For Dave Filoni, Star Wars Celebration 2017 was surely a strange experience: a moment of mixed joy and sorrow, as he unveiled the first trailer for Star Wars: Rebels Season 4, yet finally announced what we'd already suspected. Season 4 is the final one.
This was no surprise. Rebels is currently set only two years before the events of Rogue One and A New Hope. When Luke Skywalker first walks off the Falcon's boarding rap and into the Rebellion, everything changes; the whole #StarWars story suddenly orients itself around this single farmboy-turned-Jedi. The narrative of the Rebellion becomes the story of a would-be Jedi and his intrepid allies — and, sadly, I don't mean the crew of the Ghost.
Watch the trailer for Star Wars: Rebels Season 4 below:
But what does Season 4 have in store for our heroes? Let's take a look at some of the main cast, one by one.
During the Rebels panel, we were told that Season 4 will see Hera become even more focused than ever before. In spite of that, the trailer showed a moment of real affection between Hera and Kanan — hinting that the will-they-won't-they romance subplot is finally coming to an end. Will we see Hera and Kanan finally act on the sparks between them?
Hera's always been the "rock" of Rebels, the unshakeable character who's stood firm for the others. But the losses of Season 3 will have a profound impact upon her, and — given we can be sure Season 4 will see that painful trend continue — she's likely to be left deeply scarred by the season's close. It's worth remembering that the Battle of Scarif in Rogue One was described as the Rebel Alliance's first victory.
And yet, fans of Hera can rejoice — because she's the only character guaranteed to make it out of Rebels alive. Rogue One, set two years after the events of Season 3, included a subtle nod to "General Syndulla." Will Season 4 show how she earned that rank?
Looking beyond Rogue One, Lucasfilm has announced an animated series of shorts to be released online. Excitingly, Star Wars: Forces of Destiny includes an episode set on the planet Endor — and teaming Princess Leia up with Hera Syndulla.
The trailer's narrative is past-tense, and it's told from the voice of Hera Syndulla. Whatever may happen to the rest of the Ghost's crew, Hera seems fated to survive.
Looking beyond Rogue One, though, at Star Wars Celebration we learned that Lucasfilm is preparing a series of short animated adventures featuring the franchise's female characters. One of these is actually set on Endor, and will feature both Princess Leia — and Hera Syndulla. So it's clear that Hera survives both Rebels Season 4, and even makes it through the Battle of Scarif. She goes on to be a major player in the future of the Galaxy, and is part of the Rebel fleet that swoops down upon the Second Death Star.
Ezra has always been the central character in Rebels, and the trailer's narrative suggests that he'll be one of the focal points of Season 4. At first glance, it's tempting to assume that his arc will be focused around his continuing growth as a potential Jedi; but personally, I think that's something of a red herring.
The character of Ezra is directly linked to his homeworld of Lothal; his parents died trying to free that world, and Ezra is really fighting for Lothal's freedom rather than the Galaxy's as a whole. So it's important to note that the trailer shows the action heading back to Lothal.
I suspect that Season 4 will see Ezra's loyalties divided. The Rebel Alliance is organizing itself on a galactic level, preparing to launch military strikes against the Empire — even as Mon Mothma clings to the foolish hope that the Senate can somehow rein Palpatine in. But Ezra isn't interested in galactic diplomacy, and he isn't interested in the battle for the Galaxy either; he just wants a free Lothal. If the Rebellion won't focus in on that, I can easily see him taking his own path.
The trailer hinted that Sabine is the other central character of Season 4, and it makes perfect sense. We know that the Mandalorians are on the verge of civil war, with half siding with Sabine and half with Gar Saxon. Disturbingly, by the time of the Original Trilogy the Mandalorians have pretty much disappeared from the Galactic map. As I noted in an earlier post, there are no Mandalorians on Yavin 4 in A New Hope. No Mandalorians join the attack on the Second Death Star in Return of the Jedi. Worst of all, Chuck Wendig's "Aftermath" trilogy (set after Return of the Jedi) hints that Mandalorians become few and far between.
Dave Filoni has already teased us with some disturbing concept art, suggesting that the Mandalorians' story is going to come to a tragic end. It's one that Dave Filoni started back in The Clone Wars, and now he gets to bring it to a close.
That's not ominous at all. Honest.
Season 3 of Rebels showed Kanan willing to learn and expand his training, looking to some unusual sources for potential teachers. According to comments at the Rebels panel, we can expect Season 4 to see Kanan finally mature into the Jedi Master we all dream of him becoming; he gains that certainty and serenity that we first saw in Alec Guiness's Obi-Wan Kenobi all the way back in 1977.
And yet, intriguingly, the teaser featured Kanan using a word that seems very much in vogue right now over at Lucasfilm: balance. "We are the balance," he tells Ezra, clearly viewing the Jedi's role as an important one. It's a clear thematic link to the trailer for The Last Jedi, suggesting that there'll be philosophical ties between Rebels and the next Star Wars movie.
Sadly, I'm afraid the future doesn't look bright for Kanan. Explaining the decision to kill Maul, Dave Filon observed:
“If there’s a character like Maul running around during one of the old films, he’s such a big-time player you think there would have been an echo of that somewhere. So it was just the right time to tell the story and bring that thread to an end.”
That logic goes double for Kanan. If the Rebels had a Jedi Knight among their number in the days of Luke Skywalker, then we'd have heard about it. The Rebels panel kept deliberately linking Kanan to Obi-Wan Kenobi — and we all know how Kenobi's story came to an end...
There weren't many hints about Zeb at the Rebels panel, aside from assuring us that he's growing more and more responsible — more like the "uncle" figure to Ezra than the "big brother." There's a strange sense in which Zeb is the heart of Rebels, and his overarching narrative — the recovery of his faith as he learns he isn't the last of the Lasan — is a beautiful one.
For all that's the case, though, there seems no reason Zeb's story has to end in Rebels Season 4. We know Lucasfilm is planning more new animated shows, and Dave Filoni has a tendency to thread fan-favorite characters through them.
Ultimately, Zeb's fate will depend on the other major arcs, most notably Ezra's. For all they bicker, the love between Zeb and Ezra is plain to see, and he'd follow Ezra through the gates of hell and back.
We didn't just get a nod to Hera in Rogue One; we caught a glimpse of Chopper too! As a result, this plucky little droid is guaranteed to survive Rebels Season 4, but it's still set to be an emotional journey. The Rebels panel discussed that, behind all his bluster and cantankerous behavior, Chopper truly cares about the mismatched crew of the Ghost. With Season 4 bringing the series to an end, this could well be a heartbreaking plot.
All in all, dark days are coming for the heroes of Star Wars: Rebels. Sadly, though, the truth is that their story simply had to come to an end; we're simply getting too close in time to the Original Trilogy, and the focus has to change. Fans are going to watch Season 4 with a sense of nervous anticipation; we all trust Dave Filoni to bring these stories to a beautifully satisfying conclusion, but that doesn't really mean we're ready for it to end!