Star Wars Rebels, Season 3 (2016-2017) Review

For Season 3 of Rebels, we jump forward in time and abandon some of the narrative threads in Seasons 1-2, such as Darth Vader and the Inquisitors. Now, Ezra Bridger has become more arrogant –like a teenager—perhaps owing to his teaching by Maul at the end of the prior season. In Season 3, the show comes into its own, and we are introduced to more characters like Saw Guerrera (from Rogue One), Mon Mothma, Wedge Antilles, and the fan favorite from the Star Wars novels: Grand Admiral Thrawn. Season 3 also ends the Darth Maul arc which was revived in The Clone Wars and it expands the Agent Kallus story.

For Season 3, Dave Filoni was promoted head of animation at Lucasfilm which allowed Justin Ridge to take his place as supervising director of Rebels. 2016 was an expansive year for Lucasfilm with lots of new projects on the docket –The Force Awakens had just been released, and Rogue One was also released, both receiving a fair degree of praise from critics and fans alike. Season 3 of Rebels only added to this success, and today many fans regard it as their favorite season of Rebels.  

Episodes 1-2 “Steps into Shadow (Parts I & II)”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Approximately six months after the events in the previous season, Ezra has been promoted to lieutenant and he has grown confident, perhaps to the point of arrogance. The Ghost crew are now leading a mission to rescue Hondo Ohnaka from prison. During the raid, Terba (Hondo’s cell mate) is killed. At this point, Kanan feels fearful and he has been somewhat absent from the crew in his blindness. Ezra has been subtly drawn to the darkside of the force thanks to the influence of Maul in the previous season. Ezra proudly displays his new powers –such as the use of mind control on nearby Imperials operating AT-STs. He has been apparently communicating with the Sith holocron he took from the Sith temple at the end of Season 2.

Meanwhile, among the Imperial side of things, Governor Pryce (Mary Elizabeth McGlynn) requests use of the Seventh fleet from Grand Moff Tarkin in order to combat the rebels of Lothal. We also receive the long-awaited introduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen), who has recently promoted by the Empire after his victory at Batonn. He is a fearsome, calm, and calculating figure.

While Ezra communicates with the Sith holocron, Kanan is called into the wilderness on Atollon by a strange voice, a giant force-wielding creature called The Bendu (Tom Baker). The Bendu represents a middle path of the force between lightness and darkness. The Bendu pledges to teach Kanan how to truly see without the use of his eyes, by teaching him to sense the spiders on Atollon, rather than be fearful of them.

Throughout the episode, Ezra acts rashly, lacking clear-sightedness. He leads a cohort of rebels to the Yarma System on a recon mission regarding Imperial bombers but it quickly turns into a recovery operation thanks to missteps by Ezra. He damages the Imperial facility which sends it crashing out of the clouds while the rest of the crew is forced to hijack bombers to escape only to find that the ships do not have hyperdrives –and suddenly an Imperial Star Destroyer appears. In the end, the rebel fleet arrives to rescue the operation and Kana and Hera save Ezra at the last moment. As a result of his failures, Ezra’s command is suspended and he reunites with a newly confident Kanan who has hidden the Sith holocron from Ezra.      

Episode 3 “The Holocrons of Fate”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Ezra and Kanan discover an empty ship floating in space –it has been attacked by Maul who has taken the Ghost crew hostage in exchange for both the Jedi and Sith holocrons. During the capture, Kanan Jarrus’s real name is revealed to be “Caleb Dume.” Ezra and Kanan return to the Bendu to reclaim the holocron located in a cave surrounded by Krykna spiders. Ezra brings the Sith holocron to Maul (Maul had already located the Jedi holocron onboard the Ghost). Together, they open the holocrons while Kanan rescues the rest of the Ghost crew. Next, Kanan instructs Ezra to look away but the holocrons still give him a vision of a planet with “twin suns” and Maul frantically flees the ship cackling and muttering “he lives…” as he presumably travels in search of Obi-Wan Kenobi, his ultimate nemesis.

