6 questions I have after watching Star Wars Rebels season 3

Star Wars Rebels underwent a dramatic transformation between its first and third seasons. What started out as a charming but ultimately shallow exercise in marrying Star Wars’ minutiae with teen TV tropes, has transformed into the richest human story in Lucasfilm’s beloved universe. Season 3’s myriad plot threads echo themes from the films - power struggles, the weight of familial obligation, finding new purpose in life, the hidden soul in hilarious robots - but explore them with admirable patience and subtlety, punctuating real drama with elegant, restrained action. What’s more, Rebels does all this while remaining the platonic ideal of a family friendly show; it’s deep and soulful but simple in a way that can hook adults and kids without condescending to either. Put simply, it’s everything that made the original Star Wars a success. This show managed to make Darth Maul one of Star Wars’ most interesting, sympathetic characters. Yes, that Darth Maul. But its slate heading out of season 3 is almost entirely wiped clean! Hera, Ezra, Kanaan, Zeb, Sabine, and Chopper are on the run from the Empire as the family unit they started as. That said, they do have crucial new allies and even family members joining them between the stars. In the wake of its excellent two part season finale, here are the questions i have heading into Star Wars Rebels season 4.

1. How does Rebels tie into Rey's story in Star Wars: The Last Jedi?

Yes, Star Wars Rebels takes place roughly two generations before Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but that doesn’t mean Rey and Kylo Ren’s story doesn’t have any relevance in Hera and Ezra’s story. Far from it actually. We already know characters like the seemingly Force sensitive Maz Kanata are alive and kicking. In fact, the Pirate Queen’s bar - which was around for centuries before the First Order blew it up in The Force Awakens - could very well be a safe haven for the crew to chill out on the run from Thrawn. With season 4 coming right around the same time as The Last Jedi, it’s high time to start seeing the tendrils of the new trilogy reach into the rest of the Star Wars universe. I just want to know how they do.

2. What is Bendu?

One of Rebels season 3’s greatest additions to the cast was the enigmatic Bendu, a force sensitive creature that looked like a bearded cross between a moose on steroids, a sandstone cliff face, and Babe the Blue Ox. Neither Jedi nor Sith, Bendu claimed to be the embodiment of the calm center of the Force, a passive observer in the galaxy’s conflicts who helped Kanaan, Ezra, and even Darth Maul find their place in the universe. Even though it was clear that Bendu was something new in Star Wars canon, nothing prepared me for his assault on Grand Admiral Thrawn and the Empire in the season finale. Emperor Palpatine can throw lightning. Bendu literally transformed into a lightning storm that batted around AT-ATs like they were cat toys. This is no stodgy old prequel Jedi master tossing out platitudes with the same dusty solemnity as a fortune cookie; this thing means business and I can’t wait to see season 4 dive further into the character.

3. Will season 4 finally introduce the subject of racism into the Thrawn story?

(Image: © Disney)

Grand Admiral Thrawn survived the post-Disney eradication of the Star Wars Extended Universe, and while he appears earlier in the timeline than he did when first created for the novels, he’s still the same dangerously confident and tactical leader he was there. The season finale definitely sets Thrawn up for a similar fate as back in the old canon; as Bendu tells him after the rebels escape, he is surrounded by failure and defeat he can’t see. One of the most interesting parts of Thrawn’s character was absent from Rebels, though: his authority as a non-human in Emperor Palpatine’s virulently racist, humans-first military. Ghosts of Genonosis, the season 3 two-parter revisiting the insectoid race of droid manufacturers from Attack of the Clones, broached the subject of Palpatine’s eradication of non-human peoples but we never got to see Thrawn engage with this aspect of his government’s goals. Will we see Thrawn deepen and change in the next season in the same way we’ve seen villainous Imperial officers like Kallus change?

4. How will Kallus serve the rebellion?

Speaking of Kallus, this mutton chopped Grand Moff Tarkin crony turned rebel was a standout cast member this past season. Given that Rebels doesn’t shy away from killing prominent characters, it looked like Kallus’ sacrifices to aid the rebellion would include his life once Thrawn took him captive in the season finale. Not only did Kallus escape his captors, he actually made it aboard the ship with Hera, Kanaan, and crew suggesting that he’s been promoted from an insider ally to a regular member of the team. The question then is how Kallus will transition into his new life. As a man raised during the Clone Wars, Kallus already revealed in season 2’s excellent episode The Honorable Ones that the Empire defined his identity but his regret for helping the Empire wipe out Zeb’s people - another example of Palpatine’s loathing for non-humans - led him to give it all up. Now he’s a man cut free from his past and it’ll be exciting to see where that takes him.

5. With Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul out of the picture, who's left to bring in as a Force user?

Rebels has always had to find creative ways to dance around the issue of Jedi during its place in the timeline between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. If everything’s going to line up, the only Jedi fighting the Empire eventually have to be Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Yoda. That certainly doesn’t bode well for heroes like Kanaan and Ezra, not to mention Clone Wars survivors like Ahsoka, but it also leaves Rebels’ showrunners with a limited number of Force wielders. Season 3 also ended the story of Darth Maul, the beguiling but unstable former Sith lord who served as both mentor and tormentor to Ezra throughout the season. His final confrontation with Obi-Wan Kenobi provided not just one of the best fights in all of Star Wars - more stunning and affecting in its few seconds than anything in the prequels - but it also effectively removed both characters from the Rebels stable. Who’s left to fill the void? Are Ezra and Kanaan doomed to butt heads with Darth Vader alone in season 4? Or are other non-Jedi like Bendu out there?

6. What happens to the Mandalorians?

One of Star Wars Rebels season 3’s less successful plot lines is Sabine’s reconciliation with her family, her clan’s storied history in Mandalorian warrior culture, and her recovery of the Dark Saber, the only lightsaber ever forged by a Mandalorian. There were plenty of cool ideas bouncing around Sabine this season, but all the talk about prophecies, the weak, archetypal characters like her disapproving but immediately won over mother and just the action figure-level depiction of the Mandalorians made it all feel pretty limp. There’s plenty of room to grow, though. If Sabine and her people can be fleshed out the same way Kanaan was, season 4 will soar. The show has to do something with Mandalore: it’s completely absent outside of ol’ Boba Fett’s armor in the original trilogy. What we need to know is how an entire race of the fiercest warriors are taken out of the equation in the Rebellion’s struggle against the Empire. 

Images: Disney/Lucasfilm