“Star Wars Rebels” co-creator Dave Filoni announced Saturday at Star Wars Celebration that the upcoming fourth season of the beloved animated series will be its last, and punctuated the somber news with an emotional trailer that promises difficult, even “impossible,” choices, and raises the possibility that the Ghost crew could go down — together — fighting.
But drawing from the broader sweep of galactic history and the Empire’s rise and fall, through the various existing elements of “Star Wars” canon, we may be able to glimpse a few hints about how “Rebels” might end.
When “Star Wars Rebels” premiered in 2014, the story was set about about five years before the Battle of Yavin in 1977’s “Star Wars.” Assuming each season takes place roughly over the course of a year, that means Season Four could come to a close shortly before the Battle of Scarif, as depicted in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” Is it possible the show’s finale could dovetail into the film’s climactic events?
We know that at least some of the the Ghost crew is still active within the Rebellion in the lead-up to the Battle of Scarif. Chopper, the show’s prickly astromech droid, is briefly seen in “Rogue One” at the Rebel base on Yavin 4, and a call for a “General Syndulla” can be heard over the intercom system. Filoni has since revealed that’s indeed a reference to Hera, who’s still a captain within the fledgling Rebellion at the end of “Rebels” Season Three. Furthermore, Filoni has confirmed Hera will receive her implied promotion some time over the course of Season Four.
What deeds might merit her elevation in rank aren’t yet known. Fans can undoubtedly make a strong case that any number of Hera’s actions over the course of the first three seasons are worthy of recognition. With the long-discussed liberation of Lothal mentioned in the new trailer, that certainly seems a prime candidate.
The Ghost itself is also clearly visible in “Rogue One” as part of the Rebel fleet that gathers for the assault on Scarif. We know at least some of those involved in the space battle, including the leaders of red and gold squadrons and many of their pilots, survived the conflict, and went on to serve at the Battle of Yavin. However, there’s no assurance the Ghost crew made it out in one piece.
Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor and all the rebels who took part in the ground assault on Sacrif went out in a blaze of glory, killed either by Imperial forces on the planet or by the destructive might of the Death Star. But “Rogue One” is a PG-13 movie; could Lucasfilm get away with a similar feat involving their principal cast on Disney XD?
Such a move bold would solve at least one problem “Star Wars Rebels” faces going into its final season: what to do with the extra Jedi. With the exceptions of Luke and Yoda, the Jedi are all supposed to be gone by the Battle of Yavin. To an extent, that’s a problem faced by all “Star Wars” stories set after “Revenge of the Sith.” The saga is, in large part, about Jedi; “Rogue One” was the first film not to feature any Jedi, and even then, it still included a Force-worshiping Guardian of the Whills in the form of Chirrut Îmwe (played by Donnie Yen).
“Rebels” has fudged the issue somewhat by featuring several characters who have Jedi training and connections but who are also in some significant way not Jedi. Ashoka Tano fits into this category, having formally left the Jedi Order in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” as does Kanan Jarrus, who renounced many of the order’s practices following the events of “Revenge of the Sith.”
There’s also Ezra Bridger, who has undergone Jedi training under Kanan, but who also shows a propensity for the dark side, and Sabine Wren, who has no desire to be a Jedi, but now wields the legendary darksaber, a Jedi weapon.
The deaths of those characters, or at least Kanan and Ezra — the two most actively pursuing the Jedi path — would certainly clear out extraneous devotees to a religion that’s considered all but extinct by the time of “A New Hope.” However, the teaser trailer for the “Last Jedi” does points to the possibility of stepping outside of the Jedi/Sith paradigm to achieve the balance in the Force, something further explored within the third season of “Star Wars Rebels” with the introduction of the Force-sensitive Bendu, who exists somewhere between the light side and the dark.
Force balance outside of the Jedi Order is a position George Lucas eschewed, but in the post-Lucas era it’s a notion Lucasfilm seems more willing to explore. It would certainly provide a possible resolution to Kanan and Ezra’s story that doesn’t involve either of their deaths.
That said, the “Rebels” trailer does feature Kanan telling his apprentice, “We are the balance, Ezra. We were meant to be Jedi so we can be here, now.”
Further indication that “Rebels” might not have an unambiguously positive ending is the opening crawl for “A New Hope.” The same section of text that foretold the plot for “Rogue One” also points out the Battle of Scarif as being the “first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.” That may mean if Season Four doesn’t end with that battle, it won’t end happily for our heroes at all.
However, a recurring motif throughout “Rebels” has been the increasing organization of resistance against the Empire. We’ve seen various groups of fighters steadily coming together to form a larger, more inclusive whole. If the animated series isn’t going to end with the Battle of Scarif, the alternative may be for the official formation of the Rebel Alliance to serve as its climax.
While we can’t rule out the possibility that one or more major characters will die before the the end of the series, there’s some evidence that at least one of the “Rebels” gang will make it past the Battle of Scarif: In 1983’s “Return of the Jedi,” the strike force led by Han Solo to Endor included a Rebel with an impressive beard. Dubbed “Nik Sant” by fans, it’s been theorized he’s actually Rex, the Clone Wars veteran who was reintroduced in “Star Wars Rebels.” That was sort of bolstered this weekend at Star Wars Celebration by Filoni, who “accidentally” revealed new concept art of Rex in similar camouflage gear.
Beyond all this rampant speculation, there’s also the possibility we won’t be shown the post-Scarif fate of the Ghost crew at all. In this eventuality, fans would be forced to speculate indefinitely, or at least until they spot potential “Rebels” Easter eggs in upcoming “Star Wars” films, or whatever animated series follow.