I was lucky enough to be one of the people to see the Star Wars Rebels season two premiere at Celebration Anaheim. It was easily one of the highlights of the event for me, the kind of thing I so rarely experience, let alone with friends who love Star Wars as much as I do. Since then I’ve been debating on the best way to write a review of the movie that kicks off the season, and of course I’ve decided on a no-spoiler approach–though I’ll give a small spoiler warning for the following, just in case.
The season essentially kicks off with what we see in the trailer, and it’s exactly where you’d want it to start. The Ghost crew is working with a Rebel cell–the Phoenix Squadron–as part of a larger rebellion. We’ve seen this squadron and their A-wings before in concept art shown during the finale’s Rebels Recon, as well as the art released during the Star Wars Rebels: Past, Present, and Future panel at Celebration. While some of the crew fits seamlessly in with this new environment, others are not so happy with their newfound place in the galaxy. Being part of what is starting to become an organized army in the midst of a coming war doesn’t sit well with some who have been in that place before.
Now instead of Hera having to make executive decisions on which parts of Fulcrum’s information to dole out, they’re working side-by-side with Anakin’s old padawan-turned-rebel. Ahsoka has grown a lot since we last saw her in season five of The Clone Wars, taking a step back and seeming much less hotheaded. Of course, she’s still not one to shy away from danger when it comes down to it.
Largely because of the events of the previous season–especially those of the finale Fire Across the Galaxy–the Empire is buckling down on Lothal to track down the Ghost crew and its fellow rebels. Even with the help of Tarkin, both Agent Kallus and Minister Tua failed to squash Lothal’s rebels, and so: enter Darth Vader, sent by Emperor Palpatine himself.
Remember when we all learned Vader would have a cameo in the first season of Rebels, but were only graced with his appearance for seconds? Rebels breaks this trend pretty fast this season, and it sure isn’t holding back. Vader is in his prime, and is more than a little terrifying. It’s clear from the get-go that the rebels can’t face up against him–Kanan never finished his training, Ezra’s barely begun his. This is the Hand of the Emperor that we’ve always wanted to see in action, but nobody actually wanted to see up against our Rebels heroes. An unstoppable force, and an actual competent villain. Just by proxy, Kallus seems even more evil than he was before.
The movie was enthralling, with a mix of both new and familiar faces and some slick action sequences. The animation is gorgeous, and I’d guess that their budget has increased. You just have to look at the fluidity of Vader’s cape to see just how much work the art team are putting into everything, especially the details.
For those wondering about Ahsoka and Vader–does she know about him? Does he know about her?–there are definite hints as to what we’ll see with these two during the season. There’s a small almost-encounter between them, and at some point they’re going to have to meet. (How soon that will happen is hard to say.)
With the Empire putting pressure on Lothal and her people, the stakes feel much higher this season. The future of our heroes is uncertain and tensions are running high. As Kanan says in the trailer, “Things are getting worse.” We, like Kanan, saw the way things got worse during the Clone Wars. If you liked season one you’re going to love season two, which debuts June 20th at 9:00 PM.