Looking back through my reviews for the first half of this season, I realize now how many of them began with remarkably similar paragraphs. This was by no means a conscious choice on my part (and if I had realized I was doing this, I would have at least attempted to be more clever about it), but seven of the nine reviews I wrote this season open with a few sentences expressing my frustration at the lack of forward momentum and overabundance of meaningless fan service that betrays what attracted me to the show in the first place. And here I am, again, starting off yet another article on Star Wars Rebels with yet another paragraph saying the same thing.
I’m ready to be done rattling off the same spiel every week, and this new trailer for the back half of Season Two gives me hope that I’ll be able to. The biggest problem with the last several episodes – the fact that almost nothing of note happened – seems to have been addressed as this trailer is stuffed with tantalizing looks at what seems to be a fairly wide breadth of stories. Take a look
Look, it has to be acknowledged that the trailer for the first half of Season Two was also exciting, but looking back that trailer was made up almost entirely of footage from “The Siege of Lothal”. At the risk of being fooled twice, this one seems like it’s giving us a peek at a solid handful of episodes and it certainly seems to be pushing the show in interesting directions. There’s a lot to unpack in this trailer, so I guess the only way to start is at the beginning:
The Sith Shrine
I’m very glad that, for the moment at least, we seem to be done with the Sith in the movies. The way they played into the prequels was yet another casualty of Star Wars‘ shrinking universe syndrome, establishing a bunch of arbitrary rules and restrictions that bad guys in the galaxy far, far away would be forced to adhere to. That said, as much as I frequently disparage the Expanded Universe, there’s a lot of interesting lore to be mined from the ancient Sith – long before Darth Bane and his idiotic Rule of Two – lore that was established in the likes of the Knights of the Old Republic games.*
It looks like Rebels will be dipping its toes in those waters, with Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka visiting an ancient Sith shrine buried beneath the surface of some desolate planet. We have Kyber Crystals and Sith Holocrons and ghastly stone figures that beg the question if there was ever life in these morbid decorations. I don’t imagine they’ll go too far into the weeds of ancient Sith lore here, as this seems to primarily be a framework for Ezra to be tempted by the Dark Side of the Force (which, for the record, is as it should be), but there’s a lot of weird, cool stuff I’d be excited to see touched upon. And, of course, there’s this:
Despite its surrounding clips in the trailer, it’s clear that this scene takes place at the Sith shrine. We know that Kylo Ren’s saber is a crudely constructed knock-off of an ancient design, and here Ezra seems to have found an original. So the question becomes, did this blade belong to the Sith or to some other faction? Is it possible we might be seeing some Knights of Ren backstory here? I’m excited to find out!
Cham Syndula/Leia Organa
The pieces are starting to fall into place for this loosely organized band of freedom fighters to become the Rebel Alliance we know from the films. Leia’s role in this should be pretty obvious, but no less exciting. She’s the princess of Alderaan and soon-to-be-member of the Imperial Senate, but she’s also the daughter of the man who is bringing these disparate rebels cels together, meaning she has connections on both sides of this conflict. I’m looking forward to seeing Leia play double agent, something we’ve only ever seen the smallest glimpse of in the past.
Cham, on the other hand is decidedly not someone who has the luxury of playing both sides of the field. He’s a radical freedom fighter who led an assassination attempt against Vader and the Emperor and came shockingly close to pulling it off. If the Galactic Empire has a most wanted list, Cham would be at the very top. He’s also Hera’s father, and knowing his history, I’m sure he could not be more proud of the work his daughter is doing. With these two in place, start placing your bets now on when we’ll see Mon Mothma and Admiral Ackbar.
Jedi Temple Guards
This is perhaps the most interesting thing teased here. The Jedi Temple Guards were introduced as background characters at the tail end of The Clone Wars, so the fact that they’re making a reappearance in what seems to be a major role is unexpected to say the least. In this trailer we see them going toe to toe against both the Jedi and the Inquisitors in both the ruins of an ancient Jedi temple and in the Star Wars equivalent of a samurai dojo. This is the most intriguing aspect of all this for me because I have no idea what to expect. It’s a total unknown, and that’s exciting!
