With each passing year, Star Wars Rebels gets bigger both in terms of content and fans. Season three looks to be no different, especially with the show bringing us into the larger Rebellion, the introduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn (!!) to canon, the crew changing due to the events on Malachor in the S2 finale, a deeper dive in Sabine’s life, Wedge Antilles joining the Rebellion, and Maul’s continued presence being a thorn in everyone’s side. Once you’re done with your fiftieth viewing of the trailer above head down below for more details learned about S3 from the panel.
Please Note: if you’re interested to learn more about the season three premiere, I won’t be discussing that here (at least not with spoilers) and you’ll have to check out my review of Steps Into Shadow for more on its strengths…and weaknesses.
Let’s get the moment many Expanded Universe/Legends fans and actually pretty much any fan of Star Wars has been dying to hear since they wiped the canon clean in 2014: Grand Admiral Thrawn will appear in Star Wars Rebels season three! Not only that, but Timothy Zahn himself, the man responsible for the character and the oft-coveted Thrawn Trilogy of yesteryear (which is still a highly recommended read, canon or not), is writing a novel simply titled Thrawn, due next April. Wow! This hasn’t quite sunk in yet and I still get the chills the moment Thrawn steps out of the shadows (nice wordplay with the S3 premiere title, hey?) in the trailer, making me wonder if that’ll ever wear off. In the press conference the following morning, Dave Filoni stressed that they’ll be careful on how to use Thrawn (and even Maul) as having them lose week in and week out would diminish their threat and in no way shape or form do they want that to happen to Thrawn (like it happened to General Grievous a bit in The Clone Wars). Filoni was pretty forthcoming, at least seemingly more than usual, during the panel and Q&A, about Thrawn. Tidbits he revealed include: there’s no ysalamiri, a decision which comes from discussions in the past with George Lucas about the nature of the Force and any living thing’s connection to it; the Chiss’ inclusion in the show was organic, as it’s now the right time and place for the Ghost crew to be in a position to face a foe of his caliber; he’s voiced by Lars Mikkelsen, whose brother Mads is in Rogue One! As for the novel, it’ll cover the swath of time from when Thrawn first encounters the Empire up till the events just before his S3 appearance, releasing in April 2017! Including that, Zahn appeared in a recorded message (and interview on the official site), signing off on the character’s handling so far by the show. Having seen the premiere episode, I can say this without spoilers: he’s in it, but not very much, so I can’t say if they really are utilizing him well yet. But if I were to speculate anything with Thrawn, I’d predict we’ll get out first team member death this year and it’ll come via opposing the Grand Admiral.
This season looks to find Sabine in focus more so than ever before, as Tiya Sircar (Sabine Wren) got to reveal we’ll see the character deal with Mandalorians and parts of her past, including Mandalorians she may or may not be related too! Considering we learned she was Clan Wren, House Vizla last year, maybe we’ll get to see some remaining Vizla’s or even direct family members! Alongside the deeper dive into her past, the character got an overhaul (as did the rest of the team), including a kind of stunning purple/white hairdo, as well as some new art on her armor, like the Owl that’s been following the crew around from Malachor to Atollon. At the press conference, Tiya talked about how Sabine has always wanted to have a bigger leadership role and this season she’ll get it, even though she’s not quite prepared for the pressures of command just yet. But the biggest moment for Sabine, besides her jetpack? The reveal she’s holding the Darksaber, one of my favorite non-lightsaber sabers, which Pre Vizla had during the Clone Wars before Maul took it from him. Sabine’s big episode in S2, “Blood Sisters” was one of my favorite of the season and it dealt with her backstory, so I think we’ll be in for quite the treat if we spend even more time on her. How exactly does Sabine get her hands on the Darksaber? What family will we be meeting? Look forward to seeing these things answered in S3.
