The Stakes are Higher, The Force is Stronger, and Thrawn is Back in Star Wars Rebels, Season 3
The final moments of the second season of Star Wars Rebels are still burning bright in the memories of fans. Though they've barely had time to recuperate from the devastating last episode, for many, it's not too soon to start talking about what's going to happen in the upcoming third season. Fortunately for them, executive producer Dave Filoni, Tiya Sircar (Sabine Wren) and Sam Witwer (Darth Maul) were on hand at Star Wars Celebration Europe to dish on what's to come this fall when Rebels returns to the air. Oh, and to show off the first episode of the upcoming season.
Spoilers ahead, so if you don't want to know elements of season two or the earliest moments from season three, best to turn away now.
The biggest question hanging in the room as things began was whether or not Ahsoka made it out of her encounter with Darth Vader alive. As you can imagine, Dave Filoni was rather circuitous in his response, leaving the former Jedi's fate up in the air as much as possible. That said, Ahsoka is still on his mind just as much as she is on ours. "When it's a character I like, it's hard to kill her off," Filoni said. "I won't say in what way, but you haven't seen the last of Ahsoka."
Sure it's not a hard confirmation that she's actually alive --- Filoni did joke about how cheap it would be if he was merely alluding to a flashback scene --- but there's promise there that she might one day visit with the Ghost crew again. Filoni also quipped about how interesting it was that everyone was so concerned with Ahsoka's fate given that when she was introduced, the initial response was less than stellar. He chided the fans for giving Ezra's haircut the same treatment, adding that the fans disliked Ezra's "Aladdin haircut" but were the first to complain when he got his new buzzcut for season three.
A new haircut isn't the only thing different about Ezra this season though. He's grown up quite a bit in the gap between season two and three. At the start of the first episode of the new season, he's put together the Ghost crew's (sans Kanan) latest mission --- a jailbreak from an Imperial stockade. This being Rebels and all, things don't quite go as Ezra has planned, and the group soon finds themselves cornered by an AT-DP. With nowhere left to turn, Ezra channels the Force to take control of the AT-DP pilot's mind, then forces him to walk the bipedal mech off the platform. If you weren't already concerned Ezra may be leaning a little bit from the Light, the look on his eyes as the mech steps into the nothing will certainly give you pause.
The job gets done though, and the team gets its primary target out of the prison. This ends up only being the start of a larger plan Ezra's envisioned, which also includes breaking into a secluded Empire scrap yard where there are supposedly dozens of ships ready for the taking for the fledgling Rebellion. But where's Kanan Jarrus in all this? Back at the hideout meditating and trying to come to terms with his blindness.
That's not to say Kanan will be helpless this upcoming season, but he certainly starts out feeling that way. He's pulled away from his friends, but Dave Filoni has promised there are plenty of interesting angles to explore for the blind Jedi. He and Kanan voice actor Freddie Prinze, Jr have had numerous talks about similar stories like Zatoichi, and have some cool things in mind for Ezra's Jedi master. But Kanan had better get his act together soon, or else Ezra may find the attention he so needs as a petulant teen from other mentors that aren't quite as pure.
Yes, Darth Maul will be back, and he already views Ezra has his own apprentice, even if Ezra isn't quite so committed. "Maul is coming to grips with his life and what his purpose is," Filoni explained. "He's still evil though, so that's where we'll go with him in season three." Though Maul wasn't in the premiere episode, we did see a clip from a later episode in which Maul's maliciousness was in full effect. Hera, Zeb, Sabine and Chopper are all being held captive in Maul's asteroid base, and Ezra and Kanan arrive to retrieve them, apparently at Maul's invitation. While Ezra is escorted to his friends, Maul has other plans for Kanan, and monologues him into a false sense of security before jettisoning him from an air lock. That son of a Zabrak.
Maul's influence on Ezra is hardly the biggest problem the band of rebels will have to worry about. This season of Rebels is bringing back one of the most revered original expanded universe villains of all time to serve as a monkey in the wrench, Grand Admiral Thrawn. He'll be modernized a bit from the classic novels in which he first appeared, but don't be fooled by his appearance on an animated series. This Thrawn is as cunning, devoted and dangerous as ever. Even just from the brief moments he appears in the premiere and third season's trailer, you can tell this Thrawn is a foe that won't be trifled with, and will almost assuredly accomplish his goals of finding the rebels and stopping them once and for all.
We know he's going to fail in some respect because the Rebellion does form, the Empire does fall, and the galaxy finds peace (for a bit). Just seeing how calculating and precise Thrawn in almost makes you believe the Empire will overcome the odds in spite of fictionalized history. That's impressive.
Speaking of the Rebellion, it may not yet exist in its final form during Rebels, but the show is approaching the timeline of the original trilogy and Rogue One quickly. As such, many of the characters are reflecting those changes to better unify the film and animated universe. Hera's outfit is now much more of a uniform and she even has a rank badge on to signify her commitment to the Rebellion. Likewise, Zeb's outfit has been scaled down a bit to more resemble the way aliens dress in movies like Rogue One. It's subtle changes like this that help sell the unified universe at Lucasfilm, and it'll be interesting to see what other tricks come into play to bring the television and silver screen worlds closer together as the season progresses.
It'll be some time until we get more answers (Star Wars Rebels won't be back on Disney XD until this fall), but what we've seen so far from the new season has us amped for more Rebels action. There's still a bit of sting from last season's finale fallout, but all the new possibilities brought up at Star Wars Celebration quickly pushed our pain to the side. Thrawn's arrival, Ezra's challenges to balance the Light and Dark sides of the Force, and seeing the Rebellion continuing to form into the force we know it as from the original trilogy should provide ample entertainment. If certain characters don't get their comeuppances however *cough*Maul*cough*, we'll be back next year to let Dave Filoni know about our disappointments.
Stay tuned for more updates on Star Wars Celebration from ComicsAlliance and be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and SnapChat (username “comicsalliance”) to keep up to date with all the Episode VIII, Rogue One, and Han Solo movie news this weekend.