Ranking the top 15 episodes of Star Wars Rebels

Last week the fourth and final season of Star Wars Rebels was released on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital, and it’s among the best Star Wars storytelling there is and, in my opinion, the best season of animation Lucasfilm has done.

In order to celebrate its home release, I’ve gathered together my rankings of every episode of Star Wars Rebels to compile what I think are the top fifteen episodes.  Keep in mind that these rankings are purely subjective and there’s plenty of room for disagreement (especially the rankings of those episodes which share the same grade), but this should at least give you a good idea what I believe are some of the very best episodes of Rebels.

15. Through Imperial Eyes (3.17) – 9.2

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Ezra gets himself captured by the Empire in order to extract Kallus, but Grand Admiral Thrawn and Colonel Yularen are closing in on the identity of the rebel spy and on the location of the rebel base.  So Ezra and Kallus play a dangerous game and infiltrate Thrawn’s office in order to try to throw him off the scent of the actual base location.

This is one of the few episodes that really focuses on the Imperial side of things, and it really focuses on Agent Kallus.  We get Thrawn and Yularen working together, which is awesome, and we see Thrawn deduce the identity of the rebel spy, while we also get to see Ezra, Kanan, and Rex undercover trying to rescue Kallus – who doesn’t want to leave.  The episode gives a unique focus with an exciting plot that makes it one of the best in the series.

14. Wolves and a Door (4.12) – 9.3

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Ezra and Sabine go undercover into an Imperial camp in an effort to infiltrate the Jedi Temple, encountering Minister Hyden – who is leading the study and excavation of the temple at the behest of Emperor Palpatine.  Using Sabine’s knowledge of art and strategy and Ezra’s abilities in the force, the two figure out the way into the temple by unlocking the mystery of the Mortis mural.

We really get a chance to see Ezra and Sabine working together to infiltrate the temple (they both contribute, which is nice), we are reintroduced to the Mortis gods, and we meet Minister Hyden – who is a different kind of villain.  We hear Ian McDiarmid’s Palpatine for the first time, too, which is always great.  This is the first mission that the Ghost crew undertakes without Kanan, and the episode does a good job of not just ignoring that reality but yet also moving things forward on Lothal with the discovery and infiltration of the temple in a cool episode.

13. Flight of the Defender (4.6) – 9.4

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Ezra and Sabine lead a mission to investigate the Empire’s new TIE Defender, and Sabine decides to steal the data recorder from the fighter.  But Grand Admiral Thrawn and Governor Pryce arrive to meet with Commander Skerris, complicating the rebel plans.  Ezra creates a distraction while Sabine infiltrates the fighter, ultimately deciding to steal it.  Thrawn uses this as a test of the ship’s capabilities, and once he concludes the ship’s potential he orders the deactivation of the wings.  Ezra and Sabine take the hyperdrive, on the run, back to the rebel base with the help of Loth-wolves.

This episode was a fun one, and it featured some tremendous Thrawn moments: most notably him drawing his blaster and firing on the TIE Defender, and him deciding to use the theft of the ship as a test.  That’s a great twist on the expectation – which would be simply to fire upon the fighter and destroy it or activate the kill switch.  It contained exciting sequences, intrigue, and was a lot of fun.

12. Zero Hour (3.21-22) – 9.4

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As season three winds to a close, the rebels are finally getting ready for their attack on Lothal, as General Dodonna arrives with reinforcements for the assault.  But Grand Admiral Thrawn is a step ahead, confronting Kallus (Fulcrum) and deciphering the location of the rebel base, launching a preemptive strike on Atollon.  Desperate for survival and escape, Hera leads a defense of the planet while Ezra rushes for help.  When the Rebellion declines to help, he turns to Sabine and the Mandalorians, who arrive to help turn the tide – while on the planet, Kanan’s friend Bendu turns the tide against Thrawn.

The stakes are high in this episode, and the Phoenix Squadron is decimated, losing Commander Sato and countless others.  Thrawn gets a chance to show off his skills, and the only things that hinder his plan in the episode are an incompetent commander and unexpected “Jedi devilry.”  And it’s great to see Sabine return when help is needed, rushing back to Atollon with Ezra and other Mandalorians that leads to an awesome fight on the Interdictor.

11. In the Name of the Rebellion (4.3-4) – 9.4

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Caught up with the larger Rebel Alliance, the Ghost crew goes on a mission to hijack an Imperial satellite but runs into trouble, leaving Ezra and Sabine stranded on the dish with troopers – until Saw Gerrera arrives and rescues them.  The trio proceeds to investigate a large kyber crystal shipment and are on the trail of an Imperial project, but Saw’s radical techniques create trouble.