Maul is the ex-Sith Lord who just won’t stay down. Surviving the events of Malachor (though originally scheduled to die), Maul is now looking for a purpose and to have a legacy, since he’s been cut out of the Emperor’s plans and doesn’t stand a chance to survive against Vader or Palpatine. He believes Ezra is still his possible apprentice and he’ll be appearing throughout the season to try to wrest Ezra out from Kanan, who you can imagine isn’t happy to have to still deal with Maul after being blinded by him. Sam Witwer, who voices Maul, is happy they can continue to do something new with the character every time we see him, making him more and more dynamic as he continues to live. I’m placing bets on this season being his last alive…for good this time.
It was stressed that the inspiration for blind Kanan comes from Zatoichi, a famous fictional Japanese character who was a blind ninja, least anyone continue to assume he’s going to become a Rahm Kota from The Force Unleased. Kanan and Ezra drift apart after Malachor and Ezra’s more aggressive nature seemingly goes unnoticed by his master because he’s too busy trying to find himself as well. Kanan’s new handicap will force him to change the way he does everything and that includes the simple fact the level of Jedi Knight just isn’t enough for him anymore as he needs to go to the next level aka Master, which he’ll get there thanks to a little help from a mysterious new character named Bendu. This odd creature of sorts is voiced by Tom Baker (the 4th Doctor Who), whose playful but elderly voice give Bendu quite the personality. Bendu is the middle-way of the Force, something we’ve seen from other avenues on this show so far like the Lasat’s connection to Ashla, which means he’s neither light or dark version of the Force. Could Bendu’s appearance and his middle-way teachings lay the foundation of hints on how Kanan and Ezra could still be alive but not part of the Rebellion by the time of A New Hope, like say them running around the galaxy fighting for those who can’t protect themselves, all the while not wanting to get caught up in the greater battle due to some personal loses they suffer this season? Overall, Bendu’s philosophy is something I’ll follow with great interest, as it’ll fun to hear more about the Force with such a unique perspective from someone as wise and as riddle-filled as Yoda.
Two clips were shown off during the panel, neither being from the S3 premiere (I’ve included time-stamps so you can jump to them easily in the panel’s full video). Both clips highlight the subtle but still noticeable animation upgrade, as colors pop more and effects are sharper and more voluminous than before. The big effect that jumped out at me is during the first clip is when Ezra’s feet skim water, it splashes in a realistic sort of way. The first clip (9:04) has Sabine, Ezra, and Chopper in a jetpack duel with Mandalorians. Out of the two, this was my favorite, as it showed off some impressive aerial action and choreography. The second clip (18:19) finds Ezra and Kanan visiting Maul since he’s kidnapped the rest of the crew (!) to get Ezra’s attention again. The asteroid base Maul currently inhabits is an old Mandalorian supply base, first seen in the Son of Dathomir comic series, which revealed Maul’s final arc of TCW and the death of Mother Talzin, in issue #3. The clip ends with Kanan being jettisoned into the cold vacuum of space, something he survived before in his comic series, Kanan (issue #5).
Along with Thrawn and Bendu, another new character joining the show this season is Wedge! We’ll get to see his defection from the Empire to the Rebellion here, giving him a little bit more to do than his appearance in Aftermath (though he’s gotten a lot more to do in its sequel, Life Debt). The team learns about Wedge wanted to defect from Fulcrum, an identity Ahsoka protrayed last season. This brought me to ask the question that if Wedge knew Fulcrum (as revealed in Aftermath), does this mean Ahsoka is coming back to fill-in the role again…or, as I thought about it more, does this mean Fulcrum is an identity many different people wear? The responses were enthusiastically for Hera taking over the position, but someone pitched up Fulcrum’s voice (much like was done to the character’s dialogue last year to identify Ahsoka) and it’s….Agent Kallus!!!??!! Last we saw of our mutton-chopped ISB Agent, he had a bit of an awakening about the Empire when he was stranded with Zeb in a dinosaur infested cave on an icy planet. The idea that he’d switch sides isn’t that crazy and is a genuinely exciting and intriguing development!
Here are my shots from the panel, including images of Kanan’s change, Bendu, Thrawn, and the panelists:
If my rundown and pictures weren’t enough for you, the entire panel is up on YouTube and I’ve included it below for you to enjoy. Between the time-stamps for the clips and putting the video here, don’t I say I don’t do anything nice for you.
