There was a distinct weight and inevitability at the start of Monday's Star Wars Rebels. With only a few episodes left, it felt like things were about to change. We didn't know why, we didn't know how, but all the characters seemed prepared for it.
Then we found out both why and how. And it was devastating.
In the first episode, "Jedi Night," three of our heroes are pushed to the brink. Kanan, Ezra, and Sabine basically have to out manoeuvre the entire Empire to rescue Hera. First, things go well. Then they don't. And when an AT-AT targets a fuel cell, it's sure to blow them all up. So Kanan Jarrus takes a stand. Using the Force, he holds off the blast just enough so that Sabine, Hera and Ezra can escape. Once they do, he lets the blast go, ending his life.
So the question of where Jedi Kanan Jarrus is when A New Hope begins has been answered. He's gone.
The episode handled the massive moment with emotion and class. It all started earlier in the episode as a changed Kanan gave control of the mission to Ezra, cut his hair, and had a certain finality to him. Somehow, he knew his story was about to come to an end. Unfortunately, that end was right when another huge moment in the series, Hera's declaration of love for Kanan, finally happened. She had enough of keeping her feelings inside and let him know how she felt. That, going right into Kanan's final sacrifice, followed by the black and white Rebels logo with falling ash and silent credits, really drove home the severity of what just happened.
The whole next episode, "Dume," was basically about our heroes dealing with this loss. Most importantly, a realisation that Kanan's sacrifice completed their mission. By letting the fuel cells explode, he ended the Empire's production of their TIE Defenders on Lothal, a project considered equally as important as Orson Krennic's "Stardust" (a direct reference to the Death Star in Rogue One and A New Hope). So Kanan not only saved his friends, he completed the mission on Lothal. His death, while sad, was not in vain.
In fact, it also felt like the final piece of the puzzle for Ezra. His master is gone. He has no direction. No answers. No closure. And yet, the Force isn't done with him. He still has a part to play.
I can think of no better way for Rebels to kick off this final run than with such an gut-wrenching, impactful storyline. Kanan's loss feels like the spark that will light the end of this story.
Rebels will be back February 26 followed by the finale on March 5.