SPOILER ALERT: Warning, this article contains spoilers from the series finale episodes of Star Wars Rebels, entitled “A Fool’s Hope” and “Family Reunion – and Farewell.” Proceed at your own risk.
Luke Skywalker has always loomed large over Star Wars Rebels. Introducing Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger as Jedi only 5 short years before Star Wars: A New Hope meant fans would ask what their fates would be, and how they would impact Luke Skywalker’s story. But as it turns out, the inverse was just as important: how would Luke impact their journey?
Let’s be clear: Luke is not in the Star Wars Rebels series finale. His only appearance in the show remains the brief cameo at the end of season 3’s “Twin Suns,” as Ben Kenobi watches over him from afar. But thanks to a Q&A with executive producer and series creator Dave Filoni, we know how Luke influenced the events of the finale.
Freedom for Lothal
The three-part finale is all about Ezra’s plan to free his homeworld of Lothal. His plan is intricate. He has the foresight and wisdom to see any potential outcome, and he knows that one of those outcomes could lead to his own sacrifice. That’s ultimately the pathway he takes, as Ezra seems to be lost to the far reaches of hyperspace along with Grand Admiral Thrawn. His fate is ultimately up in the air, but we know what impact his sacrifice had: Lothal is freed.
By the end of the episode, almost all Imperial forces on Lothal have been destroyed thanks to the destruction of the Command Center in Lothal’s capital. The people of Lothal, who have seen Ezra and the Ghost crew fight for them for years, watch this happen. They rise up and ensure that the few remaining Imperial soldiers are not a threat. But the rebels fear that this is just the beginning. They know that an Imperial counterattack will soon arrive.
But it never does. The last few moments of the finale jump ahead and show Lothal after the Battle of Endor. It’s free and prosperous. The Empire never returned. The surviving members of the Ghost crew, particularly Sabine Wren, have helped Lothal rebuild.
From Rebels to Rogue One
The answer to why the Empire never returned was expanded upon in a Q&A that followed a fan screening at Walt Disney Studios. Filoni explained that Luke and the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story played a big part in why the Empire never returned. “I wanted people to understand that once they overthrew the Empire [on Lothal] there were expectations of a large battle that never happened,” Filoni said. “Our story ends and then Scarif and the whole Luke Skywalker thing happens.”
We know that Hera Syndulla and Chopper are on Yavin 4 just before the Battle of Scarif and that the Ghost fights in that battle The implication here is that the battle was fought pretty soon after. That battle, of course, was immediately followed by Luke’s entrance and the Battle of Yavin, which completely changed the course of the Rebel Alliance and set the Empire onto a path of defeat.
How Luke Changed Everything
“When Luke happens, the Emperor’s attention is completely refocused,” Filoni continued, explaining how events like the liberation of Lothal were less important to Palpatine’s plans. “He has a series of defeats. He loses the Death Star. His entire plan of fear is based on having a Death Star. Now, his trying to subject fear on the galaxy is completely inversed. Now the Emperor is actually afraid.”
It’s fitting, then, that we see Emperor Palpatine himself in the final few Rebels episodes, including the finale itself. He’s still trying to access the world between worlds. His interest is in amassing power, corrupting people like Ezra, and subjecting fear on the galaxy. Filoni’s implication is that after the liberation of Lothal, so much happened that the Emperor was on his heels. Suddenly the Emperor is the one who’s afraid, because the Empire is weaker than it was beforehand. That’s what Ezra and the rebels fought for the people of Lothal to see. They had to believe the Empire was vulnerable and they didn’t have to fear it anymore.
Luke’s story was like a beacon throughout the galaxy. We know that by the time of the sequel trilogy, he’s a legend. And we see now, even if it’s subtle, how he impacted the Ghost crew and the people of Lothal. Though he was never part of their fight, the fact remains that his actions and the actions of Jyn Erso and Rogue One ensured Lothal would be free.
It shows just how interconnected Star Wars storytelling is, and how one story leads to another.