Warning - SPOILERS for Star Wars Rebels season 4, episodes 7 & 8 ahead!
Last week's episodes were the start of a more serialized run for Star Wars Rebels, with what happened during those previous episodes directly leading into the events of this week's two episodes, 'Kindred' and 'Crawler Commanders'. And being that this is the final season for Star Wars Rebels, these serialized episodes are heavily focused on laying the groundwork for the series' finale - a finale that is likely to be tragic and heartbreaking more than it is happy.
It was already a given that Star Wars Rebels could not end with the Rebellion being victorious over the Empire; that is, after all, a story told over the course of Episodes IV, V, and VI. And it isn't until Rogue One and the theft of the Death Star plans that the Rebellion secures its first real win over the Empire. Complicating matters even more for Rebels' characters is the fact that come A New Hope, the Jedi need to be scarce - meaning whatever ending Rebels has in store, it'll need to explain the whereabouts of Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka during the time of the Galactic Civil War.
The neatest way to tie up these loose ends would be to have them all die either before or during the Star Wars Rebels series finale, but that's a pretty dark end for a family-friendly animated program airing on Disney XD. What's more likely to happen is that only one of these Force-users will die, probably through some heroic sacrifice, allowing the others to escape and enter whatever seclusion they're in during the war. And while Ahsoka seems a strong candidate for this sacrifice, possibly even dying in another duel with Vader, a close reading of these two episodes - especially 'Kindred' - might just be hinting at it being Kanan, or rather Caleb Dume, who dies this season on Rebels.
The opening scene of 'Kindred' has Kanan meditating in a field, reminiscing to Hera about how much has happened since they came to Lothal and how he feels drawn to this planet. That in itself isn't terribly ominous, but Kanan sensing a deep connection to Lothal is meaningful, even if it isn't clear why. Afterwards, there are two moments between Kanan and Hera that deal with state of their relationship - the first has Kanan pressuring to Hera acknowledge the feelings they share, while the second has her kissing Kanan, seemingly confirming her affection, and telling him, "May The Force be with you," as she departs for Yavin IV.
It's a sweet goodbye, but it is also bittersweet, with a sense it's all happening too late for them. The kiss and Hera's poignant goodbye feel like a final farewell rather than a promise of seeing each other again, even if the characters don't realize it. We know Hera survives Rebels and that she continues working for the Rebellion, and if Kanan were to also survive he'd join her, right? But then, there are no Jedi helping the Rebellion during Episode IV, so it's very unlikely he ever will.
Now, that alone doesn't make it a foregone conclusion he dies, but Kanan's later interactions with the loth-wolves just might. After following Ezra and the wolves deep into the mountains to escape the Empire, the wolves wait for Kanan to come closer before they continue leading them to safety, almost as if they needed to make sure he was with them. Later on, when they arrive on the other side of the planet in a structure reminiscent of the Jedi temple on Lothal, the white loth-wolf again growls "Dume" - to which Kanan confirms last week's suspicions that the wolf was referring to his given name, Caleb Dume. The reason for this is still shrouded in mystery, as is much concerning the loth-wolves and their connection to The Force, but the mentioning of a name Kanan hasn't used since his Jedi days is tinged with danger. Why would these wolves be seeking a Jedi? How do they know his real name? And what does this mean for the future of Lothal?
The next possible clue for what may or may not befall Kanan and whether it's tied to Lothal's fate comes during the second episode, 'Crawler Commanders.' While Kanan, Ezra, Sabine, Zeb, and Ryder are trying to relay a message to Hera through a mining vessel, she is trying to urge the Rebellion to authorize an attack on Lothal to prevent the Empire from manufacturing more of those new TIE Defenders. She's eventually successful, but not before Mon Mothma tells her they've just learned of something called Protocol 13 - an evacuation of all Imperial personal from an occupied planet. It isn't revealed if the Empire has already enacted Protocol 13 or if they're just planning to do so, but an order for a planet-wide evacuation is alarming. This is probably the exact order given prior to the destruction of Jedha City during Rogue One and Alderaan in A New Hope, so whatever comes after Protocol 13, it isn't good.
It's very possible that the mention of Protocol 13 was just another Easter egg for fans, hinting at the Death Star looming out there in the distance, but it could also be hinting at Lothal's future. The loth-wolves sense something terrible is coming and so does Kanan, mentioning he has a "sinister" feeling about whatever the Empire is doing on Lothal. Obviously, the Empire cannot attack Lothal with the Death Star because it doesn't fit the timeline, but there are other ways to devastate a planet. Whatever that is, Kanan is sure to play a role in stopping it - maybe even going so far as to sacrifice himself in order to protect Lothal.
Star Wars Rebels season 4 continues next Monday with 'Rebel Assault' at 9pm/8c on Disney XD.