—this piece contains major spoilers, obviously—
Ben: So. That was bittersweet. I want to say up front that I know that the direction the show went in its last season didn’t agree with everyone. They went to some weird places and were not afraid to take chances with characters and the overall direction of the show, and are entirely unapologetic about it. I know that my personal feelings about the show don’t reflect everyone’s feelings, I acknowledge that other people might have taken away different things from the show than what I took away, and I don’t in any way intend to belittle people’s feelings or thoughts with what I have to say.
I’ve watched every episode of Rebels as it’s come out, I’ve been fully invested in the show since before it even started airing, and it’s been the one major constant about the franchise in general that I’ve been attached to since the Disney acquisition. The very first article I ever wrote for this site as a staff member (that hasn’t aged well but I digress) was in defense of Rebels from malingers who were badmouthing it before an episode had even aired. My time with the show has not been all sunshine and rainbows, and I am fully willing to acknowledge that the show is flawed.
All of that being said, the last fifteen minutes or so of the final episode made me so emotional that I was literally trembling. I’ve been invested in the crew of the Ghost for four years, and having their story finally come to an end is something that I intellectually knew had to happen at some point, but that I was not fully emotionally prepared for. I want there to be more. I want to tune back in next week and have another adventure with Sabine, Ezra, Zeb, Hera, Chopper and Kanan ready and waiting for me. I want to see more of Lothal, I want to get more banter and fun, I want to learn more about each of these characters, I want to see them keep interacting, keep fighting, keep living.
I said back in my retrospective of Celebration Orlando almost a year ago that I was excited for this season, even though I knew it was going to be the final one, because I appreciated that the show would have a chance to properly end its story. It’s something that not nearly enough shows get a chance to really do. Some TV writers expect that their shows will never have a proper ending, so they never write one, and their shows drag on forever like shuffling reanimated corpses moaning about merchandise sales and ratings. Other shows are cut down in their prime without having a proper chance to tell their story all the way through, so things are left to dangle and tantalize the audience but never resolved.
Rebels went out on its own terms. It ended with bold, broad strokes and gave us not only an end to the story but an opportunity to see all of our heroes get something of a coda to their songs. The epilogue to the final episode did so much to settle questions while raising new ones, opening doors to the future after the events of the episode itself closed the ones to the past. Dave Filoni and his team learned from the mistakes of The Clone Wars and its drawn-out anthology structure that left dozens of plots hanging in the air even after six seasons and a movie; they kept Rebels tight and focused, driving the thrust of the story (Ezra’s journey) home with the force of a sledgehammer.
Ezra’s story has a beginning, a middle and an end. We watched him grow up from a street rat who stole to live into a Jedi potentially sacrificing himself to save his home. The finale perfectly encapsulated his journey, and his growth, by dangling in front of him the one thing that he has wanted most from the first episode of the show: his parents. When presented with an opportunity to return them to life, one that might cost him his friends, his new family, and everything they’ve fought for, he rejects it, even though he knows that doing so will only bring him pain. He makes the selfless decision, he puts himself last, and just like Kanan he finds a way to save everyone he cares about at a great personal cost.
In a way, his ending is more fitting than Kanan’s when it comes to the show as a whole. Hauled blindly into the void of space by hyperspace-capable space whales while straining to both hold back a tide of Imperial soldiers and keep Grand Admiral Thrawn restrained—as Wolffe says, it’s a plan that epitomizes Ezra Bridger. It’s also a scene that epitomizes Rebels as a whole. Rebels was a show that was entirely unafraid to embrace the bizarre, the weird, the wonderful and the silly, it boldly kicked at the sandcastles that people had built up around their ideas of what a show about the “Dark Times” of the galaxy should be about.
I loved it. Not every minute of it was wonderful, not every episode was a winner. But I still loved it, even with all its imperfections. It told a Star Wars story. It told its own story. And it opened the door for many, many more stories to come.
Jay: There’s a lot I loved. There’s a lot I didn’t. I could complain about some stuff feeling a little silly (I don’t mean the space whale kamikaze, that was awesome) but I’m not going to really spend time on those here. I know why they did what they did, even if it’s not what I would have preferred.
