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Star Wars Rebels

A Fool''s Hope/Family Reunion - And Farewell (Star Wars Rebels - S04E14-E16) - Animated Series

Series: Star Wars Rebels

Title: A Fool’s Hope / Family Reunion - And Farewell

Season: Four

Episodes: 14-16

Original Air Date: March 5, 2018

Runtime: 66 minutes

Credits: Review & Text: Mike Taber; Page layout & Design: Chuck Paskovics

"Whatever happens next, happens to both of us." SPOILERS. 

“A Fool’s Hope” and “Family Reunion - And Farewell” constitute the perfect series finale for Star Wars Rebels, and not because they were the series’ best episodes or perfect pieces of storytelling. These final 90 minutes are the perfect conclusion to Star Wars Rebels precisely because they were occasionally uneven but ultimately capable of greatness. Minor frustrations aside, Dave Filoni and crew have given Star Wars Rebels a near perfect sendoff that granted most ongoing storylines a proper conclusion, offered bold, cinematic, and downright enjoyable Star Wars storytelling, and set the stage for an intriguing next chapter. Flip through the pages of television history and you will find dozens of once great series whose legacies are in part defined by disappointing finales. Thankfully, Star Wars Rebels joins fellow Dave Filoni produced series Star Wars: The Clone Wars on the list of series that stuck the landing. Not everything works and it was an occasionally bumpy ride to the finish line, but the end of Star Wars Rebels will be remembered fondly by those who have followed the series since the beginning. Speaking of beginnings, sometimes the best endings are new beginnings.

   

“A Fool’s Hope” is a fine and even great episode of Star Wars Rebels, but we shouldn’t view these as three individual episodes. This truly felt like a 90 minute animated movie that seamlessly brought together four years of storytelling. These final 90 minutes are Star Wars Rebels at its most cinematic. Throughout its run, it was clear that Star Wars Rebels was operating on a limited budget. The shift from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which rivaled the most expensive Pixar films in its final seasons, to Star Wars Rebels was admittedly jarring. However, they pulled out all the stops for the series finale. In the finale the screen was bursting with action and characters, we witnessed some of the most beautiful moments in Star Wars animation, Kevin Kiner once again knocked it out of the park with his score, and the direction was fluid and truly cinematic. Any issues with storytelling aside, the series finale is a massive technical achievement for the crew of Star Wars Rebels. Filoni and the crew behind Star Wars Rebels have a clear understanding of Star Wars and how it functions on a cinematic level. The finale expertly balances capturing the essence of Star Wars while also taking risks by introducing new elements and storytelling beats. Not all of the risks work, but isn’t that too in the spirit of Star Wars? George Lucas valued ambition and experimentation, and Dave Filoni clearly learned that from his former boss. Sure, I may not like space whales and Loth-Wolves but I’ll take ambitious if uneven storytelling over competent paint by the numbers storytelling any day of the week.

   

Our final story began with the Ghost crew calling in all of their favors. The Rebel Alliance was not going to send further aid to Lothal, so the Ghost crew gathered Rex, Wolffe, Gregor, Kallus, Ketsu, Hondo, and even Melch to join forces with the rebel cell on Lothal for one final attempt to free Ezra’s homeworld. As you probably expected, Hondo was a highlight of the finale. Hondo as a character is simply delightful and Jim Cummings always delivers. Hondo had several great moments in the finale, but his depiction felt a bit too altruistic even if he has a fondness for Ezra. There are plenty examples throughout the finale, but I am frankly still blown away at how virtually every recurring character and storyline from the past four years was seamlessly integrated into the finale. Well, except for AP-5. What happened to him? Anyway, this seamless integration represents a command of storytelling and attention to detail that surpassed my expectations.

   