The Tragedy of Anakin Skywalker
Ahsoka Tano may wind up being the best thing George Lucas contributed to Star Wars after Return of the Jedi. The story of Anakin Skywalker in the prequels never worked; he was a hateful, impetuous wiener and his descent into villainy was more turgid than tragic. Even in The Clone Wars he doesn’t fare much better – except, that is, when he’s around Ahsoka. His mentorship and friendship with Ahsoka humanizes Anakin in a way that was rarely achieved in almost 70 hours of film and television. Even the couple brief lines Matt Lanter gets in this trailer carry an emotional punch that makes me excited to see this conflict play out. This is Vader endeavoring to execute his last shred of humanity, and perhaps, at long last, we’ll have a satisfying story of Anakin’s fall, albeit from the unlikeliest of sources.
The Phantom Annoyance
I get it, kids who grew up with the Star Wars prequels have the same sort of unwarranted affection for Darth Maul that grown ups have for Boba Fett. They’re both hollow shells of characters that whip up excitement based on nothing more than their design, only to end up dying in hilariously pathetic ways. That being said, at least Lucasfilm has had the decency to (thus far) keep Boba Fett dead. The same cannot be said for Darth Maul who was resurrected in The Clone Wars in order to be downgraded from non-entity to loathesome irritant. Darth Maul is the herpes of Star Wars, showing up at the worst possible time just when you thought you were rid of him. With Maul coming in as an “Old Master” to nudge Ezra towards the Dark side, I feel I have a pretty good guess of where they’re going with this and I could not be less interested in that story if I tried. Heaven help us, we’re stuck with Darth Maul forever.
Those are the big things, but there are a few smaller points of interest as well.
Yoda is back and this time he actually gets a physical form, albeit one that looks incredibly “off”. Dave Filoni says the character model is inspired by the old Kenner toy, but there are some things on which you can’t stray too far from the beaten path.
We get a look at yet another Inquisitor here, bringing the series total to four.
And here we see more Lasats! Zeb isn’t the last of his kind after all.
I have no idea what we’re seeing here, but there’s something about this image that gets me incredibly excited. It feels a little bit like 2001, and a little bit like a Jack Kirby drawing. If we’re diving into the histories of both the Sith and the Jedi this season, I’d be way into an episode that jumps feet first into the weirder mystical corners of the Star Wars universe.
And speaking of weirdness, I’ll leave you with this glorious image of Ezra riding into battle on the back of a space whale. I got a little burnt out by the first half Rebels‘ second season, but this trailer has given me a brand new jolt of excitement. Even the return of a character who I hate with everything that I am can’t harsh my buzz too much when it comes to what I’m seeing here. I just hope the remainder of the season delivers on this promise; either way, we’ll find out when the series returns this coming Wednesday.
*At this point, some of you might be wondering why I’m bothering to discuss elements of the Star Wars Expanded Universe that are no longer considered canon. It’s true that when Lucasfilm aborted the old EU, a lot of stories were written out of the canon completely – pretty much anything that takes place after Revenge of the Sith no longer exists – but when it comes to prequel-era and earlier things get more complicated. The Clone Wars is responsible for a lot of this; having been produced in a time when the EU was still alive, it frequently brought in references to stories and events that would now be considered “Legends” making them, or at least parts of them, canon by proxy. Beyond that, several of the novels and comics that make up the new Star Wars canon have shout outs to bits of prequel-era “Legends” meaning that, unlike the Original Trilogy and post-Return of the Jedi-era EU, this stuff can’t be discounted wholesale. It’s Schrödinger’s canon – simultaneously existing as both canon and not canon until some new story comes around to clarify one way or the other. Because of that, I suspect that Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel will at some point be officially folded back into the canon, meaning the whole business about the ancient Sith Empire, whose legacy was plundered by fallen Jedi, is still on the table.