– Spoiler Review –
While the overall outcome of Star Wars Rebels‘ Season Three Finale, “Zero Hour,” isn’t too surprising, everything in the middle provides plenty of thrills, a surprise or two, reasons to fear the military prowess of Grand Admiral Thrawn and Hera Syndulla, dark hints at some character’s fates, and set up for story threads in what is surely going to be the show’s biggest season yet. In short, “Zero Hour” is a finale that feels epic in size and scope, wrapping up S3 in fantastic fashion.
Grand Admiral Thrawn has been a threat hanging over the entirety of the season, as each victory by our heroes was colored by the knowledge Thrawn was all too happy to learn something from the experience. His big attack on Atollon, precipitated by finally springing the trap on Agent Fulcrum Kallus (and some helpful information from spies and an ancient civilization’s art-ful maps), does not disappoint as he rains hell-fire on Phoenix Squadron’s fleet, personnel, and base. Of course there are things that not even Thrawn can plan for, and it’s mainly over zealous Imperials and something called the Bendu (who I honestly kind of forgot about), so without those things I’m sure he could’ve enacted an even bigger defeat of the rebel forces. Make no mistake about it, this is a damning defeat for the rebels, though enough of them (and the ones we care about) escaped to rally and fight another day, but with Thrawn still out there and his successful attack still being a pain in everyone’s side, it’ll be interesting to see how Rebel Command deems to continue the fight against the Empire (until their first big win at Scarif). As much as some of the unknowns didn’t help Thrawn’s cause, it was his assigned mission (by Tarkin) to capture prisoners and Thrawn’s need for a grand victory that also hindered some of his deadly tactics, as had he just pushed that orbital bombardment for a few more seconds everyone on this show besides Ezra and Sabine would’ve been Atollon toast (which almost seemed too lucky/writer driven he didn’t than just Thrawn being Thrawn but I’ll let it slide considering everything else was so damn grand). And while Thrawn does live to fight another day, he has a brief interaction with the Bendu (after shooting him out of the sky…or something) that strikes at Thrawn’s core: Bendu says he sees what Thrawn can’t, which as we all know Thrawn believes he can see everything to some extent, which is he knows exactly how Thrawn is defeated, “…like many arms surrounding you in a cold embrace.” This sets up some interesting potential for S4, as we might find Thrawn distracted in his attack on the rebellion as he searches for Bendu to uncover how he’s defeated, which I’m sure would tie into his eventual death as well, so he can avoid it…or we’ll see that in some other media instead. So far the big bads of each season don’t return for the following season (the Grand Inquisitor died in S1, though he kind of came back; Vader wandered off to do Vader things once Ahsoka was out of the picture at the end of S2), but does that mean Thrawn will follow suit or will we see his blazing red eyes for another season? I feel like if he stays on the attack and therefore this show, no Rebellion would be safe on Yavin until the events of A New Hope, so it is possible his continued story won’t be told on Rebels anymore. Either way, Thrawn isn’t going anywhere for awhile and there’ll be plenty of him in the future of Star Wars, while I feel like Rebels did him justice as much as they could on the show so far.
We’ve been looking for the moment Hera Syndulla earns her right to be called General by the time of Rogue One and I’d hazard a guess to say her actions and leadership here are exactly what earns her that promotion. As great as it was to see Thrawn unleashed after all his patience this season, it was even better to see Hera meeting him head-on in the theater of war, where she makes sound decisions leading to the Rebellion’s escape at the end, showing off the leadership capabilities we’ve known she’s had since we first met her. This is as much her episode as it is Thrawn’s to shine, and while she benefits from the unknowns Thrawn couldn’t plan for, it’s never an easy thing and every little victory and moment of hope feels well-earned, causing me to cheer with her, fear with her, and root for her along the way. Vanessa Marshall brings her all to Hera in kind (like usual), making the emotional highs and the emotional lows even more so, respectively, and we’re damn lucky to have her masterful voice-work. What I loved even more about Hera here is that not only could she command the fleet and rebel resources around her, but her concern and love for her Space Family didn’t get in the way of her command and instead actually helped her focus and gave her the support where/when she needed it. If she’s not a General in S4, I’ll be shocked.
