*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Rebels episodes “A Fool’s Hope” and “Family Reunion – and Farewell.”
A little over four years ago, Dan and Cory asked me to become an official member of the Coffee With Kenobi family and to write weekly reviews of the then-upcoming Star Wars Rebels. I had no idea at that time how much I would come to appreciate both the show and analyzing it from a literary perspective. I’ve been very grateful for this forum in which to share my thoughts, and I have to say that I will miss doing the reviews. As I continue to write for CWK, I’m sure I’ll touch on Rebels again from time to time, but for now this post (my 60th for Coffee With Kenobi) is the end of “Rebels Reconnaissance.” So let’s get to it, shall we?
“A Fool’s Hope,” the first third of the 3-part Rebels finale takes its name from a line Gandalf speaks in Return of the King and immediately calls to mind the overwhelming odds the peoples of Middle-earth faced in defeating Sauron. Down one Jedi and faced with a lack of support from the greater Rebel Alliance, Ezra must still somehow rally his friends together in order to take back Lothal from the Empire. Fortunately throughout his time on the series, Ezra has made a lot of friends, be they human, alien, or creature for all will be needed in this time of crisis. Kanan’s absence is palpable in “A Fool’s Hope,” but the master has prepared his apprentice well, and Ezra’s growth as a leader is on full display.
One of the true marks of a leader is the ability to inspire loyalty, and that sentiment is the common trait amongst the array of comrades who rally to his cause. As “A Fool’s Hope” opens, Hondo Ohnaka and Ketsu Onyo have already returned to the fold, with the pair joining Hera, Kallus and Rex on a brief mission to recruit Rex’s fellow clones, Wolffe and Gregor. Although they declined to formally join the Rebellion when last we saw them, Wolfe and Gregor do not hesitate join in the effort to help Ezra liberate his home world. Also of note here is that Ketsu Onyo, the Mandalorian former bounty hunter, has decided to go helmetless since becoming a full-fledged member of the Rebel Alliance, a clear sign of her openness to others and a change in identity from loner to part of a larger group.
Fortunately, Hondo Ohnaka has not changed at all, and the Weequay pirate is at his conniving best as he crafts a plan to sneak the Ghost past the Imperial blockade of Lothal by attaching the ship to the cargo of an Imperial freighter. It’s a moment that is vintage Hondo as the strategy works–but just barely. And not in the way he first described it to his comrades. Still, the rebels are lucky he’s on their side.
With a team of former individuals now capable of functioning as a whole greater than the sum of its parts, Ezra puts his plan in place. Beginning with a clever ruse to capture Governor Pryce using the apparent betrayal of her predecessor Ryder Azadi, Ezra begins to enact a plan that features multiple layers and contingencies. Ryder’s treachery feels real because his concerns about the rebels’ chances are valid, and Pryce’s desperation after incurring Thrawn’s wrath (regarding her destruction of the fuel depot and the subsequent shelving of his TIE Defender program) has left her in a severely gullible state.
Pryce wants to believe Ryder because she needs the win, but her haste to exploit his duplicity causes her to underestimate Ezra and his friends who have been playing her all along. To be fair, the Imperials do technically outnumber the rebels in the battle Pryce initiates, but the Loth-wolves who join the fight at the climatic moment certainly more than make up the difference. Revisiting the common Star Wars theme of nature overpowering technology, “A Fool’s Hope” gives us Loth-wolves triumphing over the Empire just as we’ve seen Ewoks help defeat Stormtroopers during the Battle of Endor, fyrnoks rise up against the Grand Inquisitor and his troops, and tibidees provide air support for our rebels as they escape Stygeon Prime.
“Family Reunion – and Farewell” opens with Ezra leading his small band of rebels back to Lothal’s Capital City. Having secured Governor Pryce’s begrudging help in gaining access to the Imperial Complex, the burgeoning Jedi has truly fulfilled the promise of his Biblical namesake. I alluded to this connection way back in my “Spark of Rebellion” review when I pointed out that one possible inspiration for Ezra Bridger might be the “Old Testament man by that name [who] was instrumental in leading a group of Judean exiles back from Babylon to Jerusalem.”
At long last, the liberation of Lothal is at hand, and the plan to expel the Empire is a clever one. It is revealed in this episode that the Imperial Complex is actually more starship than building (something akin to the orb portion of the Trade Federation battleships featured prominently in the prequel trilogy), so extracting the Empire’s presence from the surface is actually as simple as launching the ship into orbit. Using a gambit much like the one Luke and Han used to enter the prison levels in A New Hope (with Zeb standing in for Chewbacca), Ezra and his team seize control of the base and initiate Protocol 13, an Imperial evacuation order for clearing all troops off a planet.