They had a commitment to a happy ending and they stuck with it, and like it or hate it (I’ve mixed feelings), they did carry it through without hesitation. I like that they were committed to that shiny version of Lothal we saw in “Legacy” — Ezra’s dream came true, not the one about him meeting his parents, but the one about Lothal restored. And the happy ending with the kid (literally the next generation) and the opening to the next chapter, that’s a nice way to go out on your own terms. And honestly — for an ending that I thought I “expected” (character survival), the post-Endor epilogue took me completely by surprise, as did its content. In fact, even though I’d convinced myself I knew where this episode was going a lot of it surprised me.
I loved seeing Palpatine again. That deceptive, kindly old gentleman Palpatine was magnificent: he’s the benevolent leader the Empire’s propaganda portrays…it’s the “Empire Day” image given life. The seductive vision Palpatine offered Ezra reminded me of Star Trek Generations. And I just liked hearing Ian McDiarmid again. Equally, I enjoyed seeing Pellaeon brought into canon and seemingly killed in an instant (there’s no love lost between me and the man I hold responsible for the Empire’s fall in Legends).
But my favorite Imperial stuff aside, I think the weirdest thing is that the show is over. Four years is a long time, and the show’s been with us almost as long as we’ve been getting new canon-era storytelling (especially if you include A New Dawn). We’ve gotten attached to the characters, to the music, to the Rebels Recon episodes, to the episode guides and concept art.
I really enjoyed this show. The McQuarrie aesthetic, the found family vibe (or RPG adventuring party, take your pick), etc. It brought back a lot of beloved EU characters, ships, and concepts that I grew up on. No, it wasn’t perfect. It could be a little silly sometimes. I disagreed with some of the story choices. I might have preferred a different ending. I thought it would be more about the war and the Rebellion. But overall? I enjoyed it. I liked when it went weird. I like when it went mythological. I like when it surprised me. I saw things that I hoped to see on screen and things that I’d never have dared dream. I saw characters that I wanted to see and those I didn’t know I wanted. I had favorites from the start and others grew on me.
Rebels was not everyone’s cup of tea but it was mine from the moment we saw it. It just had some surprise ingredients is all, but it worked for me. And most importantly, it worked for a lot of kids who are really into Star Wars and these characters now and I think I am happiest for them. It’s a thing I’m trying to do more and more — be excited for other people’s joy. And thankfully with Rebels, it’s something I enjoyed too.
Sarah: I think I’m still processing how I feel about Rebels finally coming to an end. Like Jay said, Rebels and the Ghost crew have been with us nearly as long as the Disney acquisition, so it really feels like we’ve reached the end of an era. Maybe that’s a touch dramatic, but it’s true. It’s hard to believe that this is it for good and there won’t be any more stories about the Ghost crew all together on a mission. While the show had its ups and downs, and certainly its issues, I think it’s overall a huge success both in terms of actual storytelling and in the potential it created for the Star Wars universe.
Rebels was the first attempt at Disney and Lucasfilm working together to create a new story for a new era of Star Wars and I don’t think it overstates the case to say it set a tone for the direction the franchise would take with its stories going forward: an ability for creators to put their own spin on Star Wars while staying true to the themes of the franchise. Granted, Filoni’s time spent with George Lucas on The Clone Wars certainly gave him an advantage, but in the hands of a lesser creator Rebels easily could’ve been a far less rich show that mimicked the best parts of Lucas’s work with little effort spent to go in a new direction. But instead the story wasn’t afraid to get weird and esoteric and to dream big.
It’s a testament to the entire Rebels team that the show is as beloved as it is; of all the new stories in this new era of canon Rebels is the only one that isn’t largely relying on legacy movie characters or well-known events in order to boost its appeal. It certainly interacts with the franchise at large, as the lengthy number of cameos can attest (and one could argue that later seasons occasionally leaned too hard into fanservice), but it built its popularity on its Spectres and their found family (a classic Star Wars trope). The main crew was all new characters who instantly felt like they belonged in the pantheon of Star Wars greats.
I know I was personally hoping for more interaction between the Ghost crew and the Rebellion at large, and to see their involvement in the events we know so well, but in retrospect I think it’s for the best we largely see them operating on their own and sticking to Lothal or other Outer Rim planets. It allowed for a fuller exploration of character arcs, and all that came home to roost in the finale. Rebels was never about the Rebel Alliance; it’s about fighting for what you love, whether that’s your family, your home or your future.