Speaking of leading ladies of the Rebellion, boy was it great to see Sabine (and Ursa Wren, too) back! Despite being in the middle of a civil war for Mandalore, with Clan Saxon and the Empire against them, Sabine still finds time for her other family, something even Sabine’s mom supports due to the debt she owes them for bringing Sabine back home in the first place (but no thanks from Tristan here, sadly making it clear not every Wren can be cool I guess). Her and the Mandos make an important contribution to the escape of Phoenix Squad by blowing up the final Interdictor (which, let’s face it, those things are so gorgeous every time they explode it should go without saying Sabine needs to be there for it), but I love how Sabine ends the season still committed to her actual family and fighting their war for control of Mandalore, once again leaving the Ghost crew which maybe will get a bigger focus next season since I feel like Rebellion activities will have a tighter leash after the losses suffered above and on Atollon.
Kanan and Ezra share a Space Dad and Space Son moment very early on in the episode and they share one at the episode’s end, giving the whole episode a nice bookend feel to it; In the beginning, Kanan admits he might not have much more to teach Ezra in the ways of the Force, complimenting the young Jedi on how he’s grown (did he forget all his regresses this season?), but Ezra doesn’t care so much about the powers and Jedi training anymore (so Obi-Wan’s words are sticking with Ezra for now, phew!) and wants to learn more about being a good person from Kanan instead. It’s a cute moment for the two to be sure, but it has some interesting subtext as it could signal they’ll be moving away from the Jedi path and trying to destroy the Sith, instead focusing more on assisting the Rebellion in all that it does, an assessment I feel is backed up by Kanan’s final words to Ezra here about them having to do something to gain the eventual freedom he sees for them (instead of running off to do Jedi things). But there might be something in the way of that freedom, and something that could cause serious harm for the two Jedi trying to focus less on that path: Bendu…but more on him in a bit. While I wish S3 had truly dived into Kanan and Hera’s relationship like originally promised, if they aren’t Space Married I’ll be well and truly shocked considering “Twin Suns” showed him not sleeping in his own bunk and boy does “Zero Hour” have some great moments for the two throughout, especially when Kanan’s unwilling to leave Hera to go out and seek help but he acquiesces since she’s the stronger of the two and convinces him it’s the right thing to do. Ugh, there relationship is so beautiful and there’s not been a single PDA seen yet.
As mentioned before, Thrawn springs the trap they set for Kallus, who gets to spend much of the episode looking disheveled and beat up as Thrawn’s prisoner. But even when he’s down, he’s not out, as he taunts and laughs his way through his captivity throughout, making me like Kallus even more so than before. Heck, in his one-on-one battle with Thrawn in the beginning (which I love that Thrawn came out to do such dirty work himself), he gets a great quip against Thrawn, “You talk too much,” and holds his own for the most part before Thrawn takes him down. All season it’s been a guessing game if Kallus would perish and I’m pretty surprised but very excited about his ultimate outcome here, as he’s now officially part of the Rebellion!! Once Thrawn leaves Pryce in charge of the fleet to hand some whoop-ass to the rebels on the ground, Kallus plays into Pryce’s weaknesses and gets her to send him off to his death, where he manages to escape custody and get into an escape pod. This is a fantastic wrap-up of his story from this season as the new Fulcrum and I’m excited to see what his military background and Imperial knowledge can bring to the table for the Rebellion in S4; Mayhaps he’ll have some important information about a certain Wobani Labor Camp to get Jyn Erso freed in the future? While I doubt it, there are some interesting possibilities like that with Kallus as a full time defector now, but at the same time his information could be proven moot if they change things up knowing he’s fully switched sides/out of their control.