Unfortunately, Rukh arrives in the middle of the operation to subvert the second phase of the plan–the activation of the planetary shield generator. Having supposedly accounted for Imperial retaliation with this contingency, our rebels discover instead that they have in fact put Lothal in imminent danger as Thrawn arrives and threatens to bombard the now-defenseless city unless Ezra surrenders himself to the Grand Admiral. With seemingly no other options, Ezra acquiesces and willingly surrenders, much in the same way that Luke Skywalker gives himself up before the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi. And much like Luke in that situation, Ezra is then brought before the Emperor who has larger plans for him.
Like Satan transforming himself into an “angel of light,” Palpatine appears before Ezra in holographic form as a kindly old man and offers to reunite the orphaned boy with his parents by means of the Lothal Jedi Temple, part of which has been painstakingly reassembled aboard Thrawn’s Star Destroyer. While it’s unclear whether the place in which Ezra’s parents reside is the past of an alternate timeline, what we can assume is that it is real.
Palpatine has successfully used this sort of scheme before, and while the chance to preserve love worked on Anakin Skywalker, Ezra realizes that this scenario would effectively take him out of the fight against the Empire and render his own parents’ sacrifice meaningless. It seems that Bridger did learn the lesson Ahsoka taught him in “A World Between the Worlds” and realizes that changing the past for one’s own purposes is dangerous and foolhardy. Ezra refuses to take Palpatine’s bait and instead destroys the temple and the gateway to his parents. Furious at this defiant act, Palpatine sheds the angelic facade and orders his royal guards (who appear to be of the Elite Praetorian variety) to kill Ezra immediately. It’s clear that the Emperor is angry that Ezra rejected his offer, but one can also assume that part of the rage is due to the destruction of the temple’s gateway. Perhaps this was the only one left. I guess we’ll have to wait to see if other portals appear in other media, but this clearly was a huge setback for Sheev’s plans.
Ezra’s plans, however, continue to find footing as his friends successfully subdue Rukh and reactivate the planetary shields in time to repel Thrawn’s assault on Capital City. The victory comes at a cost as Gregor is killed, and at one point it seems that Zeb is doomed as well, as the Lasat launches himself at Rukh in a desperate move to stop the Noghri assassin. But Zeb triumphs over his foe, and Rukh is the one killed instead.
High above the planet’s surface, another facet of Ezra’s plan takes shape as a host of purrgil (the whale-like creatures from the Star Wars Rebels season 2 episode “The Call”) respond to a call from the Ghost initiated by Mart Mattin on Bridger’s orders. The colossal creatures first destroy the entire Imperial blockade (apparently led by Captain Pellaeon of The Thrawn Trilogy fame) surrounding Lothal and then make their way into the atmosphere to entangle Thrawn’s ship in their immense tentacles.
Ezra’s plan to capture Thrawn is well-conceived, but it is not from which he planned to escape. Rather, Ezra has knowingly used himself as bait in order to remove Thrawn from the war. Correctly believing that Thrawn could not account for his powerful connection to nature, Ezra springs the purrgil trap and allows himself to be hyperspace jumped to some distant part of the universe–along with Thrawn and his Star Destroyer. As the Bendu predicted, Thrawn’s defeat comes as he is surrounded by “many arms…in a cold embrace.”
Dave Filoni has confirmed that both characters survived, but that story is for another time. For now, “Family Reunion – and Farewell” concludes with Imperial Complex destroyed in a dazzling explosion and citizens of Lothal openly celebrating the Empire’s defeat. And we learn that is a lasting defeat as the Empire never returned to a planet so filled with hope that it would never be conquered again. For that was the rebels’ real victory–inspiring others to rise up against tyranny and band together to ensure that freedom is never tossed aside in favor of order and security.
Finally, Star Wars Rebels comes to a close with an epilogue that transports us to a time after the events of Return of the Jedi. We learn of Lothal’s enduring freedom and that Zeb’s forgiveness of Kallus extends to taking the former ISB officer back to Lira San to achieve a kind of redemption. We knew from Force of Destiny that Hera fought in the Battle of Endor, but now we also find that Filoni was successful in retconning Captain Rex into that battle as well. Next time you watch Return of the Jedi, look for him. You’ll be surprised how much that old guy is in the film.
But the biggest surprises are left for last. Hera Syndulla is now the mother of a young boy named Jacen Syndulla, the offspring of Kanan Jarrus and a boy whose name is a clever nod to Jacen Solo. And Ahsoka Tano is officially back, looking very much like the white wizard Luke Skywalker appeared to be at the end of The Force Awakens. We do not learn how she got off Malachor or how long she’s been on Lothal, but we do know that the former Jedi and Sabine Wren (who stayed on Lothal as its guardian) are about to embark on a quest to bring back Ezra Bridger.
And with that, one Star Wars story ends–just as so many more are about to begin.
Thank you for reading. It’s been my honor.
If you have feedback or just want to say hello, you can leave a comment on this page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact me on Twitter @influxman or check out my Rogue page on “Star Wars in the Classroom.”
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