Warning: Spoilers are ahead for the Star Wars Rebels series finale. Jump into hyperspace and away from this page if you haven't watched the episode yet.
I was bitter when Star Wars: The Clone Wars was canceled. The animated series is my Star Wars—it's the show that sparked my fandom and made me fall in love with the galaxy far, far away. So when Disney and Lucasfilm announced Star Wars Rebels, I was skeptical. I didn't want another animated series, I wanted more of The Clone Wars. Nothing could replace it. That's the unfair attitude Star Wars Rebels had to overcome to win my heart.
But it succeeded. From the beginning, the series emphasized the important bonds of a family that chose each other, not one related by blood. That spoke to me—shouted at me, really. Couple that with the notion of showing what the pre-Rebel Alliance insurgency was like and the presence of a cranky droid I identified with, and I couldn't stop myself from being invested.
Over the last four seasons of Rebels, I received some of the answers I needed from The Clone Wars. I was delighted to the point of flailing when Ahsoka Tano came into the picture as Fulcrum. I was heartbroken and proud when she faced Darth Vader. And to see Captain Rex again? What a gift. I couldn't count the number of times this series has made me cry from both sadness and joy. But my passion for Star Wars Rebels has never been based on seeing beloved characters from the past. It's because of the crew of the Ghost--Ezra, Sabine, Zeb, Kanan, Chopper, and Hera—and how they fought and kept going despite the nearly insurmountable odds ahead of them.
This ragtag team doubled down on hope, and in doing so, they all developed into something better and bigger. Kanan found faith in himself, as a person and as a teacher. Ezra learned what it means to be selfless. Sabine confronted her past and became more confident and capable than ever. Zeb discovered the importance of forgiveness. Hera guided them through perils and victories and became the strongest of them all.
All of those themes and lessons have been layering upon each other since the first season. The scene in the finale where Sabine lays out a plan for turning on the shield generator and asks Hera for approval wouldn't pay off in the same way without the season one episode “Out of Darkness,” in which the duo confronted trust issues between them. That's a single example in an ocean of many. This series has come together in an artistic, deliberate fashion, and that was glaringly obvious in the finale.
Star Wars Rebels can be viewed as an ensemble, but it's really Ezra Bridger's story. The show began on Lothal, and it ended on Lothal. The Empire occupation of the planet grew more oppressive over the series, and in many ways, the overarching plot has been about preparing Ezra and the Ghost team to defeat the Empire and take Lothal back. It's impossible to imagine this outcome in the first season, but by the time the final movement of the series closes, the rebels' victory feels so right, so earned.
What speaks to me most about the end of the show is how natural it all felt because of the journey we've been on. Ezra learned from Kanan and took out Grand Admiral Thrawn (we think) with a heroic decision. Given how we've seen Ezra display strong connections with creatures through the Force over the series, it's perfect that he called upon the purrgil for help. The family theme was stronger than ever as other “members” like Kallus, the clones, and Hondo Ohnaka joined the Ghost crew in battling for the planet.
And the coda. The conclusion of this story was poetic and moving. I don't know why, but I didn't expect so many happy endings. I'm thrilled to be wrong. Zeb and Kallus went off to Lira San together (and maybe as romantic partners), Hera gave birth to her and Kanan's son and kept fighting for the Rebellion, and Sabine watched over Lothal and eventually left with Ahsoka to find Ezra, who is still in the galaxy somewhere. “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story” from Hamilton kept running through my head as I listened to Sabine narrate what happened to each of the characters, the ones she and we love. We have no control over who survives or who is lost, but by trusting in friends, in family, we know who will tell our stories...and who will come search for us when the story isn't over.
Images: Lucasfilm/Disney XD
Amy Ratcliffe is an Associate Editor for Nerdist. She likes Star Wars a little. Follow her on Twitter.