If A New Hope was the mould for Season 1 of Star Wars: Rebels, then Season 2 very much takes its cue from the early stages of The Empire Strikes Back.
The introduction of Darth Vader was teased in the Season 1 finale, and it isn’t very long before he makes his presence known in two-part opener ‘The Siege Of Lothal’, casually swatting Kanan and Ezra aside in one of the most one-sided lightsaber battles in the Star Wars, before decimating the Rebels in battle almost single-handedly, basically erasing their presence on Lothal and forcing the Rebels on the run.
The stakes raised, glimmers of light are provided by new additions: The Clone Wars‘ Ahsoka Tano is now a recurring cast member, veteran Clone Wars commander Rex joins the fray, and somehow-still-alive pirate Hondo Ohnaka (having previously survived encounters with Count Dooku, General Grievous and Darth Maul) pops up as light relief.
In among the kid-friendly theatrics, there are plenty of highlights: ‘Blood Sisters’ provides a welcome look into the previously underwritten Sabine’s history with the Mandalorians, ‘The Honorable Ones’ returns to the back story of Zeb and Kallus’s feud, with surprisingly affecting results, and ‘Shroud Of Darkness’ is a similarly unexpected repository of excellence, sparingly handing out a few surprising revelations.
Other aspects fail to hit the mark in quite the same way, however. Some of the cameos feel unnecessary – Princess Leia’s appearance in ‘A Princess On Lothal’ feels notably forced – and the new Inquisitors fail to make much headway, especially when all we’re really waiting for is a certain Sith Lord to come back.
And when he does, he doesn’t disappoint. Finale ‘Twilight Of The Apprentice’ delivers the face-off we’ve all been waiting for but not quite believed would actually happen, as Ahsoka and her fallen master do battle. Such is the occasion that even the return of Maul (eerily and excellently voiced by returning animation stalwart Sam Witwer) feels like a footnote by comparison.
If you’re not watching this then you’re missing out – it’s far more than just filler while you wait for the films. Rebels is quietly but confidently crafting its own unique take on a galaxy far, far away, and doing a great job in the process.