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“Zero Hour” ‘Star Wars Rebels’ Season Finale Review

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With the airing of the one hour special, Zero Hour, Star Wars Rebels has come to a close for another season. Last season we went out with a huge bang that saw the deaths of two main villains, the returns of both Darth Maul and Darth Vader, and the lives of multiples characters changed forever. So how does this season’s final episode compare? Let’s find out.

Story

We open as Thrawn is meeting with Governor Pryce and Admiral Konstantine. He has urgent news that he wants to discuss with them in private, but unbeknownst to them, they are being watched by Agent Kallus, who we now know is the Rebel spy, Fulcrum. Kallus sends a mouse droid after them as they disappear into a closed room, and he listens in as Thrawn tells Price and Konstantine, as well as Grand Moff Tarkin via hologram, that he has discovered the Rebels’ plot to attack them on Lothal. While he has not yet figured out where they are massing their forces, Tarkin orders him to capture the Rebels’ leadership to make examples of them.

Back at the Chopper Base on Atollon, the Pheonix Squadron awaits the arrival of General Dodonna, the leader of the rebel group who got the Y-wings that they’d stolen from Reklam Station; which just so happens to be one of the largest rebel groups. General Dodanna is coming to help them lead the charge on Lothal.

As General Dodanna arrives on Atollon, Kallus prepares to send out a new message as Fulcrum, warning the Rebels that Thrawn knows their plan. However, just as he says, “Thrawn knows,” his signal is jammed, and Thrawn himself enters. He reveals that he knows Kallus is the spy, and the two begin to fight. Kallus manages to smash Thrawn’s signal jammer but he is caught anyway.

Time passes and we see that Kallus has been badly beaten, and Thrawn has managed to use his message against him. His message consisted of him saying only, “Thrawn knows,” but that was enough to give Thrawn something to track. Using the trajectory of the message, as well as the trajectory of General Dodanna’s fleet, which he was also tracking, Thrawn has located a spot on his charts that when cross referenced with some ancient art, reveals the location of Atollon.

Back on Atollon, the Rebels have figured out what Fulcrum’s message meant, but it’s too late. They try to evacuate, but Thrawn’s fleet has surrounded the planet, and with the use of a gravity well, are preventing any ships from jumping into hyperspace. They’re basically sitting ducks. Thrawn calls them via hologram to tell them that their rebellion ends today, but Hera replies that they will never surrender. Thrawn tells her that he is not accepting surrenders; he only wants them to know utter defeat, and he ends the transmission.

Hera quickly puts together a plan that would get Ezra, Kanan and Chopper past the blockade, so they can go for reinforcements, but Kanan refuses to leave saying that he has someone in the wilderness he needs to talk to, someone he thinks can help them.

As both sides launch their fighters, Thrawn calls Konstantine and tells him to keep his cruiser back. He knows these Rebels and he is expecting them to pull something unexpected, but as long as Konstantine holds back, they should be prepared for anything. Konstantine looks a bit perturbed, but agrees.

In the wilderness of Atollon, Kanan finds Bendu to ask him for help, but Bendu is furious with him. The Rebels have brought war to his world and he wants no part in it. Kanan tries to talk sense to him, but Bendu refuses, saying he is the one in the middle, he takes no side.

Out in space things are not going well for the Rebels. Their forces are slowly being taken out, and Ezra has no way to get out. He calls Hera and tells her that he has no way to get out as long as the interdictor cruisers are in his way. Commander Sato hears them over the radio and gives Ezra a heading and tells him to prepare to jump. Then he orders his crew to abandon ship and he heads straight for Konstantine’s cruiser. Konstantine, seeing Sato’s approach, and assuming he’s going to try to jump into hyperspace, takes it upon himself to take him out personally, and he leaves his position.

