Star Wars Rebels ended its third season on a bang Saturday, with the two-part finale “Zero Hour.” Many things are changing as time marches on towards the Battle of Yavin and outbreak of full-on Galactic Civil War.
Let’s take a look at where things stand in the televised Star Wars universe and the Saga’s new canon. Spoilers follow, obviously …
The Phoenix Squadron resistance cell’s plans to attack the Imperial TIE Defender factory on Ezra Bridger’s homeworld of Lothal are pre-empted when Grand Admiral Thrawn discovers their hidden base on Atollon. This sets up a devastating ambush and blockade that decimates much of the squadron as well as other segments of the larger Rebel fleet that have come to join them; we meet General Dodonna, of the “Massassi group,” a reference, of course, to the ancient Massassi ruins on Yavin 4, the Rebel base of Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. We learn that the “medical frigate” of Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is a part of this group, and it once had at least two sister ships that meet a grim fate here over Atollon.
Phoenix Squadron’s Commander Sato sacrifices his carrier ship, and his life, to take out one of the Imperial blockade’s Interdictor cruisers, allowing Ezra and Chopper to escape (in the late Darth Maul’s captured Mandalorian ship, the Gauntlet). When rebuffed by Mon Mothma in his desperate plea for Rebel reinforcements (“the time is not yet right for open warfare,” blah blah blah…), he heads to Krownest, the stronghold of the Mandalorian Clan Wren, where we last left Sabine in the midst of her family’s long-overdue revolt against the Imperial puppet rulers, the Saxons.
Despite her clan’s struggle and doubts, Sabine takes a few ships and soldiers to help her old friends. In a daring extravehicular assault, they take out the remaining Interdictor, and the few surviving Rebel ships escape — bound, after a few decoy hyperspace jumps, for Yavin.
Yes, the assemblage of Rebel forces seen in Rogue One is slowly taking shape.
Agent Kallus, he of the terrible-pun name and smirking self-satisfaction, is actually a highlight of “Zero Hour.” For a while now he’s been known to be a double agent, stepping in as the mysterious “Fulcrum” after Ahsoka Tano’s disappearance at the end of Season 2 last year. It’s been oddly satisfying seeing the Imperial Security Bureau agent transform, a bit, and develop a conscience as well as a sense of honor. I was sure he wouldn’t survive being unmasked and captured by Thrawn, but in the end he lives to fight another day, now living among the Rebels he once hunted and then secretly helped.
That his furtive Fulcrum broadcasts to the Rebels, and his arrest, happened in Ezra’s old tower sanctuary on the outskirts of Lothal’s capital, where the young street rat once looked up at a looming Star Destroyer before his Jedi journey began, was particularly fitting. It was neat to see his early collection of “bucket-head” trophy helmets again, a reminder of how far he’s come in many ways.
Bendu, “the one in the middle” between the dark Sith and light Jedi, returns when Kanan Jarrus seeks him out to aid in the defense of Atollon. The gigantic and enigmatic beast, voiced by Doctor Who star Tom Baker, flatly refuses to be a part of the war, but changes his mind when the Empire begins orbital bombardment and ground assault. His seemingly indiscriminate rage threatens even the escaping Rebel forces, but his intervention does allow them to flee.
Thrawn (“What Jedi devilry is this?”) turns his forces’ fire against the literal storm of Bendu’s power, and a flaming meteor falls to the ground. Later, we see Thrawn and his troopers surround Bendu’s fallen physical form, but when the Grand Admiral fires point-blank, Bendu’s body vanishes — and there’s hearty laughter in the air.
On to Star Wars Rebels Season 4 …
We know very little about what comes next.
There will be a fourth season, and details are expected to be released next month at Star Wars Celebration Orlando. Thrawn has failed the Emperor miserably, and that’s never good for high-ranking Imperial officers. Kallus appears to be all in with the Rebellion now. Presumably the Phoenixes will be based on Yavin. (We know that Hera Syndulla has a role to play there.) Sabine is returning to her family’s side in the civil war on Mandalore.
It seems like things are primed for another shakeup — stay tuned!