Review: ‘Star Wars Rebels’ Takes Dark Turn in Dazzling Season Finale (SPOILERS)

'Star Wars Rebels' Season Finale Review
Disney XD

First Lucasfilm and now parent Disney have been clever about using animation as a means to keep the “Star Wars” franchise alive between movies. But as the dazzling, action-packed one-hour finale of “Star Wars Rebels” – the series set between the movie chapters titled “Revenge of the Sith” and “A New Hope” – made clear, the producers of those programs harbor higher creative aspirations than merely killing time or reminding kids to ask mom and dad for action figures.

Operating with the equivalent of a gloved hand tied behind its back, “Rebels” (and before that “Clone Wars,” also under the stewardship of Dave Filoni, who directed the finale) has deftly interwoven key elements and characters into the narrative while establishing its own core cast. That all built toward a showdown in the March 30 episode (and SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched) that not only significantly incorporated the character of Darth Maul – the most visually striking component of the otherwise disappointing “The Phantom Menace” – but delivered a bracing fight between Darth Vader (voiced, gloriously, by James Earl Jones) and his one-time padawan, Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein).

In the course of the battle, Vader delivered one of the most sobering lines he has uttered regarding his descent to the dark side of the Force, saying of his alter ego, “Anakin Skywalker was weak. I destroyed him.” The fight produced another jarring moment, when Ahsoka managed to damage Vader’s mask, leaving one beady eye exposed amid all the black metal. (In an interview, Filoni said Vader’s design for the series was derived in part from artist Ralph McQuarrie’s renderings of the character, and it’s fair to say he’s never looked better.)

These animated series have always played to a fan base that extends well beyond the customary target audience for their kid-oriented networks (in this case, synergistically, Disney XD), but the “Rebels” finale felt especially dark and adult in tone. That said, while potentially giving younger kids nightmares might not be ideal, aiming high – and letting children keep up, steeped as many already are in “Star Wars” mythology – is infinitely preferable to self-consciously dumbing down the material, a road that leads to the (gasp) Jar Jar Binks side.


Star Wars Rebels Princess Leia

‘Star Wars Rebels’ Adds Princess Leia to Its Teeming Universe

When they weren’t fighting, the characters advanced on other fronts as well. That included the gradual attempt by Maul (Sam Witwer) to seduce young Ezra (Taylor Gray) to the dark side, during a battle that discretely resulted in the death of three Inquisitors. The show also set up several juicy threads for the coming season, with Ezra being tempted, while his mentor Kanan (Freddie Prinze Jr.) has at least temporarily lost his vision, a byproduct of their encounter with Maul, who will clearly be a lingering presence.

While Filoni and his team had plenty of room to operate in the old days, the Disney acquisition – and the studio’s aggressive plans to exploit the “Star Wars” timeline in feature films – has made navigating that asteroid field a bit trickier. It’s not like the show can keep trotting out Vader to threaten the heroes and have them battle to an inconclusive draw, with Ahsoka’s status left vague as he limped away.

Nevertheless, “Rebels” continues to demonstrate admirable inventiveness, while serving up muscular action sequences in ways that have ably differentiated themselves from, and expanded upon, the movies. Moreover, with Filoni pledging that the show will bring the story to some kind of close – it seemingly comes with an inevitable expiration date, inasmuch as that wasn’t Kanan barreling down the trench in “A New Hope” – more darkness almost surely lies ahead. Still, in terms of where the series goes story-wise in the immediate future, after that rousing finale, it’s hard not to have a good feeling about this.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 7

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. an article that deals nothing with jar jar but still finds the need to make a jar jar joke. such lazy writing.

  2. BarkStar says:

    Rebels is what the prequels should have been. And I am certainly enjoying it more than that silly TFA.

  3. Kris says:

    Atleast ahsoka lives to see another day. Maul will be a great villian for season 3 if they decide to go that way now that the 4 inquistors we had died and they cant use vader much unless he is who finally ends our 3 jedi

    • Alan Takka says:

      Maul will probably pop in an out of Season 3. Remember he took Vader’s ship, so Vader’s gonna be after him. Would like to see Vader vs. Maul next season. Also, there are still a few Inquisitors left. However, personally I hope that they don’t deal with them next season. Also, what if Kanan becomes Snoke? He’s blind and who knows what may happen to him. Ezra’s turn to dark side may push him to inevitably kill Ezra in the series finale, this making him crazy.

      • Kris says:

        The inquistors were taken out in mass because they have to start cleaning house. 1 or 2 of the rebels cast can easily survive the show and not get mentioned in episose 4. But all these force users sort of are on borrowed time. I figure maul trains ezra that leaves 2 jedi 2 sith they fight the herd gets thinned. They cant keep using vader its anti climatic. You had to see vader vs ahsoka. Kanan or ezra would become annhilated very fast vs vader. Ahsoka was only one who could stand a fair fight vs vader as he trained her

      • BarkStar says:

        He took the other Inquisitors ship, not Vaders.

  4. Alan Takka says:

    Wish the season was 13 episodes though, like Season 1. There were so many great episodes this season but also some terrible, terrible ones like in Seasons 1 & 2 of The Clone Wars. Hopefully Season 3 will be more serialized.

More TV News from Variety