Episode 4 “The Antilles Extraction”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The rebels are delivering food supplies to Taralov when an Imperial warship appears and attacks the rebels, destroying all of the ships –including an entire escort of A-wings, six pilots and a transport’s entire crew. With ships and pilots in short supply, the rebellion relies on a new “Fulcrum” informant inside the Empire (this Fulcrum agent is not not Ahsoka Tano) who shares that there are a few pilots wishing to defect from the Empire. Who is Fulcrum? Could it be Agent Kallus? Sabine is assigned on an undercover mission to board an Imperial vessel where she quickly encounters a young pilot named Wedge Antilles (Nathan Kress) who was initially recruited by the Empire but has since become morally conflicted regarding Imperial tactics. He and a group of other pilots join Sabine’s plan to escape from the Empire but Governor Pryce catches them in a trap. In the end, Wedge, his friend Hobbie, and Sabine are all rescued –and Wedge officially joins the rebellion.  

This episode offers a nice expanded backstory for Wedge Antilles, though apparently Biggs Darklighter was apparently set to make an appearance in the original script which would have been extraordinary.  

Episode 5 “Hera’s Heroes”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

On Ryloth, the Imperial presence is growing, and the Empire has taken over the Tan province. Sadly, Hera’s family heirloom, their Kalikori, could not be rescued (a revered Twi’lek heirloom, the Kalikori is a living artwork of family history passed down from generation to generation). Thus, Ezra and Hera embark on a personal mission to recover the Kalikori –however, Grand Admiral Thrawn anticipates their actions and a battle ensues that only ends with Ezra and Hera being captured. Hera’s father Cham attempts to sacrifice himself, while Hera sets a trap of explosives, destroying their house in order to escape. The episode ends as Grand Admiral Thrawn allows them to flee, and Hera accepts that she will not need her family’s Kalikori anymore (Thrawn has taken it for his own art collection).    

This episode gives us more backstory for Hera and her family on Ryloth. We also learn that she initially rescued the droid Chopper from an abandoned Y-Wing during the Clone Wars.

Episode 6 “The Last Battle”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

While salvaging supplies from an old Clone Wars battlefield led by Rex, a group of former tactical droids led by a Super Tactical Droid named “General Kalani” (Gregg Berger) the Ghost crew are forced into a mock battle between Separatist and Republic forces to see once and for all who proves superior. Ezra, Kanan, and Rex participate in this farce which forces clones and Jedi against droids. In the end, Ezra manages to negotiate peace between the two sides when he points out that both sides share a common enemy in the Empire. By the end, Kanan shares news of a newly recovered ship with Hera.

Episode 7 “Imperial Supercommandos”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

En route to Mandalore after losing communication with the rogue Protector contingent, the rebel prisoner Fenn Rau briefly tries to escape but this leads to the rebels finding the Protector’s base entirely destroyed –an act which could only have been caused by other Mandalorians. It turns out to be the work of Gar Saxon (Ray Stevenson), the Imperial viceroy of Mandalore who is also a member of the House Vizsla (like Sabine). He leads a band of Imperial-friendly Mandalorians as they capture Ezra, Sabine, and Chopper until Fenn Rau has a change of heart and decides to help the rebels escape. In the end, he joins the rebellion.    

Episode 8 “Iron Squadron”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Ghost crew helps rebel sympathizers hoping to evacuate from a blockade over Mykapo where they encounter a group of young kids operating the Iron Squadron, a rebel squadron which was formerly under the control of Commander Sato’s brother but he has tragically been killed. Now, the squadron is led by Commander Sato’s overly zealous young nephew named Mart (Zachary Gordon). When Thrawn learns of this fact, he sends a large fleet of ships to attack. Ezra and Sabine manage to rescue the kids at the last moment. This is a bit of a fluff episode for children in my view.

Episode 9 “The Wynkahthu Job”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hondo Ohnaka and Azmorigan return in this episode as the rebels team up with both smugglers to steal valuable cargo in exchange for proton bombs. On the ship, they encounter sentry droids thanks to Azmorigan’s incompetence, but in the end, they escape with the proton bombs. As with “Iron Squadron” this strikes me as another filler episode written for children, filled with comic relief from Hondo and Azmorigan.  