This is a significant episode of Rebels, as it finally shows the Ghost crew involved with the Rebel Alliance.  They travel to Yavin 4, talk with Mon Mothma and Bail Organa, and go on a mission for the Rebellion to hijack a satellite.  The episode also adds a lot of weight to Rogue One, as we get to see the disagreement between Mon Mothma and Saw Gerrera (in a tremendous exchange between the two in which Genevieve O’Reilly really shines), and we get to see Saw’s radical techniques – all while on the trail of some mysterious Imperial project that requires kyber crystals and is being helmed by Director Krennic.  And the episode is also simply a lot of fun, with great action involving Ezra and Sabine and a lot of intrigue within the Star Wars universe.

10. Fire Across the Galaxy (1.15) – 9.4

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The Ghost crew launches a daring rescue attempt of Kanan, who is being held prisoner by Grand Moff Tarkin above Mustafar.  They rescue Kanan, but the Grand Inquisitor confronts the Jedi and battles them, wounding Ezra.  That empowers Kanan, who defeats the Inquisitor in battle.  As the rebels are escaping, they receive aid from other rebel cells, realizing that they are not alone.

The fight between Kanan and the Grand Inquisitor is certainly a highlight of the series, as he battles the Inquisitor to the death – while motivated and strengthened by the belief that Ezra has been killed.  But the episode also features a cool rescue attempt of Kanan and awesome visuals above Mustafar, while we also find out fully that there are other rebel cells – and we are reintroduced to Ahsoka Tano, who is revealed as Fulcrum.

9. Shroud of Darkness (2.18) – 9.4

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Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka journey to the Lothal Jedi Temple, where all three encounter trials and visions.  Kanan encounters a Jedi Temple Guard (revealed to be the Grand Inquisitor) and is knighted; Ezra encounters Master Yoda and learns from him; and Ahsoka encounters Anakin Skywalker-turned-Darth Vader.  Eventually, the heroes have to flee the temple to escape the Inquisitors.

This episode is a great one that delves into the Force and offers some important moments for the three heroes.  Kanan learns more about teaching Ezra and is knighted as a Jedi; Ezra learns from Yoda about fighting (and is told to find Malachor); while Ahsoka confronts her past as Anakin accuses her of abandoning him, and is revealed to be Darth Vader.  The episode also offers a really touching moment, as Ahsoka sees Yoda at the end and he waves to her with a smile, which carries a lot of weight considering how Ahsoka’s arc ended in The Clone Wars.  Any time you can have Kanan and Ezra as well as Ahsoka, Anakin, Yoda, Vader, the Grand Inquisitor in an episode that delves into the force is a pretty cool one.

8. A Fool’s Hope (4.14) – 9.7

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The rebels prepare to launch their attack on Lothal, with Ezra realizing an attack must happen immediately because Thrawn was being sent back to the planet.  So as Hera recruits friends of Ezra’s to help on the mission and is sneaking through the blockade, the rebels lure Pryce to their base.  Thus begins a massive battle sequence led by Ezra, Sabine, and Zeb against the Empire, and Hera arrives with the Ghost and reinforcements at just the right time.  Ezra then unleashes the Loth-wolves against the Imperials to fully turn the tide and capture Pryce.

This episode features a number of awesome sequences, from Hondo smuggling the Ghost onto Lothal to the Ghost’s arrival at the battle with the Star Wars theme blaring to Ezra’s desperation to save his planet to the rebels’ creative trap set for Pryce to Ezra using the wolves to turn the tide.  It’s a thrilling battle to really kick things into high gear for the rebels’ mission to liberate Lothal.

7. Twin Suns (3.20) – 9.7

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Ezra disobeys orders and follows the luring of Maul to Tatooine, wanting to warn Obi-Wan Kenobi of the dangerous threat.  Kenobi finds Ezra, however, and talks with him around a campfire in the Tatooine night, urging him to go back to his family (the Ghost crew) and leave Maul to him.  Maul arrives as Ezra is leaving, and he exchanges words and barbs with his old rival.  Upon Maul’s realization that Kenobi has a purpose – he’s protecting someone – Kenobi ignites his lightsaber, prompting Maul to attack.  Kenobi makes quick work of him and cradles his enemy as Maul dies.

This episode provides a terrific and fitting conclusion to Maul’s arc, as he is killed by Kenobi.  While the fight is short, it’s also terrific: it not only shows Kenobi’s superior skill but also Maul’s arrogance, as he employs the same maneuver that killed Qui-Gon Jinn and which Kenobi easily defends.  Everything about Kenobi was incredibly well-done, and Stephen Stanton absolutely nailed the voice.  Also, seeing Ben overlooking the Lars homestead with the force theme playing was a beautiful touch and a great way to end the episode.

