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Warning: many spoilers ahead for Episodes 7 and 8 of Star Wars Rebels Season 4, called "Kindred" and "Crawler Commanders." If you're not up on everything that happened in that galaxy far, far away, feel free to check out some of our spoiler-free articles.
The fourth and final season of Star Wars Rebels is picking up steam on Disney XD, and the Ghost crew is facing more danger than ever before. In fact, the latest episode dropped some pretty big hints that the show is building to a major tragedy for the rebels in Season 4. While the good guys have enjoyed some victories over the Empire in recent episodes, the odds are that the Empire is gearing up to strike a significant blow against freedom and justice in the galaxy. Here's the latest.
The Ghost crew split up in "Kindred" and "Crawler Commanders," with Hera running the Imperial blockade over Lothal to return vital data on TIE Defenders to Rebel Command and Kanan and Co. sticking around on Lothal as a ground assault team. Hera petitioned Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, and other Rebel leaders to let her lead an attack on the TIE Defender factories on Lothal, but the leaders weren't jumping at the opportunities to attack the Imperials on Lothal, despite Hera's initial requests. Mon Mothma revealed to Hera that they were concerned because of something called "Protocol 13," which involves the Empire strategically pulling their forces from an occupied planet.
Now, the episodes didn't reveal any details about Protocol 13, but it sounds an awful lot like what happened when the Empire was gearing up to use the Death Star on Jedha in Rogue One. It was a sign that something was wrong on Jedha when the characters noticed that the Empire was pulling its troops and ships from the moon.
The reason for the retreat became clear when Jedha City was destroyed by the Empire, killing all the poor souls who hadn't been flown to safety by Imperials. In the Star Wars Rebels timeline, the destruction of Jedha hasn't actually happened yet and the Death Star is still unknown to the Rebel Alliance, but Protocol 13 could be a sign that the Empire intended to test the Death Star on another planet much earlier than either Jedha or Alderaan.
It's also possible that the Empire intends to devastate a planet without bringing the Death Star into the mix. The population of Geonosis was almost entirely wiped out when the Empire decided to get rid of the workers who may have held the secrets of the Death Star, and a broadcast in Star Wars Rebels Season 1 referred to "Base Delta Zero."
Fans of the Star Wars expanded universe will know that Base Delta Zero in previous canon referred to the complete surface destruction of a planet. It's possible that Star Wars Rebels is intending to bring in a version of Base Delta Zero with Protocol 13, although the nasty particulars would almost certainly not appear on screen. This is Disney XD we're talking about. Then again, we did see Zeb electrocuted by a whip wielded by a slaver in "Crawler Commanders," so we shouldn't rule out Rebels delving into some darkness. A Base Delta Zero could theoretically happen to Lothal or Mandalore or anywhere else.
Then there's the fact that the opening crawl of A New Hope way back in 1977 referred to the rebels as just having "won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire." We now know that victory was the climax of Rogue One, when the rebels managed to steal the Death Star Plans. If the plan to destroy the TIE Defender factories results in a huge tragedy to the people of Lothal, the mission likely wouldn't count as a victory and therefore wouldn't contradict A New Hope's opening crawl. Throw in Kanan's comment that he feels something more sinister than the TIE Defenders is happening on Lothal, and we should probably be nervous. Then again, there's another tragedy that could be coming.
Star Wars Rebels really seems to be tying off a lot of loose ends when it comes to Kanan Jarrus. The show has spent the past 3+ seasons teasing the romantic relationship between Kanan and Hera, and they finally shared an on-screen kiss in "Kindred." While they definitely deserve their brief moments of happiness, it's somewhat foreboding that the show finally delivered a kiss right before they separated, possibly forever. Rebels may have delivered a kiss just to give them one last hurrah before killing Kanan off and forcing the Ghost crew to go on without him. Whether or not the Empire goes full Base Delta Zero on Lothal remains to be seen; either way, Kanan and Co. are in a lot of danger on the ground.
Any Star Wars fan also knows that there weren't any Jedi running around the Original Trilogy other than Luke, which means that Kanan is out of commission with the main Rebellion by the time A New Hope rolls around. We already know that Hera and Chopper survive to circa Return of the Jedi, thanks to the Forces of Destiny shorts. It's difficult to imagine a scenario where Kanan would have left Hera behind for any reason other than to fight on the ground on Endor, and he was nowhere to be seen.
Basically, the writing is a little bit on the wall for poor Kanan. He even mentioned back in Season 3 that he was running out of things to teach Ezra in Season 3, and Star Wars does love killing off the mentors of young Jedi... could Kanan go the way of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi? The mention of his real name -- Caleb Dume -- in "Kindred" even indicates that Kanan is coming to terms with his tragic past before Order 66 destroyed the Jedi Order.
We'll have to wait and see. It's possible that there will be no gigantic tragedy and Kanan survives the events of Rebels and just happened to be on a mission elsewhere throughout the original trilogy. A Disney XD Star Wars show undoubtedly won't get too desperately dark. Still, I wouldn't put my money on Kanan and/or Lothal surviving intact to the series finale. New episodes of Star Wars Rebels air on Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Disney XD. Be sure to tune in to see the latest Star Wars action ahead of The Last Jedi in theaters this December.