Alright, so like I said earlier I had kind of forgotten about Bendu because the show decided he wasn’t really needed anymore and while interesting, he hadn’t really been a character I liked or disliked so far…you could say he’s been in the middle for me! Puns aside, and before we focus on Bendu’s actions this episode, I need to address something: KANAN AND EZRA DIDN’T TELL ANYONE ABOUT BENDU?!?!?! I’m so confused right now…why keep Bendu from their family? Fear he’d be used by the Rebellion? Fear everyone would think they are crazy? This revelation felt so out of the blue and so surprising, it just didn’t make any sense in an episode that made a whole lot of sense with the rest of the season and I’ll be scratching my head about it for a long time. Anyways, Kanan goes to Bendu for help, but the one in the middle won’t take sides and gets pretty pissed when Kanan calls him a coward for doing so, which the mysterious Force-being follows up with puffing up into smoke and threateningly saying he serves only the will of the Force. As surprising and weird as everything with Bendu gets, I do appreciate that he stays in the middle throughout, as his storm attack (where he becomes a giant, deadly thunderstorm I guess) thwarts Thrawn’s capture of the rebels (seriously, he was SUPER close to ending our heroes) but also lays waste to some of the Rebellion’s things and doesn’t let them escape the planet easily. Besides his ominous words to Thrawn, he also seems to call out threateningly to Kanan as they flee the planet (where Hera saves him from Bendu’s wrath, natch), which makes me wonder if Bendu will be a recurring element next season as a threat to Kanan and Ezra, as he didn’t seem happy at all for how they ruined his peaceful Atollon. Maybe he’ll just chill there and we can put the Bendu behind us, but I have a funny feeling between Thrawn curious about his fate and the Jedi on his naughty list Bendu will be part of S4.
Yavin IV, folks! Yup, the remaining remnants of Phoenix Squad are heading to Yavin IV by the end of the episode, which puts this even closer and closer to the events of Rogue One/A New Hope. As I’ve mentioned above, not only do I think we’ll see Hera get her promotion after they arrive, but we’ll see the crew go from Rebellion missions to more personal missions, as activities against the Empire will be under much more scrutiny from the Rebellion themselves. In fact, I’d say we’ll finally see the Rebellion become an Alliance in S4 thanks in part by the loses suffered by Phoenix Squadron and to ensure the Rebellion’s continued safety and existence through strength in numbers and goals. It might be something that’ll come at the end of the next season, or heck it could happen early on, but I don’t think it’ll be an easy thing to pull everyone together (as Rogue One showed them still pretty divided even after doing so). With that in mind, I’m even more curious to see how many more people learn Kanan and Ezra are Jedi in the Rebellion, which would make it harder and harder for us to believe no one mentions them to Luke after they learn he’s on the Jedi path too, though my predicition about their push away from Jedi stuff might hold the answer. In the end, season three was just the beginning of putting our heroes into a much larger world and S4 will probably contain the biggest step yet after the events of “Zero Hour.”
Here are a few other things:
- How about the action this episode? Holy Force, did they take everything to the next level. The space battle felt truly epic for the show’s capabilities, putting tons action on screen at once but still making it easy to follow and exciting to watch. Likewise, the ground battle and Bendu attack where true sights to behold, but I think my favorite sight from the episode will be the orbital bombardment as seen from inside Sabine’s makeshift shield (which she had repurposed from the one they found on Geonosis) as seen in the top image of this review.
- I’ll admit, I got pretty choked up when Commander Sato made the ultimate sacrifice in taking out the first of the Interdictors so Ezra could go get help. It was such an awesome, noble move for the character, while highlighting the threat Thrawn poses and the threat the Empire’s own people who aren’t Thrawn pose for Empire’s fight against the Rebellion. RIP SATO! I’m sure Iron Squad will avenge thee! Also, good riddance Konstantine.
- It was pretty cool to have General Dodonna on the show, though he didn’t do too much. Sure we’ll spend more time with him going forward, though.
- There’s a nice little interview with Vanessa Marshall on Hera and Rebels (released prior to the finale, so no spoilers) over at the official site. I loved her assertion this episode that if she’s going down, it’s on the Ghost. Let’s hope that day is long away, if it ever happens.
- Zeb, Rex, and Wedge all get a bit of the short end of the stick this episode, but considering how busy it already was, there were going to be some characters who wouldn’t get a big highlight so it’s not terribly surprising or disappointing. They had their moments throughout the season in their character-led episodes, at least.
- I’ve not mentioned him as much as I should, but Kevin Kiner has been an absolute beast with his music all season and he doesn’t disappoint in “Zero Hour.” My favorite part had to be how he played the familiar motif for the Rebellion early in the episode in such subtle way it made the moment feel like just a precursor to the real thing since we were just seeing Phoenix Squad and not the whole Rebellion together.
- Before this season began to air, I put together a piece on Governor Pryce that explored how the various media she’s been in explained more about her and her goals. I had hoped S3 here would answer or at least reveal a little more, but alas it didn’t go any further into her character than just having her be another Imperial on the show. She’s still alive by the end of the season so it’s possible there’s more to come with her in S4 and she’ll be part of the upcoming Thrawn novel so perhaps we’ll get more details there. Either way, I’ll update my article about her accordingly once new information arrives.
