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Star Wars Rebels spent four seasons filling in some blank years in the Star Wars timeline with the adventures of the Ghost crew as they fought and sacrificed to fight the Empire as part of the growing Rebellion. The series was set in the years leading up to the events of A New Hope and the original movie trilogy, so viewers got to see characters and locations from the original trilogy era, even getting a glimpse of Luke Skywalker himself. Naturally, Star Wars Rebels' place in the timeline had fans wondering how far into the original trilogy era the show would go, and we ultimately learned that the finale showdown would take place before even the events of Rogue One, with only the epilogue and its big bombshell taking place later.
Showrunner Dave Filoni addressed the show's ending in an interview with CinemaBlend, and he explained what went into planning how Star Wars Rebels fit into the larger Star Wars timeline:
Well, it's really something you plan way ahead of time, and while I didn't know the exact ending, I always had a target where I wanted to get to. In Season 1 and Season 2, I used to start the big story meetings we had with 'Where are we going with this?' And they're like 'By the end of the season?' I'm like, 'No, by the end of the show. Where are we going with this? Where do we need to get to? What are we trying to say?' Because each season has to kind of build towards that and the truth is and I don't know if people like this, but you never really exactly know because so much is going to change between the first point and the last point. You generally know this kid needs to save his friends, his family, his people from the Empire, and the hardest question was how do you do that because we know Luke Skywalker does that. I didn't want to go through too far into the original trilogy. I wanted the story to kind of sit apart in its own space. There were some framework challenges and things that we knew but you really kind of sit down with a talented group of people and you just brainstorm for ideas with a general angle of mind and you come up with great things, if you're lucky, and I think we were pretty lucky and certain things fell into place.
Star Wars Rebels may be a chapter in the grand space opera that is Star Wars, but it's not a chapter in the Skywalker Saga. Even though Luke got a surprising cameo, Leia joined the crew for a mission, and Anakin as Vader made a mess of things for the good guys for a while, this was first and foremost the story of Ezra and his adopted family. Ezra's drive to do the right thing (aside from the occasional dabbling in the dark side) and save his people from the Empire drove a lot of the series, and it allowed Rebels to exist on its own without requiring major players from the original trilogy era to play a part.
All things considered, Star Wars Rebels is arguably the most clear-cut example of a standalone project in the Star Wars saga. Rogue One and Solo: A Star Wars Story were the first two standalone films, but Rogue One directly led into A New Hope and Solo filled in the backstory of one of the most iconic characters in film history. Rebels tells a whole story from beginning to end that could work even for viewers who had never seen a Star Wars movie, and Ezra was the center of the story rather than peripheral to a Skywalker or another film character. There are plenty of heroes throughout Star Wars, and Rebels showcased a whole new batch of them.
All of this said, Star Wars Rebels also managed to answer some questions left over from The Clone Wars and leading in to Rogue One and the original trilogy. Rebels told us what happened to Maul after the end of Clone Wars, showcased some of Saw Gerrera's efforts to learn the truth about the Death Star, used the TIE Defenders to prove that the Empire didn't actually intend to put all of their evil eggs in the Death Star basket, and gave us more of characters like Mon Mothma. Throw in the epic original characters that made up the Ghost crew, and Star Wars Rebels was an engaging ride that enriched Star Wars as a whole. Even Kanan's death is somewhat less heartbreaking due to the Jacen twist in the series' epilogue. Plus, Rebels gave us Loth-cats. What's not to love about Loth-cats?
Sadly, the engaging ride that is Rebels has come to an end, but this is Star Wars we're talking about. No one's ever really gone in Star Wars. Who knows? If we're lucky, maybe even Kanan can come back in his own way. Dave Filoni has already said that the new episodes of The Clone Wars will be different because of Rebels for some big reasons, and we can look forward to seeing some of the most popular characters on Rebels back on the small screen. While I'm going to cross my fingers that Caleb Dume will be one of them, I'll be perfectly happy with more Ahsoka and Rex.
In addition to the return of The Clone Wars, Star Wars TV fans can look forward to Star Wars Resistance and the upcoming live-action Star Wars series on the Disney streaming service. If you need some viewing options beyond the galaxy far, far away, take a look at our fall premiere schedule. If you want to relive some Rebels fun, check out the fourth season of Star Wars Rebels available on Blu-ray now.