This Star Wars Rebels review contains spoilers.
Star Wars Rebels Season 4 Episode 14
The journey is almost over. The penultimate episode of Star Wars Rebels trades the mysticism of “The World Between Worlds” for a breathless action sequence, a triple-cross, and the vicious beauty of the loth-wolves. While the Imperials attack the remote Rebel base, the Rebels have their own secret weapon: Rex’s clone buddies and the pack of wolves that exist not as symbolic Force spirits but as animals that can bite and rend. “A Fool’s Hope” shows how far Ezra, Sabine, and their found family have come as soldiers, and it’s pretty exciting.
Ezra and Sabine’s brief, early conversation sets the tone for this episode. They’ve matured so much over four seasons, and their comfort with each other, their equality, and their seriousness about the mission all drive home the importance of their task and what they’re fighting for. Meanwhile, Hera picks up a rogue’s gallery of cameo characters, including a humorous but distracting Hondo Ohnaka and Sabine’s old pal, Ketsu Onyo.
Some of this is as much a The Clone Wars reunion as a Rebels one, with Wolffe and Gregor playing the stalwart old soldiers and Hondo’s hedonistic piracy turned into a slightly more noble source of Rebel intel. He speaks the thesis statement for Hera’s recruitment — he remembers when the galaxy had “something to believe in.” Hondo won’t outright agree with the others who say that light came from the Jedi, but his loyalty to Ezra is enough, and the scene does its job in showing how Ezra and friends have influenced the people around them. If the reunion is unexpectedly quick, everyone gathering at the clones’ walker instead of appearing in their own dramatic ways, it’s because there’s so much else for the last episodes to cover.
Governor Pryce has her own small plot line here too, and I was surprised to see that my prediction that Ryder Azadi would switch sides wasn’t entirely correct. The Rebels lure her in when Ryder fakes a double-cross, and Pryce has to decide which death sentence is most threatening to her — Thrawn’s or Rebel captivity. Her cowardly, cruel indecision was the relatively calm foil to Rukh’s energetic ferocity.
Thrawn’s assassin fell off cliffs or high ledges enough in this episode that I began to think he was operating on a different level of cartoon physics entirely. Especially his fight with Ezra, in which he overshoots a leap and Ezra turns away, seemed more humorous than anything, and I would have liked to see whether Ezra could really hold his own against Rukh. But as a chaotic factor, he injected even more excitement into an episode that reminded me of the trench warfare in The Empire Strikes Back. Our heroes were pinned with their backs to the mountains, but they did have a secret weapon.
I can’t help but laugh a bit at how self-indulgent Dave Filoni’s use of the loth-wolves is; the joke about Wolffe the clone trooper seemed like a pat on the back to the running theme of war-wolves. However, it’s impossible to deny that the loth-wolves are very cool, and Ezra summoning them out of the dark shows how far he has come as a Jedi and as a protector of Lothal’s animals.
The wolves gave a Jurassic Park vibe to the episode, tossing people around and scattering the Imperial forces. The theme of nature fighting back against its oppressors has always been a background lesson in Star Wars — think of the Ewoks — and it was nice to see it in place here, Lothal itself fighting back against the person devoted to covering the planet with factories.
Part of what made the action scenes feel so detailed was the setting. Although the exact layout of the base was a little confusing, even in shots of characters moving from one place to another, the texture and detail made it feel real. Ugly rust-colored floors gave the scene a sense of desperation, of Rebels taking their last stand here not because it was a particularly good place or good hardware but because it was what they had after the destruction of the Jedi Temple.
There are several moments that look like last stands here, but aren’t: Zeb in particular seems to shed any reticence he had and to charge in, using the kind of acrobatics we saw from him earlier in the series. Sabine has also found her element, taking care of flying stormtroopers with ease.
All in all, “A Fool’s Hope” sets up for the finale nicely. Perhaps the weakest point is, unfortunately, Hondo — while he’s funny, after his part in the plot is done, he’s mostly one-note, his concern for his Ugnaught friend providing a lot of the episode’s comedy but mostly through repetition. All that said, it was nice to see the Lothal Rebels as a well-oiled machine.
An interesting emphasis was put in all of the finale episodes on the idea that the Rebel Alliance would not be coming to save Lothal. Of all the cameos, Princess Leia was not among them. This was Ezra’s fight and Lothal’s, not the Rebel Alliance’s. Part of me appreciates that the show took such a firm stance in terms of focus, telling such a personal story and letting Ezra’s love for Lothal be the guiding force for all the people he has met along the way. I can also see how this might be disappointing to fans who wanted more connection to the movies, more stories about the formation of the Rebellion as an organization instead of the Lothal branch of it. However, I prefer the focus stay on the heart of the Lothal group’s story.
With so little time left, Rebels spends its last few hours feeling exactly like Star Wars should — adventurous and heroic, with something for everyone. I think this one will keep both kids and adults on the edge of their seats, even if Rukh’s characterization has dwindled away a bit in the prelude to the end.