Star Wars Rebels: “Family Reunion and Farewell” review

On Monday night, Star Wars Rebels came to an end as it finished its four-year run on a high note with its final two episodes, “A Fool’s Hope” and “Family Reunion and Farewell.”

The episodes were a fitting conclusion for the show, as it brought together many familiar faces from the show’s run and focused in on an event that has been four seasons in the making: the Battle of Lothal.

You can read my review of the first episode here, but for now let’s take a look at the second of those episodes, “Family Reunion and Farewell,” a double-length episode that serves as the grand finale to the show.  There are obviously ***full spoilers ahead*** so be warned.

SUMMARY:

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Having taken Governor Pryce captive, the rebels launch their strike on the Imperial Dome on Lothal, calling in a report that Pryce is bringing prisoners.  Ezra escorts the “prisoners,” but when other stormtroopers arrive Zeb breaks free and takes off running, and Ezra ignites his lightsaber and starts fighting.  Zeb holds open the blast door long enough for he, Sabine, and Ketsu to get inside, getting the door open.  Hera blasts several troops and takes off running inside, with the others following.  Zeb, Hondo, and Melch stay behind, however, and Zeb launches Melch in the air on top of the window, distracting the Imperials while the other rebels come through the door and take the control room.

Meanwhile, Mart, Wolffe, and Vizago wait by the Ghost until needed, but Rukh knocks them out.  He’s about to kill them until a Loth-wolf arrives, and Rukh escapes in an Imperial transport heading for the city.  He contacts Thrawn, who says, “I expected Governor Pryce to fail, but not so completely,” and tells Rukh to shut down the shields of the city and await further orders, as Thrawn is already en route to Lothal.  The rebels order a Protocol 13 to force all Imperial personnel inside the Dome, and then begin to launch the Dome into the sky.  Before they can do so, however, Thrawn arrives with the Chimaera and blocks them overhead.  Ezra contacts Thrawn and demands his surrender, but Thrawn explains that with all the Imperials in the Dome, he can fire upon the city with no worry.  Rukh had taken the shields down, and so Thrawn orders the Chimaera to fire on the city, creating devastation and creating a panic.  Ezra agrees to surrender to Thrawn, and while the others are distracted, he escapes and heads to face Thrawn.

The rebels launch a strike on the sheild generator, sending two different strike teams – the first consisting of Rex, Hondo, and Ketsu, with the second consisting of Zeb, Kallus, and Gregor.  They storm the shield generator and encounter a fight, with Zeb confronting Rukh.  Gregor is mortally wounded in the fight, but Kallus succeeds in turning on the shields – which, in the process, kills Rukh.

During that, Ezra is taken to meet Thrawn in his office aboard the Chimaera, where Thrawn lectures him on the shortcomings of the Jedi.  After showing off some of the Lothal art that he had taken – including some of Sabine’s – Thrawn takes Ezra to meet the Emperor.  In a room on the Chimaera, Ezra is presented to a holographic Emperor Palpatine (looking much like the younger Chancellor Palpatine) in front of part of the Lothal Jedi Temple.  Thrawn leaves Ezra with Palpatine, and the Emperor shows Ezra what the young boy wants: his parents.  Palpatine offers Ezra the chance to have the life that he wanted, with his parents, and all he has to do is open the door within the Temple.  Ezra is tempted, but he ultimately destroys the temple, realizing the trap.  The hologram of Palpatine turns into the cloaked Emperor, who orders his royal guards to destroy Ezra.  The guards use their staffs to attack Ezra, but he manages to use the force to throw the ruins of the temple on them.

Ezra leaves and heads to the bridge, where he confronts Thrawn.  At that moment, Thrawn finds out about Ezra’s secret backup plan: Mart and the crew had taken the Ghost to lead the purrgils to Lothal, which devastate Thrawn’s fleet and inflict damage to the Chimaera.  Ezra prevents Thrawn’s escape with the force, and though Thrawn shoots Ezra in the back, Ezra uses the force to push Thrawn into the grasp of the purrgil’s tentacles.  The purrgil’s begin to go into hyperspace with the Chimaera, with Ezra and Thrawn still on board.  Sabine and Hera, watching form the Imperial Dome, beg Ezra to get out of there, but he makes it clear that he has to see this through.  So the others watch as the Chimaera is taken away by the purrgils, and they then finish the mission, sending the Dome into the air and then blowing it up, escaping on the Ghost.  They hear a final recorded message from Ezra, and then see the crowds of people cheering as they fly over the liberated Lothal.