Back on Lothal, Ryder called Governor Pryce and offered up the location of the rebel cell on Lothal in exchange for amnesty. Pryce and Rukh launched an assault on the rebels’ hidden base. The following battle alongside the cliffs of Lothal may be the best sustained action sequence of the series. In addition to superb direction and the surprisingly full frames, it was the small moments that made these scenes successful. From Chopper tricking a stormtrooper and throwing him over the side, to Zeb picking up a massive blaster cannon and charging the enemy, or seeing all of the clones back in action. Above the planet’s surface, Hondo helped get the Ghost past the Imperial blockade in typical Hondo fashion. Pryce made her move and gained the upper hand in the battle when she captured most of the rebel cell, but Hera and the Ghost arrived with reinforcements. It was all part of the plan, Ryder didn’t betray the rebels but this was a plan on Ezra’s part to capture Governor Pryce. I’ll admit, I almost bought Ryder’s betrayal since he is voiced by Clancy Brown and was an underdeveloped character to begin with. The back and forth of the cliff-side battle, with each side gaining the upper hand several times, made it the most believable battle of the series. Ezra gave the rebels the final upper hand with the help of the Loth-Wolves. The Loth-Wolves still don’t entirely work for me, but Wolffe getting his Wolfpack back put a giant smile on my face. The Loth-Wolves essentially devouring dozens of Stormtroopers was pretty violent for this series. With the help of the Loth-Wolves, Governor Pryce was captured. After forcing Pryce to turnover her clearance codes, the rebels began their plan to gain control of the Imperial dome in the capital and launch it into space. The idea that the dome at the heart of the Lothal capital is a ship is an innovative expansion of the Imperial military structure. Landing these domes in established civilizations and using them as a staging ground to drain worlds of their natural resources and just pick up when nothing is left sounds exactly like the Empire. Ezra’s plan was to recall Imperial forces into the dome and launch it into space ridding Lothal of the Empire. The takeover of the dome had a few amusing moments, like Melch flying through the air and Hondo’s reaction.

   

Ezra’s plan was falling into place, but then Thrawn arrived. Thrawn’s “Are you quite finished?” response to Ezra’s demands was downright chilling. I have concerns regarding how Thrawn was handled overall, but Lars Mikkelsen has been PERFECT in this role. He surpassed all expectations and delivers each and every week, even when the writing fails his character. With the Imperial forces recalled to the Dome and the planetary shield shut down by Rukh (who apparently has nine lives), Thrawn bombarded the city likely killing hundreds of civilians. It was Thrawn at his most terrifying and cruel. Ezra immediately relented and agreed to turn himself over to Thrawn. The rest of the rebels launched an operation to regain control of the shield generator from Rukh. Aboard the Chimera, Thrawn brought Ezra before the Emperor (in holographic form). This wasn’t the cackling, deformed Emperor though. It was the kindly old man in white, flowing robes without the scars left behind by the Force lightning. The Emperor saved a part of the Jedi Temple from Lothal and offered Ezra the chance to be with his parents again. All he had to do was open the portal again. I probably sound like a broken record, but Ian McDiarmid was fantastic once again. Few are as devilishly seductive and his manipulative performance is the only source of tension in these scenes. We all knew Ezra would reject his offer but McDiarmid’s performance makes you believe that his manipulations may just work. Ezra finally let his parents go and destroyed the remains of the temple. This episode may feature the most effective depiction of Palpatine’s dual nature. The hologram shifting between kindly Palpatine and evil Emperor was genuinely unnerving and terrifying. Despite this, the use of the Emperor felt disappointing once again. Bringing the Emperor into the story is a big deal, but there was a noticeable lack of consequences for facing the Emperor. The Emperor offered temptation, but when he was rejected Royal Guards were sent in to deal with Ezra and were quickly defeated. The interactions with the Emperor felt bizarrely lacking in both stakes and tension. Facing the Emperor should have lasting and direct consequences, and yet he was rebuffed by Ezra with relative ease. Speaking of the Royal Guards, seeing them in action was fantastic. Now we finally know what those Force pikes do!

   

The mission to regain control of the shield generator was another standout sequence. Zeb’s duel with Rukh was well handled, and Rukh finally ran out of lives. Killing Rukh is likely disappointing for those of us who loved Heir to the Empire, but it makes sense from a storytelling perspective for Rebels. This isn’t Heir to the Empire, and Rukh was an effective addition to the series and a compelling secondary antagonist. That’s what he was in this story though, a compelling secondary antagonist. Rukh was Oddjob to Thrawn’s Goldfinger, he is even killed by electrocution like Oddjob. Of course I would have liked to see more from Rukh, but this was a satisfactory depiction and end of his character. During the firefight to regain control of the shield generator, Gregor was killed. In his final words with Rex, he said it was an honor to fight for something they chose to believe in. I was sad to see Gregor go, but his death is easily among the most powerful moments in this jam-packed finale. The story of the clone troopers is among the most tragic in the saga, and seeing Rex and the others fight for what they believe in is incredibly powerful. Speaking of Rex, his new Endor inspired look is a fantastic new design for one of the best characters to come out of Star Wars animation. Rex didn’t have a large role this season, but each appearance was wonderful and rewarding.