Episode 10 “An Inside Man”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Kanan and Ezra return to Lothal with Azadi Ryder, whose domestic rebel cell has been causing havoc for the Empire. Kanan, Ezra, and Ryder all infiltrate an Imperial factory because their secret contact “Fulcrum” has shared intel that the Empire is intending to build a new kind of weapon –a TIE Defender model which comes equipped with a shield, making it a significant improvement over the TIE Fighter ships. Grand Admiral Thrawn pays a visit to the factory investigating why speeder bikes are exploding at an unprecedented rate. He orders a demonstration which kills one of Ezra’s old friends on Lothal who works in the factory. Shortly thereafter Agent Kallus reveals himself to be Fulcrum. He helps the rebels escape, but the episode ends as Thrawn promises to watch and wait in order to find the mole within his ranks.

Episode 11 “Visions and Voices”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Ezra starts having visions of Maul. After speaking with the Bendu, Maul reappears. He explains that he wishes to learn what Ezra saw in the Sith holocron in “The Holocrons of Fate.” In exchange for keeping the location of the rebel base on Atollon a secret, Maul strikes a deal with Ezra. Together, they travel to Dathomir to use a bit of magic from the Witches of Dathomir or “Nightsisters” (in other words, they merge their minds so that Maul can understand what Ezra saw in the holocron). It is a wonderful callback to one of the most celebrated narrative arcs in The Clone Wars. In Maul’s dark lair, Ezra happens to spot the Darksaber among the many relics scattered about. Maul merely instructs Ezra to leave the Darksaber alone. Both Ezra and Maul drink a potion which reveals their wishes –Ezra wants to defeat the Sith, while Maul hopes to learn the whereabouts of Obi-Wan Kenobi. They both are made aware of a desert planet with twin suns. Meanwhile, Kanan and Sabine arrive hoping to rescue Ezra. Then the ghosts of the Nightsisters appear demanding repayment of life blood. As dark spirits, they embody Kanan and Sabine by turning them evil. Maul then abandons Ezra, leaving him to revive Kanan and Sabine from possession by the Nightsisters. While brandishing the Darksaber, Ezra destroys the Nightsister’s altar from which their power emanates. In the end, Sabine claims the Darksaber.

I thought this was one of the best episodes of Rebels thus far, with plenty echoes of The Clone Wars.  

Episodes 12-13 “Ghosts of Geonosis”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Ghost crew is on a secret mission. Senator Bail Organa explains that a team reported an energy source on Geonosis before losing communication with Saw Guerrera. After crossing through a storm, they land on Geonosis and then also notice a strange power source before discovering an underground bunker. Rex explains that he once trained Saw Guerrera and his sister Steela to fight the Separatists. Since then, Saw started his own rebel faction which uses questionable tactics.

At any rate, the crew travels further underground, following a trail of remnants left behind by Saw Guerrera’s people and then they stumble upon a cohort of shielded battle droids from the Clone Wars era. Then find Saw Guerrera (Forest Whitaker) who explains that the Empire is hiding something important. Deep underground, they follow a bug who activates many sleeping attack droids on the planet’s surface. Ezra and Saw disable the battle droids and corner the bug “Klik-Klak –he tries to explain a new Imperial weapon under construction by drawing circles in the dirt (as audience members, we know him to be referring to the construction of the Death Star). Saw grows irate with Klik-Klak (even stooping to torture) while an Imperial patrol discovers the Ghost. As it turns out, Klik-Klak has been protecting his future offspring –an egg which is the last of his kind. Then the Empire suddenly finds the location of the Ghost which pushes the crew further underground. They follow Klik-Klak through a network of tunnels. With his help, they flee from the Empire, rescue Saw Guerrera, and they share images of poison gas containers with the broader rebellion as evidence. In the end, Ezra learns that not every rebel shares the same tactics, values, or reason for fighting the Empire.     

Episode 14 “Warhead”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

An escape pod with an Imperial infilter recon droid lands on Atollon, but the droid is attacked by Krykna spiders. Meanwhile, the rest of Phoenix Squadron departs and leaves Zeb in charge of the “Chopper base.” In this quirky comedy episode, Zeb is alerted to a disruption so he and Chopper investigate to accidentally find a highly dangerous Imperial recon droid EX-9 at protocol mode at first, but he soon transforms into a volatile weapon. After a struggle, Zeb instructs AP-5 to reprogram the Imperial droid so that it is set to return to the Empire and detonate a proton warhead. The episode ends with a message from Fulcrum (Agent Kallus) who acknowledges their exploding droid plot, however Grand Admiral Thrawn sees this as an opportunity since he had sent out recon droids to only 91 planets in search of the rebel base.    

