Recap: ‘Star Wars Rebels’ S2E1 “The Siege of Lothal”
Off the back of a pretty impressive and powerful close to its first season, there is no slow start to Star Wars Rebels Season 2. From the moment The Ghost comes flying overhead we are pulled into the story as our rebels come to grips with being members of a wider rebellion, even though some long for the solidarity of running amok on Lothal alone. All thoughts of retuning to their lives are shattered to pieces as a new terror rears his head, and our heroes stare into the face of pure evil for what seems like the first time.
Caught in a supply liberation mission, the rebels of Lothal have clearly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with as they fight alongside their new found allies, though Kanan (Freddie Prinze Jr.) makes it known that the military feel of the wider Rebellion is not to his liking. However, an interesting call from Imperial Minister Tua (Kath Soucie) brings them back home in the hopes that the minister’s desire to defect is genuine. As soon as they enter the atmosphere, both Kanan and his padawan Ezra (Taylor Gray), feel the change on their home planet, and all too soon they find out why. As they attempt to take Tua under their protection, she is killed in what reveals itself as a perfectly orchestrated operation as Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) steps from the shadows with overwhelming odds against our rebels.
Their narrow escape is thwarted by the Imperial forces and a vast blockade around the planet, and the rebels are forced underground. Faced with nowhere to go and an incredibly frightening and powerful enemy closing in on them, Hera (Vanessa Marshall) asks Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) for help, and with a bit of trickery, the rebels manage to fool the blockade and escape to hyperspace. Unfortunately, their new opponent is much more formidable than the departed Inquisitor, and Vader tracks their stolen shuttle back to the rebel fleet.
With only moments to spare, Hera warns Commander Sato (Keone Young) of an impending Imperial attack, not expecting for Vader to come alone. In a show of unparalleled piloting skill unseen by anyone since the Clone Wars, Vader succeeds in crippling the rebel command ship and the A-Wing fighter squadron. As The Ghost takes flight to draw his attention, Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) and Kanan reach out to sense everything they can about the Sith Lord, and in a heartrending moment, Ahsoka realizes the truth of Vader’s identity, something she chooses to keep to herself for now as the rebels escape to regroup.
Star Wars Rebels has already proven that it is capable of following The Clone Wars in storytelling prowess and character building greatness, and as we move into Season 2, everything has already been kicked up a notch. A return to the same old everything would have been boring, stagnating the story on one locale rather than moving it and the rebels into the wider galaxy with their new allies. “The Siege of Lothal” does this perfectly, a heady mix of humor, tension, and the sense that all is no longer fun and games make for an explosive forty-five minute opener.
Between our rebels, not much has changed besides their more established relationship and how they work like a well-oiled machine together as one. Kanan and Ezra still have great banter as any good Master/Padawan duo must, and more is being established leading to the conclusion that Kanan and Hera are in a relationship. However, every dynamic must come under pressure when a new villain is introduced, and no villain has the power to crush good spirits like Darth Vader. Though it appears he may not be the leading villain throughout the whole of Season 2, mostly leading the Imperial set up on Lothal, Vader’s entrance puts the Inquisitors to shame.
Unlike at any point during the original Star Wars trilogy, this era’s Vader is pure evil with no knowledge of his son or the weariness he must carry with him after 20 years of servitude. This Rebels era Vader is young, strong, hateful, and ruthless, and he has no problem demonstrating that one doesn’t need a double lightsaber to easily vanquish Kanan and Ezra. Their first fight against him results in the two Jedi realizing how unbelievably unequipped they are to face the evils in the galaxy, especially if Vader is at the head of them all, and the Sith Lord barely breaks a sweat, swatting Kanan and Ezra away like annoying insects. His order to destroy the refugee camp that the rebels offer aid to in a demonstration of pure evil and power is further proof that Vader these days has no soul and will destroy everything the rebels hold dear in order to instill fear in their hearts. “The Siege of Lothal” is a brilliant return for James Earl Jones to the role, yet another classic talent that Rebels as brought back into the Star Wars fold.
As a villain, Vader is a perfect vehicle to create within this new season of Rebels the sense of how diabolical and seemingly unstoppable the Empire is, and as he begins to pick off the weak characters from last season who fail him, we know that whenever he appears, the rebels will have everything to fear. An overly powerful villain will keep the rebels from returning to their home, expanding the story outward and allowing for characters like Ahsoka and Bail Organa (Phil LaMarr) to introduce canonical characters we may have seen before, making the Rebels universe full of directional possibilities for the story to go.
Despite all the great moments in “The Siege of Lothal” as our rebels face their darkest enemy, the scene steal of the episode is one that us fans of The Clone Wars have been waiting for and weren’t sure we were going to see until later in the season. Though it’s not as brutal of a reveal as they could have made it, Ahsoka reaching out to Vader and finding her old Master is one that will remain with us throughout the season as one of the hardest, saddest scenes to watch. With Season 1 coming to a close as it did, this reveal was inevitable, and the upheaval it would create for the two characters involved was already set to make waves, especially considering Ahsoka’s fate in The Clone Wars and our love of her and Anakin’s relationship during that show. While Vader takes the revelation as an opportunity to exploit Ahsoka’s survival within the rebellion to his advantage, it is Ahsoka that we feel great pain and sadness for as she carries the burden of knowledge that clearly causes her anguish as she can only speculate as to how her funny, reckless, yet compassionate Master became such a monster.
It is moments like this one that make Star Wars animation so great and a joy for fans of all ages to watch. The creators have brought such emotion into the show very early on that will remain a part of the season as Vader seeks out Skywalker’s apprentice and any hidden Jedi she may be able to lead him to, adding to the already much darker undertone established with Vader’s presence in Rebels. Season 2 is setting itself up to have some great episodes already, whether they involve Vader or not, and if “The Siege of Lothal” is indicative of where the show is going, we are very excited!(4.8 / 5)
(Photos copyright: Disney, Lucasfilm)