Executive producer Dave Filoni and the cast of Star Wars Rebels took to the Galaxy Stage Saturday morning during Star Wars Celebration Orlando, to talk about what we can expect from Season Four of the Disney XD series. The live audience was treated to insights on the family dynamic that has flourished among the actors behind the Ghost crew, a preview of things to come, and some big surprises, including the first new episode set to air this fall. Here are the 8 biggest things we learned, along with new imagery from next season shown during the panel.
1. Season Four will be Rebels‘ last. Tiya Sircar, who portrays Sabine, wiped away tears as Filoni announced the series will end with the next season, a sentiment that seemed to be shared by the rest of the crowd’s reaction to the news — best summed up as an audible gasp. “I know it’s tough,” Filoni said, for him, the cast and crew, and the fans. “But I firmly believe that each generation needs to have their own piece of Star Wars,” Filoni said, and from a creative perspective, ending it now allows the story to be “the most meaningful it can be.”
2. New animated stories are yet to come. Filoni promised that there’s more animation in the works. “This show by no means represents an end to what we’re doing in animation,” he said. For now, he hopes fans will instead give full attention to the Rebels’ final act. “For now, I want you to focus on these guys,” he said, before addressing the cast. “You guys have performed them brilliantly to whatever end they have.”
3. A sneak peek — the first new episode. The audience was treated to 21 minutes from Season Four, the season premiere that won’t be revealed to the rest of the world until the fall. We won’t spoil it for you, but there were plenty of cheers, gasps, and some tears during the screening. “It’s not like anything else we’ve ever done,” Filoni said of Season Four. “It’s going to be different. A little dark. A little fun.”
4. Now there’s a name we haven’t heard in a long, long time. The next season will see the screen debut of some new characters including Rukh, Thrawn’s assassin bodyguard as voiced by Star Wars icon Warwick Davis, a surprise guest during the panel. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because the character originally appeared in the Legends story Heir to the Empire. Filoni joked that he was tricked into creating the part for Davis after the artist formerly known as Wicket conversationally cornered him onstage during Star Wars Celebration Europe last year, auditioning with his own vocal version of Maul. “He’s really creepy, so I needed someone creepy and sneaky and devious like you,” Filoni told Davis.
5. And we’ll see the return of Saw, Mon, and Bo-Katan. Forest Whitaker will reprise his role as rebel extremist Saw Gerrera. Filoni is resurrecting another character from The Clone Wars — Bo-Katan, sister of the fallen Duchess Satine Kryze — seen briefly in the trailer raising the Darksaber. And Genevieve O’Reilly is back as Mon Mothma. “You might see Mon Mothma get a little fiery for once,” Filoni said of the generally level-headed leader. “There’s a reason she’s the leader.”
6. X-wings and U-wings, oh my! When Saw returns, he and his co-pilot Two Tubes will be at the helm of a U-wing (seen in Rogue One, above), Filoni revealed. And the teaser trailer showed the debut of X-wing fighters yet to come this season.
7. The story team is as obsessed with “Hot Kallus” as the fans. The trailer shows Kallus returning sans Imperial uniform and with a new hairstyle that “symbolizes his freedom,” Filoni joked, revealing that his team may have been the first to coin the phrase that later took off as a Twitter hashtag. “Season Four is actually all about this now,” he continued. “I went and rewrote it in two weeks.”
8. Bonus — Hera will be a general by the series finale. There have been whisperings about a promotion for Captain Syndulla ever since a certain “General Syndulla” was summoned to the briefing room in Rogue One. But it wasn’t until a press conference after the panel that Filoni confirmed that Hera will indeed advance among the rebel ranks.
Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Follow her on Twitter @KristinBaver.