Episode 15 “Trials of the Darksaber”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Kanan shows the Darksaber he took from Maul to Fenn Rau who explains that the Darksaber was the symbol for House Vizsla, and later the leader of Death Watch. The Mandalorians did not develop the Darksaber, but rather it was created over a thousand years ago by Tar Vizsla. In this historical backstory, we are treated to a fantastic animation sequence reminiscent of early animated films (it was also used in Harry Potter to explain the Elder Wand). At any rate, if Sabine can wield this weapon, she can unite the Mandalorians and thereby raise an army. In this episode, Kanan and Ezra convince Sabine to learn to use a lightsaber. It is a frustrating experience for Sabine –she is filled with self- doubt and lack of trust, especially since she is considered a traitor by many Mandalorians. After several arguments, Kanan challenges Sabine, forcing her to confront her fears. In the end, she gains newfound confidence in order to lead the Mandalorians.

Episode 16 “Legacy of Mandalore”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Sabine, Ezra, Kanan, and Fenn Rau travel to Krownest in the Mandalore system with the hopes of reuniting with Sabine’s family, though she warns the others that her family might greet them violently since they still consider her a traitor. Upon arrival on this cold, snowy, desolate planet, they are fired upon and Sabine eventually meets her brother Tristan (Ritesh Rajan) and mother Ursa (Sharmila Devar). Sabine is arrested and prepared to face trial until she reveals her possession of the Darksaber. We learn that Clan Wren has made a treaty with the Empire, and Sabine’s father is being held captive on Mandalore. Sabine’s mother informs the Empire of the capture of Sabine and two Jedi, but Fenn Rau breaks in and delivers the confiscated lightsabers to the Kanan and Ezra. And when the Empire arrives, the Imperials actually accuse the Countess of Clan Wren of being a traitor, as well. A battle ensues, and Sabine fights Gar Saxon who has stolen the Darksaber. They fight over snow and crackling ice until Sabine gains the upper hand over Saxon but he refuses to yield and she refuses to execute him. When he attempts to shoot Sabine in the back, her mother Ursa shoots and kills Gar Saxon. In the end, instead of returning with the Ghost crew to Phoenix Squadron, Sabine decides to remain with her family on Krownest and help find the right person to be the future leader of Mandalore.    

Episode 17 “Through Imperial Eyes”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This episode opens with a brilliant first-person point-of-view of Agent Kallus as an alarm rings out over the intercom aboard an Imperial Star Destroyer. A stolen shuttle has blasted its way out of the Lothal space port. Ezra Bridger is then detained, as well as the droids Chopper and AP-5. Privately, Ezra informs Kallus that the rebellion believes his last Fulcrum transmission was intercepted by the Empire. They carelessly leave behind Ezra’s helmet. Moments later, Grand Admiral Thrawn summons his officers to announce a search for the rebel spy, and he also mentions that he is very close to finding the secret location of the rebel base. When they first spot Thrawn, he is battling a pair of droids. He appears to be in peak physical health. Kallus helps Ezra escape captivity, and Ezra goes undercover as an Imperial known as Lieutenant Lyste (Liam O’Brien). They covertly transmit data back to the rebellion from Thrawn’s office, and attempt to change Thrawn’s trajectory in locating the rebel base on Atollon. Lt. Lyste is blamed for being the “Fulcrum” spy while Kallus is celebrated as a hero, however as the episode ends, Thrawn privately acknowledges that he believes Kallus to be the real spy…          

This was one of the most intense, nailbiter episodes of the series as we wonder when Kallus will be captured or outmaneuvered by Thrawn. Note: in this episode, Thrawn attempts to use a code to deactivate battle droids –“Rukh”– which was the name of his Noghri bodyguard in Timothy Zahn’s celebrated Thrawn trilogy. And Fulcrum’s secret code message is once again “By the light of Lothal’s moons.”   

