Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Star Wars Rebels
Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels has drawn to a close, and a fourth season is currently in production and on its way this all. Season 3 has been a little uneven at times, but it's also boasted some of the show's best episodes to date ("Twin Suns," "Secret Cargo," and "Trials of the Darksaber" come to mind — not to mention that killer finale).
So what's next for Hera, Kanan, Zeb, Sabine, Ezra, and Chopper? Only show mastermind Dave Filoni and his writers know for sure, but here are some things that, based on everything we know so far, have to happen. What will become of your favorite characters? Who will be back, and who won't? What newcomers will join the cast? What new worlds might the Rebels visit? And how far away are the events of the original Star Wars trilogy?
The Bad Guy
Every season so far has had a main villain, always looming in the background and hunting our heroes. Season 1 had the Inquisitor. Season 2 had Darth Vader. In Season 3, it's been Grand Admiral Thrawn. The blue-skinned admiral survived the finale, so the question now becomes: will he return for season 4? Or does his failure to wipe out the Rebels mean the Emperor will remove him from this battle arena?
If Thrawn doesn't return for season 4, then a new Big Bad will be required. And let's face it: the Grand Admiral and his remarkable deductive capabilities are a tough act to follow. Unless the Emperor himself were to take a more active role in tracking down the Ghost, there's no obvious choice. Maybe Filoni and crew will invent a new villain. Or maybe they'll find some obscure leftover from Star Wars: The Clone Wars and bring him or her to the forefront. It's impossible to say.
As for the main characters that that villain will be chasing, expect plenty of major developments moving forward. Kanan has finally made peace with his lost sight and reclaimed his identity as a Jedi, so his future options are wide open. Surprising no one, Hera has realized her full potential as a leader, and it's likely her rank and trajectory will continue to climb (especially now that Sato is gone). It looks like Sabine is headed back to her people, but if there's another time-jump between now and Season 4 (as there was between 2 and 3), things could be settled enough by then for her to rejoin the team.
Can somebody please give Zeb a character-defining, season-long arc, already? He's a great character who's been woefully under-served as little more than background muscle and comedy relief. His best story was when he was stranded with Agent Kallus in Season 2; now that Kallus has joined the Rebellion for real, there's big dramatic opportunities there for Zeb. Will Kallus join the Ghost crew? Or show up as a part time player, more like Rex? Whatever happens, it's likely the respect between Kallus and Zeb will progress into a genuine, if playfully antagonistic, friendship.
Ezra's journey over season 3 has seen his maturity bloom at long last. After his humiliating defeat as a mission leader in the season opener, a bookending do-or-die mission allowed him to redeem himself in the finale. Yet as recently as the episode immediately prior to finale, he impulsively ran off - disobeying Hera's direct orders. After three seasons, it's about time to see him sort out his priorities, consider his actions before enacting them, make the tough calls, and accept responsibility for them. Can he grow further as a Jedi apprentice? Kanan's knowledge seems tapped out, so maybe another Jedi in hiding (like Yoda) will step up to continue Ezra's training.
While the focus of Star Wars Rebels has always been the ragtag crew of the Ghost, the series wasted no time bringing in characters already familiar to fans. The show has given us pre-A New Hope incarnations of Bail Organa, Lando, Tarkin, Yoda, Leia, Vader, Wedge, Mon Mothma (above), Obi-Wan Kenobi, and more. Who else could still show up? Any number of additional characters are still out there, like Jabba the Hutt, Nien Nunb, Admiral Ackbar, or even Chewbacca. Boba Fett was becoming a major player in the bounty hunter ranks toward the end of Clone Wars; it would be a shame not to see what he's up to these days.
Rebels has also brought Legends (a.k.a. Expanded Universe) characters and elements into canon by introducing them on the show. Grand Admiral Thrawn is the most noteworthy example, but there have been ships and locations and whatnot, too. Might the show go all-in with Legends materials? It's no secret that Filoni has long toyed with the idea of utilizing the Yuuzhan Vong; an entire Vong story arc was planned for Clone Wars before the show was canceled. A vocal contingent of fans who hate that idea might persuade him not to go there, but you never know.
With Thrawn being made canon thanks to his popularity among fans, might another fan-favorite join the ranks, too? Someone like... Mara Jade? Sure, it would be hard to incorporate her into Rebels since her story was always so closely linked to Luke Skywalker's. But the show reinvented Thrawn without losing the essence of the character, so why not? At this point in Mara's timeline, they could show her being made Emperor's Hand. For that matter, her Force-sensitivity could make her an interesting and very different kind of villain for the show.
Nearing the End?
The timeline of Star Wars Rebels has never been explicitly defined aside from kicking off "about five years before A New Hope." Events must have progressed at least 2-3 years beyond that by now, so there are still a few years left until the Battle of Scarif and the other events of Rogue One. But things should be starting to sync up, don't you think? U-Wing fighters should be flying with the Rebel fleet soon, or maybe Rebels could show us the Mon Calamari signing on with the Rebellion since they seem to become so integral to the command hierarchy.
There are plenty of milestones between where Rebels is at and where Rogue One begins - the most obvious being Yavin 4. In season 3 of Star Wars Rebels, the desert world Atollon has functioned as Phoenix Squadron HQ, but that's come to an end now. The time feels right to have our heroes discover the old temple ruins on Yavin 4 and decide to make the jungle planet their new base of operations.
Another location the Rebels could visit is Jedha, the ancient, super-important, Force-centered nexus of the galaxy that we somehow only first learned about in Rogue One. The main city of Jedha is still intact at this point in time, and with all the diversity in Force sensitives and Force worshippers that Lucasfilm is keen on depicting these days, it'd be nice to explore more of this place, its history, and why it's so important to the Force-attuned.
What else from Rogue One could turn up? How about mega-genius Galen Erso, who's currently toiling away on the Death Star at this point in Rebels' continuity. Our heroes could run into him by accident (it's unlikely they'd know who he is), forcing him to be cagey about his super-secret "big project," while secretly trying to tip them off somehow.
Lastly, there's one character from Rogue One who seems like a no-brainer to have show up on Rebels: Cassian Andor, the infiltration and black ops Rebel agent played by actor Diego Luna who's been "fighting the Empire since he was six" - so he'd already be an experienced Rebel when he meets the Ghost crew. Maybe the show could even dramatize his first meeting with Imperial droid K-2SO, who we know that Cassian reprograms to serve him.
Of course, all of this "wrap up" business assumes that Rebels will end right around the time of A New Hope. But there's no reason the show couldn't continue to tell stories running concurrent with the original trilogy. If that's part of the plan, then the next season or two could progress faster than what's occurred so far.
There are still plenty of unresolved plot points that need closure, too. Season 4 seems like the right time to reveal Mandalore's new leader, not to mention whether or not Mandalore will officially join the Rebellion — both of which are closely tied to Sabine.
What happened to Bendu? Will we ever see him again?
And for the love of all that's good and holy... What happened to Ahsoka? Is she a Force ghost? Is she still alive? Is she serving tacos from a food truck on Malachor?
Whatever season 4 brings, "Zero Hour" made it clear that the stakes are higher than ever, and Star Wars fans know all too well that there's nowhere for those stakes to go but up. You can find out what happens next to your favorite animated heroes when Star Wars Rebels returns this Fall.
Star Wars Rebels season 4 premieres this fall on Disney XD.