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Throughout its four seasons on the air, Star Wars Rebels moved closer and closer toward the timeline of the original Star Wars trilogy, with characters ranging from Lando Calrissian to Princess Leia herself making appearances. Naturally, given that the fourth and final season would take the rebels closer than ever to the beginning of Rogue One and A New Hope, many fans wondered if the Death Star would make an appearance. Director Krennic got a name drop in Season 4, as did his "Stardust" project. Nevertheless, the Death Star never appeared, and showrunner Dave Filoni has revealed why the iconic space station remain off-screen on Rebels, saying this:
At different times in Rebels in Season 4, there was a moment where even Krennic would appear in the series, where the Death Star appeared in the series, but because our show isn't ultimately about either Krennic or the Death Star, I decided to cut those ideas from visibly showing up. I don't want to confuse the audience. I know a lot of people would know exactly how they fit. It just seemed distracting to talk about something that wasn't the primary focus of the show. It'd be distracting to bring the Death Star into it or this character Krennic. Why would we bring him in if he's not going to play a major role in this series? So I tried to avoid that yet get the idea that Thrawn is competing with how we're going to fight the rebels.
The original Death Star may be at the center of two Star Wars movies, but Rebels wasn't spending four seasons building up to the reveal of the Death Star. Rebels was about the band of rebels primarily fighting villains and threats that weren't showcased in the movies. Sure, we got Darth Vader and the Emperor and Tarkin, and Saw Gerrera's appearances teased the fact that the Empire was working on a weapon so devastating and secret that the population of Geonosis was wiped out after constructing portions of it. Still, Rebels wasn't about the Death Star or the biggest names from the movies, and so the Death Star and Krennic remained off-screen until the action of Rogue One.
Dave Filoni revealed prior to Season 4's premiere that Star Wars Rebels would not end at the Battle of Scarif despite the fact that the Ghost was part of the fighting above the planet, so his explanation in the episode commentary for "Jedi Knight" on the Star Wars Rebels Blu-ray of why the Death Star wasn't on the show isn't all that shocking. Would the end of Rebels have been nearly as impactful as it was if it had simply recreated what franchise fans had already seen on the big screen? While tying in to the next installment in the saga worked for Rogue One (slightly dodgy CGI aside), it may not have worked for the end of a series that ran for four seasons and 75 episodes.
Hey, at least Rebels didn't end on the reveal that the surviving members of the Ghost crew had decided to take a vacation on Alderaan in the finale! Although that would have answered the question of where these rebels were during the original trilogy, it would have ended the series on an even darker note than it did. Kanan's death and Ezra's disappearance were dark enough.
Unfortunately, the end of Rebels may be the last time we get to see these characters together. It stands to reason that Hera at least could pop up in the upcoming Star Wars Resistance, perhaps with Jacen in tow, and I know I'd be on board to see what happens next with Sabine and Ahsoka's mission to find Ezra after the events of Return of the Jedi. This could be covered in a book or comic, however. It remains to be seen if and how we'll get some answers. The good news is that the future is looking good for Star Wars TV. On top of Resistance, we have The Clone Wars coming back and a live-action project in the works. We may have lost Rebels, but the end of Rebels wasn't the end of the galaxy far, far away on the small screen.