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Dave Filoni Discusses the Final Season of STAR WARS REBELS

Endings aren’t easy, not even when it comes to fictional characters. Creators become attached to the characters they write, animate, and otherwise shape. Fans form connections with characters they view as heroes, inspirations, and friends. But despite the sadness that comes with saying goodbye, endings are necessary. And when a series can close the final chapter on its own terms, those endings can be a gift to fans. They’re a chance to resolve storylines and answer questions. Star Wars Rebels executive producer Dave Filoni and his team will do that–to some degree–in the final season of the animated series.

Star Wars Rebels is about to kick off its fourth and last season, and Filoni can’t decide which story thread he’s most looking forward to fans seeing come to fruition. He told Nerdist, “That’s a hard one. I don’t want this season to be one answer after another, but I wanted to make sure there are things we’ve set up that we pay off and that you feel you got some answers. There are some big time explanations and reveals that are unlike anything we’ve done, and there are also other levels of weirdness that I’ve added to make up for that fact.”

As the show weaves through its final episodes, fans will find the installments feed into each other more than in previous seasons. “I’ve been able to build a lot better connections and motivations across all the episodes as we go. It is very unlike other seasons, because while the episodes are self contained, they are very next to each other in progression,” Filoni said, “They affect each other more; it’s more serialized than you’re used to.”

“There are some big time explanations and reveals that are unlike anything we’ve done.”

The crew of the Ghost has become family to each other and to Star Wars fandom, and the people behind the scenes are aware of the stakes. “Whatever happened to Ahsoka, what is going on between Kanan and Hera, or what happens to Ezra, Sabine, and Zeb, and what about Hot Kallus? All of these things are things that are in our mind. They sometimes have large answers and sometimes smaller answers, and sometimes things that might not have a definite answer, but give you enough of an ability to understand and then wonder about it–which is sometimes the best kind of answer.”

One large question mark hanging over season four is what will happen to the two Jedi, Ezra Bridger and Kanan Jarrus. As the lead of the series, Ezra’s path has been at center, but as his mentor, Kanan’s been alongside him. With the Ghost crew on the way to the Rebel Alliance base on Yavin 4, they have to figure out how they fit in. It’s not cut and dry, as Filoni explained: “If you watch Rebels from the very beginning, you think, here’s a kid [Ezra] and the problem he has is that the Empire had taken over his planet, Lothal. The promise seems to be that by the end of this, he will find a way to rid his world of the Empire. But we know that the Empire builds the Death Star, builds another Death Star, and they don’t really get destroyed until Luke does it. How in the world does this kid find any kind of victory in the middle of this conflict? What does he consider a victory? How is he going to use his powers?”

“That’s what they [Kanan and Ezra] face, is what to do, where is their place in this fight, and what’s the result of it? That’s the fun part. Answering that last question has been exciting, and I think that it comes to a nice ending in the story,” Filoni said. Because that’s the real push and pull for the Jedi characters and where they fit into an organization like the rebellion. It’s not just about whether they’re fighting, but how they choose to fight and remain on the light side.

Kanan, Ezra, Sabine, Zeb–Hera brought all of them together. Her nurturing nature combined with her commitment to fighting for what’s right makes her the leader and mother of the group. Vanessa Marshall, the voice of Hera Syndulla, told Nerdist Hera’s goals are still centered on keeping the Ghost crew in one piece and continuing to be the emotional center in the midst of battling Grand Admiral Thrawn and the Empire. “Thrawn provides an exceedingly difficult challenge for us. There are all sorts of advances that the Empire is making in terms of their weapons development. It’s really a matter of outsmarting them and surviving at the same time and keeping the whole crew together. Maybe not physically together but emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically together to get through this very intense time,” she said.

Fans of Kanera, the ship name for Kanan and Hera, have likely noticed the duo has seemed cozier in trailers for the upcoming season. Marshall thinks Hera’s starting to realize how possible it is to lose those closest to her. “I think she is softening when she realizes just how much it would impact her if she were to lose any of her family members at this point,” she said, “That is news to her because she’s always been more about the mission and not about the personal. She opens up and gets more personal in season four–not at the risk of jeopardizing the mission, but she allows herself to care deeply and even more outwardly about all of them. That extends to Kanan. As it’s getting more dangerous, the thought of losing people becomes ever more real. It makes them realize how precious life is and that they need to really value every moment together.”

“As it’s getting more dangerous, the thought of losing people becomes ever more real. It makes them realize how precious life is and that they need to really value every moment together.”

Thrawn is one of the Imperials making the lives of the Ghost crew harder. Filoni confirmed the Chiss is the primary villain in season four, and he’s riding on the success of defeating the rebels on Atollon Base in the season three finale. “From Thrawn’s perspective and the way he looks at things, though the rebels in the end got away, it was a tremendous victory for him,” Filoni said, “He broke their plans of attack, and he left them incredibly weakened. His hold, this is probably a spoiler, but I’ll tell you anyway, his hold on the region of Lothal is now almost total.”

His connections to Lothal will keep Governor Arihnda Pryce in the picture. She invited Thrawn and his fleet to the planet to help with the rebel problem and that isn’t working out like she thought it would. “In a lot of ways, Pryce thinks that she brought Thrawn in, so Thrawn works for her, but she’s completely underestimating this guy, because he never sees it that way. You really get in season four that she answers to him. Everything that was hers on Lothal, and everything she thinks she had control of is now under Thrawn’s direct command,” Filoni said.

He’s very invested in the TIE fighter factories on Lothal because he believes having those forces are important to fight the rebels in the future. And though Thrawn knows the battle on Atollon left the rebels fairly broken with fewer resources, he’s preparing for them to eventually come to Lothal—the planet where Star Wars Rebels started.

It’s going to be hard to let go of Hera, Kanan, and the rest of the crew, but their arcs are getting the endings Filoni and his team wanted for them. They had the chance to develop and plan. Filoni didn’t want to get to a point where they were repeating themselves, and he didn’t want to be in a position where he wished they could have done more. He said, “Having a proper ending that you could build to, and celebrate, and put up there and say, ‘This is the story, this is why we told the story.’ That feels really good.”

Season four of Star Wars Rebels premieres on Disney XD on October 16.

Images: Disney XD/Lucasfilm

Amy Ratcliffe is an Associate Editor for Nerdist. She likes Star Wars a little. Follow her on Twitter.

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