Episode 18 “Secret Cargo”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Ezra, Hera, Zeb, and Chopper are on a top-secret mission to meet with a rebel contact in deep space. They watch an inspiring speech on the HoloNet delivered by Senator Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) as she calls out the Emperor for keeping a stranglehold over the galaxy, an act for which she is accused of treason. Suddenly an Imperial probe droid appears and the Ghost decides to attack, hoping it is unable to transmit coordinates back to the Empire. Moments later, a giant rebel ship appears –it is the arrival of Gold Squadron. They seem to be secretive and somewhat unfriendly. However, the secret “cargo” is soon revealed to be none other than Senator Mon Mothma. Unfortunately, the Empire did receive the location coordinates and appears in Governor Pryce’s Star Destroyer to intercept Mon Mothma whom they have deemed a traitor. The Ghost leads some of the new TIE Defenders into the nearby Archeon Nebula and fire proton torpedoes at the nebula which causes an explosion, nearly destroying the Imperial vessels, while the rebels escape just in time. The Ghost transports Mon Mothma to Dantooine where she transmits a message to the galaxy, calling for unity among rebel forces and announcing her resignation from the Galactic Senate. In amazement, the Ghost crew watches as dozens from rebel ships appear over Dantooine –it is the birth of the Rebel Alliance!   

Episode 19 “Double Agent Droid”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The episode is a silly bit of comic relief. It plays on the disgruntled squabbling between AP-5 and Chopper as they secretly board an Imperial vessel and secure codes on behalf of the rebels. However, the Empire catches onto the game and nearly programs Copper to find the location of the rebel base. It is another filler droid episode.

Episode 20 “Twin Suns”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Trudging through the hot, arid desert of Tatooine, Maul is in search of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Meanwhile, Ezra Bridger has a vision of Maul chasing after Obi-Wan Kenobi. And without the permission of Hera and Kanan, he steals a fighter jet and heads for Tatooine. After being attacked by Jawas, Ezra and Chopper are forced to wander through the desert. On the verge of death, they are surprisingly rescued by Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Stephen Stanton). Then Obi-Wan sends Ezra and Chopper riding northward as Maul appears out of the shadows, demanding to know who Obi-Wan is protecting. Obi-Wan and Maul duel briefly but the fight is over quickly with Obi-Wan slicing Maul’s lightsaber in half. As he dies, Maul asks, “is he the chosen one?” To which Obi-Wan responds, “yes.” Maul breathes a sigh of relief and with his dying breath, he utters, “he will avenge us.”

The episode ends as Ezra returns to his “family” (i.e. the Ghost crew) while Obi-Wan keeps watch over young Luke Skywalker on Tatooine. Thus ends the arc of Darth Maul which was revived in The Clone Wars.      

Episodes 21-22 “Zero Hour Parts I & II”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Grand Admiral Thrawn brings urgent news to Governor Pryce. He mentions an impending rebel attack on the Lothal TIE factory, but when Agent Kallus (as the informant known as “Fulcrum”) attempts to warn the rebels, he is caught by Thrawn. Thanks to Kallus, the Empire now discovers the location of the rebel base on Atollon. A vast space battle ensues while, on the ground, Kanan attempts to persuade the Bendu to help in the fight. Just when things seem the most dire (the rebel ships are prevented from jumping to hyperspace), Commander Sato issues the order to abandon ship and then he sacrifices himself by crashing into a Star Destroyer. Only Ezra Bridger’s ship is able to jump to hyperspace, but when he pleads with the Rebel Alliance, Mon Mothma says there is little she can do to help. The rest of the rebels flee back to the surface of Atollon, driven downward by the Empire.

With nowhere else to turn, Ezra seeks help from Sabine and the Mandalorians while the rest of the rebels on Atollon mount a ground defense. At the last moment, the Bendu appears in a lightning storm and begins destroying Imperial forces. The Ghost crew manages to escape while Thrawn orders his forces to shoot at the center of the storm which seems to knock down the Bendu from his position in the sky. Meanwhile, Ezra and the Mandalorians inflict significant damage on Thrawn’s fleet. Agent Kallus escapes and is picked up by the Ghost –the whole remaining Phoenix Squadron jumps to hyperspace. Back on Atollon, the Bendu reveals to Thrawn that he foresees Thrawn’s forthcoming demise –his downfall will come in the form of many arms in a cold embrace…        

Return to my survey of the Star Wars series

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