“Rebel Assault,” the fall finale of Star Wars Rebels, wastes no time getting to the action: Hera Syndulla — now a general in the Alliance — leads a squadron of X-Wing fighters and Y-Wing bombers to punch through Grand Admiral Thrawn’s blockade of Lothal, in a desperate attempt to destroy the TIE Defender Elite prototype and the factory building the new Imperial starfighter.
It does not go well.
Hera and one of her pilots, apparently the only survivors, crash on Lothal and must evade capture in a hostile, Imperial-occupied urban environment.
Kanan Jarrus, who’s been trying to organize a surface resistance along with fellow Phoenix Squadron members Ezra Bridger, Sabine Wren and Zeb Orrelios, is predictably drawn away from his duty with them by his love and worry for Hera, and they let him go — but the former Jedi padawan is then drawn off that path by the mysterious and mystical Loth-wolves, who first appeared to Lothal native Ezra and saved the team from certain doom. (Deus ex lupo?)
“What do you want from me?” Kanan demands, pressed for time.
“Dum,” comes the answer — but is it his given name (Caleb Dume), as he surmised in his first encounter with the creatures, or “doom” in a more literal sense? Either way, the answer leads Kanan to seemingly abandon his search for Hera — for now — to save her fellow survivor after she is taken prison by Thrawn’s Noghri assassin, Rukh, and presumably rejoin his comrades. What’s next? That’s just one of many questions that remain in Rebels.
Thrawn is his typical genius self here, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat again due to superior planning, but Rukh, voiced by Warwick Davis, is still an enigma. It’s not clear if we’ll see any Vader connections to his people, as in the original “Expanded Universe” novels that are being mined here and there for source material but ultimately aren’t considered canon as a whole anymore.
Rebels, always a great storytelling vehicle within the Star Wars universe like Clone Wars before it, has found renewed focus in its fourth and final season as it first wrapped up Sabine’s Mandalore arc (to a degree, anyway) and circled back to Lothal, where it all began for our heroes, after tackling larger issues like the Inquisitors, the Vader-Ahsoka Tano confrontation, Darth Maul’s fate and tantalizing hints of the Death Star program as the Rebel Alliance slowly takes shape. Sometimes, smaller is bigger, and hitting home for characters like Ezra and Sabine is really what makes Star Wars what it is, not the laser swords and space battles.
“Rebel Assault” is the series’ last new episode of 2017, so it probably comes as no surprise that it leaves many questions unanswered — and even introduces a few new ones without answering them, of course. Many of the same burning questions in the face of Rebels’ pending conclusion, such as who lives and who dies, are still hanging out there. But we may see a very explosive end to the Lothal saga … after all, the TIE Defender doesn’t many any high-profile appearances in the Original Trilogy or beyond, and we’re getting awfully close to the sacred and uber-canonical territory of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Episode IV — A New Hope. While “General Syndulla” is still around for Rogue One and post-Episode VI — Return of the Jedi (according to the Forces of Destiny animated anthology), we don’t know if any of the other members of the Ghost crew make it beyond Rebels’ conclusion … and Rogue One showed us that literally everyone is expendable in the cause of the Rebellion.
We’ll find out what we can when the last half of Star Wars Rebels’ last season will begin in early 2018.