– Spoiler Free and Spoiler Filled Reviews Within –
The season two premiere, which is an one-hour movie event, somehow finds a way to build off the hype generated by the pulse-pounding trailer while setting up the new tone and larger focus. This review of “The Siege of Lothal” will start off with a completely spoiler-free version and after some very clearly marked warnings/a picture, a full spoiler review till end. But in short, it’s going to be really hard to wait until the rest of the season starts to air in the fall.
Spoiler-Free Review: The high octane feeling in the season one finale, “Fire Across the Galaxy,” remains intact at the start of the premiere and slowly notches up several levels throughout. The pace is neat and focused, making for an adventure hard to look away from and easy to enjoy no matter your level of focus. The dialogue and interactions have the familiarity Rebels fans will be expecting, but each conversation has more weight behind it and reveals more about the changes in the team’s dynamics since joining up with the larger Rebellion.
Vader plays a very large role in the entire episode and his actions have extremely far reaching repercussions we’ll see explored throughout the season. And just as Dave Filoni and team have been promising, Vader isn’t easily beaten nor does his power become weakened in any way, shape, or form. In fact, it’s the exact opposite, as he brings a true brutality and physicality to the show, and helps change the tone of the whole proceedings.
As the first season was pretty focused on reminding people that hope is still a viable and necessary option in any fight, season two makes it very hard for any of our rebels to keep hope alive. The change in tone doesn’t just happen from Vader’s involvement, but the art direction and lighting signal the shift as well in extremely effective manners; the shots of Lothal’s main city, usually bathed in blue during season one, now have a orange, dusky look and give off a menacing vibe.
If this is how the rest of the season plays out, which judging from the trailer it will, then we’re in for a real fine treat.
BEWARE, FULL SPOILER REVIEW INCOMING
SPOILERS HERE ON OUT
Alright, you were warned…….
While S1 ends with Kanan and Hera happy to be together again, we find them at odds after being part of the Rebellion for an unknown, but pretty brief time between seasons. Kanan is unhappy with taking orders and joining a militaristic cause, instead missing out on the early days of their team when they played space Robin Hood. But Hera knows how, as important as that is, it won’t change the fates of those oppressed by the Empire in the long run and she’s happy to be taking the larger approach to freeing the people of the galaxy. Kanan agrees with her in the end, but he still wants to break off from the Rebellion because their whole cause dredges up too many memories of the Clone Wars…and Order 66. There was a great bit of parallelism going on with their hallway discussion, as it felt like it could be nearly a shot for shot recreation of Han and Leia’s fight in the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, what with other personnel walking between them and some of their hand gestures.
Opportunity strikes for the Ghost crew to take a break from the Rebellion when they receive a distress call from Maketh Tua, who is asking for asylum from the Empire in exchange for their secrets, one of them being the personal and very secretive reason why the Emperor is occupying Lothal. While most of the Ghost crew, Ahsoka, and Commander Sato (the head of their little contingent of the Rebellion fleet) feel it’s a trap and bad idea, Ezra feels no duplicity from Tua and wants to continue helping those who ask for it. They don’t realize Tua’s reasoning for trying to defect: Vader, with a side-helping of Agent Kallus, basically tell her Tarkin will be killing her for her failure to get Lothal to cough up the rebels. How it plays out is way darker than that, though.
Vader predicted Tua’s actions, basically setting her up to be killed, but in a much more useful way. When the rebels come to Lothal, everything seems to go as good as their usual plans from last season: Kanan knocks out a stormtrooper and takes his uniform, while the rest of the crew dupes the other troopers and have only Kallus to deal with to rescue Tua. Everything changes when Tua runs aboard the shuttle they planned to hijack and it blows up, killing her. Kallus has a camera at the scene, which he and Vader use to report slandering propaganda against the rebels by saying they killed her.
This is a big change up from S1, where everything always seemed to go their way just when it didn’t feel like it could, something which I felt was the only real downside to the show. But things go from bad to worse, as the Imperials attack and destroy the Bridger’s place they choose to hide out in, forcing the team to take drastic measures and head towards the Imperial’s main base of operations and hope the search for them has spread enemy forces too thin. Even though they have, Vader isn’t fooled and is eventually waiting for the crew.
The shot of him standing menacing in the dark is chilling to the bone and the battle he has with Kanan and Ezra is more like Vader swatting annoying flies than facing anyone worth his while. From his design and movement, Vader is a completely imposing figure, and I totally understand why so many people fear him (though I did get that feeling from the movies, it was more from his actions than his looks). Adding to that, the moment he comes out from underneath some crashed walkers, blowing the wreckage off him without seemingly any effort, was completely badass (the entire crowd cheered while watching)! He even deflects Sabine’s bolts right back at her as the team makes their lucky getaway and had she not been wearing armor, she would be dead. It was easy to tell Vader holds back the whole time and he lets them go, as they aren’t the real prize he’s after: there’s a tracker on the shuttle the team steals, so when they get back to the fleet, he can follow them.
With the planet under a blockade and all their usual ways off the planet blocked, the situation looks dire, forcing the crew to rely on someone none of them can trust: Lando. When they stop over at his mining facility, smoke can be seen off in the distance. Ezra rushes to investigate, only to find the Empire has burned Tarkintown to the ground. This is like Ezra’s version of Luke’s moment in A New Hope, where he rushes home to find a fried Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, helping him realize why he should join in the fight. For Ezra, it also gives him a reason to keep fighting, something Kanan feels is daunting due to them being the only two Jedi in the galaxy (as far as they know and he likely doesn’t include Ahsoka because she’s technically not a Jedi).
