The 'Star Wars Rebels' Series Finale Was A Perfect End For A Great Show

With "A Fool's Hope" and the two-part "Family Reunion and Farewell," Star Wars Rebels has finally come to a close. Though fans were understandably disappointed when executive producer Dave Filoni announced that season 4 would be the last, this decision allowed Filoni and his creative team to end the beloved, game-changing series on their own terms. Indeed, this past season of Star Wars Rebels has pulled out all the stops when it comes to the more mysterious elements of Star Wars lore. But it has also stayed true to the show's main characters: Ezra Bridger, Sabine Wren, Kanan Jarrus, Hera Syndulla, and the entirety of the Ghost crew.

The three-episode finale brought back a whole host of familiar faces and sent others into space for some new and enticing adventures. There were Loth-wolves. There were temptations to the Dark Side. And there was a spine-tingling time jump. The Star Wars Rebels series finale may not have been the flashiest episode of the show, but it tied up several themes and storylines in a tight little bow...while giving us hope for a whole new series of adventures.

/Film's resident Star Wars experts, Allyson Gronowitz and Rosie Knight, sat down to talk about the Rebels finale, its grand reveals, and how the overall series impacts the Star Wars universe and fandom. Naturally, major spoilers follow.

Meeting Expectations

Rosie: In my opinion, it was hard for the team to top what they introduced in "World Between Worlds." That was such a shattering, incredible reveal. Star Wars has long been a beacon in the world of science fiction, but to see them commit to such a hard sci-fi concept, and its huge ramifications, was utterly magical. Plus, I adore the legacy aspect of Star Wars lore, so hearing all of the voices throughout the galaxy's history moved me in a profound way.

In the end, the team did a really solid job and airing the final three episodes together was a stroke of genius. I thoroughly enjoyed the exploration of the Empire as colonists, stealing artifacts, art and knowledge from other worlds. Star Wars always excels when it commits to political and allegorical narratives and I loved that side of the finale. I also loved that Ezra lifted some rocks, because we all know that's what the Force is really about.

What I wasn't expecting was for Rebels to set up a direct follow up series, and to be honest, the final moments of the show totally blew me away, I'm super stoked at the potential spin-off starring Ahsoka and Sabine. The idea of two badass women exploring space, both of whom have  already made such a huge impact on the galaxy, is more than I could have hoped for.

Allyson: I agree. I sort of knew before I sat down to watch the three-part finale that nothing would be able to top "A World Between Worlds" in terms of narrative audacity and universe-shaking storytelling implications. And given the way that "World Between Worlds" literally bridged all of the different stories in the Star Wars universe, I feel like that episode would have been a more fitting finale. But the actual finale doubled down on the commitment to telling Ezra's story and the story of the Ghost crew, rather than turning the show into an Easter egg hunt for fans of the movies. Rebels truly does stand on its own, and this is evidenced by the Ghost crew declining a suggestion to hit up the Rebellion for help, instead allowing our heroes to shine one last time.

Of course, Sabine's closing monologue allowed us to have it both ways. The words "Battle of Endor" sent me into a fit of glee because of the way it conclusively connects this show to the original trilogy and confirms that Rex is indeed the old guy on Endor. And, I have to admit, the last 30 seconds thrilled me more than all of the 89 and half minutes leading up to it, so there is still something to be said for having Rebels embrace its place as part of the larger legends of the Star Wars universe.

I also feel like the entire opening episode of the finale was a bit too drawn-out; a fight sequence like that usually takes up only about two minutes on your average episode of Rebels. Oftentimes, the brilliance of the storytelling on Rebels comes from its condensed nature, so I didn't really love the pacing of the triple-episode approach. But, hey: it allowed the show to give a proper send-off to characters like Kallus, Ketsu, and the incomparable Hondo Ohnaka! And here's one thing I certainly did not expect to walk away with after the finale: an appreciation for the Kallus/Zeb ship. All aboard Kalluzeb!