   

Ezra confronted Thrawn on the bridge of the Chimera, and something began destroying the Imperial blockade around Lothal. Thrawn even contacted Pellaeon during this sequence, which was a nice nod to the classic EU character. So what was destroying the Imperial fleet? Well, space whales of course. I genuinely can’t believe they brought back the space whales. Using the Iron Squadron kid to contact the space whales who were the catalyst of Thrawn’s defeat absolutely feels like Filoni directly responding to fan criticisms of those episodes. “You thought that those episodes were filler, did you? We’ll see about that!” Having Ezra defeat Thrawn with space whales sounds like a recipe to anger this particular viewer, but I’ll admit that it worked better than I thought it would. The space whales grabbed ahold of Thrawn and the Chimera and jumped into hyperspace with Ezra still onboard. In the blink of an eye, Ezra and Thrawn were gone. I’ll concede that using the space whales was an innovative way to remove Ezra and Thrawn from the picture. And Bendu’s prediction for Thrawn came true, “I see your defeat. Like many arms wrapping you in a cold embrace.” I do like the idea of natural forces like the space whales and the Loth-Wolves being responsible for the Imperial defeat on Lothal. Ezra’s heightened connection with the natural world has always been his most interesting trait. However, these ideas stumbled in their execution for me. The design of the Loth-Wolves and space whales still don’t work for me and they often come across as plot devices used to solve storytelling issues rather than entities in their own right. Moving on to Ezra, this was in many ways his finest hour. Here, Ezra was intelligent, brave, selfless, compassionate, and empathetic. Was it too late though? For a vast majority of the series, Ezra was the least interesting character on the show and often distracted from more interesting characters and storylines. Ezra was a bland and uninteresting lead character for most of the show’s run, an issue that can be still be seen here at times. The question becomes, is this final act enough to redeem a frustratingly bland character plagued by inconsistent characterization? Not entirely. Jumping ahead to the epilogue briefly, I’m excited to see Ahsoka and Sabine team up to search for Ezra but I remain genuinely uninterested in finding him. Perhaps Kanan’s demise should have occurred earlier, as that seems to be at least be partially responsible for this shift in Ezra. Ezra’s masterful and multifaceted plan is an achievement in storytelling and entertainment, but I don’t know if I entirely buy Ezra’s sudden transformation from well-meaning goofball to strategic genius either. The plan he devised is far more complex and nuanced than anything developed by Thrawn. Speaking of Thrawn, although I have loved Mikkelsen’s portrayal the finale left me wondering if the inclusion of Thrawn remains a missed opportunity overall. At times Thrawn was legitimately terrifying and was consistently written as an intelligent character, but he felt bizarrely toothless at times and was frequently outmaneuvered by the Ghost crew. In the finale, Ezra was a far better strategist than Thrawn. Let that sink in for a minute. Thrawn’s ultimate defeat is acceptable to me though because every major defeat he suffered can be traced back to the Force or something mystical, from Bendu to the space whales. Thrawn himself said the mysteries of the Force are an enigma to him. Thrawn’s cold and calculating logic were undone by a Force that stresses connection.

   

