In Disney and LucasFilm's ever increasing efforts to expand the Star Wars universe, 2014 marked the launch of their second animated series on Disney XD, Star Wars Rebels. Set just a few years before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, the series followed Kanan and his crew as they fought against the Empire's pursuit for power. The close proximity to the original trilogy, and the upcoming standalone Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, meant that the creative team had to carefully watch how they existed within canon.
With the season 3 premiere date recently announced, it was only a matter of time before we continued to learn more about what the third season would include and, in this case, not include. Based on the latest report, it looks like season 3 could be without one of the shows biggest names.
In a recent interview with /Film (via MakingStarWars.net), the creator of the show, Dave Filoni, was asked if Darth Vader would once again go toe-to-toe with the Rebellion. After appearing in the first two seasons, it appears that Star Wars Rebels will not have a presence from Vader himself this season.
“You know, I’ve kind of gone on this course, which is pretty, pretty direct about certain things ’cause I don’t like to tease people along and then have them be disappointed. So it’s really an elected decision to not have Vader around because, as we get closer to A New Hope, I want him to serve as that story.”
Last season was certainly leading to the eventual showdown between Vader and his former padawan, Ahsoka Tano. Now that the two old friends have faced off, leaving both of them in worse condition than before, finding a reason for Vader to hunt down a single group of rebels was a challenge. Instead, Filoni thinks that newcomer Grant Admiral Thrawn will present a bigger problem for the beloved crew.
“I know it sounds funny. I don’t wanna fill in every hole. I don’t know what we benefit from that. As much as you need to say, okay, this is a major point in his life when he’s confronted by his former apprentice. That is worth doing. Him chasing the rebels of the Ghost crew around is never something that really interested me. Mainly because I didn’t think they could survive it for very long. And now that I have Thrawn, it’s more interesting to me to setup this completely different kind of villain that’s gonna play a long game against our guys that they’re not typically used to.”
Now that the third season is playing so closely in the time period of Rogue One and A New Hope, Vader will have bigger problems to deal with than that of Kanan and Ezra. While Vader's focus will instead be focused on stopping Jyn Erso and crew from stealing the Death Star plans, and then eventually hunting down the Rebellion once they are stolen, Thrawn can be a big enough foe to take on the Ghost crew.
While there is still a possibility that Vader can show up in the future, such as a possible season 4, it makes more sense for the show to put some distance between what is happening with them and what happens with the movies. Even though Vader has been a welcomed presence to the show and often been the highlight when he is present, both Ezra and Kanan have potentially very intriguing stories. This is their show after all, not Vader's, so while it may seem a bit odd that Vader is not fighting them this season, the creative team behind the series has built up enough of a track record to make it work.
Star Wars Rebels season 3 premieres on Disney XD on September 24th, 2016 at 8:30 pm EST.