After the team sneaks off Lothal with devices Lando’s droid supplies them with, which Sabine rigs to their transponder code to fool the blockade over the planet, Vader follows. He plans on striking at the heart of the Rebellion, adding even more consequences to the recent actions of the rebels, and begins a devastating attack run on Sato’s Rebel Fleet. Much like his power on the ground, his lone attack on the fleet shows off why Anakin was considered one of the best pilots in the galaxy, and boy his attack is just magnificent; I was almost rooting for Vader by the end of this episode.
Hera decides to take the Ghost out to hold Vader off so the fleet can escape before the Star Destroyers join him. The entire Ghost team takes on the challenge by joining her in the fight and even Ahsoka asks to come along. Her presence means we finally get an answer to one of the biggest questions fans have been asking since Ahsoka’s return: Does she know who Vader really is? The answer is: not until now. Determined to find out who or what Vader is, Kanan and Ahsoka reach out into the Force to sense him, only for both Vader and Ahsoka to mentally connect and realize who each other are; The shock of this revelation causes Ahsoka to feint and changes Vader’s priorities for the crew from dead to alive. However, with some luck and Imperial incompetence, the Ghost and what’s left of the fleet escape, leaving everyone reeling from the consequences of their seemingly harmless/selfless actions.
I would’ve thought Vader and Ahsoka learning about one another would’ve been a later plot point in the show, but I’m totally okay with them covering it this early in the season. It’s interesting to note Vader tells Palpatine about her, with Palpatine saying she’ll be useful to track down other Jedi, while Ahsoka lies and doesn’t tell Kanan and Ezra that she actually knows Vader. She has a lot to consider and deal with, but you can tell how much more refined Ahsoka is now with her calm and calculating response to the revelation. The chills from their connection was palpable and the entire crowd watching the premiere was just as excited and shocked by it.
Here are a few other things:
- Lando’s droid’s voice: priceless. Wait till you get to hear it!
- Action scenes feel bigger and better.
- Ezra was the only one to feel the cold from the dark side so strongly around Vader because he once connected with the dark side, while both Kanan and Ahsoka haven’t and therefore probably don’t feel it as easily.
- If you’ve watched the trailer, it’s roughly made up of 70% footage from the one-hour premiere.
- They used the Star Tours shuttle again…but it’s been blown to bits, possibly another signal of the change in tone.
- Leaving behind Lothal for good….for now makes me very happy. But what could the Emperor want that’s so valuable there? Kyber Crystals for the Death Star? A Sith Temple?
- James Earl Jones. ‘Nuff said.
- And Sam Witwer plays another Dark Lord, this time of the Sidious variety and does a damn good job. In the part Palpatine speaks with Vader, Palpatine’s hologram image isn’t seen and therefore we don’t have a Rebels model for the Emperor…yet.
- Don’t just take my word for how great premiere was: Megan over at Den of Geek has a rather positive and well-thought out review.
- And if you want to know even more about season 2, there was one Rebels panel I didn’t attend at SWCA 2015, but the official site has a live-blog plus all the concept art they showed off.
- UPDATE 6/20: Now that the episode has officially aired, StarWars.com has started up the Rebels Recon series again along with posting trivia, concept galleries, and a full song from the episode. This Rebels Recon answers questions about who is older, Ezra or Luke and Leia and if there are even phases for stormtrooper armor much like the clone troopers had. On top of that, there’s a preview of the fall’s first episode, “The Lost Commanders.” Unfortunately, no air date for that yet.
Dave Filoni plus cast and crew have really struck out again, and then some, with the Star Wars Rebels Season 2 Premiere “The Siege of Lothal.” I was worried the opening hour wouldn’t be able to live up to the expectations made with the trailer, but it matched and exceeded those with fun and grace. This new season has a thrilling new tone, bigger consequences, and higher stakes…and it’s just plain fun. Can’t wait for everyone to see this in Summer, followed by the rest of the season in the Fall.
+ Vader’s might
+ Big consequences for their actions
STAR WARS REBELS REVIEWS:
Season One: Spark of Rebellion | Ep. 2: “Droids In Distress” | Ep.3: “Fighter Flight” | Ep.4: “Rise of the Old Masters” | Ep.5: “Breaking Ranks” | Ep.6: “Out of Darkness” | Ep.7: “Empire Day” | Ep.8: “Gathering Forces” | Ep.9: “Path of the Jedi” | Ep.10: “Idiot’s Array” | Ep.11: “Vision of Hope” | Ep.12: “Call to Action” | Ep.13: “Rebel Resolve” | Ep.14: “Fire Across the Galaxy“
Season Two: Ep. 2: “The Lost Commanders” | Ep. 3: “Relics of the Old Republic” | Ep. 4: “Always Two There Are” | Ep. 5: “Brothers of the Broken Horn” | Ep. 6: “Wings of the Master” | Ep. 7: “Blood Sisters” | Ep. 8: “Stealth Strike” | Ep. 9: “The Future of the Force” | Ep. 10: “Legacy” | Ep. 11 “A Princess on Lothal” | Ep. 12: “The Protector of Concord Dawn” | Ep. 13: “Legends of the Lasat” | Ep. 14: “The Call” | Ep. 15: “Homecoming” | Ep. 16: “The Honorable Ones” | Ep. 17: “Shroud of Darkness” | Ep. 18: “The Forgotten Droid” | Ep. 19: “The Mystery of Chopper Base” | Ep. 20: “Twilight of the Apprentice“
Season Three: Step Into Shadows