Oh, what an episode. After what’s felt like a rocky, unfocused season (to me, at least) with moments of brilliance, I was really worried that Star Wars: Rebels wouldn’t be able to stick the landing with this two-part finale in “Zero Hour.” I needn’t have worried, though, because not only was this episode fantastic, but it was so dense that I’ve had to opt for a bumper Ten Thoughts this week just to cover everything.
Without further ado, because there’s a lot to get through, let’s dive into our Five Thoughts on Star Wars: Rebels. Major spoilers ahead.
1. The Episode I’ve Been Waiting For
Let’s cut to the chase: this episode was everything I wanted it to be and it really signifies not only how much Rebels has grown into its own concept, but that it’s become the show I always wanted it to be. Coming off of The Clone Wars, I desperately wanted Rebels to showcase the Galactic Civil War in a new light, finally showing the birth of the Rebellion in a way that didn’t involve bloody Starkiller.
While the show has largely focused on smaller, personal stories for better or worse, this episode really stepped up to the plate to deliver a huge scale assault between the Empire and the Rebellion that rivalled even Rogue One and The Empire Strikes Back. Let’s break this baby down.
2. Fulcrum Exposed
The culmination of an arc that begin way back in Season 1, and possibly the start of something new, this episode exposed Kallus as Fulcrum to the Empire and ostracised him from their ranks. While most of the episode had him at the mercy of Thrawn, there were thee amazing moments he got that I want to talk about. First, the fight with Thrawn in Ezra’s old home. Remember when I talked about Sabine and Pryce’s fight in “The Antilles Extraction”? And how it felt like a solid, real fight. This was that and more. It was brief, but it put Thrawn into the action and showed him ably trounce him as a fantastic set up to the rest of the episode.
The second was Kallus escape, from the unseen elevator fight to his escape pod being picked up by the Ghost. Mostly because it was mcfreakin’ sick. Finally, there was moment in the final sequence between Kallus and Kanan. These two were the personification of the conflict between the Ghost and the Empire. They were rivals, through and through, and to see Kanan accept a broken and beaten Kallus who risked his life to give up the Empire? That’s some good, good Star Wars right there.
3. The Siege Of Atollon
No matter what else happens, I genuinely think this episode will go down as one of the most impressive of Rebels‘ run. For one, it’s the largest action setpiece we’ve seen in not just this show, but maybe also The Clone Wars. Spanning the whole 40 minute length, we saw multiple layers of combat in space, in the air and on the ground with every single soldier and vehicle that the two sides could throw at each other used in some way.
We saw an Imperial cruiser bisect a Star Destroyer, we saw an AT-AT assault, we saw Death Troopers, we saw A-Wings and X-Wings take on TIE Fighters in the midst of a capital ship battle with no less than six Star Destroyers, and we saw Mandalorians attack a Interdictor Cruiser from the hull. It was breathtaking, honestly. It’s the kind of level I’ve been hoping the show would read.
Not just that, but everyone got their moment. We finally got to see Hera take charge of the Rebellion forces. Ezra got to go on his own mission that added to the story for once. Kanan got to culminate his arc with Bendu. Rex and Zeb and Chopper and AP-5 and even Wedge, Hobie and the Iron Squadron got their moments to shine. This was the episode I always knew Rebels had in it and I’m so glad it finally paid off.
4. Sato’s Sacrifice
Speaking of everyone getting their moment, Sato finally got his. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it much before, but Sato’s inclusion was always a strange one to me. He kind of came out of nowhere at the end of Season 1 and during Seasons 2 and 3, he’s rarely been used as more than a voice in the Ghost’s ears during missions.Continued below
Here, though, we finally got a chance to see him step up and put his life on the line for the Rebellion, sacrificing himself to take out an Interdictor. It was a powerful moment and showed the stakes of the battle, something that the show has kind of steered away from in the past. We’ve not really had much in the way of major character deaths of the good guys (I still maintain that Ahsoka’s fate is unconfirmed), but this was a character we’ve gotten to know and like.
Sure, it does seem like a move to just replace him with General Dodona, but at least they gave Sato a proper send off.