6. The Siege of Lothal (2.1-2) – 9.8

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With this group of rebels having caused sufficient trouble for the Empire, a much more menacing foe than even death itself is sent against them: Darth Vader.  Arriving on the planet and enforcing a planetary-wide siege, Vader has the rebels on the run and winds up going head-to-head with Jedi Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger.  It’s no match, however, as Vader tosses the two around playfully and menacingly.  They narrowly escape with their lives and get off-world thanks to some help from Lando Calrissian, but once they regroup with Phoenix Squadron they realize that Vader had tracked their ship.  The Dark Lord of the Sith arrives alone in his TIE Advanced and manages to confront the fleet, but his attack is derailed once he realizes that his former apprentice, Ahsoka Tano, is alive.  The rebels escape thanks to some Imperial incompetence, while Vader informs the Emperor of his discovery.

At the end of season one Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader arrived on Lothal, and this season two premiere then showed us Vader in action for the first time in Rebels.  It was a groundbreaking moment for the show, and bringing Vader back (voiced by James Earl Jones) was done perfectly and with great care.  They managed to actually increase Vader’s aura of terror, and show us his skills both with a lightsaber and as a pilot.  This episode more than any other was very important in showing the audience a very painful fact: these rebels weren’t ready for war against the Empire yet, and these Jedi weren’t even close to being able to go against Vader.  It wouldn’t be until the end of the season where we would finally see someone who could match up against the Dark Lord of the Sith.

5. Trials of the Darksaber (3.15) – 10.0

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After finding the Darksaber, Sabine Wren is reluctant to wield it despite the urging of her friends.  She finally reluctantly relents and begins being trained by Kanan Jarrus in the art of lightsaber combat, in the hopes that she may be able to unite Mandalore with the weapon.  She grows frustrated with Kanan’s training methods, however, and the Jedi finally decides to let her actually use the saber in her training.  The two duel, and as they do so Kanan tries to pry out of Sabine details of her family situation.  In one of the most emotional moments of the show, Sabine reveals that she created a weapon that the Empire turned against her people, and her family didn’t stand by her.  Having confided in Kanan and having learned the art of lightsaber combat, Kanan tells her that this family will stick by her no matter what.

The episode is absolutely beautiful storytelling by Dave Filoni and his crew.  It doesn’t have the biggest battle sequences or the most exciting locations, but what it does have is great characterization, a dive into Sabine Wren’s backstory, and some really cool lightsaber training sequences.  It’s a testament to just how good Star Wars Rebels was becoming at storytelling, something that only continued in the fourth and final season.

4. Family Reunion and Farewell (4.15-16) – 10.0

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The series finale of Star Wars Rebels certainly didn’t disappoint.  After rallying support from those whom he had befriended over the show’s run, Ezra Bridger leads the team in an effort to liberate Lothal – deciding to strike now while Grand Admiral Thrawn is away.  With Governor Pryce captive, the rebels launch an assault on the Imperial Dome, planning to send it flying and then blow it up.  But before they can do so, Thrawn arrives with the Chimaera, launching devastation on the city unless Ezra surrenders.  Realizing that he has no other choice, Ezra sneaks away and surrenders to Thrawn, who takes him before a hologram of the Emperor.  Palpatine offers Ezra what he always wanted – to be with his parents – but Ezra senses the trap and destroys it.  He escapes Palpatine’s grasp and confronts Thrawn on the ship’s bridge, and then his secret weapon appears: a group of purrgil and the Ghost arrived, destroying Thrawn’s fleet and taking the Chimaera into hyperspace, with Ezra and Thrawn still onboard.  The rest of the team finishes the job and liberates the planet, and in an epilogue the show explains the fates of the main characters.

This served as a nearly perfect conclusion to the show’s four-season run, filled with plenty of action and tension.  Seeing the attack on Lothal finally happen was really rewarding, and of course getting Ian McDiarmid as Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine talking with Ezra was obviously really cool.  And the resolution to the Thrawn/Ezra conflict was enough to satisfy questions from original trilogy fans while leaving plenty of options open moving forward.  But while the episode was great itself, the epilogue was even better, as it gave us the wrap-up to what happened to the characters we had grown so familiar with.

3. Jedi Night (4.10) – 10.0

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After Hera Syndulla’s assault on Lothal goes horribly wrong and she crash-lands in the city, she is taken captive by the Empire.  Kanan is committed to saving his love and realizes that there is a way he can do so, but he allows Ezra to come up with the plan.  Kanan, Ezra, and Sabine infiltrate the city and Kanan goes after Hera, who had been tortured and interrogated, and rescues her.  As they flee Imperial forces, they wind up on top of fuel cells awaiting pickup from Ezra and Sabine.  Kanan and Hera share a kiss, but right before they are picked up Governor Pryce orders AT-ATs to fire on the fuel cells.  As it explodes, Kanan uses the Force to hold back the flames, while using his other hand to push Hera into the shuttle, saving the others’ lives while sacrificing his own.

