The first episode of season three of Disney XD’s and Lucasfilm’s hit animated television show Star Wars Rebels drops on September 23. I am nearly as excited for Rebels as I am for Rogue One. This is largely due to the return of one of my favorite characters from the Legends books, Grand Admiral Thrawn. I was a big fan of the old Legend books and own every one book published up until 2001. That may be bit of a dubious honor to admit. Having Grand Admiral Thrawn become cannon again is fantastic fan service for loyal fans of the old books.
Thrawn is one of the biggest draws to the season and I’m excited to see how he’s used. I don’t think Dave Filoni and the story group will use him frivolously, and I don’t think he will be a single season villain. He will be the main villain for the season, and probably defeated, but not killed. I have hopes he may fail to complete his task and the Rebels ultimately succeed in the season, but he is just sent to the outer rim or unexplored space to patrol so he can be used again. The story group might even have Thrawn succeed to a degree against our team of Rebels and end this season on a darker note as Empire Strikes Backs does. This would take guts for a show still primarily aimed at kids, but it still could be done. The possibilities with Thrawn are immense and I am beyond excited he is being introduced to a larger audience who may have never read the legends books.
Besides Thrawn one other major story to follow is Ezra’s path and if he will turn to the dark side. All last season I thought he wasn’t going to turn, but it’s hard to dispute him turning now. The only thing I will offer is that Filoni may be setting us up to think he is going to go dark, and instead have him reject the turn and stay on the light side as Luke does. He is going to flirt with it greatly this season, without a doubt, and be pushed by Maul to embrace dark elements. We have already seen a glimpse of this in a clip from the season where Ezra takes control of a Stormtrooper’s mind who is driving an AT-ST (or an AT-ST like vehicle) and starts killing other troopers while controlling the trooper and the vehicle. While Obi-Wan and other Jedi have influenced the weak minded, they never did anything like this. It may still be a grey area, but it borders on the darker side of the force. I’m still not one hundred percent certain he is going to turn, but it is certainly setup for him too.
Kanan’s loss of eyesight and the struggles he will have to go through will only add to Ezra’s chances of turning. Kanan will have to go on his own journey of discovery after losing his eyesight and won’t be able to help Ezra with his training. I had entertained the theory last year that Kanan would be the Jedi to fall to the dark side after a loss, and the loss of his eyesight might send him down this path. I doubt it, but if Hera were to be killed as well he could be pushed over the edge and Ezra may be the only one to prevent his fall. It would be an interesting twist and one many people would not expect, but I doubt they go down this path with a show whose primary audience is again for kids.
Rogue One could also have an impact on this season of Rebels. I think the first half of the season could focus on the team discovering the Death Star. They set this up last season when they went to Geonosis and found the system devoid of life. They questioned why the system had been eradicated, but it didn’t go any farther than that episode. I think since the team has set up a base they could now start to investigate what the Empire is up to and why they need so many resources. It would be a great tie in for fans of the show if the crew of the Ghost are the ones to discover the building of the Death Star. They don’t have to discover what it does, but just that it exists and know more must be found out about it. The discovery could play right up until the mid-season break and then Rogue One would be released.
The season would still continue, and still take place before the events of Rogue One and Episode Four. The team would just be pulled away from finding more about the Death Star. The last half of the season would be where Thrawn would have the greatest impact, and start to close around the crew of the Ghost. Thrawn could use the crew’s discovery of the Death Star against them and lure them into a trap when they are eager to learn more about the new secret space station. They can go almost anywhere with Thrawn and from the small amount I’ve seen of him it seems they are on the perfect tract for the character.
This season of Rebels has the potential to be the best of the previous two, and that is more because of how well they have built the first two seasons of the show. Filoni has a plan for where the show is going, and he has built the narrative extremely well. The show is simply for Star Wars fans even if it is found on Disney XD. People who haven’t jumped on bored the bandwagon there is plenty of room, and there isn’t a better time to get caught up and enjoy the new season.