With Thrawn and the Imperial fleet removed, the remaining rebels launched the dome and set it to self-destruct. Pryce chose to serve the Empire until the end and died when the dome exploded above the plains of the Lothal. Lothal was finally free of Imperial occupation. The residents of Lothal took to the streets and celebrated the liberation of Lothal. The series concluded with a time jump, and this epilogue was the best part of the finale. The epilogue was narrated by Sabine, who stayed to oversee Lothal in Ezra’s absence. In the end, most of our heroes survived and Lothal was free. For this series, a happy ending was a brave storytelling choice and I think it was the right one to make. Star Wars is a story that acknowledges death and loss as a part of life, but is ultimately an optimistic story of hope, redemption, connection, and love. That describes Star Wars Rebels as well. Even as I just praised the decision to forge a “happy ending” for the series, my one complaint about the epilogue comes in its opening moments. Sabine says they prepared for an attack on Lothal, but it never came. I understand that the Empire’s attention shifted with the Battle of Scarif and the destruction of the Death Star, but essentially saying “and nothing bad ever happened here again” feels somewhat disingenuous. After the war Zeb took Kallus to the secret homeworld of the Lasat where he was welcomed as one of them. I really didn’t know what they were going to do with Zeb and Kallus, but this was a perfect end for their stories. It brings Kallus’ story full circle and his relationship with Zeb is a wonderful expression of redemption and forgiveness, two central tenets of Star Wars. Hera fought in the Battle of Endor, and had a son named Jacen Syndulla. I definitely didn’t see the reveal of Hera and Kanan’s son coming, but it is a welcome revelation that is filled with potential for new stories. Rex was finally promoted to commander and he too served at the Battle of Endor. Learning that Rex did indeed serve at the Battle of Endor may be the most emotionally satisfying revelation in the finale for me. I want to see more stories with Rex in the post-Return of the Jedi era, but I can’t think of a better end to the story of Commander Rex than him staring up at the sky and seeing the Death Star II explode. In that moment, he achieved a victory for all of his brothers. Finally, Sabine met with Ahsoka to find Ezra. That’s right, Ahsoka Tano lives past the events of Return of the Jedi. Was anyone else blown away by that final shot of Ahsoka? She almost looked live action in that moment. A moment of stunning animation and a wonderful new design for an iconic character. I know many will balk at the notion of Ahsoka and Ezra living past the events of the Original Trilogy. But Yoda said Luke was the last Jedi! Well, he still is and the survival of Ezra and Ahsoka don’t really change or undermine anything in the Original trilogy. Regarding Ezra, I do think it would have been more effective if he died sacrificing himself to free Lothal and he’s not a very interesting character to build an intergalactic search around. However, I’m fine with the survival of both Ahsoka and Ezra (although I would be perfectly happy if we never see Ezra again). Luke Skywalker will still be the last of the Jedi. Ezra might as well be dead and was removed from the galactic stage at least a decade earlier. Ahsoka long ago renounced her status as a Jedi. That's not just a nominal choice. She left the Order during the Clone War, refused to go inside the Jedi temple on Lothal, and was likely stranded on Malachor for years. Whether stranded on Malachor during the entirety of the Original Trilogy or not, Ahsoka sought a different path and Luke Skywalker was still the only one who could save the galaxy by bringing Anakin Skywalker back to the light. Ahsoka, like Obi-Wan, saw Anakin as too far gone and even told Ezra that she "couldn't save her master." In addition, Darth Vader already proved that Ahsoka Tano couldn’t bring Anakin Skywalker back any more than Obi-Wan could. Vader was ready to kill Ahsoka without hesitation and Ahsoka had accepted that Anakin Skywalker was gone. ONLY his son's love could bring him back. Between Hera raising Kanan’s son and fighting to free the galaxy with Rex and the Rebel Alliance, Kallus and Zeb living happily ever after, Thrawn and Ezra lost in space, and Ahsoka teaming up with Sabine, the finale set the stage for a lot of intriguing stories to be explored in the future.

   

The series finale was uneven at times and I didn’t agree with every creative choice, but it was essentially the perfect way to end the series. It honestly has everything you could want in a Star Wars story, and there are some space whales too. Star Wars Rebels, even though I have complained about it in the past, will always have a special place in my heart. My time here at JTA has been in large part defined by Star Wars Rebels. Rebels began the same year I started writing for JTA on a consistent basis. I went back to read my reviews of the earliest episodes of Star Wars Rebels, and it was a strange experience to see how much my own style has changed in four seasons. As Star Wars Rebels evolved, so did my writing and my career here at JTA. To those of who you have supported the Rebels Review series here at JTA, I sincerely thank you. To Dave Filoni and the cast and crew of Star Wars Rebels, thank you for expanding the Star Wars saga in a meaningful and enjoyable way and congratulations. Now, what’s next? Hopefully, this ending truly is a new beginning.

   

What Worked

  • The epilogue, ambitious storytelling, and a happy ending
  • Seamlessly bringing everything and everyone together
  • Star Wars Rebels at its most cinematic
  • The duality of the Emperor and Ian McDiarmid’s performance
  • Cliff-side and generator room battles
  • Ezra’s finest hour…

What Didn’t Work

  • …but was it too late?
  • Space whales and Loth-Wolves
  • Ezra’s confrontation with the Emperor
  • Thrawn: A missed opportunity?
External Links:
Added: March 21, 2018
Category: Star Wars Rebels
Reviewer: Mike Taber
Score:
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