When Star Wars Rebels entered its fourth season on Disney XD, the action was fast-approaching the timeline the original trilogy, and fans had to start thinking about why only two members of the Ghost were known to still be around by Rogue One. Since there were no Jedi handy to give Luke Skywalker any pointers, Kanan and Ezra seemed to be in danger of dying in the finale. Well, we now know that Ezra survived to embark on the next leg of his adventure in the galaxy far, far away, but Kanan lost his life in the second half of Season 4 in a devastating (although not altogether unexpected) twist.
Many Star Wars fans are somewhat used to characters dying in the films and then their deaths not being mourned for very long before the plot moves on. Luke didn't get to mourn Han Solo for long after he discovered his friend's death in The Last Jedi, and the very first Star Wars film ever produced didn't spend too much time on the deaths of Owen and Beru, Obi-Wan Kenobi, or even the entire population of Alderaan. While this works for the movies, viewers who had spent nearly 70 episodes watching Kanan through his highs and lows needed more than a few minutes to deal with his fate, with youngsters in particular needing time. Kanan had to give his life if he wanted to save his family, and so he did. Oh, Kanan.
Dave Filoni's decision to let Kanan die when he did allowed viewers the chance both to mourn the character and watch the rest of the Ghost crew deal with the fact that he was gone and not coming back, even as a Force ghost. The episodes following Kanan's final act of self-sacrifice saw everybody reacting in their own way, with Hera (who had a whole new reason to want Kanan around) and Ezra in particular reeling from what happened. Even knowing that they would have died if Kanan hadn't delayed the explosion of the fuel pod, they struggled to resign themselves to the tragedy, and that made sense with how people mourn in real life.
Star Wars Rebels allowed the characters to face that Kanan wasn't coming part especially in the "World Between Worlds" episode that saw Ezra given the chance to save Kanan (and therefore allow the fuel pod to explode on all of them) and Hera seeming to feel Kanan's presence on Lothal. With Ahsoka's help, Ezra was able to find some closure and not interfere with Kanan's sacrifice, and Hera understood that she wasn't going to get Kanan back. Dave Filoni went on in his chat with CinemaBlend to explain why Kanan died the way he did:
As fans, we have to suspend a fair amount of disbelief to enjoy the Star Wars ride, but the Ghost crew's reactions to Kanan's death felt very true to how people deal with real-life tragedies. As somebody who counted Kanan as my favorite Rebels character, I was certainly saddened by Kanan's death, but the way he gave his life (and was able to see Hera one last time) definitely made it meaningful. Of course, the foreshadowing of his death didn't hurt. Still, if you're going to lose your favorite character, losing him in an act of epic self-sacrifice isn't a bad way for it to happen.
In case you want to relive Kanan's final episodes, you can find Star Wars Rebels Season 4 on Blu-ray now. There's still plenty of Star Wars action coming to the small screen with Star Wars Resistance, the live-action series, and the highly-anticipated return of The Clone Wars, which will reveal ways that Star Wars Rebels impacted its new episodes. For some viewing options while we wait, take a look at our fall TV premiere guide.