After the first season of Star Wars Rebels ended by blowing up the series’ status quo I’ve been looking forward to the next season with equal parts excitement and trepidation. I’ve explained all this at length, twice actually, and so going in to the Season Two premier tonight at Star Wars Celebration, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Now, my normal M.O. with these things is to do a full recap and analysis of the episode, but seeing as we’re months away from the official release that wouldn’t really be fair of me. Instead, I’m going to opt for something shorter and totally spoiler free.
With that in mind, let me cut to the chase and say that I’m REALLY happy with this first episode of Season Two. It doubles down on the changes made in the final stretch of Season One and reinforces how they’ve fundamentally changed everything for our heroes. The plot of the episode finds the crew of the Ghost returning to Lothal for the kind of mission we’ve seen them pull off with relative ease in the past, but they quickly find that the stakes have been raised higher than they could have ever prepared for. It’s a smart move to have the first episode of the new season be a reflection of the “standard” Season One episode, but with everything going wrong. It gives the audience an immediate point of reference for just how dramatically things have changed and says definitively “no, we can’t go back to the way it was before.”
Part of those increased stakes? Darth Vader. Guys! I’m having trouble finding words to express how PERFECT Vader is in this first episode of Rebels Season Two! It’s not just the fact that he’s voiced once again by James Earl Jones (and that fact alone is SUPER cool), but more importantly, the team at Lucasfilm Animation totally nails the look of how Vader moves. He’s like a scorpion – moving with thoughtful slowness until suddenly striking with lighting fast precision. There’s thought and weight behind every move he makes and it is incredible. There’s a moment midway through the premier (a moment glimpsed at in the trailer) where Vader corners the crew of the Ghost and engages Ezra and Kanan in a duel, and I’m tempted to call it the second best lightsaber fight of the whole Star Wars series. I know that’s huge hyperbole, but it’s really stinking good. It has none of the hyperactive, over-choreographed silliness of the Prequel duels, but instead has Vader moving through the fight like a ghost. He seems to glide across the ground dodging and countering Ezra and Kanan’s strikes like they were tossing softballs across the plate, then striking back with simple, but terrifying blows. This is the badass version of Vader we wanted to see in the Prequels, but never got, and it’s an amazing thing. I’m so excited to see more of him.
The episode also allays some of my fears by remaining true to the look and feel of the original trilogy. I was worried with characters from The Clone Wars coming in that the show might begin moving in that direction, but if this premier episode is any indication, that is completely not the case. Ahsoka blends in seamlessly with the prototypical Rebel Alliance and never feels out of place.
There’s a lot more I’d like to discuss here, but to say more would be to give away too much. For now, I’ll reiterate that this double-length episode is really good and it ends in a place that sets up exciting possibilities for Season Two. Not like I wasn’t already, but I’m with Rebels for the long haul, and I’m so excited for Season Two to kick off this fall.