The new trailer for the final season of Star Wars: Rebels has just hit warp speed.
It reveals mystical Force wolves, Rogue One cameos, and the surly droid Chopper getting a Pittsburgh Penguins-inspired paint job as the Disney XD series draws to its conclusion, starting Oct. 16.
Executive producer Dave Filoni tells EW the crew of the Ghost, who have been battling the Empire as part of their own nascent resistance, will finally join up with the larger Rebellion we know from the original trilogy.
“I don’t think of them at the end of season 3 as too victorious, as much as they just got away,” he says. “They lost a lot of resources, they lost the initiative to have an attack to free the world of Lothal or knock out the Imperial factory there. In the end, yes they got away, but that’s kind of all they got. Now they have a lot less.”
The new season will see Mandalorian warrior Sabine Wren (voiced by Tiya Sircar) repaying her people for their help, while Jedi hopeful Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray) receives guidance from the Force as he tries to figure out whether that order is his true calling.
His blinded instructor, Kanan Jarrus (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.) is also struggling to find his place, while his relationship deepens with Ghost pilot Hera Syndulla (Vanessa Marshall) – just as her career with the Rebellion begins to ascend.
Also trying to find their place in this growing resistance movement are alien strongman Zeb (Steve Blum), Clone Wars veteran Rex (Dee Bradley Baker), and robotic tough guy Chopper.
“They get folded into the larger Rebellion that would be more familiar to what you saw in Rogue One,” Filoni says.
The new trailer drops a familiar name from that film: Director Orson Krennic, the Death Star special weapons supervisor, who was played by Ben Mendelsohn. Don’t expect to see the character in the series, however.
“Name-dropping,” Filoni explains. “It’s always fun to make it feel like it’s part of this big world … But the cape alone would be half my budget, just to make it flow.”
Filoni says he once envisioned a grand scene uniting many of the best of the worst from Star Wars. “I was imagining a shot with Vader and Krennic and the Emperor, but it’s like having a cape convention with those guys,” he jokes. “Then you have Tarkin and Thrawn, and it starts too look like a Legion of Bad Guys. When you get too many bizarre Star Wars villains together, I don’t know if it works for me.”
Thrawn will once again be the central villain of the season, voiced by Lars Mikkelsen (who plays the Putin-like Russian president on House of Cards and is the brother of Mads Mikkelsen). The blue-skinned, red-eyed Imperial admiral is responsible for crushing the Rebel Alliance before it becomes a major threat.
We know he doesn’t succeed, but that doesn’t mean he won’t extract a massive cost along the way. One of Thrawn’s goals is to get stronger fighters than the easily demolished TIEs. The three-winged starships in the trailer are TIE Defender Elites, which have shield capabilities and more firepower.
“Thrawn sees value in building better fighter craft, especially to fight the more equipped Rebel ships like X-wings,” Filoni says. “Not everybody shares that point of view, though. As in all things, there’s competition for funding and power. We’ll see a little of that politicking in the Empire.”
Joining Thrawn will be Rukh (voiced by Wicket actor and Star Wars mainstay Warwick Davis), the alien assassin who scuttles across walls and ceilings like a spider. Like Thrawn, he was pulled from the 1990s novels written by Timothy Zahn.
“That character is always dark and creepy in the novels,” Filoni says. “Instead of big brawny brawlers, he’s someone who is smaller and lithe, and a little more interesting. He’s very cunning and wicked.”
One character who will be appearing from Rogue One is Saw Gerrera, who turned up last season (voiced by Forest Whitaker) as he investigated the possibility of an unknown superweapon being built near the insect world of Geonosis. We know it’s the Death Star, but this is a pre-Rogue One story – the Rebels aren’t sure what’s out there in the void of deep space.
Filoni describes Gerrera as a kind of detective/insurgent. “Saw’s always seeking his own path, and he’s certain of the evil the Empire’s up to and there can be no peace,” he says. “He’s been pushed even further down that path of belief.”
That’s in contrast to Alliance leaders like Mon Mothma and Bail Organa, Filoni says, who “still hold out hope the Senate can find a peaceful way to resolve everything, and it won’t come to all-out war. Saw is trying to get the evidence and prove out that he’s right. We have some fun scenes when he interacts with Mon Mothma and it shows the fractures between the two.”
Gerrera will be nudging the Ghost crew to be even more extreme than these politicians. “He looks at someone like Ezra and Kanan and thinks, ‘What a wasted resource.’ He fought with the Jedi in the Clone Wars, so he knows what they’re capable of,” Filoni says.
This season will also feature some mysterious new creatures — wolves who have a mystical significance that Filoni isn’t ready to reveal.
“That’s one of the great questions: What are these wolves all about?” Filoni says. “I like wolves, I’m interested in them as an endangered species, and they have a dual nature. Some people see them as a guide, and some see them as a predator and destroyer. I find that to be true of the Force.”
He acknowledges that some viewers are like Luke Skywalker — eager to learn all the mythology of the Force — while others fall into the Han Solo category (just give them the blasters and starships, with none of the mystical mumbo jumbo).
“For some it might be too much, and then we have X-wings, so they’ll be fine,” Filoni says.
In addition to bringing his obsession with wolves into the Star Wars universe, the Pittsburgh native is also bringing in another personal favorite: the black and gold of his beloved Penguins, winners of the Stanley Cup for two years running.
That’s why Chopper gets his undercover paint job. “He gets a black-and-yellow look because wearing orange is too much like the Flyers,” Filoni says. “When you win back-to-back Cups, you can do what you want.”
In Rogue One, we saw the Ghost starship flying throughout the big sky battle over the tropical world of Scarif, but Filoni won’t say just where he plans to end the series in the existing Star Wars timeline.
“I’d love to tell you,” he says, “but that would give up a lot.”