The chasm that divides the lovers and haters of Star Wars Rebels is far and profound. After the great upswing of season one, the steep fall and recovery of season two and now a skyrocketing season three, the breath that divides those two groups hopefully has changed. I am guilty of this pendulum swing as many others in the fandom. I enjoyed season one and had a rocky relationship with the series in the mid portion of season two. So much so that I wrote an editorial at the time that I felt was constructive, but was a tad scathing. Like a tiger taking a swipe of your bare back. It was one of those written pieces that you think about now and again and wished you didn’t.
A big part of my coming home to Jesus moment for this series was the sink in realization that this is a show for children that adults could enjoy. When you put on your magical turn into nine years old glasses, the series is a phenomenal achievement that surpasses anything else in that entertainment space. Whether from the superheroes of Marvel to even the fighting tigers of Voltron, nothing comes close to the visual eye candy, story depth and character portrayals provided by Star Wars Rebels. This couldn’t be more evident in the season three capper.
In today’s finale “Zero Hour” we witness what I have been clamoring for in the Star Wars Galaxy for a long time, the feeling of pure unadulterated dread. The gleaming white of the Empire is but a reflection of your pretty face after all the blood is drawn out. Even in this Y-7 childrens animation show, the fear and hopelessness should be pushed to the point where Mickey Mouse covers his eyes. In this season-ender, we get lucky as it’s a dreaded coated episode with dreaded filling.
After an entire season of Thrawn putting all his pieces into play, he is finally ready to take the fledging rebellion in one swipe. In his ambush of the Rebel base at Atollon, Thrawn tightens the noose by including not one but two Interdictor cruisers to create a large gravity well to squelch any chances of a Rebel lightspeed escape. The tried and true ending to many Star Wars stories, where the best the good guys could hope for is gun and run.
What had my stomach fall and breath go shallow, was what came soon after. That feeling of dread I mentioned about earlier. See, in the last few novels released for the saga, we got to read about those diabolical orbital bombardments conducted by the Empire. Those massive Star Destroyers, pointing their entire compliment of battery’s focused on bringing continuous green bolts of terror to those down below. We read about this carnage in Star Wars: Catalyst and Star Wars: Aftermath “Life Debt.” We have heard of this nightmarish attack in Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back, however, it never came to pass due to the energy shield at the Hoth Rebel base. However, here in the capper to season three of Star Wars Rebels, we get it in all it’s nightmarish green glory.
With Thrawn’s command, his cadre of Star Ships opens fire on our heroes who have been pushed back to the planet’s surface by the blockade. The heavens now glowing green open to a horrific bombardment that gave me and my coffee this morning a nice case of shell shock. Although the Rebels survived the first volley, it cemented home what terror truly looks like. Just like those skies filled with tossed Earth in the battlefields of WW1 or the tree bursts of the Ardennes in WW2, this surface bombardment in Rebels was fantastic in its visual execution.
In “Zero Hour”, we get what being a Rebel against the Empire is all about. You lose, then you lose some more. Then when you think you can’t lose and things have to turn around, you lose again. Until that third act comes along, and you see the light guiding your way out. Or in this case, a transformed Bendu, firing bolts of lighting and anger at both parties for ruining his peaceful neutrality of spider infested Atollon. A lash out that gives our heroes a chance for escape and puts a realistic wrench in the genius of Thrawn’s plan. Our great blue-man wonder who has mapped out every conceivable avenue of possible failure and has compensated for it. Thrawn deserves this win, and he should win big. It’s only when this “Jedi Devilry”, something he could not even imagine takes place and wrecks his plan. The hidden mysteries of the Force and it’s practitioners once again plowing another path for the Galaxy and disrupting the best layed plans of blue men.
This season ender leaves us with a heavy loss for the Rebellion. I lost count of how many capital ships of the fleet and their support vessels were lost in “Zero Hour, ” but there were many. The Mandalorians played a crucial role in a way that was simple, effective and believable. They went after a single weakness and spent no time on the dramatics to get their friends out. A momentum of no fuss gladly witnessed in this past season.
The joy of these episodes for me has been this speeding up of the drama train to get this corner of our saga moving. Much like the last season of HBO’s “Game Of Thrones,” Star Wars Rebels is moving at a faster pace rounding our characters storylines, tie’ing up threads that need closing and carving deeper lines in the portrayal of our characters. This included an emotional end to a character reborn in the animation space and properly disposed of therein. The sunset for Maul was simple and an emotional part of our saga. This bodes true for our other characters as well.
Hera is more dedicated and wide-eyed off her mission. Sabine has let her past go and rekindled a spirit for her future. Zeb and Chopper held fast not moving anywhere. In Kanan, we see a Jedi succumbing to wise enlightenment mirroring what we witness in a secluded Obi-Wan. Ezra starts out an orphaned boy and suffers the trials tribulations of many horrific events. His demeanor changes with each episode from irresponsible street kid to somber deliberate grown up. It’s high time for season four to show a consistent Ezra much more grown up with teenager-hood put fast behind him. I loved evil Ezra in the season three opener, and I was dismayed to see that boyish revelry come back, then gone and back again. He is the main character of this series, and I have high hopes for him next season. Agent Kallus is by far my favorite of this season and a character so well rounded and complex. He is the real winner of Rebels this season and goes through a journey that shows real courage. It’s easy to be a hero squatting with Bendu ignoring the spiders, it’s another being a traitor in Thrawn’s midsts.
Star Wars Rebels and the creative geniuses at Lucasfilm deserve real praise for their work on season three., There is still a wide chasm for many in the fandom when it comes to Rebels and that’s ok too. Even though Star Wars Rebels may lack the adult level of drama and risk for some, it does remind everyone that there is a hunger for an animation series that does that. Perhaps at Celebration Orlando, we get that wish. However, this series has made me into a fan and delighted my kids and me on our Saturday mornings.