The third season of Star Wars Rebels premiered last week on Disney XD, and series director Dave Filoni recently opened up about what lies in store for the crew of the Ghost, as well as the possibility that the show may connect in some way to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, set for release this winter.
Speaking with Empire magazine, Filoni noted that Rebels has evolved over the course of the past two seasons, “growing up” with its audience in much the same way that The Clone Wars did. In the beginning, the show’s main character, Ezra Bridger, struggled to find his place in the galaxy amid a growing recognition of the Force and the larger world around him. In Season 2, and continuing on into this present season, Ezra has steadily moved into a phase in which he confronts the challenges of life, being exposed to the “real world” according to Filoni, “where you find good, but you also find its opposite in evil.”
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In keeping with Ezra’s evolution, the antagonists squaring off against the show’s heroes have changed as well. While Darth Vader made a dramatic appearance during Rebels‘ second season, this year marks a shift in the Empire’s efforts to destroy the nascent rebellion, as they reveal their master strategist: Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Filoni compared Thrawn to an evil version of Sherlock Holmes, citing his analytical, quantitative nature as the quality that set the Grand Admiral apart from any previous Star Wars villain.
“In Thrawn we really have a villain, and this is why I loved him in the book, because he was completely different than villains I’d seen before. He is not a lightsaber-wielding guy, he doesn’t use the Force, he’s just incredibly intelligent and very difficult to beat in the chess game of war.”
— Star Wars Rebels (@SWRebels77) September 24, 2016
Fan excitement at seeing Thrawn back in the Star Wars canon was palpable at Celebration, Filoni recalled, where the character was revealed in the third season trailer. He noted that there was a standing ovation when Thrawn appeared, likely due to the attachment fans have felt toward him for more than two decades, as Entertainment Weekly points out.
“Talk to anybody from Star Wars. Thrawn is a symbol of an era when there was nothing happening in Star Wars and then Thrawn happened. Everybody read Heir To The Empire by Timothy Zahn.”
— Rebels Report (@RebelsReport) September 26, 2016
It also hasn’t escaped the notice of fans that Rebels veers perilously close to the time period set to be examined in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which debuts in theaters this December. Filoni revealed that the Lucasfilm story group is instrumental in keeping the series’ continuity issue-free, and that he is in direct contact with other ongoing Star Wars productions to make sure no conflicts arise.
“I talk to the people that I need to that are on the other productions to make sure we’re all in sync. We’ve got this great tapestry being woven now, here at Lucasfilm, in all the different Star Wars areas to make sure the fans are getting this authentic experience and when their characters show up, it’s meaningful and appropriate.”
Though he would not reveal any specifics, Filoni also acknowledged that there will be some undisclosed aspects of Rebels and Rogue One that will influence each other. Already, the first Star Wars spin-off film is changing the way in which Rebels is portrayed, with Filoni and his team working slowly over the last few years to shift the look of the show in an effort to better match Rogue One.