This Star Wars Rebels review contains spoilers.
Star Wars Rebels Season 4 Episode 15
Like The Last Jedi, the Rebels series finale remixes many elements from Return of the Jedi, giving us a noble Jedi decision, low-tech defeating high-tech, and a family-friendly, high-stakes war story. That it does these things with mixed results is not surprising, since the double-length finale has a lot of questions to answer. What is Ezra’s fate? Where was he during the Original Trilogy? How will bringing Thrawn into the series pay off? “Family Reunion and Farewell” answers some of these questions, but takes big risks about three-quarters of the way through and loses a bit of its coherence.
That’s not to say that the finale is best judged as only a vehicle for explaining away the young Jedi. The show is not doomed to fail if Ezra could so much as possibly interrupt the Original Trilogy. Instead, the strength of the story matters as much as the placement of the characters on the saga chess board. The series finale continues on the action that started in “A Fool’s Hope,” bringing the Rebels to the center of the city they’ve been fighting for all along. As an action episode, it neatly intertwines several missions, including some that feel straight out of the earnest brothers-in-arms enthusiasm of The Clone Wars.
There is so much to discuss in this episode that it might be easy to overlook the reverse-siege construction of the battle, the Rebels’ realization that they are trapped inside with the Imperials and vice versa. Thrawn’s decision to bombard the city was expected, but the coldness of his reasoning was still striking. When the Rebels decide to take an entire base hostage, Thrawn’s tactic is to return the favor with the city at stake. He remains intimidating even when he’s working as just a prelude to the Emperor’s appearance.
Pryce’s role as governor gives her character a lot of weight, too. As the one who truly dictates all of the Imperial evil on Lothal, she remains craven throughout the episode, torn on which tactic will keep her alive the longest but ultimately betting on the strength of the Empire instead of the mercy of the Rebellion. She loses, of course, as she should — but I would have liked to see her reflect a bit, to understand her motivation better when Lothal symbolism is going on all around her. It might have been poetic for her to die by the wolves, destroyed by the very creature she tried to subjugate.
Elsewhere in the episode, though, the focus on Lothal is clear. Showing the crowd of civilians gives an empowering sense of unity to not just the Rebel soldiers, but the people like Jho who have lived day-to-day under the Empire’s rule, waiting for a chance to rise up. I like that the people in the crowds had their own moments of victory.
Ezra’s encounter with Palpatine is mythic and frightening, the hologram switching back and forth from a more likable face to Darth Sidious’ true visage. This is what Kanan prepared Ezra for, both the temptation and the battle afterward, and it hits Return of the Jedi notes in all the right ways, Ezra’s isolation fueled by love for the people he left behind. I’m torn on whether he should have gone alone after all, though. After many seasons of learning to work with a team instead of being a loner, Era ends up set apart by his Force-sensitivity, thrown back into the loner role. If any show was going to defy the idea of the lone hero striking off on his own, it might have been Rebels, with all its emphasis on family.
On the other hand, I love that Ezra called in the purgills as backup — it perfectly follows from the connection we’ve seen him have with animals before, and it gives us some of the wildest, most creative imagery this side of the Solo trailer. The image of space whales wrapping tentacles around Star Destroyers was bizarre, frightening, and beautiful all at once. I couldn’t have asked for weirder.
Then it culminates in the purgills holding Thrawn captive, and the questions start piling up. As happy as I was with the visual inventiveness and fearlessness of this battle, Ezra’s emotions seemed hidden, his plan inscrutable. Why does Ezra have to see this through? At best, his decision gives him the mysterious weight of a Jedi Knight, out on a mission other people aren’t likely to understand. Ezra is a different creature now, as wild as the wolves. He said it himself earlier — the Force’s helpers don’t always appear when they’re expected.
For an episode so much about family, though, it’s notable that Ezra kept so much from the others. Taking the Chimera was Ezra’s step into adulthood — I just wish it answered some more questions about where he went and what happened to Thrawn. Keeping characters around for more stories is valuable, but so is having some conclusion for the hero and villain of the series. Ezra’s finale left me more puzzled than pleased.
Zeb and Kallus’ epilogue was also very sweet and encapsulated the lesson of forgiveness that has played out for them over several seasons. Once the sworn enemy of the entire Lasat species, Kallus now goes to a new home among them. It’s a powerful expression of hope and forgiveness, and I’m glad that this side story received such a fulfilling bit of emotional closure.
The epilogue that had the most at stake for me was, of course, Hera’s. Instead of telling us what we already know — that she survived the Original Trilogy — the show goes for a big surprise: she and Kanan had a child. This also opens up a lot of questions — when? Didn’t the previous episode imply that they had never really been together before? Did we really need another Twi’lek/human hybrid?
I’m glad the show gave Hera an uplifting ending, a chance for a happy life instead of year after year of war. I also wish that her epilogue had connected to some of the other points of characterization she has had throughout the seasons, though. Has she learned to be more open or become a keeper of the Rebellion’s secrets? Does she add Ezra and Sabine to her kalikori the way she added Kanan? Instead, the focus is switched to the child.
The epilogue that unifies the crew the most is Sabine’s. Her and Ahsoka’s story is a lot more open-ended than the others, but absolutely brims with potential. It’s very fitting for Sabine to have documented her time with the crew, as well as for her to take up residence in the communication tower where it all began. The image that was key to the first season now becomes a beacon to guide Sabine and Ahsoka toward … what? This is a hyperspace lane open directly to whatever stories may come next, and that’s good.
Closure doesn’t have to mean death, although I would have liked a bit more explanation about where Ahsoka has been. How did she escape Mustafar? But Rebels has reminded us over and over in the last few weeks that Star Wars is a fairy tale — one about choice, one about growing up and choosing one’s own direction. Rebels opens doors to many stories that could come next, and I think it will take some more digesting for me to decide whether those were seeded in a way that felt natural or just left more unanswered questions.
Rebels has been a big part of my Star Wars fan life. Sometimes frustrating in its depth, often beautiful in its imagery, it has done what a Star Wars show should do: invite wonder. From the first time I heard the main theme, I thought this was a show that would invite exploration and beauty, and it does. Ending the show where it began, with Ezra cruising on an impossibly strange journey above where he once lived on the streets, was a dramatic and satisfying choice. Lothal and the family that fought for it fit like a puzzle piece into the rest of the Star Wars saga: incomplete on its own, but shaped just right.