I’ve had some time to sleep on it and give some thought to the series finale episodes of Star Wars: Rebels, and, to be honest…I still find myself in much the same position that I was in several hours ago. There were things I enjoyed about the episodes, and things that still leave me feeling (at best) neutral or (at worst) with a lot of active dislike.
First, we’ll go over some of the things I enjoyed about “A Fool’s Hope” and “Family Reunion–and Farewell”:
- Ezra. While I feel like his arc throughout the series has been inconsistent (to say the very least), these two episodes finally showcase the character on firm ground, and he’s finally able to embody what it means to be a Jedi: Selflessness over selfishness, adherence to the Light Side of the Force over the pull of the Dark Side. Taking the harder path instead of giving in to what’s easy. Ezra finally seems to understand Yoda’s message to him from all the way back in Season 2: In the Jedi Temple on Lothal, Ezra asks Yoda “How are we supposed to win if we don’t fight back?” to which the wizened master replies, “How Jedi choose to win, the question is.” Ezra “chooses to win” in much the same way the Luke does in the end of The Last Jedi: His victory over the Empire is more symbolic than literal, standing up to the enemy in defence of his family and friends, giving the righteous hope and showing that the Empire can be defeated. When the time comes, he doesn’t shirk away from his rôle in the galactic drama. Ezra has never felt more like a Jedi to me in the show, and I’m thankful we got to see this version of the character before its end.
- Ryder Azadi. This character is one of the most interesting in the Rebels cast, and one of the least explored in the show. His mentions in the Thrawn novel complicated him for me–while acknowledging that we only hear about him from Pryce’s point-of-view, he nevertheless came across as much less altruistic and more self-serving than I’d thought he might have been. This episode seemed to explore that angle, with his (feigned) betrayal of the Lothal Rebels. I found myself enjoying his turn as both traitor and hero, but wish that we knew more about this character who was (at least at one time) unwilling to fight the Empire any further.
- Sabine. I’ve really enjoyed the maturation in the relationship between Ezra and Sabine over the last season-and-a-half; they’ve come to see each other (more so with Sabine’s estimation of Ezra) as equals in the venture, and the brattiness of their early interactions has given way to respect and platonic love. Plus, who doesn’t love a Mandalorian badass taking out these lesser jumptroopers?
- Hondo’s Han maneuver. I liked the use of Han’s trick from The Empire Strikes Back, piggybacking onto an Imperial ship to avoid detection. The only potential negative I can think of is that people will attempt to use it to show that Han sucks, somehow, but that’s their prerogative.
- Zeb. The big lunk has been massively reduced over the seasons to a glorified background character, in my opinion, but I felt that his turn in these episodes was perfect. He’s the hero he needs to be here, using his strengths–err, his strength–to great effect in the initial battle with Pryce and her forces and later during the assault on the Imperial capital dome. Zeb’s adherence to his friends and the larger “cause” is as hopeful and empowering to me as the sacrifice of any Jedi.
- Rukh’s end. I never warmed to this canon interpretation of Rukh, including the hype given to Warwick Davis voicing the character. The voice was so processed it honestly could have been anyone, so that wasn’t a major draw to me, and then his characterization as a foil for Zeb…I get it, it just didn’t interest me. I was happy to see his end, even if I felt bad for how painful it must have been.
- Thrawn. My opinion on this character in the finale drastically changed after I watched the latest (and last, sad-face) episode of Rebels Recon, where it was revealed by Filoni (albeit in a sort of weak fashion) that the intent was for Ezra and Thrawn to have survived jumping into hyperspace with the perrgill. I really enjoyed his characterization in the finale, although it continues to clash with the depiction in Zahn’s most recent novel; his resolve, his willingness to “do what must be done” is both admirable and terrifying because of how he chooses to “win”–fighting for the Empire, seeking power to crush his enemies. I hope his character isn’t wasted going forward.
- The Emperor. It was simply a joy to have Ian McDiarmid return to voice the character he originally portrayed nearly forty years ago in “Wolves and a Door” and “A World Between Worlds,” and that joy continued with his appearance in the finale. He is the ultimate tempter in Star Wars, the analogue for Satan, and I adored his attempts to turn Ezra. Equally well-portrayed, in my opinion, was the turn when he doesn’t get his way: He becomes the Return of the Jedi version of the character, uttering lines that recall his biting “So be it…Jedi” reply to Luke’s refusal at the end. Bonus points to everyone involved in this episode for having the Royal Guard attempting to contain Ezra–and they’re wearing Crimson Empire-style armour! Total fanboy moment, and Ezra’s escape was almost as satisfying to me as Rey and Kylo Ren’s defeat of the Praetorians in The Last Jedi. I’m glad we got to see the Royal Guard as something of a threat in this episode, in defiance of their portrayal back in Revenge of the Sith–although, of course, they’re ultimately no match for someone who is a servant of the Light.
That about sums up my most positive thoughts about the episodes. I think I’ll leave off more introspection about what I disliked for another post.