization that Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader:

Ahsoka doesn't want to believe that Anakin would be capable of becoming Darth Vader. And when we were talking about the possibility, George [Lucas] and I talked at length about Order 66 and Ahsoka and what happened. And we had it all figured out. And one of the key elements is that her whole life once she's trained by Anakin, when she's at peace and calm and looks into the Force, she can sense the presence of her friend. And this is something that occurs. When tragedy strikes someone, you'll read an article about someone that tells something bad happened to their parent or their sibling and they call on some of these habits. And you have this connection between people. She's always looked at the Force and been able to be confident that he is there. When Order 66 happens, she reaches out to the Force and he's gone. There is no Anakin Skywalker. So just like there is nonexistence of so many Jedi, she assumes he's dead. So when she encounters Darth Vader at the beginning of Rebels Season 2, she looks into this dark void and at the center of it she gets hit by something that's so familiar. It's overpowering. That it just shocks her back and she goes unconscious. Her unconscious mind is completely aware that Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker. Her conscious mind can't handle it. She just cannot accept that truth. So she spends the whole season basically coming to grips with that fact, which we see in the Jedi Temple. That this is the truth. Once she understands the truth that Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker, she is faced with the same problem Luke Skywalker faces, which is Luke says, I cannot kill my own father. And she cannot kill this person that was her dear friend. She cannot do it. But nor will she leave him and abandon him. She feels like she did before, 'cause she feels guilt because if he became this terrible, dark person that's done all these horrible things, she feels like she is in part responsible because she could have been there and prevented it. That's not necessarily true. But tell her that. So that's, those are the type of things she's dealing with.

Bringing Ahsoka into Star Wars Rebels finally gives Darth Vader a reason to show up, because as Filoni says, "you can't bring Vader in to challenge Ezra and Kanan" because "he's just not gonna be that interested."

You had to have a character that he was personally invested in. And once we had a personal story that would be the foundation of it, it made a lot more sense to tell the story. Plus Ahsoka could interact with Ezra and Kanan. You kind of get a more complete tale. 'Cause this season we wanted to challenge Ezra with the dark side and what that window is now he's accessed some sort of power. Danger comes with that. He has to be responsible with that power. Whether you use it for yourself or you use it selflessly, that's always the big question. So along the way we get to kind of deal with some old characters and see how they are dealing with these same issues along the way."

The image of Darth Vader's mask split revealing some of Anakin Skywalker's face was something that Filoni doodled during the writing meetings for the episode. Kinberg said:

[Dave] drew an image of Vader's split mask or helmet, which was I thought like the most, one of the most compelling images I've ever seen in all of Star Wars. And it ended up in the show. But I do remember when you were actually just doodled it during a meeting.

Filoni has thought about an Ahsoka / Vader confrontation for a long time now, so he knew exactly the image he needed to bring to this story.

One of the images paramount to this story and all the versions of Ahsoka fighting Darth Vader that I've had over the years, I've thought about it for a long time is the image of her literally leaping up onto his chest there, 'cause he's the scale always intriguing that she's small and he's this monolith. And that she could just be poised up there and with two sabers knock one away and then strike at the helmet. That was always something that lasted year after year after year. And sometimes she died and sometimes she didn't die after that course of events. So but that and I was telling Kiri and Simon about it and I said, always the same and Kiri's like well let's do it. And I was like oh wow, just that easily. Let's just do it. So and then we, there it was. And I thought it turned out pretty good. I like that moment.

Continue on to the next page to learn how the cross guard lightsaber ended up in this episode and what significance it might have to Star Wars canon, and much more.

Star Wars Rebels cross guard lightsaber

How the Cross Guard Lightsaber Ended Up in a Sith Temple

As for the appearance of a cross guard lightsaber in the ruins of the battle in the Sith temple, Filoni was nice enough to explain to me how that happened. But his answer seems very telling about his feelings towards J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens, seeming to almost mirror his mentor George Lucas.

It's a very big challenge to make Star Wars on any level. And the pressure that the Episode VII team had faced to try to bring that to life I thought was huge. I thought that J.J. and his team really did a great job and I really liked where they were their most daring with things like BB-8 and the cross guard saber, because we hadn't seen that before. And I love Star Wars I haven't seen before. 'Cause I always like to point out to my design team like I didn't know there were Walkers on snow until I saw them. I didn't know there was a city in the clouds until I saw it. The Empire Strikes Back did not try to just be A New Hope and neither did Return of the Jedi. So I love those elements in those movies that they did. They came up with this lightsaber that caused this big stir among fandom. And it's always great when something does that. And Kylo Ren was really fascinating to me because he seemed to be a student of history, especially Sith history and Jedi history.

But how did the cross guard saber end up in the Sith Temple ruins?

I asked [Lucasfilm story group head] Kiri Hart if I could put a cross guard saber among the artifacts in the ruins of this temple. And she went to Kathy [Kennedy] and asked and I said, I really just wanna put it in for one shot as a nod to those guys for the tremendous achievement that they were making and this kind of unique saber. And that thousands of years ago there was some other Jedis that had it. So it absolutely was Jedi. 'Cause I have seen double bladed sabers that are Jedi and double bladed sabers that are Sith. And I don't think there's many things that one of the groups invented that the other didn't try. And I think it's a certain type of discipline and trying to figure out why you would use that saber and why it was abandoned. All types of swords have been developed over history and abandoned for different reasons and techniques.

