[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from the “Star Wars Rebels” series finale.]
“Star Wars Rebels” came to an end Monday night with some loss, an empire defeated, and a new quest for two fan-favorite characters. Sabine Wren (Tiya Sircar) and Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) would team up to find young Jedi Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray), who had helped save the day, but in the process had to go with the hyperspace-jumping purrgil to who knows where in the galaxy.
At an advance screening of the finale, co-creator Dave Filoni explained why he wanted this pairing to happen.
“I’ve seen the original trilogy of ‘Star Wars’ that people like so much, and it’s not like a death count,” he said. “It’s a rather positive outcome, which I enjoy. I’ve always felt that the best stories end, and then other stories begin and there’s no better way than to take two of my favorite characters and have them ride off into the sunset. I’ve seen so many cowboys over the years or Indiana Jones do that, and you wonder, ‘What do they get to do?’ And I always liked that in stories. One thing ends, another begins, and the story continues and that’s a saga, so there you go.”
The cast of the series also joined Filoni in discussing the finale, which can be read in IndieWire’s initial write-up. Below, check out more highlights from the Q&A, in which they reflect on the loss of Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), why there are so many darn animals, and whether or not there are Easter eggs to find.
How Kanan Set “Rebels” Apart
While the series has always been about family and Ezra finding that community on board the Ghost, “Rebels” also felt different from the previous stories before it because of the dynamic brought by Kanan. Although he had forsaken the Jedi ways for some time and then was only a padawan himself later, he eventually took on the task of mentoring Ezra. Filoni explained how the concept for “Rebels” began to gel.
“The trickiest part was how to construct Ezra and Kanan’s Jedi path so that it’s unique from Luke Skywalker’s but similar,” said Filoni. “That became the most difficult challenge because it can’t just be the exact same thing. You could get in the same themes, but come around from a different way. And the thing that gave us a great difference was Kanan because he does not think he’s going to be a good teacher and he does not want to teach.
“Yoda says he doesn’t want to teach Luke, but we kind of know he does,” he added. “He’s just testing him. Kanan really isn’t interested in doing it. It’s really Hera (Vanessa Marshall) that sees the value in Ezra. And so as we kept working on episodes and as we all got to know each other better, the stories kept getting better and better. And so the goal really, in the long run, was just how to make a show that reinstated the values that were in ‘Star Wars’ always. But do it through this different family dynamic and a different group of characters that became the focus of the story.”
The cast didn’t learn that Kanan would sacrifice himself in order to save the rest of the gang until the day they were going to record that episode.
“You think you have the whole script but you don’t because you’re missing an entire last, like 10 pages,” said Sircar. “So we all thought that we knew how that episode ended, and there was like a secret 10 extra pages when he dies…. At the beginning of the session, Dave was like, ‘So guys,’ and he showed it to us. We were fully unable to speak, like sobbing. Freddie’s known for a long time at this point, so he’s like, ‘Yeah guys, I die. I’m sorry.’ And this was before we had to record the episode. Not cool, man.”
Filoni revealed that Prinze, Jr. didn’t mind that his character would die, and in fact, couldn’t seem to wait for it to happen.
“He’s been adamant about it as a fact for years,” said Filoni. “We would talk about it… he’d be in the corner and go like, ‘Yo dude, you decide to kill me yet?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know how to do it yet.’ I found a good way to do it, and he was very excited about that so we just figured it out. But he’s right. It’s what you need, commitment on his part to be able to pull it off and understand why Kanan is doing it.”
The Final Recording Sessions
Over four seasons, the cast had become a family as well, mirroring their animated counterparts. Recording their final episodes was bittersweet without Prinze Jr., though.
Gray said, “It was sad, although I think the one where Freddie goes was when it kind of hit us. It was all coming to an end because it was like one man is gone and now we’re all going to kind of disband. We’re not going to be seeing each other every day, which is a little strange.”
Steven Blum, who plays Zeb, added, “[Going into the end,] we didn’t know any of us were going to survive except for Hera. So it was sort of a little disjointed and a little disconcerting. We just had to trust.”
The Force and the Fauna
Another way that “Rebels” had set itself apart was the number of animals seen on Lothal, and how Ezra in particular was able to commune with them as he came into tune with the Force. In the finale in particular, he works with the Loth-wolves and the Purrgil.
Sircar said that having the Loth-wolves on “Rebels” was a no-brainer, especially considering how instrumental they were in the finale.
“To know Dave Filoni is to know about his love of wolves,” she said. “I think it was really nice that like we can add our story and incorporate the idea of wolves and sort of like having a supernatural element to them. You showed us a sketch of them and they look so cool and a little bit eerie. They’re a little bit scary or regal, they’re all, they’re all these things. So I was happy that Dave got some wolves on our show before we ended. That was so awesome to get to watch them in the battle sequence.”
“I’m just glad that somebody was growling other than me for a change,” Blum added. “I love the nature aspects that you guys incorporated into this. And the purrgil too, amazing, beautiful creatures and their ability to jump into hyperspace too, amazing. So many incredible elements that I didn’t expect to see in this. And the loth-cats. And all of your posts will follow the white loth-cat and getting us little clues along the way because is just so beautifully orchestrated.”
While Filoni pointed out that the balance of the Force in nature, including in its fauna, is nothing new, he particularly wanted to feature nature on “Rebels” as a reaction to how Luke Skywalker was depicted in the movies.
“I brought nature into this more because I was always interested in the old movies, how nature seems to surprise a Luke,” he said. “He doesn’t see the Wampa coming. They get kind of tied up by a lot of things in nature, but you know, there are of course a part of the Force because they’re alive, they can’t not be… Anakin calms the Reek in the arena, and some of these abilities are similar.
“Ezra’s connection to Lothal and these animals that are from his planet, it’s like having a hometown advantage. So he just gets along with them because he’s from there, and they know that. But when he’s afraid, the wolves certainly aren’t nice to him. They’re like, ‘You’re wasting our time, buddy.’”
Reliving the Series
Filoni couldn’t name any specific Easter eggs to look for in the series because they aren’t really there. “There’s never too many crazy Easter eggs,” he said. “It’s just so hard to produce it as it is. I don’t get to drop a lot of things just indiscriminately in the background. Everything is so accounted for.”
He does acknowledge, however, that there are references in the designs. “A lot of stuff [art director Kilian Plunkett] and I would base designs on… our Yoda is based on the Kenner Yoda in ‘Star Wars Rebel,’” he said. “We did that to kind of be a little bit more stylized. So there’s some choices like that.”
But, there are new and different things to rediscover with the knowledge that viewers now have.
“There are a lot of things that if you… go watch it again and you’ll see how things hook up in a different way,” he said. “Like what Bendu’s talking about when he talks to Thrawn. You could see now that Bendu had foreseen this outcome long ago because he talks about to Thrawn, but Thrawn doesn’t know what it means.”