On Thrawn’s ship, he sees Konstantine’s cruiser leaving its position and orders him to go back, but Konstantine refuses. He wants the glory of this kill. Konstantine begins firing, but Sato changes course and heads his carrier directly into Konstantine’s cruiser. The two ships collide and are instantly torn to shreds. Ezra looks on, frozen in horror, knowing that Sato has just given his life for them, and is snapped out of it by Hera yelling at him to jump now. He does, and he and Chopper escape into hyperspace. With their forces dwindling, Hera orders all their ships to return to base.

Out in the wilderness Kanan is still trying to convince Bendo to help them, but Bendu is not having it. When Kanan calls him a coward, his eyes begin to glow with fury and he suggests that it might be the will of the Force that the Jedi perish, and he serves the will of the Force. The wind begins to blow and Bendu disappears into the dust, lighting crackling all around him.

In hyperspace Ezra calls Mon Mothma, but she can’t send help. Doing so would jeopardize everything they’d worked for, but she promises to negotiate fair treatment for the prisoners. Ezra asks what if there are no prisoners, and refuses to go back without help. But he has one more person he can turn to, Sabine.

At Chopper Base the Rebels begin to prepare for an attack when Thrawn’s troops land. Zeb and Rex are setting up one of Sabine’s modified deflector shield generators, which they have not yet tested. So far it seems to be working. Hera calls Kanan to try to get him to come back immediately. Kanan tells her he’s moving as fast as he can. “Faster!” she pleads. Thrawn orders his ships to fire on their base from space, the shield holds, but just barely. Kanan is knocked from his speeder, but he survives.

Meanwhile Ezra has made his way to Krownest, where he finds Sabine with Fenn Rau and her mother and brother, Ursa and Tristan Wren. Ezra explains what has happened but Ursa tells him that they are in the middle of a civil war. Their forces are stretched too thin as it is. Sabine and Ezra plead with her to help them think of something, but when they still hold back, Sabine says that she will go help anyway. Tristan and Fenn Rau admire her loyalty, but it’s not until Ursa tells them that she still feels like she owes a debt of gratitude to Ezra for bringing Sabine back to her that they decide to think of some way to help.

After the assault from space, the Rebels prepare for a ground assault, and Zeb and Rex go out to mine the path leading up to the base. It’s not long before a small fleet of walkers come along, and are easily taken out. However, unbeknownst to them, this was only a test by Thrawn to reveal their defenses, and he sends in a fleet of AT-ATs, which easily walk through the shield and begin firing on the base. The Rebels send in ships from the sky, but they aren’t very much help, and Hera orders everyone to ready their ships for escape, despite the threat of the blockade.

Above the planet Ezra and Sabine emerge from hyperspace along with a very small fleet of ships from the Mandalorians at Krownest. He calls Hera to tell her they’ve arrived, just as the shield goes down for good and Thrawn appears to tell Hera he’s ready to accept her formal surrender. As Thrawn threatens the lives of her friends, the sky, which has been steadily growing darker through the battle, begins to crackle with lightning and thunder, and the voice of Bendu, booms out, telling the entire battlefield that he brings death.

Ezra tries to communicate from space, but Hera has gone silent, so they go ahead with their plan, and deploy a strike team to the hull of the main interdictor cruiser, preparing to destroy the gravity well so that the Rebels can safely make it into hyperspace. Inside the ship governor Pryce orders a team to go outside to repel the Mandalorians.

Back on the planet, Bendu orders everyone to leave the planet, and with the Imperials temporarily destracted, the Rebels jump into their ships and try to make it past the storm. Thrawn meanwhile, orders his troops to concentrate all their fire on the storm, and after a moment of heavy fire, it appears that it may have worked, the storm begins to clear, and a massive fireball falls from the center of the storm.

On the hull of the interdictor, Ezra and the Mandalorians are trying to fight off Pryce’s Stormtroopers. Hera calls to tell him that they’re on their way, and he tells her that they are working on destroying the gravity well. After a few more blows they are successful, and Ezra tells Hera that they’re good to go.

