- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The final season of Disney XD’s popular computer-animated series highlighting the adventures of the scrappy crew of the starship Ghost in a galaxy far, far, away arrives on Blu-ray in Star Wars Rebels: The Complete Fourth Season (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, rated TV-Y7-FV, 353 minutes, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $45.99).

Despite a few earth-shaking moments, this shortened season of only 16 episodes does not quite match the brilliance of the past three that included appearances from Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Grand Moff Tarkin and Yoda as well as that epic battle between a crazed Darth Maul and Gen. Obi-Wan Kenobi.

I guess series patriarch Dave Filoni and his team could offer only so many surprises in a cartoon series especially when big-budgeted “Star Wars” movies and a mysterious live-action TV series loom on the horizon.

Still, the season does offer enough bang for the binge-watching buck as the key crew members almost single-handedly manage to liberate Force-powered teen Ezra Bridger’s home world of Lothal, help rid the Galactic Empire’s influence on Mandalore and deliver some payback to Imperial Grand Admiral Thrawn and the Emperor.

In addition to Ezra, the key crew members include blind Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus; female Twi’lek Gen. Hera Syndull; female Mandalorian weapons expert Sabine Wren Lasat; honor guard Zeb Orrelios; and irascible droid C1-10P (nicknamed Chopper).

Common themes of the season’s episodes focused on Ezra and Kanan’s Force-sensitive bond with wildlife and the self-sacrifice by the rebels to contain the ever-spreading influence of the Empire.

Fans will also certainly appreciate a deeper look at the mythology and technology of Mandalore, a peek at the latest X-Wings (for the time period) as well the imposing TIE Defender, learning a bit more about the world between worlds and the Force elder Mortis gods.

They will also relish encounters with Saw Guerra, the mysterious Loth-wolfs, Thrawn’s reptilian assassin Rukh, Ahsoka Tano (Anakin Skywalker’s former apprentice) and some famed Clone troopers.

Furthermore, the season and series’ epilogue offers the future of many of the key characters, and an impactful few minutes unload a surprise that I am guessing that no Rebels’ fans would have anticipated.

Is it really the end? I would not count out the Ghost crew in the “Star Wars” animated universe. With Mr. Filoni bringing back the famed “Clone Wars” animated series for only a scant 12 episodes (on an infuriating pay-to-watch streaming service), I’m betting any future project might certainly involve Ezra and the gang coming back together.

Best extras: The two-disc set packs plenty of bonus content for the “Star Wars Rebels” devotee.

First, Mr. Filoni offers a wealth of narrative and production introspection as well as character analysis through six commentary tracks for the episodes “Heroes of Mandalore” (parts 1 and 2); “Jedi Night”; “Wolves and a Door”; “A World Between Worlds” (with help from sound editor Bonnie Wild); and “Family Reunion – And Farewell”

His passionate reverence to the “Star Wars” mythology, trained as a Padawan over the years by George Lucas no less, is apparent throughout as he preaches the importance of uplifting and hopeful storytelling and offers plenty of minutiae that helped make “Star Wars Rebels” such an entertaining series.

His commentary touches on Ezra’s potential reunification with his parents; the addition of Red Guards (seen in Hasbro action figures) to help the Emperor; building and using the classic character voices in the world between worlds; the amusing overuse of Melch (pirate Hondo Ohnaka’s favorite ugnaught); and the importance of fan investment in the characters over the years.

Next, under featurettes, viewers get a 30-minute overview of the key rebels of the Ghost (Ezra, Kanan, Hera, Sabine, Zeb and Chopper) mixing in clips from all of the seasons, colorful concept art, interviews with the cast about their characters intricacies and plenty of Rebels introspection from Mr. Filoni.

Also, Mr. Filoni offers 15 minutes on Force canon tied to the selfless Jedi and power-hungry Sith. He often focuses on the emergence of Ezra’s powers while using clips from many of the “Star Wars” films as reference.

And, as always for each season, every episode gets the post-airing companion segment called “Rebels Recon.” Each presents roughly five minutes of interviews with cast and crew about the shows hosted by Lucasfilm’s Digital Communications Manager Andi Gutierrez.

The wrap-up continues to feature Miss Gutierrez asking Lucasfilm historian Pablo Hidalgo fan questions that deeply dive into “Star Wars” canon.

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