The epic finale of Star Wars Rebels has come and gone, and the story of Ezra Bridger and the crew of the Ghost is over... at least for now. Rebels has always been full of wonderful nods to the greater Star Wars universe, and the finale was no different — it was packed full of Easter eggs that left fans ecstatic.
For one thing, series mastermind (and the master of all things animated at Lucasfilm) Dave Filoni made good on his promise that the show doesn't have any "filler episodes." He wasn't just talking about the fourth and final season, either — he was talking about the show as whole, where almost everything ended up being pretty important, no matter how filler-ish it may have seemed at the time.
The biggest example of this by far is the finale's use of the Purgill (the space whales), from the Season 2 episode "The Call." The episode was charming at the time, but it had nothing to do with the rebels finding a base, or with the soon-to-come showdown between Ahsoka and Vader. Ezra's bonding with these incredible, hyperspace-capable creatures was certainly interesting, but we didn't think it was anything other than a nice grace note for the saga.
Wow, were we wrong. In the end, the Purgill proved absolutely essential to the ending of the series, as they were a huge part (physically and otherwise) of Ezra's master plan. Just when it seemed that Grand Admiral Thrawn had beaten them, a secret backup plan of Ezra's was put into motion by Mart Mattin (a character introduced in "Iron Squardon," another episode thought to be filler) and the Purgill came storming in the save the day. It had been a long time since their introduction in season 2 and we'd almost forgotten them... seeing them fly in (alongside the Ghost) and lay waste to some Star Destroyers was a Star Wars moment we'll never forget.
Their appearance further paid off something the show has set up from the very start, which is Ezra's connection to the creatures of the natural world. From Loth-cats, to the darkness-loving beasts in Season 1's "Gathering Forces," to this season's introduction of the mighty Loth-wolves, Ezra's particular force connection has been growing steadily — and between the Purgill's return and the Loth-wolves' unholy attack on Governor Pryce's little band in the first part of the finale, Ezra proved that the living force was very strong with him.
It was for the best, because Grand Admiral Thrawn was no small adversary. Possibly the greatest tactical mind in Star Wars (aside from Palpatine himself), the finale saw Ezra go up against him personally — and he manages to get the best of him by using his special connection to nature. Thrawn plans everything meticulously, but it's safe to assume that he never planned for a storm of Purgill to tear through his ships.
Before he knows what's happening, Purgill arms are stretching through his own bridge, wrapping themselves around him and squeezing the blue right out of his face. He's almost always composed and collected, but this had him shaken. We didn't realize it at the time, but the sight of the mighty space-whale arms wrapped around Thrawn echoes a line from the Bendu at the end of season 3, which was pointed out on twitter by Steven Melching, one of the writers on the series. Thrawn seems to get the better of the mighty Bendu (but not really) at the end of Season 3's "Zero Hour," but Bendu merely chuckles in his mighty Tom Baker voice and says, "I see your defeat... like many arms surrounding you in a cold embrace."
It only took one season for Bendu's prediction to come true:
Another thing to notice in this photo is how perfectly Ezra's pose matches that of Kanan's epic sacrifice from "Jedi Night." Ezra has certainly learned from Kanan, and he's learned fast. With the Jedi, sacrifice is always the guiding light... from Yoda to Obi-Wan to Luke Skywalker himself.
The Purgill end up using their natural hyperspace abilities to clear the way for Hera and the team to finish the mission, but Thrawn and Ezra both end up being whisked away. Filoni ensures us that they're both still alive, but we have no idea where they are. This explains why neither one is around for the events of the original series of films, but still — where are they? More on that in a bit.
Thrawn didn't just blast away into mystery before leaving one little gift for fans of the old Star Wars Expanded Universe, though. As the Purgill arrive, he gets on the comms and speaks to a certain "Captain Pellaeon." We only hear a voice responding to him, saying that the creatures just "appeared," but it is the name-drop that matters here.
Gilad Pellaeon was a huge figure in the old expanded universe, appearing for the first time just as Thrawn himself did in Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire. He'd outlive Thrawn, going on to become a Grand Admiral himself and lead what would become known as the Imperial Remnant. He was wiped from canon when Lucasfilm jettisoned the EU, but thanks to this one line, he's here once again. Welcome back to canon, Captain Pellaeon! We've missed you, and we've missed your mustache.
As a side note, the finale also guarantees that Thrawn won't be going out the way he went out in Zahn's original books. Zahn has him die by the hand of Rukh the assassin, but this finale kills Rukh (voiced by Warwick Davis) by way of a deadly power generator grid. Rukh's dead, so the future is wide open for Thrawn.
Let's go back to characters appearing (or not appearing) in the original film series for a moment, because the finale's epilogue pretty much confirms a long-standing fan theory that Captain Rex himself is present during the Battle of Endor. Not only present, fans insist that you can see him in Return of the Jedi. Here's a glimpse of what they're talking about:
According to the finale, yes. First off, Rex appears early on wearing fatigues that are almost identical to the solder from Return of the Jedi:
That film also sees the older soldier in question donning some imperial gear as part of their stealth mission, and that is something Rex is constantly doing on the show. Most importantly, though? Sabine's voiceover in the epilogue full on tells us that Rex fought in the Battle of Endor.
Can we put this one to rest, please? The idea of the greatest clone of them all (your thoughts may vary, but come on) actually being present (albeit, retroactively) in one of the classic films is something we just can't pass up. From Christophsis to Endor and beyond, there's no stopping Captain Rex, and there never will be.
The finale gives some kind of closure (or clone-sure) to the clones in general, as Rex's two remaining clone allies (Wolffe and Gregor) are along for the ride. Anyone who was a fan of Star Wars: The Clone Wars doubtlessly got a jolt of emotion when they join the fight and their classic theme kicks up, but it's the death of Gregor that really brings the tears.