Inside, Pryce is furious, and orders her troops to throw a smug, gloating Kallus out the airlock. The Stormtroopers take him down an elevator, but when it opens at the bottom, the troopers are lying on the floor, and Kallus has freed himself. He hurries into a corridor and jumps into an escape pod, quickly sending Hera his coordinates so she can pick him up. Once everyone has made their way through the blockade, one by one they all jump into hyperspace.

Down on Atollon, Thrawn slowly approaches the fallen body of Bendu, and asks him what he is. “One beyond your power to destroy,” Bendu replies. Thrawn aims his gun at Bendu’s forehead, but before he can pull the trigger, Bendu tells him that he can see his defeat, like many arms surrounding him in a cold embrace. Thrawn’s eyes widen, and then narrow again, and he pulls the trigger, but before it can hit, Bendu is gone. Thrawn stares at the spot where he was, while Bendu’s deep laugh echoes in the air around him.

Having escaped the Imperial fleet, Hera calls Ursa to thank her for her aid, and Sabine tells her that she wants to return the favor, her mother needs their help. Hera tells her to go, but she cannot join them, she has to take their survivors back to Rebel command.

Elsewhere on the ship, Kallus thanks Kanan for taking him in, and Kanan thanks him for risking everything. He heads for the cockpit where AP-5 and Rex discuss how they are going to covertheir tracks on their way to Yavin. He finds Ezra who is upset about their terrible defeat. He tells him he knows how he feels, but reassures him that there is still a future for them , where they are all free. It’s just up to them to make it happen.

Review

Holy cow, this episode was intense. While I was not expecting things to work out in their favor, it’s still hard to see things go so terribly. Our Rebels have lost everything, their base, their supplies, many ships, and so many crew members, not to mention the fact that Commander Sato sacrificed himself for their cause. I can say that that was one death I did not see coming, especially after we had that episode reuniting him with his nephew. I fully expected their relationship to be explored in future episodes.

That being said, more people survived than I was expecting. I’ve been saying since Kallus was outed as Fulcrum that it was likely that this would ultimately mean his death, and I was fully expecting it to come in this episode. He managed to pull off another great escape though, and he is now on board the Ghost, and is likely going to stay there. While I still don’t expect him to ultimately survive the series, I am glad he has gotten another reprieve, and I am looking forward to see how his presence will affect the dynamic of the Rebels in season 4.

I was kind of sad to see Bendu ultimately turn his back on Kanan, especially after all he’d helped him this season, but I suppose the fact that he told him from the beginning that he was neither of the Light or the Dark side of the Force should have been a clue that he wouldn’t always be there to help. I am glad that he didn’t “Turn Evil” or anything though, and I loved his near death and escape from Thrawn at the end. I really liked his low chuckle as he vanished right in from of Thrawn. While I don’t expect we will ever see him again, I definitely would not be upset if we did. Despite his refusal to help the Rebels, he is still a great character, and we know so little about him, there is plenty to explore.

I loved that we got Sabine back. I don’t know how long she’ll stick around, but, at least for me, her presence was sorely missed in these last few episodes. She’s such an integral part of the team, I hope that they find a way to have her stick around. Perhaps they’ll be successful in whatever they are going to help Ursa with, and she’ll decide to stay with the Rebels. I doubt that’ll happen, but I can wish, can’t I?

Now, to address the question I posed at the beginning, how does this season finale compare to the last? In my opinion it really doesn’t.

There was absolutely plenty to love here. Despite their crushing defeat this was a great story that brought together so many storylines we’d been exploring separately all season. We saw the defeat of one of the most annoying Imperials, Admiral Konstantine, and even though they won the battle, Thrawn and Pryce were still unsuccessful in their ultimate goal, which was to capture the key leadership of the Rebels. It was so great to see Sabine and the Mandalorians again, and even though he was not technically on the Rebels’ side, it was great to see Bendu in his all-powerful-thunderstorm-form.

