The fourth and final season of Star Wars – Rebels puts the focus back where it should be: on the main characters and on telling the story of young Ezra Bridger. The result is a season much better than the previous two and one that wraps up the story of our heroes. Lucasfilm/Disney has done a little better with the bonus materials this time around, providing a half dozen commentary tracks along with a nice selection of featurettes. The video is also on par with prior season sets, but sadly the audio is as well – once again providing only lossy 5.1 English tracks. Overall though, this is a fairly nice package and certainly one that is Recommended to all the Star Wars fans out there.
All good things must come to an end, and while I've had more than my fair share of issues with Star Wars – Rebels, I did overall enjoy Dave Filoni's animated series much more than The Clone Wars, which always seemed to take itself just a little too seriously – lacking the fun of the Star Wars feature films.
The biggest problem with Rebels over the last couple of seasons is that Filoni became so obsessed with having his new characters crossover with characters and plots from both The Clone Wars and the overall Star Wars universe itself that he often forgot to keep the focus on the crew of the Ghost (the spaceship that our heroes use). So while I'm sure it was fun for fans to find out that the next episode featured Lando Calrissian, or Darth Maul, or Princess Leia, or Saw Gerrera, there were a lot of episodes in Season 2 and Season 3 that didn't put the primary focus on Ezra, Kanan, Hera, Sabine, Zeb, and Chopper.
A huge chunk of Season 4 – as it should – is focused on wrapping up the story arcs for our lead characters. Ezra's (voice of Taylor Gray) is, of course, concluded in the final episodes, but the first few focus on Sabine (voice of Tiya Sircar), as she has to rescue her kidnapped father in Season 4's opening two-parter. As the season progresses, we see more and more of how our characters fit into the Rebel Alliance as we know it from the first Star Wars film.
While I've complained about the series spending too much time guest-starring characters from other parts of the Star Wars universe, one of the smartest things Rebels did back in Season 3 was to introduce the Thrawn character (voice of Lars Mikkelsen). Of course, he's the lead bad guy from Timothy Zahn's popular book series, but since Disney officially de-canonized the "Expanded Universe" a few years back, the Thrawn here isn't exactly "that other" Thrawn, meaning he feels more like a fresh character than another one of those "guest stars" I've been talking about. Once again, he's Ezra's primary antagonist (although a certain other cloaked baddie shows up for the final episodes), although I'm not sure Filoni properly wraps up either character's storyline in the most satisfactory way (granted, that may have been intentional on his part).
However, if there's a character that is done justice in Season 4, it's that of Kanan (voice of Freddie Prinze, Jr.). Without spoiling too much for those who have yet to watch the episodes, Kanan's choices show his real love for his friends and his story arc brings him closer to the power/magic of the Force than he has been previously. Kanan's path/destiny involves a large wolf-like creature named "Dume", whose name is a clue for those who know a little about Kanan's backstory.
It's always hard to wrap up a series – be it TV or film. No matter what you do, there's going to be a portion of fans who don't agree with the way things went because the ending isn't the one they envisioned for the characters. With that in mind, I think Filoni wraps up Rebels about as well as could be done, while still leaving the door open (actually, pretty wide open) for future adventures with these characters – be it in the pages of comics, novels, or perhaps even another animated series or movie down the road.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The fourth and final season of Rebels "forces" its way onto Blu-ray in an eco-Lite Vortex keepcase, which houses two 50GB discs and an insert advertising and featuring a code for Disney's Movie Rewards program. A slipcover with artwork matching that of the case slides overtop. There are no front-loaded trailers on either Blu-ray, and the main menu is similarly designed to prior seasons of the show: an animated monitor screen that shows a montage of footage from the episodes, with menu selections horizontally across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-rays in this release are region-free.
Each episode of Rebels is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Once again, Lucasfilm/Disney have provided impressive transfers of these animated episodes, with very minimal (and arguably barely noticeable) banding and very few instances of noise. It seems to me that this season features more outer space battles than any prior season, and the strong black levels here make those sequences really pop in 1080p.
Colors throughout are bright and well-rendered. Detail is quite good considering the style of animation used for this series. The bottom line here is that the transfers are just as good as prior season releases – which is to say, pretty impressive overall. Fans/collectors will know what to expect and won't be disappointed.
Well, Disney has done it one last time – once again, the featured tracks here are lossy 5.1 English Dolby Digital ones, which is really a disservice to an otherwise nice release. The audio sounds fine when compared to other 5.1 lossy tracks, and there's some noticeable fun going on in terms of directionality, as the episodes often use the rears for spaceships and lasers bouncing around. LFE use is also frequent. However, the track doesn't have the "oomph" that it should (it's not particularly dynamic, but given it's lossy that probably goes without saying), and it's a shame Disney never felt the need to provide DTS-HD Master Audio for any of these season sets. The only real "plus" (if you can call it that) is that the four seasons' audio sounds pretty much the same on Blu-ray across the board.
In addition to the English track, each episode has 5.1 Dolby Digital options in French and German, as well as a 2.0 Spanish Dolby Digital option. Subtitles are available in English SDH, English, French, and Spanish.
I tend to be in the minority here, but I'm one of the few that believe Rebels never quite lived up to its promise. After a strong first season, the two middle seasons seemed more obsessed with "guest star" characters and clearing up all the ends from David Filoni's previous series, The Clone Wars. However, Season Four gets things back on track, putting the main focus of most (but not all) of the 16 episodes on its main characters and concluding their story arcs. Whether the characters get the conclusion they deserved is up to each viewer to decide, but the material is strong enough here to land this season set firmly in the Recommended category.