For what was a memorable weekend full of great events in Toronto for the 2017 edition of FanExpo Canada, none was more so for this nerd than the excellent Star Wars Rebels panel. The panel this year featured not only creator/executive producer David Filoni but also voice stars Vanessa Marshall (Hera Syndulla) and Taylor Gray (Ezra Bridger). The line before was long and the auditorium was jam packed but no one could have predicted what Filoni and company had in store for us.
Quick shout out to our friends at Jedi and Juice who have a great Star Wars podcast, check it out.
It started out innocently enough with host, Star Wars book author Christian Blauvelt, immediately asking about the fate of fan favorite Ahsoka Tano and Filoni’s not so subtle suggestions about her fate. Back in the spring at the Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, Filoni was seen wearing a t-shift that read “Ahsoka Lives!” and has been dropping different pieces of art “winks” (below) on social media indicating there’s more in store for Ahsoka.
Always one to toy with the fans, Filoni has all but said by this point that Ahsoka will be showing up again in some form or another leaving out specifics. He indicated that he wouldn’t take the fans’ emotions for granted and not bring her back, noting, “Otherwise, it’d be mean.”
One of the many things that Filoni spoke about was that how Rebels has given him and the other writers an opportunity to finish a few storylines that he never got to do in the The Clone Wars series. One of those unfinished storylines was the return of Bo-Katan (voiced by Katee Sackhoff) and the storyline of the Seige of Mandalore which they never got to before the show was cancelled.
And speaking of Mandalore, I’m here to tell you, if you’re hoping for some Mandalorian action, you’re in luck. The first two episodes of Season 4 take place entirely on Mandalore and bring to a close several storylines from Rebels and Clone Wars including Katan’s. Sabine Wren (Tiya Sircar) in particular gets some serious screen time and Filoni talked about how her story had evolved over time and how she’s matured to become one of the true leaders of the Ghost crew…
She’s had a great arc, one that was kind of unexpected when we put a Mandalorian in the show. It just kind of grew organically as we were telling the story, figuring out who she was. I think the biggest thing is that we made some promises about what her origin was and we made some suggestions that she’d done something terrible. Sabine’s character has really risen to the point to where pretty much she’s almost as big of a lead as Ezra. In a lot of ways which I think is really strong.
Throughout the panel as they spoke going through different segments, they would show us lucky fans clips of the upcoming season. And one of the more thrilling ones was a clip which included Kanan (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and Hera (Vanessa Marshall) having a quiet and intimate moment.
This has been teased and alluded to several times throughout the series but has yet to come to fruition. It seemed we would finally get that “moment” we’d been patiently waiting for, but in a timely and hilarious interruption Ryder Azadi (voiced by Clancy Brown) walks by stopping things cold. Filoni seemed to enjoy the pain this caused the audience who reacted loudly saying, “we know they all want that so, to take it away is particularly satisfying.”
Marshall herself was coy about their relationship and where it might head this season. Speaking about the special affection the two characters have for one another, she herself is excited to experience that growth with the fans together this season…so, no spoilers.
Speaking of Hera, during an extended clip shown to us involving Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen), we’re given our first glimpse of an X-Wing in the series during a rebel raid. And what was equally thrilling was to see Captain Syndulla leading that raid flying one herself, orange jumpsuit and all. This was as an exciting a moment as I can recall seeing in a shared atmosphere and equally compelling was Marshall’s response to the moment.
It appeared as though that was her first time seeing the footage and she got emotional on stage when talking about how privileged and honored she felt playing the part…
I can’t even explain. I’m such a Star Wars fan, and just seeing that I was thinking back to the first film. I can’t even imagine as a small child that I would ever be in an X-Wing like that or playing that character. I literally have no words…
Other topics included the already mentioned Admiral Thrawn and his relationship with Arihnda Pryce (Mary Elizabeth McGlynn). It’s very evident he’ll be the rebels main obstacle this season as he tries to outmaneuver them at every step all the while ensuring the Empire is equipped to handle the every growing threat.
And what would a Star Wars Rebels panel be without talking beautiful hair, Agent Kallus’ (David Oyeowo) hair to be exact. The much talked about bangs have been a hot topic at conventions since Kallus has made the switch from Empirical baddie to a Rebel stalwart and Filoni to this day has never understood the whole thing. We were shown a fun scene involving Kallus being handed the keys to the Ghost and Captain Rex (Dee Bradley Baker) putting him in his place, or seat if you will.
No Filoni panel would be complete without talking about Loth-Wolves. His love of wolves as it turns out can be traced back to the 1983 film Never Cry Wolf by Canadian Farley Mowat which he saw as a kid. These wolves in particular are local to Ezra’s home planet Lothal which figures heavily in the Star Wars Rebels universe and the relationship between Ezra and these wolves seems to be prominent in Season 4 if the trailer is any indication. Ezra’s growth as a Jedi will be represented by his ability to communicate with all living things, including Loth animals.
Near the end David Filoni had a moment of reflection and spoke about how Rebels came about at an important time in his life just as LucasFilm was sold to Disney and his mentor George Lucas was moving on…
It was an important moment not just for the story of Star Wars but for our company as a whole to kind of say we’re going to continue making this stuff. We’re going to make it high quality, we’re going to try to do all the things George taught us to do but now we have to do it without him. That’s a very daunting task but he had prepared us well.
And when looking at Season 4 as a whole he had this to say…
I feel very good about it, I feel we’ve accomplished it (journey). I’m still working on it, but now having the end, now that I’ve shot the end…I like it (laughs). It’s much more tied together than anything we’ve done in animation before. The first couple of episodes tie off certain threads that we had to then we deal pretty much with the fifth episode to the end with Ezra and what’s going to happen.
Finally, talking about the ending and keeping things secret and just enjoying the moment…
It’s not to be mean or anything like that. I really want the people to sit down in a theatre and enjoy the outcomes of these characters stories having never seen it and feel the accomplishment. It’s a temptation to go after that spoiler but you really want to experience that in the moment because there’s nothing better, experiencing that with a room full of people. We need a bit more of that feeling these days where people like, if we stick together we can do it and we don’t need to be afraid. That’s the story of Luke, that’s the story of Star Wars.
So that was the bulk of the panel, but like I said, Filoni came bearing gifts. First he premiered the official Season 4 trailer for us which you can see below…
After the trailer was finished, the four of them came back on stage one last time and Filoni told us that not only would he show us the first episode from Season 4, but the recently completed second episode as well! The fans in Orlando earlier in the year at the Star Wars Celebration were only shown the first episode so this was a special moment for sure.
What was neat was they sat in the audience and watched both episodes with us!
I’ll go into some details about the first two episodes during my Season 4 preview but they were superb television and the place was electric from start to finish. If these episodes are any indication on the quality of the season, we’re getting a mighty send off.
After that we filed out of the auditorium and re-entered the world a little bit older, a little bit wiser and a little bit more in love with Star Wars.
Till next time…MTFBWY.