When I began watching Star Wars Rebels, I was skeptical. It’s a Disney XD show, and I’m not a Disney XD kind of guy. Then again, I am a Star Wars kind of guy, so one night, late at night, I gave it a shot and binge watched through the series. Then… it ended, and I had to wait a year for Season 4. So how is Season 4? Just okay. If it were any other season, I’d say it’s enjoyable enough, but the fact that it’s announced to be the last season makes it feel underwhelming.
There may be spoilers ahead, so read at your own risk.
Before I get into the logic of my criticism, here’s a brief introduction to Star Wars Rebels for those who are uninitiated: the series follows a small crew of rebels called the Phoenix Squad and takes place just before Rogue One in the Star Wars timeline. It features a typically youthful Jedi Padawan (Ezra) who’s trained by his wise and introspective commanding officer (Kanan), a Jedi who never completed his training due to Order 66, which wiped out all the known Jedi. Also on the crew: a Twi’lek Captain named Hera Syndulla, who (girl power) rises through the ranks of the rebellion and ends up becoming a full-fledged General by the time Rogue One rolls around. Don’t worry, the show doesn’t have an SJW vibe at all — Hera is truly a badass. The crew is rounded out by Sabine, a teenage Boba Fett princess, Zeb, an angry purple guy, and Chopper, the willful comedy relief bot.
The first three seasons are hard to summarize, but they mostly have to do with two separate arcs: the Jedi journey of teenage Ezra as he grappled with all sorts of teenager issues and flirts on-and-off with the dark side; and the rebels evolving from a ragtag group of disconnected cells into a military force that can challenge the empire. It tends to be a really good show, overall.
The problem with this season, as I mentioned, is that it’s already been announced that it’s the last season. The episodes are all nice and entertaining, but it’s already halfway over and the previous three seasons have left us with so many unanswered questions that it’s hard to imagine they can fit them all onto the back end of this final season in a satisfying way. Ahsoka Tano was last seen fighting Darth Vader — the director of the show confirmed she’ll make an appearance and her story will be closed out, but it hasn’t happened yet. Ezra and Kanan need to get written out of the story quickly, since by Rogue One there are no longer any Jedi. It’s very clear they’re setting up a death for Kanan, but Ezra is a big wildcard — will they just exile him in a quick epilogue? Grand Admiral Thrawn, an Empire general whose position rivals Grand Moff Tarkin and the central antagonist of Rebels, similarly needs to be written out of the plot to explain his complete lack of appearance in the original trilogy.
Then there are tons of other things: there’s Bendu (the physical manifestation of the force), the ancient Jedi holocrons Ezra found with Darth Maul, Ezra’s flirtation with the dark side, and more. It just doesn’t feel like they have enough time to wrap all these arcs up with a satisfying conclusion, and the first half of the season had a lot of wasted time that introduced even more new mysteries. For instance, one episode focused on the crew taking over a giant garbage truck — do we really have time here to be having what basically amounts to a filler episode? To me, the expectation would have been that this season would be building into an epic series finale and that every episode would feel like it had stakes. But that’s not what we’re getting — we’re getting a very standard season. It just so happens to be the last one.
I am optimistic that the back half of the season will start converging on some kind of satisfying conclusion, but I think the ship has sailed on this season being the series finale fans think the show deserves. They haven’t answered anything and they’re running out of time.