Star Wars Rebels is returning for its fourth season this year, and it definitely will be the last of the show. Premiering on Disney XD back in 2014, the series fills in some of the gaps between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, depicting the earliest days of the Rebellion's struggle against the Empire. Due to its place in the franchise timeline, Rebels always had a limited shelf life as it worked its way up to the events of Rogue One and the original trilogy. It's for this reason many viewers expected the show to end its run soon, and at Celebration Orlando during the spring, Dave Filoni confirmed season four would be the last.
Still, even with word from Lucasfilm this is it for the Ghost crew, there will be some wondering if Rebels can continue in any capacity - including the possibility of a feature-length film. After all, the previous animated Star Wars series, The Clone Wars, started out as a movie before moving to the small screen, so could the reverse happen in the case of Rebels? It doesn't seem likely, considering all we know about season four (and Lucasfilm's handling of Star Wars in general) so far.
While the poor reception to the Clone Wars movie from 2008 would arguably be enough to make the studio uneasy about giving Rebels the big screen treatment, there's a far more different reason why a Rebels film probably will never happen. Though Star Wars is perhaps the most popular brand in Hollywood right now, Lucasfilm has strategically green lit films that contain some familiar elements to appeal to both casual audiences and die-hard fans alike. As cynical as this sounds, there are clear business motives behind making Rogue One and Han Solo the first two spinoff films out of the gate. For all the new things those projects include, they're easy to market due to the iconography of the Death Star, Darth Vader, and the Millennium Falcon. As acclaimed as Rebels is, its viewership is only a fraction of the films, so giving the Ghost one last hurrah in a movie could be confusing for many. It's for this reason the theory proposing Rey is a descendant of Obi-Wan and Satine didn't hold water, either.
Based on marketing materials for Rebels season 4, this is very much the end of the line for the beloved cast of characters. Trailers illustrate that things are catching up to the films, with direct references to Rogue One that include Director Krennic, the Stardust project, and the growing divide between Mon Mothma and Saw Gerrera. This particular chapter in Star Wars history will need to be wrapped up soon, or it'll run the risk of retroactively creating plot holes in the original films. It's true Hera and Chopper are present in Rogue One, but that anthology (and, of course, the classic trilogy) take place in a period where the Jedi are all but extinct, which means the fates of Kanan and Ezra need to be resolved over these final episodes. If the two are still around prior to the Battle of Scarif, why wouldn't the Rebels dispatch them to steal the Death Star plans? Since Mon Mothma and Bail Organa are pinning their hopes on an aged Obi-Wan Kenobi in Rogue One, odds are their younger Jedi allies have become one with the Force.
Frankly, there simply isn't anywhere for the Rebels story to go once season four concludes, making this the perfect time to wrap up the show from an artistic perspective. Stretching things out to a fifth go-around (or even a film) would spread it a little thin and create gaps in logic in the previous live-action films, something Lucasfilm would obviously prefer to avoid. While it's always possible some of the surviving characters could return in other mediums (be it a novel or comic book run), Filoni is ending Rebels on his terms, which will make these next few months quite bittersweet for everyone who's been following the Ghost for the past handful of years. But with rumors of a new animated series, Rebels' successor could be on the way.
Star Wars Rebels season four premieres October 16, 2017 on Disney XD.