- The Rebels Recon for “Zero Hour” talks a lot about the technigues used to animate everything from Bendu-storm to the giant space battle, most the cast/crew picks “Trials of the Darksaber” as their favorite episode (I’m right there with them), and S4 teases include: Mandalore, X-wings, Saw Gerrera and Mon Mothma, and so much more! Stick through to the end to see a haunting concept art image!
- UPDATE: Dave Filoni sat down with Eric at IGN for a GIANT post-mortem of the season, discussing whether or not they ever planned to kill off Kallus, keeping Thrawn a threat, writing “Trials of the Darksaber,” reiterating Obi-Wan’s talk of the Chosen One is just what he believes, and so much more!
- Once again, Lorna_ka delivers a truly epic piece of Rebels fan art:
— Ksenia Z. (@lorna_ka) March 25, 2017
Star Wars Rebels‘ Season Three Finale, “Zero Hour,” delivered on many fronts, especially in the battle of wits between Thrawn and Hera, while wrapping up a strong season, keeping the focus on the crew, and ending it all by putting things in motion for what is sure to be the show’s biggest season yet later this year.
+ Thrawn and Hera go head to head
+ Wraps up and deals with many threads from S3
+ Sets up for an even bigger world ahead for Ghost crew and the show in S4!
+ Felt truly epic from start to finish
– Still in the middle about Bendu
STAR WARS REBELS REVIEWS:
Season One: Spark of Rebellion | Ep. 2: “Droids In Distress” | Ep.3: “Fighter Flight” | Ep.4: “Rise of the Old Masters” | Ep.5: “Breaking Ranks” | Ep.6: “Out of Darkness” | Ep.7: “Empire Day” | Ep.8: “Gathering Forces” | Ep.9: “Path of the Jedi” | Ep.10: “Idiot’s Array” | Ep.11: “Vision of Hope” | Ep.12: “Call to Action” | Ep.13: “Rebel Resolve” | Ep.14: “Fire Across the Galaxy“
Season Two: The Siege of Lothal | Ep. 2: “The Lost Commanders” | Ep. 3: “Relics of the Old Republic” | Ep. 4: “Always Two There Are” | Ep. 5: “Brothers of the Broken Horn” | Ep. 6: “Wings of the Master” | Ep. 7: “Blood Sisters” | Ep. 8: “Stealth Strike” | Ep. 9: “The Future of the Force” | Ep. 10: “Legacy” | Ep. 11: “A Princess on Lothal” | Ep. 12: “The Protector of Concord Dawn” | Ep. 13: “Legends of the Lasat” | Ep. 14: “The Call” | Ep. 15: “Homecoming” | Ep. 16: “The Honorable Ones” | Ep. 17: “Shroud of Darkness” | Ep. 18: “The Forgotten Droid” | Ep. 19: “The Mystery of Chopper Base” | Ep. 20: “Twilight of the Apprentice“
Season Three: Steps into Shadow | Ep. 2: “Holocrons of Fate” | Ep. 3: “The Antilles Extraction” | Ep. 4: “Hera’s Heroes” | Ep. 5: “The Last Battle” | Ep. 6: “Imperial Supercommandos” | Ep. 7: “Iron Squadron” | Ep. 8: “The Wynkahthu Job” | Ep. 9: “An Inside Man” | Ep. 10: “Visions and Voices” | Ep. 11: “Ghosts of Geonosis” | Ep. 12: “Warhead” | Ep. 13: “Trials of the Darksaber” | Ep. 14: “Legacy of Mandalore” | Ep. 15: “Through Imperial Eyes” | Ep. 16: “Secret Cargo” | Ep. 17: “Double Agent Droid” | Ep. 18: “Twin Suns“
Season Four: Ep.1/2: “Heroes of Mandalore” Part One / Part Two | Ep. 3/4: “In the Name of the Rebellion” | Ep. 5: “The Occupation” | Ep. 6: “Flight of the Defender” | Ep. 7/8: “Kindred” and “Crawler Commandeers” | Ep. 9: “Rebel Assault” | Ep. 10/11: “Jedi Night” & “DUME” | Ep. 12/13: “Wolves and a Door” & “A World Between Worlds” | Ep. 14/15 Series Finale “A Fool’s Hope” & “Family Reunion – and Farewell”