Star Wars Rebels wrapped things up on a powerfully poignant note with its March 5 series finale event. While there’s quite a lot to unpack when it comes to what fate had in store for our intrepid crew of the Ghost, the finale dropped a delightfully powerful piece of continuity when it came to fan favorite character Captain Rex!
Amongst the monumental events concluding Star Wars Rebels, the finale’s closing epilogue confirms the fate of Rex, mentioning that his presence with the Rebellion against the Empire would continue, and that he participated in the Galactic Civil War’s culminating skirmish, the Battle of Endor, which, of course, was depicted in the 1983 Original Trilogy closer, Return of the Jedi. – Why is this such a big deal? Well, that’s because it essentially confirms a major theory about Rex that even Rebels creator Dave Filoni himself hinted: Rex is, indeed, the white-bearded, blink-and-you-miss-him, Rebel Commando known as “Nik Sant.”
In Return of the Jedi, while Luke Skywalker was up in the Emperor’s throne room on the Death Star II having a bit of father/son lightsaber therapy with Darth Vader, Han Solo and Leia Organa – after being sidetracked by their initial encounter with the Ewoks – waged an attack on the Death Star II’s terrestrially-located shield generator, accompanied by camouflaged commandos, one of which stood out with a distinctively epic beard (who, later on, is also famously seen disguised as a Scout Trooper after the Imperials capture the Rebels). Fans have given the character the irreverent, Christmas-inspired, nickname, “Nik Sant,” otherwise known as “Gramps.”
Stemming back to Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the character arc of Rex has been a consistent aspect of the animated segment of the officially acknowledged Star Wars canon. Introduced in 2008 in The Clone Wars as an elite Clone Trooper leading Anakin Skywalker’s 501st Legion, Rex was depicted as the fiercest of warriors and the honorable conscience of the series; an idea that grew later on Rebels when a liberated, older, white-bearded version of the character emerged as a hero in the Rebellion against the Empire. Yet, the countenance of this “Old Man” Rex made it hard not to notice that he could, in theory, pass for Nik Sant, leading to speculation that the post-Disney Star Wars canon might just retcon such a notion.
Indeed, the idea got major momentum in April 2017, during a Star Wars Celebration panel with Filoni, titled, Dave Filoni: Animated Origins and Unexpected Facts. There, the panel’s eponymous Star Wars Rebels executive producer unveiled potentially poignant concept art for the then-upcoming Season 4, previewing Captain Rex’s new look, which had him wearing a familiar camouflaged uniform (modified with Clone gear,) resembling what Rebel commandos wore on the Ewok-inhabited planet of Endor in Return of the Jedi during the ground mission. While Filoni stopped short of outright confirming the idea at the time, he did stir the pot, stating in a cheeky manner when the concept art was shown:
“What’s that? That’s some kind of… don’t pay any attention to that. That shouldn’t even be in this folder! Why would he need camouflage? Doesn’t make any sense!”
Also present at the panel, Lucasfilm story group executive Pablo Hidalgo piled on the teasing, stating, “Just speculate away, we’re putting it out there.”
The theorized connection between Rex and “Nik Sant” is hardly new and had been posed to the creative personnel in the past. However, its confirmation in the Rebels finale serves as a heartfelt tribute to the years of hard work that Filoni and company has put into their animated segment of the canon in Rebels, stemming back to The Clone Wars. Moreover, much like the moments in 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story showing scattered cameos of the Ghost, along with the paging of “General Syndulla” at the Rebel base (confirming Hera’s fate), Rex’s revealed Endor-bound fate helps cement the canonical place of Clone Wars/Rebels in a way that eagle-eyed fans can appreciate.
It’s a small, certainly bittersweet, silver lining to embrace for fans as the end of Star Wars Rebels is just starting to settle as reality.
This article was originally published on April 14, 2017 and has been updated with new information.