At Celebration this weekend Lucasfilm screened the Star Wars Rebels Season Two Premiere and we were there to check it out.
Even at its shortened state, I loved the first season of Star Wars Rebels. It did its job establishing the core characters and setting the stage for something much bigger. The only real problems I ever had with it were how tied it was to Lothal and how the low budget always was visible in the form of reused characters. Both of those issues seem to be dealt with pretty quickly in the Season Two premiere.
If you’ve seen the trailer for season two, with the Rex stuff and Hondo, that isn’t part of the premiere although they do say Rex pops up in the first few episodes. There are also no new Inquisitors yet, although we know they’re coming (and why) by the end of this episode.
The story picks up some time after the season finale where the crew of the Ghost have joined up with the Rebel fleet and are flying missions with a squadrons of A-Wings. Fallout from the previous season hits the Imperial overseers of Lothal, and a trap is sprung to lure the Rebels back to be tossed into the meat grinder we know of as Darth Vader.
Despite the show runners saying they wanted to use Vader sparingly, he’s all over this first episode. It could just be to set up the second season and the new Inquisitors, but he’s the primary villain of this hour-long episode and James Earl Jones knocks it out of the park as expected. The Vader/Kanan/Ezra duel shown in the trailer takes place in this episode, but an even bigger shock also is in store.
As a result of what Vader does on Lothal (and with the help of a great cameo), the crew of the Ghost must leave the planet forever. By the end of this episode we’re done with Lothal, opening the story up to bigger things. The Rebels take their first step into a larger world, and it’s something I think a lot of fans have been wanting to see for a while.
Ever since Ahsoka was brought into Rebels, and even before that actually, there has been the question of how they will deal with the Vader situation. I didn’t expect it to happen this soon, but by the end of the episode one of them will be sure the other is alive while the other won’t know what to believe or accept. It makes a lot of sense why Vader would pursue her, but at the same time it also means that she may not survive until A New Hope.
One thing that really struck me about the episode was a slight improvement in the look and animation. It’s almost as if Disney gave the show a little larger budget as the lighting and shading showed a noticeable improvement over season one.
The one-hour premiere of Star Wars Rebels maintains the fast pace of a Star Wars movie, and almost felt like we were watching Episode 3.8 and not an installment of a cartoon series. If the rest of Season Two (which will be 22 episodes) are even close to this good, it’s a very good time to be a Star Wars fan!