However, despite all that, it still cannot hold a candle to the epic finale we got last season. The shocking deaths of the Fifth Brother and the Seventh Sister, the return of Maul, the reunion of Anakin Skywalker and his apprentice Ahsoka Tano, the final battle between Darth Vader and Ahsoka, culminating in her (apparent) defeat, the last season final was so incredibly epic that it is going to be extremely hard for any episode to live up to it.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, comparisons to last season aside, Zero Hour was still an amazing episode, and I have no complaints. It may be hard to see our favorite characters suffer such a defeat, but without that, the show would be liable to slip into mediocrity. The fact that this show is brave enough to do episodes like this, where everything does not turn out well, really sets it apart from anything else on Disney’s networks, not to mention most other “kid’s” television. I really applaud the Rebels crew for choosing to not give us a happy ending, no matter how much we might want it.

We know that the show, ultimately, can’t have a completely happy ending, because there are no happy endings until A New Hope. Unless they choose to end the show with the battle of Yavin, which I don’t see happening, I can’t envision any way for Rebels to end well. All we can hope for is that we at least get an ending that can live up to the standards set in this episode. An ending that tells us that just because we might suffer a setback, or even a crushing defeat, we can still have hope for the future. We just need to keep moving forward, because it’s up to us to make that future for ourselves.

What did you think of the Rebels season 3 finale? How did you think it compared to last season’s finale?

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About Jonathan North

Jonathan North is writer, photographer, video editor, and animation fan from Iowa. He studied advertising and design at Iowa State University, and also has degrees in multimedia and art. His favorite movie is Fantasia, and his favorite cartoon is Gravity Falls. Or maybe Steven Universe. He can’t decide. You can find more of his work on his blog, as well as his YouTube channel, where he reviews all manner things, including (almost) every version ever of Alice in Wonderland. His favorites are the 1999 version starring Tina Majorino, and of course, the 1951 Disney version. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, @jonjnorth.

  • I definitely got an “Empire Strikes Back” feeling from the finale with the Rebels suffering defeat and forced to flee for their lives. The season two finale directly impacted the Ghost family (Kanan’s blindness, Ezra’s taste of darkness) so I remember how well it tugged at our heartstrings. This finale is more about the military operation and other people made the sacrifices such as Jun Sato so the loss may not hit the audience just as hard. Nevertheless, I do agree that it was an exciting and emotional ride. Kanan’s final words about a hopeful future to Ezra were inspirational as well as their conversation at the start of the finale about life, the Force, and being a good person.

    Thank you for bringing up the risks this show has taken to show the impact after things go wrong. Yet for all that does go wrong, we can’t take for granted the achievements of the Ghost crew: they went from being small trouble-makers on Lothal to establishing Phoenix Squadron and a full base. Similarly, the show’s protagonist has gone from being a petty thief to a brave Jedi apprentice. This is Ezra’s journey and while we can only speculate at this point about what his future will be, there is much to be proud of his character development over three seasons.

  • Extragorey

    There are moments that make me think Hera and Kanan are definitely a couple, spanning right back to the beginning of the series, and this episode had several. If the Ghost crew are a family, those two are mother and father. Their relationship may not be physical (due to Kanan’s albeit loose adherence to the Jedi code, though Rebels would probably never allude to that even if it was), but they’re no less an item for it, and it makes their hard-won reunions all the more sweet.

  • aquapyro

    With Rebels coming to an end in season 4, we will see things finally wind up to Rouge One. Rebels, still pretty much stands as the only animated action show on TV, and in a day of age where most cartoons follow a more comedic/action approach, its nice to see Rebels be a certified Diamond in the Rough. Still im pretty sure we won’t see the end of Thrawn after this. My guess is that he and Rukh (his personal assassin) while be sent to exile, to come back after Return of the Jedi.