Celebration Orlando 2017: ‘Star Wars Rebels’ Press Conference Highlights

Following the Star Wars Rebels panel at Star Wars Celebration Orlando, many of us came away asking a variety of questions pertaining to season four. Mine in particular focused more on Ezra, Kanan, and the Force. We know Grand Admiral Thrawn will be back for the next season, but what sort of personal enemy will the Force users of the series encounter? In season one, it was the Grand Inquisitor. In season two, it was a mix between Darth Vader and the Inquisitors. In season three, it was Maul. With most of these characters no longer in play, what sort of challenges will Master and Padawan face?

My opportunity to ask this question at the Star Wars Rebels press conference didn’t happen, but a handful of other questions were asked that gave us small hints as to what expect in season four.

“Thrawn in season four is operating from a position of victory,” said Dave Filoni, referring to the blow he brought down on the Ghost crew and Phoenix Squadron in the season three finale. “He’s also tempered their aggressive tendency, which you see the aftereffects of all the way into Rogue One, where they’re incredibly hesitant to actually fight on a bigger scale.”

(Photo: Lucasfilm)

Hearing that blew my mind. When I first watched Rogue One, my initial reaction to that scene with the meeting on Yavin 4 was “Why aren’t they acting on the information Jyn Erso brought them?” Obviously, the fact that she was a criminal without evidence didn’t work in her favor, but the time to act was upon them and the rebels chose not to fight. We know the reason for that now and that’s because of what happened on Atollon.

“I think it’s interesting to see the effects of Thrawn, which is what you want. You want him to be a very important character and to be a villain that’s affecting everything, so he’s operating from a position of having total control of Lothal now,” said Filoni, pointing out a location that we will inevitably go back to next season because the rebels have unfinished business there.

After all, they spent a good portion of the third season amassing the resources necessary to attack the Imperial forces on Lothal and destroy the TIE Defender factory. By the end of the season, their spirits are shaken, but their resolve isn’t broken. Ezra is an example.

(Photo: Lucasfilm)

“I think Ezra realized what his calling was and is and that he needs to go back to the place he’s from and help out his people of Lothal,” said Taylor Gray, as he spoke about how Sabine’s determination to help her own people served as a role model for his character. “I would say watching Sabine’s trajectory through season 3 helped define part of who Ezra is and who he’s becoming, as well.”

The bigger question currently haunting the audience? What’s going to happen to Ezra and Kanan? The fact that they are Force sensitive doesn’t matter because there are plenty of Force sensitive individuals in the galaxy. What does matter is that they’re on the path of the Jedi. Technically, they can survive past A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back because the most quoted reason for them to be written out of the picture happens in Return of the Jedi, when Yoda tells Luke that he will be the last of the Jedi once he’s gone.

Of course, none of those details were discussed, since the Filoni and the cast would have danced around such topics, but Gray did briefly talk about what situation Ezra would find himself in next season.

“Season two was really him toying with the dark side and seeing what possibilities lie there,” he said, and luckily for the Ezra fans out there, he turned away from those influences and learned to be more selfless. “He’s kind of in a place where he has to make a decision as to who he wants to be, but season 3 was a lot of realizing what his role was and seeing that sometimes he’s going to have to step up and burden all the responsibility that need be, and other times, he’s going to sit back and Sabine will take over. I think he’s grown up a lot and matured and that’s been the fun part of playing this character because if you look at the very first episode, he’s come so far and he’s changed a lot. It’s been super cool, so season 4 is interesting because a lot of decisions are made for Ezra.”

(Photo: Lucasfilm)

Freddie Prinze, Jr., wasn’t there with the rest of his crew to talk about where Kanan is headed next, but his relationship with Hera was briefly mentioned. While hints of a past relationship exist here and there, we didn’t see much in terms of Hera and Kanan interacting during the third season—and with good reason. There are clearly more important things to focus on, and Hera’s mind has always been fixed on the fight against the Empire. That said, there’s no denying the fact that these two characters share a deep bond with each other, and season four will have more moments shared between them.

