“Star Wars Rebels” Season 4 is trying something new in bringing a major villain back to take on the Ghost crew.
Executive producer Dave Filoni has confirmed that Grand Admiral Thrawn — who split duties with Maul as the big threat of Season 3 — will be the arch villain for the show’s final season, which will run for 15 episodes.
“He’s still the one that is watching for them and that they’re running from and their main competitor,” he tells the Daily News. “Which is different, we’ve never done that over two seasons before.”
However, Filoni also hints that there may be a bigger villain lurking in the shadows.
“Star Wars Rebels” Executive Producer Dave Filoni (seen with actress Ashley Eckstein) has revealed some more details about the villains in the show’s fourth and final season.
(Bryan Pace/for New York Daily News)
“There may some other villains more arch than him, hiding somewhere … we’ll have to wait and see,” he says, with a little of that signature teasing he’s known for.
Fans are already aware of another classic enemy that will be joining Thrawn’s forces for the fourth season — Noghri warrior Rukh. Many will recall the character’s pivotal role in the Legends continuity’s Thrawn Trilogy and Filoni has tried to stay true to that portrayal.
“I try to keep those things as close as possible,” he says.
‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ posters
“I mean some things will always have to be a little bit different because of the story we’re telling, but he is very much a devilish assassin.”
As a fan of classic cinema, Filoni is also known for including visual references into his work — Season 3’s epic “Twin Suns” was heavily inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” — and has continued this tradition in the show’s fourth season.
“There’s definitely an influence, to a degree, from ‘Close Encounters,’ there’s a flavoring of that kind of magic and mystery,” he says.
The Ghost crew’s adventures air Mondays on Disney XD.
Filoni, who worked with George Lucas on “The Clone Wars,” also cites “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Carroll Ballard’s 1983 movie “Never Cry Wolf” and the 1997 anime “Princess Mononoke” as influences on the final season.
These cinematic ambitions resonate with his production team, who strive to ensure that “Rebels” is up the standards expected by “Star Wars” audiences.
“They feel challenged by what they see in the films, and they don’t want to be less than that,” he says. “We can’t afford to have as many TIE fighters as ‘Rogue One,’ but we’re gonna try to figure out a way to make our battle … feel every bit as big and full.”
Filoni highlights Steven Spielberg’s 1977 sci-fi classic “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” as an influence on Season 4 of “Rebels.”
Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” from 1981, was another cinematic influence on the fourth season.
(Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM)
Carroll Ballard 1983 “Never Cry Wolf” also had a stylistic impact on Season 4.
(Buena Vista Pictures)
“Princess Mononoke,” Hayao Miyazaki’s 1997 movie, was another influence noted by Filoni.
Many fans noticed that a white wolf glimpsed in the “Rebels” Season 4 trailers had previously been seen in art for an unfinished “Clone Wars” story arc and Filoni notes that revisiting ideas like this fits with his approach to telling stories.
“There are no wasted ideas, nothing goes to waste — we use everything,” he says. “That’s something I learned from George; you have an idea, it might not fit in one thing, but you find a place where it does belong and I think that shows how you adapt as a storyteller.”
“Rebels” might be coming to an end, but Filoni knows it’s not really over for the fans.
Filoni says “Star Wars” creator George Lucas taught him how to “adapt as a storyteller.” The pair are seen together in April.
(Gerardo Mora/Getty Images for Disney)
“‘Star Wars’ is a lifelong thing — Mark Hamill can attest to that — and the fans seem to just love it,” he tells the News.
“So my hope is that it might be the end of the series but the fans will still be examining these episodes, enjoying these characters and meeting these characters.”
He highlights how that happened with “The Clone Wars,” which ran from 2008 until its sudden cancellation in 2013.
The “Rebels” producer says he hopes “the tale of Ezra Bridger will last a long time.”
“When it got onto Netflix, it seemed to boom in way that I’d never seen,” he says.
“So who knows, hopefully the tale of Ezra Bridger will last a long time.”
“Star Wars Rebels” Season 4 continues with “In the Name of the Rebellion,” which airs Monday on Disney XD.