In an epilogue, we see Sabine on Lothal in a post-Endor era.  She explains that the retaliating attack on Lothal never happened as the Empire was busy fighting the Rebels, who struck the decisive blow on Endor.  Hera and Rex both fought in the Battle of Endor, and Hera had a son named Jacen Syndulla, the son of Hera and Kanan Jarrus.  After the war, Zeb took Kallus to Lira San, where Kallus realized he didn’t destroy the Lasat people. And Sabine stayed on Lothal to ensure it was protected, but eventually realized that Ezra was out there and that she needed to find him.  So she heads off with Ahsoka in search of Ezra to bring him home.

REVIEW:

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There’s a ton to discuss, so let’s dive in:

  • The attack.  Ezra’s plan to liberate Lothal spanned multiple episodes, but it was actually pretty good: they lured Pryce to their camp and surprised her with the arrival of the Ghost and the Loth-wolves, taking her prisoner.  They then used Pryce to infiltrate the Imperial Dome, and ordered a Protocol 13 to get all of the troops into the Dome (which as a newer command was, I’d imagine, put in place by the Empire because of the Death Star nearing completion, which is a really nice touch).  While their original plan of just sending the Dome airborne and blowing it up was stalled by Thrawn, Ezra had a backup plan in place (the purrgils) and Sabine commanded a successful attack on the shield generator room.  Considering the odds they were facing, the plan was actually pretty good, and it led to some awesome action sequences (and a funny moment with Hondo exclaiming “they can fly!” as Melch flied through the air).
  • A victory?  My main concern about the episode is about what constitutes a victory.  We know from A New Hope that the Rebellion had just scored their first major victory against the Empire, and we know from Rogue One that the victory in mind was the Battle of Scarif.  But consider what happened in this episode: an important planet was liberated and the Empire defeated, the Emperor was resisted by Ezra, and the Empire’s greatest Grand Admiral was taken into the unknown reaches of space.  That seems to me like a pretty significant victory, though I’d imagine that some would argue the technicality that this wasn’t a “Rebel” mission.  But that’s semantics, since the Ghost crew had become integral members of this larger Rebel Alliance.  From a Star Wars Rebels standpoint this was a perfect conclusion to the series, and this doesn’t take away from that… though in the larger scheme of the Star Wars universe, I think it’s very slippery ground to liberate Lothal and take Thrawn out of the picture without consider it a major victory.
  • The epilogue.  The way Rebels explained the fact that the Empire never retaliated for their defeat at Lothal is that they got caught up in the larger Galactic Civil War.  The show ended with an epilogue that was incredibly perfect.  We saw the fate of the remaining members of the Ghost crew, getting confirmation that Hera and Rex fought in the Battle of Endor, as well as being introduced to Jacen Syndulla (and yes, the name “Jacen” is quite familiar to Star Wars fans), the son of Hera and Kanan.  We learned that Zeb took Kallus to Lira San, which in a heartwarming moment taught Kallus that he hadn’t destroyed the Lasat people, and he was welcomed to live on the planet.  And Sabine remained on Lothal to protect it, as she figured that’s what Ezra meant when he said he was counting on her, but she eventually realized that he was still out there somewhere and that she had to find him and bring him home.  So Ahsoka shows up at the end with an old Jedi transport, and the two of them depart to find Ezra.  The epilogue was absolutely perfect, and it set up potential new stories down the road.
  • Grand Admiral Thrawn.  We got some absolutely perfect Thrawn scenes in the episode, too.  We sensed the threat of Thrawn by the fact that, in the first episode, Ezra preempted his plan in order to make sure it happened before Thrawn arrived, and he explains to Pryce that they never could have fooled Thrawn but did fool her.  So we sense Thrawn’s threat, and in this episode Rukh contacts Thrawn, who delivers a great line: “I expected Governor Pryce to fail, but not so completely.”  Later, he arrives with the Chimaera, and Ezra contacts him with a lengthy speech about how he has the advantage and demands Thrawn leave.  At the end, Thrawn simply exclaims, “Are you quite finished?  If you truly wish to save Lothal, Commander Bridger, the only term I’ll accept is your immediate and unconditional surrender.”  Ezra thinks that’s absurd, since he has all of Thrawn’s forces captive, but Thrawn explains, “No, you’ve simply moved my assets to a safe place so that I can bombard the civilians of your home without incurring Imperial causalities.”  