“It’s obvious that they’ve had a connection and that is explored further,” said Vanessa Marshall. “I think I probably should just leave it there, but I think many fans who’ve been rooting for ‘space married’ will find it very moving.”

While I do love the Hera and Kanan relationship, I was more interested in learning more about Hera herself and her direction in season four. In the panel, she mentioned that Hera’s focus is even sharper, especially after the losses in the season three finale. She was also instrumental during that battle, giving out orders left and right and coming face to face with Thrawn himself. Her skill and perseverance clearly don’t go unnoticed, so I’m glad Filoni caved in just a bit and revealed that Hera will receive her promotion to General before the series ends. He and the team also changed the original narration of the season four trailer from Kanan to Hera. After all, she’s the one who brought everyone together and championed the cause since an early age.

Someone else who’s been fighting for the greater good for a long time is Captain Rex. In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, he was fighting because that’s what he was bred to do. Now, he’s involved because that’s what he wants to do.

“He’s part of this rebellion now,” said Filoni. “For the first time, if you think about it, he’s fighting for something he actually believes in. Not something he’s programmed to believe in. He believed in the Republic, but the Republic didn’t exist. The Republic, because of Palpatine, was a lie and he was created through deception, but he’s empowered himself.”

(Photo: Lucasfilm)

That was so beautifully said, especially since Rex is one of my favorite characters, but the best answer to come out of the press conference also came from Filoni and it touched on the Force.

“The Force is the core of Star Wars, and you have to be careful when you answer too many questions about it. Belief in the Force itself is part of what drives it. Not everyone in the Star Wars universe believes in it, which is interesting because its actions and abilities are on display quite often. So you think, ‘Well, why doesn’t everybody believe in it?’ What’s so hard about Han Solo that he doesn’t believe in the Force when the Jedi Knights weren’t so long ago as we find out in the prequels? Because it takes discipline and training and practice and commitment and faith to believe in this thing that gives you power—that flows through you. It’s in all of you. You all have it. It’s just that some people, like Anakin, are more gifted and that’s great, but it’s also dangerous. And I think what we’ll explore in season four is we get to the depth of Kanan’s commitment and Ezra’s commitment to the Force.”

Commitment to the Force! How committed are Kanan and Ezra to it? How will that affect them moving forward? As much as I’m excited to explore Mandalore next season, I’m more anxious and intrigued by Ezra and Kanan’s fates as well as their connection to the Force.

“It’s that ultimate choice,” Filoni continued. “Do you become more dangerous and fall to wickedness, or do you, in the face of fear, return to good? Fear is the root of all evil. Fear destroys everything. Fear makes you make decisions you would not make. Fear makes you think you’re making good decisions and they’re poor decisions because you’re afraid. And if you take nothing else away from Star Wars, you should make no decision out of fear … You stand on your commitment and … that inspires the [hope and] love, which is something that evil does not understand. That’s the core of Star Wars and that is the power that you can’t possibly imagine when you’re evil, that Obi-Wan speaks of. So maybe we’ll get into that, I don’t know.”

They will, without a doubt, get into that, and I eagerly look forward to seeing the story play out they way they have envisioned it, but it’s going to be a rough and emotional ride in season four.

“There will be episodes … that have somewhat of a somber ending, but you have to go through those things with the characters and as the characters to get to some type of conclusion of perhaps joy and feeling of victory,” said Filoni, reminding us yet again how we should prepare ourselves for the worst and hope for the best. “It’s part of the narrative that we have these ups and downs, but I think always Star Wars represents a happy thing—a thing that exhilarates people, a thing that gives you hope, a thing that makes you feel like you can attack the day better, a thing that inspires you, inspires kids. That’s always been the goal that Simon [Kinberg] and I had with this show. It’s to inspire all of you guys and especially the kids in the audience. So I’m working towards that end. It doesn’t mean there won’t be probably tragic things and difficult things along the way, but that’s the journey of the hero and the journey of us all, so I think it’ll be a good season.”

I think it will be, too.

What are your thoughts on what was said at the press conference? What question would you have asked, if you had been given the chance? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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