Star Wars Rebels
Season 4, Episodes 1-9
Starring: Taylor Gray, Freddie Prinze, Jr., Vanessa Marshall, Tiya Sircar, Steven Blum
Creators: Simon Kinberg, Dave Filoni and Carrie Beck
Review by: Jameson Hampton
Since the beginning of the series, Star Wars Rebels’ season finales have been exciting and full of major changes for the show going forward. In season one, that was the death of the Grand Inquisitor. Season two brought us Kanan’s permanent blindness and the fight between Vader and Ashoka (who I do not believe is actually dead – #AshokaLives!) Season three was no exception! By the end of the season, Sabine had returned to Mandalore to help reunite her people, Agent Kallus had defected from the Empire to the rebellion, and Grand Admiral Thrawn had discovered Chopper Base, causing the rebels to flee from their stronghold.
Season four, which has been confirmed to be the last season of Rebels, begins in the midst of all these changes. Something about the format and feeling of the show has changed in the process as well. It feels more like a continuous story than it has in the past. On the one hand, it’s cool to see Rebels upgraded to an epic, putting it more on the level of much of the other Star Wars media. On the other hand, it feels a little bit like it’s lost something, a quirkiness that made the show feel special. The first couple seasons of Rebels felt charming and lighthearted, telling the story of a group of people who had become an unlikely family. The progression towards a darker, more serious story does make sense. The Empire has taken so much from them, made them increasingly bitter and desperate, but I can’t help but miss the more carefree days of the past.
That said, there is still a lot of good story coming out of season four! I’ve particularly enjoyed the way the story of the Ghost crew has started to intertwine with the Rogue One story. In the Name of the Rebellion were definitely my favorite episodes of the first half of the season – and I don’t think it was a coincidence that Rogue One writer Gary Whitta was one of the writers! The contrast between Saw Gerrera and the rest of the rebellion is interesting, as it invites the watcher to question whose tactics are better. It’s also gratifying to watch our rebels finally start to unravel the conspiracy of the Death Star’s construction, which is something they’ve been stumbling just around the edges of for quite some time now. It really makes Rebels feel like part of the larger Star Wars story! I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see an animated version of Rogue One’s Director Orson Krennic, whose absence felt like a missed opportunity since he would have been overseeing the Death Star project at this point in time.
Much of the new season is also focusing on Lothal, which feels very appropriate. The series started on Lothal and Ezra’s home has been a driving force for the show since the beginning – but Lothal has changed a lot too and long-term Imperial occupation has not been kind to the Outer Rim planet. The difference between Lothal in season one and Lothal now is very stark, a powerful representation of the destructive force of the Empire. Ezra obviously cares very much about Lothal and its people and it hurts him to see it being oppressed in this way. If I’m being honest, I feel like I have enough of a history with Lothal now that it means something to me too and seeing it reduced to this state is painful, which is an emotional response all shows should strive for but few achieve.
Now that we’re nearing the end of the series, the show is trying to start wrapping up the character arcs of its main characters. It’s always good when a show knows when it’s going to end and can devote the appropriate amount of time to a satisfying ending. The Ghost crew deserves that! A lot of growth has happened since the first season and I see a cast of characters much more mature and well-rounded than they were back then. It’s just a little bit disappointing that some of the minor characters seem like they’re getting forgotten, since there are so many excellent minor characters in Rebels! Captain Rex has been important to me since I watched the Clone Wars cartoon and he deserves a good ending to his story too. The Kallus arc in season three was fantastic and I’m dying to see how Kallus has been faring as part of the rebellion, but they haven’t done much with it yet. I really hope they circle around to both of them in the second half of season four.
Watch it! While I might not feel quite as jazzed about season four as I did during the season three halfway point, overall Rebels is still an excellent cartoon that reminds me of all the things I like best about Star Wars. It has great character development, fantastic worldbuilding, heroic stories and interesting moral quandaries to chew on. I’m already looking forward to early 2018, when the second half of the last season is slated to air.