Spoiler Warning: If you haven't seen the Star Wars Rebels series finale or don't want to know what happened, turn away now.
Four seasons and 76 episodes ago, Star Wars Rebels debuted on Oct. 3, 2014, and came to a conclusion today, March 5, 2018, in a 90-minute finale that fans will likely be talking about for a long time to come.
All of the above said, I'm still not sure how to talk about it, or how to feel about it, so let's just dive in and see where we end up, okay?
Hera, Rex, and Kallus head to Seelos to meet up with Wolffe and Gregor (who've done a nice little retrofit on an Imperial Walker) along with Ketsu Onyo, Hondo Ohnaka, and his Ugnaught buddy Melch. The recruitment pitch is simple: Help Ezra liberate his homeworld. Everyone's in. Good thing, too, because Ezra's had a vision that Thrawn's on his way back to Lothal by order of the Emperor.
What follows is a study in planning that even Ackbar himself would be proud of.
It takes the length of the episode to unfold, but think about this: We know Ryder's skeptical, so it's not a shock when he contacts Pryce to sell out the Rebels, and she buys it. Once she gets to the base, the double cross is revealed, but we still have a bunch of Imperials to deal with. Cue Hera arriving in the Ghost to add air support, Sabine and Chopper taking out the flying troopers and the core group of rebels gathered over the years plus Vizago, the ore crawler and its crew, Mart Mattin and Jai Kell. That's a lot of loose threads coming together at the end, right?
I could watch the entire battle sequence multiple times (oh wait, I have), and it's spectacular. Especially when the Loth-Wolves enter the fray. As Gregor says, Commander Wolffe has his Wolfpack back and they fight just like the boys.
Arihnda Pryce is captured, but as Han Solo famously said, "It's not over yet."
Think of how much Ezra's grown. We know Ezra's mom and dad inspired him throughout the series, but it never hurts to have a reminder, and that moment in the cockpit with the holo definitely qualifies. (Oh and watch Hera's hand when you first see her in that scene. Y'think she's feeling a little... nauseous?)
That said, Ezra's not the jaunty kid who lost his parents anymore. Did anyone else hear a little Kanan in Ezra's conversation with Pryce? The kid's picked up more than a few Jedi skills. Also, getting back to planning, Ezra's comment to Sabine that he knows she has his back as they fly into Lothal? It sounds totally different now, right?
The plan to infiltrate the Imperial dome works thanks to precise teamwork, Zeb being a stellar doorstop, and a flying Melch. The Rebels broadcast Protocol 13 to get everyone into the Dome and out of Lothal. Protocol 13 has been mentioned in previous episodes as a newer practice within the Empire; now we know why. As Kanan said, "All the paths are coming together now."
Speaking of which, Mart's discussion with Vizago and Wolffe regarding the special mission Ezra gave him is another sign of Ezra's overall strategic skills. The street rat from Lothal who did everything by the seat of his pants has set up a series of failsafes should any part of this whole mission go sideways. At first I wasn't sure what Ezra tasked Mart with, but the second I heard the words "Frequency Zero" my brain shouted "Purgill!" Amusingly, so much happened between this and the end of the episode that I totally forgot about them until they showed up -- and, boy, did they. But we'll get to that.
Granted, all of this planning is necessary because Ezra's up against the greatest strategic mind in the Empire (maybe even the galaxy), and Thrawn's always just one step ahead. The Rebels initiate Protocol 13. Thrawn uses it to bomb Lothal with impunity. Ezra thought he had Thrawn, and it turns out it's checkmate when Thrawn demands Ezra Bridger's complete surrender and orders him to come to his ship alone.
As he goes, I noticed him handing off his lightsaber to Chopper, and we see that lightsaber get tossed to Sabine near the end. Did Ezra leave it behind because he didn't want Thrawn to have it? Or because he knew he'd need it back someday?
