- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The crew of the starship Ghost returned to wreak more havoc upon the Galactic Empire in another year of exciting adventures on the Disney DX cable channel.

The latest 22-minute-long episodes are now available on Blu-ray in Star War Rebels: Complete Season Three (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, rated TV-Y7-FV, 506 minutes, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $45.99).

As part of the Phoenix Squadron, this core team of rebels consists of the female Twi’lek; Gen. Hera Syndull; blind Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus; powerful Padawan teenager Ezra Bridger; Lasat honor guard Zeb Orrelios; female Mandalorian weapons expert Sabine Wren; obnoxious droid C1-10P (nicknamed Chopper); and famed Clone Trooper Capt. Rex.

The blue-skinned, steely strategist Grand Adm. Thrawn is now hunting them and their rebellious friends across the galaxy in this season as he attempts to locate and wipe out the beginning of an organized rebellion.

The latest collection of episodes found Ezra much more in tune with the Force with help from Jedi and Sith (bad) holocrons as well as continued tutelage of Master Kanan. However, he could use a new barber as his jet-black, computer-animated crew cut looked painted on his head.

Season high points included a run-in with Saw Guerra on the devastated planet Geonosis; the introduction of the large, Force neutral creature Bendu on the planet Atollon; the defection of pilots Wedge Antilles and Hobbie from the Imperial’s Skystrike Academy; and an epic spaceship battle between Empire and Rebel forces.

However, by far the most intense moments were in the episode “Twin Sons” that featured the infamous Sith lord Darth Maul finally locating a certain Jedi who cut off his lower torso in “The Phantom Menace.”

Spoiler alert: The culmination of Maul’s search and confrontation with a much older Gen. Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tattooine will give “Star Wars” fans goosebumps.

Executive producer Dave Filoni and his creative team do not disappoint throughout, wearing their passion for the universe on their sleeves.

Detail to the digitally recreated vehicle and starships not limited to Star Destroyers, Interdictor, Y-Wings, Mauls’ starfighter, a T.I.E. Defender, AT-AT and AT-DP walkers are cinematic life-like.

And, tying in the “Star Wars” films, especially “Rogue One,” as well as the animated “Clone Wars” series story lines, offers a satisfying and extended look at the most contentious time in a galaxy far, far away.

The series also provides very family-friendly fare that often highlights empathy, friendship and the importance of family, which parents will appreciate as their young Padawans digest the humor and drama.

Now, on a slightly depressing note, the final season of “Star Wars Rebels” starts on Oct. 16, but it promises to introduce Thrawn’s bodyguard Rukh, the permanence of a Rebel base on Yavin 4, Saw Guerra’s split from the Rebellion, and the legendary X-Wing.

Best extras: Well, Disney and the “Star Wars” gang finally got it right after some disappointing extras on the first two season sets and have delivered an excellent selection of bonus content on this three-disc set.

Let’s start with five optional commentary tracks for the episodes “Trials of the Darksaber,” “Legacy of Mandalore,” “Through Imperial Eyes,” ” Double Agent Droid” and “Twin Suns,” with either a solo Mr. Filoni talking or a group chat featuring co-executive producer Henry Gilroy, animation supervisor Keith Kellogg and art director Kilian Plunkett.

Although the group efforts are more entertaining, the best of the bunch is Mr. Filoni’s nonstop narrative on “Twin Suns.”

He emphasizes that he wanted to bring closure to Darth Maul’s difficult life and touches on cut scenes from the episode, deeper story details, parallels to “A New Hope,” the pointed lightsaber fight and a clear understanding of the “chosen one.”

Next, five featurettes (roughly 30 minutes in total) offer a look at the start of the Rebel Alliance; Sabine’s history with her home world of Mandalore; the dangers of Thrawn (with words from his creator, author Timothy Zahn); the history between Darth Maul and Ben Kenobi; and the impact of Saw Guerra with the rebels (with words from the Forest Whitaker who played him in “Rogue One” and voices him in the episode).

All of the featurettes use clips from the animated “Clone Wars” series as well as from the “Star Wars” movies for a true historical immersion for fans.

And, last but not least, every episode gets a post-airing companion segment called “Rebels Recon,” originally available on the Internet. Each presents roughly seven minutes of interviews with cast and crew about the shows hosted by Lucasfilm’s Digital Communications Manager Andi Gutierrez.

Throughout, the most interesting part of the wrap-up is when Miss Gutierrez asks Lucasfilm historian Pablo Hidalgo fan questions that dive into the minutest minutiae of the “Star Wars” universe.

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