Last night saw the start of the second season of Star Wars: Rebels with the hour long episode ‘The Siege of Lothal’. The first season left everyone in anticipation by showing the return of not only Darth Vader but also Ahsoka Tano. The review below will contain SPOILERS so if you want to remain innocent of all the happenings in this episode, stop reading now!
There are so many things to discuss, given that this season-starter is almost twice as long as the regular episodes. ‘The Siege of Lothal’ leads on beautifully from ‘Fire Across the Galaxy’. The Ghost-crew has to deal with the consequences of their actions on Tarkin’s ship and not just for themselves but for all of Lothal. It’s great to see that kind of continuity within a show and to see how the showrunners don’t drop themes and character development after such a long break. What sets Star Wars: Rebels apart from many other shows is the strong sense of family and the constant attention for the relationships between the different characters. In ‘The Siege of Lothal’, it is the relationship between Hera and Kanan that is explored. Hera’s loyalty to the Rebel Alliance is something which seems to come between them, especially since she has been working for them without Kanan knowing about it. On the other hand, Kanan has a lot of resentment towards any kind of militarisation due to his experiences during the Clone Wars. This is something I also hinted at in the trailer discussion. Kanan is bound to have to deal with his Master’s death and his own actions after, and it was great seeing this episode find the time to address that and show that there are no quick fire solutions to these kind of issues. The Ghost-crew ends up discussing their willingness to stay with the Alliance or not and it is a great moment in which we see each character voicing their own opinion and be heard. Not only does this add to each character’s depth, it also shows the showrunners’ willingness to go deep.
The strength of this episode definitely lay in its willingness to show the different shades of grey that exists during a war. Maketh Tua, who has become a bit of a favourite, was the perfect character to show that the Imperial “dedication to the cause” isn’t shared by everyone. In the way that Kanan is reluctant to commit entirely to the Alliance and everything that comes with it, so Tua is not willing to dedicate completely to the brutality that Darth Vader and Agent Kallus bring to the Empire. As a “children’s show”, The Clone Wars always pushed itself to not shy away from complicated issues and it seems as if Star Wars: Rebels is following along that path. It was also interesting to see Kallus’ callous (get it?) attitude towards Tua and towards what Vader had planned for Lothal. It will be a very interesting dynamic which will hopefully be explored a bit more throughout the season, especially considering a very stark comparison between the two in the sense of animation.
This would be the perfect moment to discuss Darth Vader, because wow. Growing up with the Prequels, Anakin Skywalker was always the strongest, the fastest and the best pilot. In the Originals, Darth Vader has lost much of the quickness that characterized Anakin and I was curious to see how Kinberg, Beck and Filoni would approach his characterization. And let me just repeat, wow. Dath Vader is a true menace in ‘The Siege of Lothal’. When the Inquisitor warns Kanan that the worst is yet to come, he was not lying. Darth Vader is terrifying, not only in the way in which he is animated, but also in how the other characters respond to him. What definitely helps is that James Earl Jones Jr. is back and his voice simply adds so much gravity to Darth Vader’s appearance. Kanan and Ezra are clearly terrified of him, not only because he is so strong but also because of his impact on the Force. Darth Vader will give you goose bumps and I have a feeling that Star Wars: Rebels might do for Darth Vader what The Clone Wars did for Anakin Skywalker.
‘The Siege of Lothal’ managed to not only put an end to some of last season’s hints and story-lines, but also had its own arc and set up story-lines for the rest of the season. One of the clearest hints to what’s to come was in the scenes with Ahsoka Tano. Unlike Darth Vader. Ahsoka had a relatively minor role in this episode which is very understandable. It was a busy episode in which it was important to not lose the focus on the main characters. The few scenes we got with Ahsoka though really showed how she had matured between her final TCW episode and Rebels, and special credit has to go to Ahsley Eckstein for the way in which her voice acting shows this. This is where we enter spoiler territory, so beware. Ahsoka reaches out with the Force to see who is trying to shoot the Ghost down, aided by Kanan and Ezra who have already fought Darth Vader at this point. Edited beautifully, this sequence leads up to Darth Vader recognizing that ‘the padawan lives’ and with Ahsoka screaming before fainting. In the end, she tells the Ghost-crew she doesn’t know who this Sith Lord is, but it is clear that she is keeping something from them. Personally I cannot wait, especially since some kind of confrontation has been strongly hinted at.
The difference in animation between The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels originally put some people off. It’s very colourful and a bit sharper. Darth Vader, for example, cuts a very slim, tall and sharp figure, making him all the more imposing. As with TCW, the animation in Rebels will develop over the seasons. However, the range of facial expressions and physical movement are beautiful. You can really read a character’s feelings at any point in the episode at a glance. It makes it so much easier to empathize with these characters and gives them all independence. Aside from this, ‘The Siege of Lothal’ had some absolutely beautiful imagery that could grace desktop backgrounds very easily. Especially the Imperial Cruisers hovering over Lothal’s capital was stunning. Darth Vader’s reveal was breath-taking and incredibly well done. We all got goosebumps from that sequence. Anyone who was skeptical about Star Wars: Rebels should probably change their tune after this episode because it was simply amazing.
The rest of Season 2 will be airing in the fall, but ‘The Siege of Lothal’ is bound to keep viewers on edge until then. What was your favourite part of this episode?