A review by Elisa and Johnamarie. This review contains spoilers.
“Star Wars Rebels has almost single-handedly brought me back to Star Wars,” wrote Devin Faraci, the editor-in-chief of Birth.Movies.Death, in response to the season two premiere of the popular animated series on Saturday, June 20. With various enthusiastic countdowns leading up to the season opener and the overwhelming positive response that followed both the eastern and western coast presentations, it’s harder for any skeptics to dismiss or deny that Star Wars Rebels is an exceptional contribution to the growing Star Wars saga.
Freddie Prinze, Jr., the voice of Order 66 survivor Kanan Jarrus, was not kidding when he said in a Rebels Recon interview that the season would start right where you want it. Not only does it kick off with a bang, but the setup for the second season is already full of twists that fans can’t wait to see addressed. The premiere shows that tensions are forming from all sides and not just from the Empire, and it promises that nothing of what we’re going to get this season is going to be cut and dry. From the outset, it already looks like the story is going to be delving deeper and not shying away from the complicated nature of people’s pasts. For any viewers who might still be on the fence about Star Wars Rebels or felt that the series was slow to find its groove, they will be thoroughly rewarded by “The Siege of Lothal”.
Left: Kanan expresses his discomfort about joining a military operation. Right: Kanan and Ezra watch Tarkintown burn in the distance. (Photos: Lucasfilm)
The word home gets tossed around a lot throughout the episode because for the rebels, home means different things. Ultimately, the crew have to decide where home is for each of them. For Kanan, home is living in the Ghost and doing their own thing. For Hera, home is with the heart of the rebellion fleet with Commander Sato and Ahsoka Tano. Ezra’s home used to be on Lothal before moving in with the rebel crew and realizing that helping people is what matters most to him. That mentality is what pushes him to hatch a plan to rescue Minister Maketh Tua and the information she possesses to potentially expand upon the rebellion’s resources. And despite the strategy falling apart, he continues to align with Hera’s vision of working with the Phoenix Squadron. Ezra, however, has a very unrealistic and overconfident approach when it comes to his own vision of defeating the Empire, whereas Kanan knows exactly what they’re facing, having experienced it all before during the Clone Wars.
With his closest friend and Padawan sitting at the other end of the table, Kanan is put in a difficult position. He spent the majority of the episode sulking in a corner, the best visual and audible representation of that coming in the form of a sigh when Ahsoka asked him to remember his training–a point in time when he loved life until the Empire eradicated everything he once knew. It’s also a sign of him still doubting himself and his abilities. Without a doubt, Kanan feels most comfortable in the environment he’s created over the years. For him, making a difference is just the short term solution to the problem (steal from the Empire and give back to the needy). Hera is looking for the long term solution, one in which they bring down the Empire to restore peace to the galaxy. Kanan reluctantly follows, however, since he ultimately trusts Hera the most and doesn’t see himself operating without her. Overall, it was great to see much of the dynamic between these two characters harken back to the beginnings of their relationship in Star Wars: A New Dawn.
Left: Ahsoka makes a connection with the Force-wielding Imperial pilot before being overwhelmed with pain and fear. Right: Darth Vader attacks the rebels when they least expect it. (Photos: Lucasfilm)
When Star Wars: The Clone Wars ended, people wanted to know what happened to Ahsoka Tano. Since her return at the end of the last season, the questions have changed. What has she been doing this whole time? Does she know what happened to Anakin? Will she and Vader face off? Will she die? “The Siege of Lothal” gives a glimpse into one of these questions. During a very action-packed scene, we see Ahsoka connect with a skilled Imperial pilot through the Force. She then screams and passes out. Headphones on with the lights turned off, it’s a very jarring and emotion-filled moment, and it’s not only because it’s the moment we’ve been waiting to see.
The apprentice lives.”