5. Thrawn’s Time To Shine
After a season of plotting and planning and studying and analysing and not actually doing much, we finally got to see Thrawn as an active antagonist. This is something that kind of bugged me all season. While Thrawn’s cerebral nature and his mindgames may work in a contained novel, I’ve felt like his use as the antagonist of a season has left the Ghost crew without a direct opposition to go up again. Thrawn has, again and again, let the Rebels gain easy victory after easy victory and left a lot of the weaker episodes of the season feeling like they lacked real threat.
“Zero Hour,” however, showed Thrawn’s endgame in action and it was, thankfully, worth the wait. Seeing him at the fore of the assault, even leading the ground forces in his General Veers get up, was a fantastic sight to see. I’m glad he seems to still be the major antagonist going into the next season because I cannot wait to see the kind of conflict that will create with the new Rebel fleet.
6. The Will Of The Force
“Zero Hour” also marked the culmination of the arc with the Bendu and, well, I still don’t quite know what to make of him, but I think that’s the point. The idea that his staunch adherence to being in “the middle” took him out of the conflict was an interesting move, I think, on Lucasfilm’s part if only for the idea of what that says about the balance of the Force.
The Bendu mentions that he serves the will of the Force (the… Whills? of the Force?) and that the Jedi perishing could have been the will of the Force. It’s been mentioned that the use of the Bendu, the mentions of the Whills and the focus on the grey and the middle could be hinting at what is to come in The Last Jedi and I think that line holds some importance. What importance, I don’t know, but Lucasfilm are playing a long con here.
7. Orbital Bombardment
This is just a brief thought, but the orbital bombardment sequence was not only visually stunning, but featured one of my favourite moments of “Zero Hour.” Hera, looking up at the tenuous bubble holding back sheer and certain death as it threatens to give way, having to look away as she almost certainly accepts her end. It was brief moment, like I said, but one that speaks volumes of the places the finale took the characters. I only hope that Season 4 is this brave.
8. Sabine’s Return
While it was slight, I loved seeing Sabine’s return and the use of Fenn Rau and the Mandalorians. It was a bit of a detour narratively for Ezra to bugger off and come back (how long is hyperspace travel anyway?) but it did allow for one of the coolest action sequences of “Zero Hour” (maybe even Rebels as a whole). Seeing Sabine and Ezra lead a team of Mandalorians on a space walk to talk out and Imperial Interdictor from the outside has to be a stand out moment in the show’s run.
I did also like the notion that this wasn’t Sabine’s return to the fold. There’s still a lot of work to do with Mandalore and it’s apparently currently embroiled in a new civil war. I’m very interested to where her and Mandalore’s story goes in Season 4.
9. Pulling Out All The Stops
So, this was a fantastic finale for Rebels Season 3. It was full of action and drama and surprise and delight and brought together a wide ensemble of character to give each a moment in the spotlight. It was also the first large scale encounter we’ve seen between the Rebels and the Empire and the Rebels were, unsurprisingly, trounced. We’ve known since 1977 that the theft of the Death Star plans was the first major, decisive victory against the Empire so seeing the Rebels barely hold it together against this onslaught was a nice nod to that.Continued below
This was as impressive as Rebels has ever been and while Season 3 as a whole may be a bit wobbly and it may have lost it’s way at times, it pulled it all together at the close and has left the show in a very interesting place going forward into Season 4.
10. Looking To The Future
Where, then, does this show go? It has a couple of very interesting paths before it, but I think finally joining the Ghost crew up with General Dodonna and the Massassi group puts this show on a direct course for the battle of Scarif. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that be a major aspect of Season 4. We’ve also got the aforementioned ties to Mandalore that have yet to be fully explored as well as Thrawn himself. We’ve also got stuff like the Inquisitors and Vader and Ahsoka’s fate that are all up in the air.
What I do hope, though, is that Season 4 has focused, cohesive arc. This season, I think, was let down by an unfocused sense of where the overall narrative was heading. That could have been because of Rogue One not allowing them to do certain things until after it’s release, but I don’t know. I can only hope we get less repetitive, lesson learning episodes and more of a structured narrative.
And Ahsoka. Bring back Ahsoka. I refuse to believe that’s not alive.