The Progression of Ezra

Rosie: I definitely think that Rebels' strength is in its ensemble cast and universe-building. Though as the seasons progressed, I definitely found the ever-evolving relationship between Ezra and Kanan to be one of the more interesting parts of the show, and Ezra's friends consistently made me care more about him. I also think Ezra fits into the Star Wars protagonist tradition pretty well as OG protagonist Luke was also an awkward, dumb kid who just happened to be Force Sensitive, as was Anakin in the prequels, so I don't think Ezra breaks any boundaries there. I do think he's had an interesting character arc and that the addition of the mystic Force elements have cemented his character's place in Star Wars history.

Allyson: I've had issues with Ezra for a while. Nothing to write home about, mind you, but I always felt that he was the weakest or least interesting character of the bunch. Even Chopper had more of a magnetic personality! I do think Ezra grew a lot over the first two seasons – he and Kanan both went through pretty powerful transformations to become the dynamic master-apprentice duo we came to know and love, as Kanan wrestled with his survivor's guilt and sense of imposter syndrome and Ezra came to realize he needs to let the past go (I'm sensing a Last Jedi connection! Especially when Ezra tells the holo of his parents that he will "finish what they started"...) and devote himself to a cause higher than himself.

But I felt that his growth arc peaked too early, and he kept learning and relearning the same lesson for a while. I almost feel like Kanan's death should have occurred at the end of last season, because the Ezra that emerges from the ashes of his master's death is much more mature, and very much the leader we've been waiting for him to become this whole time. Even so, this finale offered such a beautiful coda to the lesson of learning to let go when Ezra gazed into the Force-powered Mirror of Erised and had to decide to leave his parents behind. It reminded me of the Mirror Cave scene in The Last Jedi, when Rey hopes to see her parents, but instead sees only herself. Ezra does see his parents but chooses himself and therefore his future: "Mom, Dad, you'll always be a part of me. But I have to let you go." ALL OF MY TEARS.

Rosie: I totally agree. I cried A LOT during this episode, and watching Ezra finally understand and commit to the idea of the family he's chosen over himself and what he's lost was a such powerful moment. I hope that we get to see more of this version of Ezra in whatever Filoni and the team do next. His journey had a payoff which was truly earned, but it was over too fast.

Doing Right By Female Characters

Rosie: Part of what first caused me to fall in love with The Clone Wars and Rebels were their exploration and introduction of strong women in the Star Wars universe. Rebels is definitely at its best when it focuses on the women at the center of the stories and the later seasons really excel at that. Sabine's arc has been a standout one to me, as she has grappled with her identity, journey and place in the galaxy. It was so lovely to see the creators hone in on Ezra and Sabine but avoid the obvious inclination to cement a romance between the pair, just creating a pure and devoted friendship. It's strange to say it, but that choice is radical, not just in Star Wars but in pop culture in general. To have Sabine take the reins at the end of the show, writing her own history whilst sharing that of the people she loved, was a stunning and powerful moment.

Allyson: Both Star Wars animated series really broke new ground in terms of spotlighting female characters in the Star Wars universe and giving them their own storylines. The Clone Wars plucked some of the silent female Jedi who stand around in the background of the prequel trilogy and gave them – gasp! – speaking roles and rich backstories, while introducing us to one of (if not the) most impactful female characters to come from the animated realm: Ahsoka Tano. Rebels continued on with this tradition not only by bringing Ahsoka back into the fold, but by creating a whole host of new proud, complicated, empowered female characters like Sabine Wren, Hera Syndulla, and even Arihnda Pryce.

And as far as Sabine is concerned, I cannot overstate how important it is to see a young woman stand on her own, suffer her own trials, and come out the other side stronger for it – without being defined by a romantic relationship with a man. It certainly must have been tempting for the writers to pair up Ezra and Sabine at some point, but I love, love, love that the show decided to explore their relationship in a more familial way.

The Best Episodes

Rosie: "Trials of Darksaber" was an incredibly important episode for me, turning the focus away from Ezra, and onto Sabine. It's a perfect exploration of a young woman living as a Mandalorian in the face of the Galactic war. Also, the strength and impact that "World Between Worlds" had on me cannot be overstated. There was something so powerful about the time that Ezra spent in the portal within the Lothal Temple. It's such a fantastic balance between invention and legacy, between new possibilities and the lure of the past, not to mention the fact that it also reintroduced my beloved Ahsoka! Another favorite is the early episode "Rise of the Old Masters," which I feel like gave such a great feel of the gravity and complexity of the master/student relationship, as well as featuring the Grand Inquisitor, who is such a fantastic, complex antagonist.  

