Star Wars Rebels: “Zero Hour” Season 3 Finale Review

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Wow. Star Wars Rebels‘ third season finale was a tight, intense hour that felt like the inverse of Rogue One in a plethora of ways. Make no mistake, Thrawn may have been at least partially thwarted, but “Zero Hour” showcased a crippling defeat for this would-be Rebellion.

One thing this episode did replicate from Rogue One is the skin-of-their-teeth feel of the Rebellion. That film and Rebels share a goal in fleshing out the very existence of the Rebellion, something the latter has succeeded at in spades (Hera Syndulla is ten times more memorable than Jyn Erso). But with the early formations of the Rebel Alliance the focus of this show, it makes sense that the attack on Lothal would be the heroes’ eyes getting too big for their stomachs.

“Zero Hour” appropriately starts things off with Kallus getting caught by Thrawn mid-transmission to the Rebels. Their hand-to-hand duel was a great way to give this face-off the clandestine gravitas it’s been treated with all season. There on out, it was legitimately worrisome to see Kallus in shackles behind Thrawn as he mounted his restrained offensive.

Yes, naturally, it wasn’t the Rebels who attacked, but who got attacked. Lothal will have to wait for another day, as the Empire is on the doorstep of Phoenix Squadron’s base. With Mon Mothma still too tied to the Senate to provide any real assistance, it’s up to the crew of the Ghost to find all the extra help they can get. It’s cliche at this point in big battles to have one of the heroes go off and find another resource that comes in at the last minute and saves the day (Lord of the Rings does it twice), but Rebels subverted this cliche in a number of clever ways.

Firstly, with Ezra barely even able to break off from dogfights above the planet to go ask for help, Commander Sato makes a heroic sacrifice to give him room. The death of a major character, while surprisingly emotional here, states the reality of the situation. Ezra is then denied help from the most logical source, the other Rebel cells, so he follows his heart.

Since we last saw Sabine, her family has since entered a civil war for Mandalore, making resources thin. But Sabine convinces her mother to let her take a few fighters and warriors just to help make enough room for what’s left of the Rebel fleet to escape. The fight on the outside of the Imperial ship was dynamic and tense. Having Mandalorians around makes any action sequence better, but there was a genuine horror in what was happening to the Rebellion in “Zero Hour,” making any chance of escape that much more thrilling.

Meanwhile, Kanan hopes to enlist a less traditional kind of help. Bendu’s allegiances have always been very clearcut since he was introduced. He’s the middle, servicing neither light nor dark. But now, war strikes his planet. Initially, as the storm swelled around him before Kanan pleading for help, I thought Bendu would merely realize he had slipped too far into the dark, coming back to help. What really ended up happening was much more interesting. In a moment of defeat, Thrawn and his deathtroopers(!!) surround Kanan, Hera, Rex, and a few key others. But a storm approaches, with Bendu’s eyes leading within the clouds, and lighting starts taking out the AT-ATs. But Kanan isn’t spared, as the Ghost has to escape Bendu’s lighting strikes as well, ensuring that this creature stays aligned where he’s meant to.

Bendu’s death, however, points to a lot of things. It’s incredibly satisfying to have this Force-sensitive being speaking to Thrawn about things he couldn’t possibly comprehend. This seemingly all-knowing foe has frequently shown himself to be arrogant and pretentious. Taking him down a peg, especially with Bendu’s laugh and disappearance after Thrawn kills him, was an unexpected reward from this outstanding episode.

As for the Rebels, they’re left to regroup. With so many losses, it’s oddly comforting to see so many people aboard the Ghost just helping each other pick up the pieces. The moment between Kanan and Kallus was particularly sweet, as former adversaries have come to help and guide each other to an eventual victory. AP-5 indicates that, from here, they go to Yavin. We know that’s where the future of the Rebellion lies. This defeat was not in vain, but an integral step in the Star Wars mythos, one that weaved in the purpose of Rebels‘ cast practically flawlessly. For that, it stands among the show’s best. Finale Grade: A/Season Grade: B+

Some Other Notes:

  • Season three of Rebels was far from perfect, but it did have quite the collection of phenomenal episodes toward the end there. The show now is officially about the Rebellion, which oddly is better suited for the show than season two acting more like Clone Wars season seven. Still, these seasons could be tighter.
  • Rebels takes place five years before A New Hope, which places the Battle of Scarif in Rogue One around a theoretical season five finale. So where does that leave season four? The civil war on Mandalore is one place the show has to go.
  • Don’t forget, Bendu is not the only character on Rebels who declared themself in the middle. Still waiting on that promised Ahsoka return, Filoni.
  • Thanks for reading all season! We’ll most definitely be back for season four in the fall.

By Matt Dougherty

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