Ezra's meeting with Thrawn was an interesting one to watch. First of all, it's the first time these two have really talked in person, but it's also the first time I've looked at Thrawn and seen a failing: hubris. Whether it's Ezra's age, his belief that Kanan didn't train his padawan well, or an overall disdain for the Jedi and their teachings, Thrawn dismisses Ezra as a formidable opponent. He thinks he's won. That he has the power.
As Darth Vader will in the near future, Thrawn delivers the young Jedi to the Emperor, who, like his future self, thinks he has everything under control. In this case, however, he's chosen a more comforting visage. Ezra isn't met by the cackling Sith Lord he saw in the portal, but a kindly older man who really just wants to help.
The Emperor's skill with words and temptation are on full display. He speaks nothing but the truth to Ezra (from a certain point of view), and he's offering the vulnerable young Jedi something he's always wanted: to be reunited with his family.
When you think about it, Ezra blasting apart that gateway is a real blow to the Emperor. The man who successfully turned Anakin Skywalker fails to turn Ezra Bridger, and he loses it. The kind facade breaks, and we see the man behind the illusion as Ezra reveals that he's figured this all out -- the Emperor can't give him anything. As Obi-Wan said in "Twin Suns," what he needs, he already has.
In an effort to keep this recap from being 3,000 words long, I'm compressing a few key fights, but it always comes down to a shield generator, doesn't it? The battle for the Imperial dome was definitely up there as far as action scenes go, but the shield room fight was something special. Zeb taking a flying leap into Rukh was unexpected but awesome, as was his leap out and Rukh's electrifying death. Not to mention Ezra's fight with the Emperor's guards.
But we also had to say goodbye to Gregor. I knew we were in danger of losing people, and he died fighting for a cause he believed in... still tough.
The planetary shield is up and Lothal is safe, but Thrawn still needs to be dealt with because he doesn't see this as a defeat, merely a setback. Well, he's about to be super disappointed, because Ezra's secret backup plan is flying (sailing? swimming?) in, right in the nick of time.
Thus begins a Star Wars space battle unlike any we've seen before. The Purrgil, introduced in the 15th episode of Season 2, have returned to "do what they do," and Thrawn's fleet of ships are soon decimated, save for the ship he and Ezra are on. He notes, correctly, that whatever happens to him happens to Ezra as well.
This is when we realize that Ezra's understood the possibility of a future in which he might need to take the same path his master Kanan Jarrus did -- an unselfish act that can save the lives of others. The path of the Jedi.
As the Purrgil start to glow and both Hera and Sabine realize what's about to happen, they implore him to save himself, but Ezra knows he's got to keep Lothal safe, and for him, this is the best path forward.
His sacrifice, along with the launching and destruction of the Imperial dome, sends a message to the Empire. Lothal has fought back against their occupation, and Lothal has won.
In his last message to the Ghost crew, Ezra says he can't wait to come home, and the epilogue explains what he meant when he said he was counting on Sabine. It's rare in the Star Wars universe that we find out what happens to characters after the stories we watch, but the sequel trilogy and Star Wars Rebels prove the exception to the rule, as we learn more about what happened after the battle for Lothal.
We learn that Zeb took Kallus to Lira San and Kallus met the Lasat people who are thriving there. The man who once reveled in killing an entire planet has found redemption and a new family.
Not only did we get confirmation that both Hera and Rex fought in the battle for Endor, but Hera has a son! Young Jacen Syndulla has his mother's love of flying, and I think he has his father's eyes. I wonder what else he inherited from Kanan. (Insert Kanera-loving fangirl squeal here.)
The last reveal, however, is certainly the best. Ahsoka Tano has returned, and she and Sabine are off to find Ezra Bridger -- wherever or whenever he may be.
May the Force be with them.
On a personal note, thank you for reading these recaps over the years and for being a part of the Star Wars Rebels fandom. I truly believe Star Wars Rebels fans are the best in the universe. Here's hoping there's more Star Wars television in our collective futures.