Allyson: "Twin Suns" might just be my favorite Star Wars story ever. Those 22 minutes hammered home an emotional message about forgiveness and opened up a window to the soul of the sometimes inscrutable character of Obi-Wan Kenobi. I've re-watched it too many times to count, and each time I do I find something else to appreciate about it. Then there's "Twilight of the Apprentice," if only for the absolutely brilliant and heart-wrenching exchange between Ahsoka and Vader before they cross blades. (Is "I am no Jedi" the best line in all of Star Wars? MAYBE.) And, yes, I'd be remiss if I also didn't mention "Trials of the Darksaber," which focuses on Sabine's catharsis, and contains some of the best acting in the entire series. The incredible Kevin Kiner, the composer for the series, hits it out of the park in that episode as well with his mournful rendition of Sabine's theme.

The Lasting Impact

Rosie: I think the main thing that Rebels will really be remembered for is its nuanced expansion of Star Wars lore, and for introducing a massive number of new and exciting elements into Star Wars canon. I also think the fact that Disney used it to test the waters for introducing new characters before they arrived in the main movies is going to be seen as a turning point in the way the company handles the universe's canon. The arrival of Grand Admiral Thrawn was also a huge moment, as was testing out stuff like Force flight! In a grander sense, I think Rebels will end up becoming a source of inspiration for a whole new generation of Star Wars fans, as well as possibly ending up being a source of inspiration for Disney in the future. I can totally imagine them creating a trilogy of live action movies inspired by Rebels in 10 or 15 years.

Allyson: The mysticism that Rebels dabbled in – and then straight up dove into – will definitely be remembered as one of its greatest strengths. Rebels did a more thorough exploration of the mysticism of the Force than any of the movies so far, save for, perhaps, The Last Jedi. I believe that the inclusion of a more esoteric understanding of the balance of the Force in TLJ would not have been possible without the groundwork that was laid on Rebels (and, before it, The Clone Wars, specifically during the Mortis arc). Also, though live-action films and television shows have improved by leaps and bounds in the visual effects department (thanks, in large part, to ILM!), there is still so much more that you can do in animation – from acrobatic lightsaber fights to kyber crystal heists to space battles that take place outside of the ships. Finally, Rebels has proven that even animated children's shows can reduce a grown-ass adult to a mess of tears during its exploration of intense, emotional, and universal themes.

The Best Original Trilogy Cameos

Rosie: I love seeing Leia in anything and thought her appearance in season two was pretty special. I also enjoyed how she's presented as a counterpoint to Ezra, with the two being exactly the same age. One of Rebels' strengths has been its ability to introduce classic characters as a way of elevating or adding to the story without ever getting swept up in them and allowing them to take away from the story at hand. "A Princess on Lothal" is a great example of that.

Allyson: As I mentioned before, "Twin Suns" holds a special place in my heart, and that is largely because of the central appearance of one Obi-Wan Kenobi. The character's personality tics (The beard-stroking! The old man shuffle! The droid-patting!) were impeccably animated, the voice acting of Stephen Staunton was on-point, and the writing was profound. All-in-all, it was a perfect merging of the three different portrayals of the characters into one synthesized whole. I also loved every appearance of Mon Mothma, a character who was ostensibly the leader of the entire Rebel Alliance, but who only gets a total of about 10 seconds of actual screen time in the original trilogy. Rebels absolutely rectifies that and puts her front and center for several episodes.