Here are a few other things:
- Kanan’s new look is the most drastic I think, what with his beard and mask. Hera, due to her promotion in the Rebellion, wears a more militarized version of her normal outfit, including rank insignia! Ezra’s haircut and new shirt sell the impression of his teenager style of handling his changing emotions and abilities while Zeb’s changes are the least noticeable and are just meant to give him even greater range of movement.
- Had you told me when Rebels started that we’d have Thrawn and Maul sharing the cover of the latest season’s poster (at right), I would’ve laughed at you and said you were as smart as a space slug. Well, today I’d be eating my words, as this latest poster includes those two characters, as well as puts Sabine and Ezra center place. Expanded roles for them, for sure.
- The artists for the Thrawn novel cover have worked previously on some of the Brazilian covers for the recent canon novels.
- Filoni briefly touched on Ahsoka’s fate, revealing we’ll see her again someway, somehow. He gave a more detailed description to that answer, including Ahsoka’s more grisly and cliffhanger-ish original fate for the S2 finale in the Ahsoka’s Untold Tales panel.
- Curious to learn who’s essence is in the Sith Holocron? Filoni knows, but he isn’t quite telling yet.
- Even more curious about the Inquisitors? At the press conference, Filoni revealed the chances of seeing another Inquisitor are slim to none and for the time being we will not be getting any information on their background, which got an uncharacteristically hard no from him when asked.
- Rogue One‘s aesthetics and colors are being emulated by the Rebels crew this year, due to how close in the timeline S3 and the film are.
- Someone asked at the panel about the Jaig eyes on Kanan’s new mask and if that had any significance due to Captain Rex famously having Jaig eyes on his helmet. Filoni says the marks aren’t too important, as they were mostly put on there as a filmmaker’s device to give viewers some way to correlate where Kanan’s looking and because it symbolizes the friendship that grew between him and Rex.
- The ship that looks eerily similar to Dash Rendar’s Outrider in the trailer is of similar make and model, designed by Amy Beth Christensen, who designed the Outrider for Shadows of the Empire all those years ago!
- Some eagle eyed fan noticed the A-wing in the trailer had two seats, which A-wings haven’t been shown with before. Filoni gave an honest answer that he just didn’t have the budget for a new ship so they added an extra seat to the fighter, but Witwer revealed there was an in-universe explanation already: West End Games explained training craft always had two cockpits. Witwer sure knows his Star Wars stuff, folks!
- There was a question about a live-action movie for Rebels, and while Tiya was all for it, Filoni teased the questioner, “The actors paid you well.” While he wouldn’t be against it, thinking it would be surreal to have someone who grew up watching Rebels and 20 years later come and create a live-action film with the characters, however Filoni thinks of animation just as real as live-action (I concur!) so he has no real desire to trying working on something like that.
- There was some extremely funny banter between Filoni, Warwick Davis (the stage host), and Sam Witwer, as Davis went looking for a job on the show. Filoni had him audition for Maul and Davis did a rather splendid job, which caused Witwer to give up the position. Later Witwer decided to take Davis’ job and audition for an Ewok, which, let me just say, was ridiculously good!
Star Wars Rebels S3 looks to be even bigger and better than ever before and Grand Admiral Thrawn is just icing on the cake. Expect the season to drop sometime later this fall!
Premiere of Star Wars Rebels Season Three Airs September 24
Star Wars Rebels Season Three Premiere Review: “Steps Into Shadow” (SWCE 2016)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Panel and Costume Exhibit (SWCE 2016)
Ahsoka’s Untold Tales Panel Impressions (SWCE 2016)
SWCE 2016 News Roundup Pt. 3: Ahsoka Untold Tales and Future Filmmaker Discussion Panels Announced
SWCE 2016 News Roundup Pt. 2: Panel Schedule is Live, Exclusive Art, VR Experience (UPDATED)
SWCE 2016 News Roundup: Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Premiere, Rogue One Props, Podcast Stage
Star Wars Show Launches, Reveals Special Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 Rogue One Panel (SWCE 2016)