He may have found a way to survive the end of the 100th episode of The Clone Wars ("Missing in Action"), but he isn't so lucky here. Dying in Rex's arms, he talks about being grateful that they finally got to fight for "something that they chose to believe in." With just those words, the entire, tragic manipulation of galactic events comes crashing down on us. The clones were some of the best soldiers in the galaxy, and we got to love them all (except for Slick) during The Clone Wars. They were never given a choice about anything, so to see the freedom of that here finally brought their story to an end. For the Republic, Gregor... the Force will be with you.
As or the man responsible for the incredible tragedy of the clones, well, he was present in this episode as well.
He appears to tempt Ezra in a riff on what he does in Return of the Jedi, and he does so in his holographic form, taking a page from his own Phantom Menace playbook. The best part of his appearance, however, is that he is voiced by the legendary Ian McDiarmid, who played Palpatine in all of the live-action films. We loved the work of (the dearly departed) Ian Abercrombie on The Clone Wars, and Sam Witwer does a fantastic job as the Emperor as well — but there's just something about having the man himself here, continuing on from the work he already did in the episode before the finale. His Imperial Guards are finally given something to do as well, showing off what those force pikes of theirs can really do. It's nice to see them do something other than stand around and then walk away.
Since we're on a bit of a Return of the Jedi kick, how's about we look at another character who survived to fight in the Battle of Endor — General Hera Syndulla. Though we already knew that this was the case thanks to Forces of Destiny, we did not know that she was a mother. The finale welcomes Spectre Seven, aka Jacen Syndulla, and he is the child of Hera and Kanan.
For one thing, yes, it is indeed spelled "Jacen" and that's another nice callback to the EU. For another, wow, Kanan and Hera were doing much more than just kissing. Kanan's sacrifice was tough in this final season, but seeing mother and son (and Chopper) in the Ghost made our hearts soar like Hera flying that B-Wing. Thanks to the comics, we also know that Hera was training some pilots in the period between Episodes 4 and 5 — Doctor Aphra #17 depicts her running afoul of the not-so-good Doctor and her crew of morons. We don't know where little Jacen was during this time (he is Kanan's child, so he would've been born already) but we're glad that he was no where close to Doctor Aphra.
Love was in the air during the finale, as the secret Lasat system of Lira-San made a reappearance, last being seen (and discovered) in Season 2's "Last of the Lasat." Zeb returns there with none other than his former nemesis/best friend Agent Kallus.
Are these two just bro-ing down, or is there something deeper between them? The episode leaves it open, so you can decide for yourselves.
Before we forget, another fan theory was confirmed by the finale's credits — we've never known for certain who did the voice of Chopper, but we've had suspicions, and they were proven to be correct. The end credits, at long last, list David Filoni himself as the voice of Chopper. How could it have been anyone else?
This brings us to the very end of the episode, and the other thing that is left open. It's time to discuss Sabine's mission, and AHSOKA THE WHITE.
Sabine has been watching over Lothal, but the Empire never came back. She figures out what Ezra meant by "always being able to count on her" too, and she now knows that it is her destiny to find him and bring him home. Wherever the Purgill took him, Sabine is going to get him — and she's not going alone.
Returning in the last moments, Ahsoka Tano returns... and she's dressed in a white cloak, and is holding s white staff. We found out right before the finale that Ezra saved her from her duel on Malachor by using a portal in the former Jedi Temple on Lothal... they parted ways there, with Ahsoka returning to Malachor, and Ezra telling her to come and find him when the time is right.
It would seem the time has come, and he would seem that "come find me" actually means "come find me wherever the space-whales take me." We have NO idea what she has been up to since Malachor, but it's obviously something huge. We look forward to finding out what it might be in the future, but for now... Ahsoka Tano survives past Return of the Jedi. After so many discussions about how/when/why she would die, because she had to die, and here she is, ALIVE. Not only has she survived, but she's borrowed some style choices from Gandalf the White. May we all be so lucky.
Could this be what the future holds for Star Wars animation? We don't want to count our Loth-cats before they hatch, but dear Bendu we hope so. Sabine Wren and Ahsoka Tano (in that garb, no less) venturing off in an old republic-era ship to find Ezra Bridger, who is lost, we're assuming, in the unknown regions? There is so much potential there. Filoni has said that he's not done with animation at Lucasfilm, and during the Q+A panel following the official screening he was very coy about the idea when asked by s fan. He tried to give one of his famous "non-answers" about it, but his face could not contain the joy.
It's the animated show that almost every Star Wars fan wants right now. If they go looking in the unknown regions, it could certainly tie into the sequel trilogy. Maybe they stumble across Old Man Snoke out there while looking? Maybe Hondo and Melch go with them (please oh please), because for that boy, there's nothing that Hondo wouldn't do? Maybe they bring Rex and Wolffe along for the ride, who knows, anything is possible.
While it was satisfying all on it's own, the possibilities that opened up make the finale ("A Fool's Hope" and "Family Reunion - and Farewell") all the more powerful. It left our minds racing with the unlimited potential of it all, while at the same time it gave us a temporary coda to the story of Ezra Bridger. He's now achieved legendary status, which was driven home all the more with the episode mirroring the series' opening scenes shot for shot — only using Sabine in Ezra's place.
He's out there, and Thrawn is out there too. Go and find them, Sabine. Ahsoka will guide you. The force will be with you, always.
As for us? We'll miss this show, but we sincerely hope that Dave Filoni and his mighty crew stick around for many, many more adventures. We can't imagine Star Wars without them, and we hope we never have to.