Let's Talk About Thrawn

Rosie: I was really excited when they introduced Thrawn as I'm a total EU nerd, and I felt like he was a good addition. However, I was ultimately pretty surprised that they "killed" him in the finale. Probably because I constantly let my imagination run away from me, but I had definitely assumed this was a way to reintroduce Thrawn for a longer period that just Rebels. But seeing as they left both Ezra and Thrawn's fate's open for interpretation, I think we might not have seen the last of Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Allyson: I'm certainly not as big of an EU nerd, and I only accidentally came across Thrawn in a Timothy Zahn book separate from the Thrawn trilogy, so I was excited to see what all the fuss was about when he began to appear on Rebels. I have to admit, I was a bit underwhelmed. From my understanding of the character, it seemed like Thrawn was too merciless and terrifying a villain to fit within the narrative of the still very G-rated Rebels. Because of this, his alleged calculated cruelty appeared toothless because we knew there wouldn't be any truly horrifying ramifications. But I too hope we haven't seen the last of him! He deserves a more glorious end than "Death by Space Whale."

Where Do We Go From Here?

Rosie: As for the more immediate and canonical impact, the fact that the Emperor managed to rebuild a part of the temple is a huge moment because it means that the ability to rebuild the portal still exists outside of what we saw on Lothal, which is very exciting. I really think that "World Between Worlds" was introduced as a potential addition to the main film canon, and the final episodes sold me on that theory. The fact that the show set up a spin-off set after the Battle of Endor and Return of the Jedi and before The Force Awakens is just hugely exciting to me...especially since the idea of a show focused on Ashoka and Sabine is almost too good to be true. It also plays into my most beloved dream: that Ashoka and or Sabine could turn up in Episode IX.

There is something so radical and special about the recognition of the need for a female-led Star Wars animated show, and that it might be led by these two characters that fans have grown to love so much makes it all the more enticing. Ahsoka's fate had long been a source of much contention, conspiracy and chatter amongst fans, but now we know not only that she survived, but also that she survived all the way until after the Battle of Endor. I am truly dying to know what adventures Ahsoka and Sabine will go on next.

Allyson: Be still, my heart! An Ahsoka-Sabine alliance is the Star Wars dream team I never knew I needed. I remember, when Ahsoka's fate was still in limbo after the second season finale, studiously researching how long the Togruta lifespan is in order to figure out whether it was possible Ahsoka could potentially live through the end of the original trilogy or even through the end of the sequel trilogy. I thought I was just fantasizing, but we now have confirmation that Ahsoka is not only alive and well after the events of Return of the Jedi, but about to set off on a mission. I am beyond thrilled that Lucasfilm has recognized the importance of this beloved character and committed to continuing on with her story into the future. And I have too much faith in Filoni and the Lucasfilm story group to think that this ending is just another tease – I firmly believe that this ending is a springboard for a future tale and that we'll get to see this story play out either on the big screen or the small screen. So I have a new hashtag for y'all: #AhsokaLivesForever!

And now, of course, Ezra's fate is the one in limbo. I'm happy with the way the series ended without really ending, giving us closure for many characters while also "opening the door," as the Emperor himself said, to "infinite paths and infinite possibilities." But Rebels neglected to answer the most pressing canonical question associated with the entire series: Where was Ezra Bridger during the events of the original trilogy? I'm glad he didn't die, but I wish we had a bit more clarity about what exactly his goal was at the end.

Rebels' Place Within the Star Wars Universe

Rosie: I think Rebels actually fits far more into the Expanded Universe model of Star Wars rather than the slimmed-down, contemporary canon that Disney has been trying to create. For me, the introduction of the portals in "World Between Worlds" was just such a breathtakingly brave and exhilarating choice, such a game changer, that it almost doesn't feel like it can possibly be in major canon. The fact that Disney has utilized Rebels as a way of introducing new canon concepts has also added to the fact that it feels far more like something from wild west of the EU rather than main canon Star Wars.  

Allyson: Rebels has definitely leaned more towards the EU, which makes sense when you consider the serialized nature of the show. Re-canonizing an iconic character like Thrawn is a nice way of nodding to fans of the EU to let them know they haven't been forgotten. And speaking of EU callbacks: In the Expanded Universe, Leia and Han had twins named Jacen and Jaina. We learn at the end of the final episode of Rebels that Hera now has a son named... you guessed it... Jacen!

Rosie: Just popping in here to say OH MY FRACKING GOD JACEN!! I yelped when I heard it and almost teared up when we confirmed it just now.

Allyson: So, a Jacen Syndulla spinoff? Sign me UP.

Rosie: ...Young Jedi Knights cartoon...starring Jacen Syndulla??? I've died.