Thrawn instantly turns Ezra’s key advantage into a huge weakness.  That’s exactly who Thrawn is.  And in his later discussion with the captive Ezra, Thrawn explains his thoughts on the Jedi (they have power but no vision of how to use it) and admires artwork, all while lecturing Ezra.  Once again, another great Thrawn encounter.  And finally, the episode kept with the long-standing Rebels tradition of the past two seasons: the only thing that can defeat Thrawn is the unexpected occurrence.  In season three it was the god-like status of the Bendu, and in season four it is the sudden arrival of an army of Purrgils.  If that’s what it takes to defeat Thrawn, that’s pretty impressive.  And this episode absolutely nailed Thrawn’s character.  It was very well done.
  • The purrgils.  With that said, the arrival of the purrgils did in some ways feel like a cheap plot device to turn the battle in the rebels’ favor instantaneously.  But it did serve its purpose: first of all, it reinforced the connection Ezra has to creatures (which has been established throughout the series) and shows all of those connections brought together in one final heroic mission.  And secondly, it provided a way to effectively remove both Ezra and Thrawn from the picture during the events of the original trilogy without killing them, leaving both of them available for further stories in the post-ROTJ world.  And the way that the purrgil attack played out, it was reminiscent of the eagles’ arrival in The Lord of the Rings.
  • Some really cool touches.  One of the really cool parts of the episode was finally seeing the Emperor’s Royal Guards do something, as they arrived and used their staffs to suspend Ezra in the air as they confronted him.  That was cool to see.  Additionally, a name-drop by Thrawn would be easy to miss for casual fans, but stood out to avid fans of the Heir to the Empire trilogy: Thrawn contacted Captain Pellaeon!  That’s the first time we’ve heard of Pellaeon in Rebels, but we of course know him from legends as the Captain during the Thrawn crisis who was Thrawn’s second-in-command.  It was really cool to mention him.  However, it appears that he died during the purrgil attack, which if true would be an unfortunate waste of the character later on (same with Rukh’s death, though he did get other moments in Rebels).  UPDATE: Pellaeon lived, according to Dave Filoni!
  • The stakes too low?  One other minor quibble that I have with the episode is that it didn’t seem to have the consequences necessary.  The only hero to die during the attack was Gregor, as not even Melch died (even though he was shot).  Gregor had a heroic death, uttering the great line to Rex, “It was an honor to fight with you for something we chose to believe in.”  But it seemed strange to me that he was the only hero to die, though I suppose that ties in to the earlier complaint (about a major victory), and I actually thought that the show did a very good job of explaining the fates of its main characters, so I’m ok with it overall.
  • The Emperor.  Another really cool thing was seeing the Emperor, as Ezra is presented before the galaxy’s ruler.  The Emperor appears in holographic form as the younger Chancellor Palpatine, all in an effort to befriend Ezra and get him to unlock the portal and have the life he wanted.  In light of A World Between Worlds, we know what the Emperor truly wants: he wants access to this world between worlds, and he knows that Ezra knows how to access it.  So he wants Ezra to open this portal, which would allow the Emperor access in.  He offers Ezra exactly what he wants: a life with his family.
  • Ezra’s Return of the Jedi moment.  What Palpatine didn’t expect, however, was that Ezra was a true Jedi.  In the original trilogy, Luke Skywalker’s shining moment came when he threw his lightsaber away and, amidst the Emperor’s temptations, said, “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”  There were a number of similarities between Return of the Jedi and this final episode of Rebels, but the strongest was that Ezra got his Jedi moment.  Amidst the Emperor’s temptations, Ezra instead destroyed the remainder of the Temple, telling the Emperor, “you’re wrong.  I have a family.  I don’t need anything from you.”  He resisted the lure of his past and the temptations of Palpatine.  That was the moment that Ezra truly embraced the Jedi.

Overall, this episode was as satisfying and as exciting of a finale as one could possibly hope for from Star Wars Rebels, and it was the culmination of a stretch recently in season four in which Rebels reached another level.  Dave Filoni finally got the chance to end a show on his terms, and it was incredibly well-done.

My grade: 10.0

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