There is no other moment in the show’s run that comes close to having the same weight or implications as Kanan Jarrus’ death, as much of the rest of the season sees the Ghost crew dealing with the massive loss.  It is the only time one of the main characters in the show dies, and it is done beautifully, playing up the emotion and heartbreak of the scene while giving Kanan a heroic sacrifice.  The leadup to this ending was great with Kanan’s rescue of Hera and then them together on the run, but it was the ending that everyone will remember.

2. Twilight of the Apprentice (2.21-22) – 10.0

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Kanan Jarrus, Ezra Bridger, and Ahsoka Tano travel to Malachor at the suggestion of Master Yoda in an effort to find out more secrets of the Sith, and they arrive to find the site of an ancient battle on the planet.  They soon discover that they’re not alone and are ambushed by a couple of Inquisitors, and Ezra gets seperated from the group and encounters a mysterious figure who has been trapped on the planet: Maul.  Together Ezra and Maul infiltrate the Sith Temple and retrieve the Sith holocron, and they exit the Temple to find Kanan and Ahsoka facing off against the Inquisitors.  Maul joins in fighting alongside the heroes, and together the group heads toward the Temple.  While there, Maul turns on Kanan and Ahsoka and blinds the Jedi, though Kanan uses the Force to stop Maul’s next attack.  Atop the Temple, Ezra is confronted by the arrival of Darth Vader, but before Vader can deliver the killing blow Ahsoka arrives.  After some discussion with her former master, she says she will avenge Anakin’s death and the two engage in battle.  Kanan and Ezra recover the holocron and get ready to escape, thanks to some aid from Ahsoka, who resolves to not leave Anakin this time and stays behind as the Temple closes and explodes.

Even those casual Star Wars fans who haven’t watched Rebels probably have seen or heard at least something about this episode, as it features perhaps the most brilliant scene(s) of anything Lucasfilm animation has done.  Seeing Vader vs. Ahsoka is one of the true highlights in Star Wars and one of the most emotional beats, and the dialogue between them is absolutely perfect.  That’s definitely the most memorable scene in Rebels, and throw in plenty of other exciting and intriguing moments and characters (like the return of Maul!) and the episode as a whole is fantastic.

1. A World Between Worlds (4.13) – 10.0

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With the Emperor hoping to gain access to the mysterious Jedi Temple on Lothal, Ezra Bridger and Sabine Wren went undercover and discovered the entrance.  Ezra enters the Temple, and that’s where A World Between Worlds begins.  As he enters into this black void, voices from all eras of Star Wars sound into space as Ezra walks along this mysterious place.  He eventually comes to a portal that shows him the end of Ahsoka’s fight with Vader – and just when Vader is about to strike the fatal blow, Ezra reaches into the portal – and through time – to pull Ahsoka out and save her.  Reunited once more with Ahsoka, Ezra realizes that he may be able to save Kanan this way too.  So he finds the portal with Kanan’s death, though Ahsoka convinces him not to help, because if Kanan hadn’t have sacrificed himself the others would have died too.  So Ezra watches Kanan die all over again.  Then, Emperor Palpatine shows up in one of the portals trying to gain access to this mysterious world, and Ahsoka and Ezra try to hold him off before escaping.  After Ahsoka’s departure, Ezra and the others figure out a way to destroy the Temple, ensuring that Palpatine can’t gain access to this realm that way.

This episode is a treat to Star Wars fans, with plenty of iconic voices from plenty of iconic moments throughout the franchise’s eras sounding in this void.  The episode really dives in to the mysteries of the Force and expands our knowledge of it in many ways.  And having Ian McDiarmid back as Emperor Palpatine and finding out what actually happened to Ahsoka Tano make this an incredibly special one too.  The episode is absolutely fantastic in and of itself, but the reason I have it number one on this list is also because it allows the audience to re-live moments from the episodes I have ranked second and third.  Ezra sees the ending to Ahsoka’s battle against Vader and we finally get answers, seeing what happens to Ahsoka and seeing more of her in the episode.  Additionally, Ezra has to re-live Kanan’s death by watching it again, and in a more painful and emotional moment than it happened the first time as he has to watch it happen while knowing he could stop it.  The episode ties up some plot threads real nicely, is a pure delight for Star Wars fans, and is a great exploration into the realm of the Force.

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