Up to this point, it’s clear that Vader didn’t know Ahsoka was alive somewhere in the galaxy, and given her reaction, it’s also evident that she had no idea what had become of her Master. Some fans disliked the fact that Ahsoka fainted, but two things happened to Ahsoka in that moment when she fully reached Vader. First, she opened herself up to the mysterious pilot, who she only knew to be strong with the Force. This wasn’t just any person who was Force sensitive or dabbled in the dark side, though. This was Darth Vader, the Sith Lord, who she just reached out to and Force touched without any idea beforehand. Completely undefended and unprepared, getting in touch with the dark nature that makes up Darth Vader would have fazed even a Master Jedi in that circumstance.
Second, Ahsoka could have been living with the idea that somewhere out in the galaxy, Anakin was living his life. We want good things for the people we love, and she clearly loved Anakin like a brother when we last saw her in The Clone Wars. As soon as she got into contact with Vader through the Force, however, those hopes were dashed in an instant. Not only did she just come in contact with untold amounts of darkness, but at the same time, she suffered a very personal loss.
Ahsoka, do you know who or what he is?” … “No, I don’t.”
Unlike many others out there, some of us believe she’s not lying when answering Ezra’s question. She knows that Vader is Anakin, but due to him now being so far removed and twisted from the man she once knew, she doesn’t know who or what he is anymore. This only adds to the terror she felt when she finally achieved a connection with him.
Most of us have been longtime Star Wars fans and we’ve seen Vader across various stories, but there is a general consensus out there that this episode is the first time we find Darth Vader to be downright terrifying. He’s brute force and not just in his own physical strength. Watching Kanan and Ezra go up against him, it was clear that they were extremely outmatched so much so that, for a moment, there was no hope of them even getting lucky when it came to this fight. And his maneuvering out in space against the rebel fleet was simply amazing, both in his skill and in the crew’s animation. It’s quite possible that Vader made personal modifications to his craft, so not only is Vader terrifying on the ground, but he’s also something to be feared in the vastness of space, something we see in greater detail in Lords of the Sith.
Left: Sabine shoots at Darth Vader, who deflects the blaster bolts back at her, hitting her in the chest and helmet. Right: Coming under heavy fire, Commander Sato reluctantly orders his crew to abandon ship. (Photos: Lucasfilm)
As for the rest of the characters who made appearances in this episode, everyone got their fair share of screen time. Our hearts broke for Minister Tua, since her death came unexpectedly, though, it became more apparent as soon as she had hopes of getting away. With her gone, we’re curious as to whom will take her place. Not in regards to Lothal, since we’re moving away from that planet, but in terms of a new Imperial female character in general. Moving along the Imperial ranks, the line of underlings is becoming non-existent, gradually nudging the smug Agent Kallus onto thin ice. At some point, the man who appears to feel invincible among his peers will no doubt face a red saber himself.
Shifting back over to the rebels side, Sabine truly shined in this episode. From telling her team to “Move, move, move!” out of a crashed transport to coming up with a plan that helped them escape Lothal, and of course, taking a blaster bolt to the helmet, she proves once again how resourceful and capable she is during any situation. That full-on shot just above the right brow would have taken down anyone else, but we appreciate the attention to detail from the writers and the idea of Mandalorian armour being special in that way. Zeb referring to the soldiers of his people reinforced the fact that he is a man of honor, unwilling to abandon any efforts to bring down the Empire. Chopper brought on the laughs, as always. And finally, Commander Sato is a character of military background who we know little about, except that he’s voiced by actor Keone Young. The conscious efforts to incorporate diversity both in a galaxy far away and behind the microphone continue to impress.
The only disappointment from the premiere came in the lack of a statement from Disney announcing a third season for the series. Since its debut at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim, there has been nothing but praise for this episode and the series in general. From the brilliant storytelling that ties together threads of the past and of the present to the breathtaking animation and incredible performances, if the rest of the season carries on with the momentum that “The Siege of Lothal” built up, then it’s going to be an incredible season for fans of every age to experience.
Season two will resume later this fall on Disney XD with the return of familiar faces in “The Lost Commanders”.
Visit the official Star Wars site for “The Siege of Lothal” episode guide.