Featuring Captain Rex and a bunch of battle droids, The Last Battle is an episode for fans of The Clone Wars and the prequels more than a standalone Rebels episode. As a huge fan of The Clone Wars, it’s hard for me to disengage myself from that love to look at this episode from a Rebels point of view—as it is, it’s already very interwoven with The Clone Wars and other stories from within the GFFA. Forgive me for my implicit bias in the review beyond this one sentence: The Last Battle is a average-to-good episode that not only shows Rex, Ezra, and Kanan’s growth as characters, but also explores the ideas of the clones and droids as programmed “tools” during the Clone Wars.
In The Last Battle, Captain Rex and some of the Ghost crew head to Agamar to collect weapons. Instead, they find themselves sucked into a war game as they encounter remainders of the Clone Wars—droids for whom the war never ended. They consider this their chance to really end the war, finally solving the question of just who won the Clone Wars. It is exactly what the episode title says: the last battle.
As we, the audience, know, neither the Republic nor the Separatists won the war: it was the Empire that claimed victory. The Last Battle is a chance for the characters who experienced the war to understand that fact and potentially let go of what once bound them to their given side. This isn’t really a topic explored much within Star Wars, so it’s interesting to see the two sides clashing again in the context of an Imperial galaxy. Along with this is the comparisons drawn between the Separatist battle droids and the clones, both of whom were created to be weapons and thus decommissioned when the war ended.
This alone is a huge topic, and one I’d love to delve into more another day, and I’m really glad that Rebels has picked up the thread that The Clone Wars left hanging after its final season. Though Rebels doesn’t have the time to explore themes like clone programming deeply, it’s refreshing when it is tackled even in a small way within an episode like The Last Battle. Even if the writing feels a little like Dora the Explorer once or twice (“If this side didn’t win, and this side didn’t win, then who did?”), there’s a good level of maturity shown with Rex experiencing PTSD, and with how the episode frames the Clone Wars in general.
The battle droids are oddly nostalgic, and there’s something special about watching them interact with stormtroopers—a sense of interconnection between the PT and the OT, a link encouraged by Rebels existing between and drawing influence from both trilogies. There are also musical cues from The Clone Wars that link back to the earlier series, as well as the final title card being redesigned slightly to match that of The Clone Wars; The Last Battle really does feel like an episode that falls into the space between the two animated series. The episode’s format even feels more like the episodic structure of The Clone Wars, with a clear moral to end the story on. For a fan of The Clone Wars, this may feel a little like revisiting an old home, once beloved, but now changed with time.
While The Last Battle is very reference-heavy, it doesn’t skimp on Ezra and Kanan’s character arcs. Kanan and Rex’s relationship has grown from when they first met, with Kanan respecting and trusting a man who no longer represents a great loss in his life, but has become a friend. Ezra is still as hot-headed as usual—and even I’m starting to get frustrated at his tendency to jump in without thinking—but there’s an emphasis on how he’s starting to naturally take on a leadership role, and even a display of his diplomacy skills. Again, Rebels generally can only touch upon subjects lightly within an episode, but together everything builds up to tell a coherent story: Kanan being able to move away from his trauma, Ezra learning to lead people in a way befitting a Jedi, and Rex becoming a friend, a teammate, and a teacher for the both of them.
Is it the best episode of Rebels? Definitely not, and it’s likely not an episode that someone who hasn’t seen The Clone Wars will overly appreciate—something that ties in with Rebels‘ issue of sometimes leaning too heavily on other material—but it is definitely an interesting one that offers closure for aspects of The Clone Wars. Parts of the episode are perhaps oversimplified (potentially because of its status as a children’s show) and others seem glossed over (likely because of time limitations) but all up, it’s a decent, solid episode. If you love Rex, it’s definitely an episode for you. 7/10, would watch again.