But of course, the small moment ended up in the season two trailer and resulted in a huge response in the fan community.

And then we put it in the trailer and they were like you put this in the trailer, they're gonna think Ezra uses that. I'm like ah, it's not my fault. I can't help that. I'll give you another strange reference point that I used. This is how my mind works. It's very whatever.

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The Meaning Behind the Look of the Episode

As for the the design and the look of the temple, Filoni explains that he was mainly influenced by the juxtaposition of light and darkness.

I was obsessed with light. The light and the dark had to like be in everything about this episode. So there's a couple things. I was diagramming, I was sending you drawings. I was doing all these drawings and saying, Simon, check this out. Now that I've drawn this, maybe you'll put something here. And I like to see what he comes back with. And then I'll draw, oh that's cool and I'll draw something off that. And I try to do it for the writers when I can. Just to give them images to feed off of. But I wanted this kind of like Dante's Inferno kind of concept where there's like the sky right, which is the light and heaven that descend to the clouds. And they reach like a plane of glass where you see their inverted reflections in it. And the you don't realize that this is hollow. When you crack that, you fall through and then I was really interested in this idea that what became the light sky became darkness. And stars. But it's actually beyond. It's like that old way that the Greeks looked at the sky and thought there were pinholes in the sky, in the night sky. So I wanted to play those kind of ideas. And then we'd get these kind of pillars of light so that is the combative level where light and dark are kind of intertwined and in conflict. And then when you go below that, you get into the underworld. You kind of get into the world of the dead and Maul for all intents and purposes is dead. So he's kind of the walking dead underneath the Earth there until he can be lifted up and what lifts him up is the youth and hope and opportunity that carries him up the staircase. So that a little bit too you see them going up and then the other stuff going down. Which is a little bit a clue for what's happening at the end. I don't like to do a lot of those type of puzzles. I don't like to do things that are really abstract all the time. But this was an episode where it could be abstract, because the explanation of everything is in the coding of every scene. Every environment is intentional with this. Ezra's in a pillar of light when he meets Maul. To join Maul and help him he has to leave it. And none of that is arbitrary. I tell my storyboard artists, absolutely nothing we do is arbitrary. We are controlling every frame, every moment has to be designed. And so the team does a great job at thinking on that level.

Continue to the last page of this article to learn how this episode was influenced by a classic arcade video game and also how the music design digs deeper than you might expect.


Filoni also revealed how an arcade video game classic influenced the design of this episode:

I was telling [HenryGilroy, I was like breaking down this episode visually in the third, the second half of it. And I was trying to say, how are we gonna figure out how each of these things plays out structurally? For me, I need a beat here and a beat here and a beat here as this thing escalates. 'Cause it's a lot of things to juggle. And the diagram, I do a lot of visual diagrams for the team to follow when we're storyboarding and everything. The diagram I drew them was actually Donkey Kong. 'Cause like we have a pyramid shape which has levels. And they go up [makes noises] and like it really has to work on that simple of a level because there are so many moving parts. What I'm getting at is your audience has to track it visually. And if you can't give them something to grab onto that makes sense very clearly, they'll get lost in the geography. A lot of movies you probably go and see on the weekend you enjoy a lot less 'cause you just can't tell where the heck people are. And where they are in relation to one another defines a lot of times the tension you have in a scene and tension is everything. So you think of Luke in the trench, he is a trench and he's gonna hit that mark. And when he's driving towards that, that to me is always the best Star Wars movie 'cause everything is coming to that one point. Everything is driving towards that. And you know exactly how it's gonna work. You know exactly how it's gonna fail. But right when it looks like it's gonna fail, a voice of a person you thought was just dead goes use the Force. Like oh my gosh. And everybody jumps up like this is gonna work. If you do that. And we are chasing that moment in Star Wars, trying to get, we want to get you to that point. And so I use these type of little visual cues in Donkey Kong. So there you go.

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The Meaning Behind the Sound and Music

Filoni went on to explain how even composer Kevin Kiner's music has deeper meaning in this episode.

We would have a whole session just on the music and the sound design of that temple, which is really brooding. So we would know when we needed music to reinforce and when we needed to just be empty and put you really in that place. So in one place you can use that, I'll give you two examples quick 'cause I know we're short of time. When the female Inquisitor dies, you go from an intense moment of music to absolute nothing in reality. So when it hits her, it hits you with impact, because there's no music. It's just sound and she falls and it's like being shocked into reality. So it's a big thud there. When Kevin did this great thing in the music where Ezra is ascending on a pillar and the music is descending against him. So again, we had this interplay of ascension and descension always playing.

When Kinberg originally wrote the first draft of this episode, he wrote the climax with dialogue but Filoni had other plans:

When I wrote the original draft of this, I wrote it with scenes with dialogue. And then you took it and you sent us, the group, a piece of music that isn't the music obviously, but was a classical piece of music. More choral. And it was your idea to make it all non-verbal and musical, which was 100 percent the right way to go.