On Saturday, April 18th, Star Wars Celebration Anaheim hosted the SW Rebels season 2 premiere in the very packed Digital Stage room. In attendance in the crowd were Fanboys director Kyle Newman and his wife, actress Jaime King, actor and The Force Unleashed star Sam Witwer, Clone Wars actors Dee Bradley Baker and Ashley Eckstein along with her husband, retired baseball player David Eckstein, and cast & crew from SW Rebels including producers Dave Filoni and Simon Kinberg, CG supervisor Joel Aron, and the voice acting talent.
The Rebels season 2 premiere, The Siege of Lothal, was a 2-part episode with thrills, chills, and a few kills. The story picks up not long after “Fire Across the Galaxy”, with the Empire via Agent Kallus and Darth Vader squeezing Lothal and Minister Tua to punish them for allowing the rebel cell to exist there and escape. The crew of the Ghost has joined up with Ahsoka’s rebellion and are running raids on Imperial convoys to steal fuel alongside Phoenix squadron, a talented group of blue A-wing fighters, and the larger ships of their small fleet.
The entire voice cast is in high form during this incredibly emotional episode, giving great moments a real emotional impact, but hearing James Earl Jones return to the character of Darth Vader in this episode is the biggest joy. The guest cast also includes Billy Dee Williams, Ashley Eckstein, and Sam Witwer (The Force Unleashed’s Starkiller) who reprises the voice role he’s come to embody the past few years as Emperor Palpatine.
Vader wants to stop the Ghost crew and its 2 Jedi at all costs, hoping to quash a rebellion and perhaps get led to more Jedi stragglers, and is pulling out all stops to get what he wants, including hinting at a new Inquisitor. In “Siege” though it is Vader who takes all the best action, from an incredible lightsaber battle to staging propoganda framing our heroes to even taking on a squad of A-wings and the Ghost all by himself. Vader’s McQuarrie-inspired look lends to his menace, and his slender armored form almost belies the deadly efficiency within, one that lashes out only when necessary. And the Force is truly with the Sith Lord here, as he displays a few rather impressive feats without feeling like the producers are trying to show off. Vader definitely feels more along the lines of his attack dog version in A New Hope, a ruthless killer with the power of the Dark Side at his command at all times.
The premiere has some heavy drama to go along with a couple fantastic space battles, an emotionally powerful saber fight, and a fantastic escape from an Imperial center. Some truly clever, fun moments with our heroes give a total Classic Trilogy feeling to this episode without feeling like it’s a copycat, this from a show once derided as “just for kids”. Some of the laughs and some of the drama reach series’ highs.
Hera and Kanan ultimately are at odds about joining the larger fight of the rebellion, Kanan wanting to stay with what they had been doing and keep from being turned into just another of Ahsoka’s soldiers. Ahsoka doesn’t get much to do this episode, but she does have a personal moment towards the end that hints at a greater storyline to see in season 2. The relationships between our various heroes ultimately continue to drive forward, keeping up the quips and the concerns as Lothal comes crashing down around them during Vader’s full court press. And our heroes don’t make it out unscathed.
Of course the premiere looked great, Rebels has always had a lush, beautiful art style and CG animated design. The action in particular was thrilling and engaging and, most importantly, clear. Explosions looked great, Star Destroyers looked imposing, and our characters emotionally engaged even with just a slight squint or change of posture.
Shocking story twists and turns are not to be missed with the Star Wars Rebels season 2 premiere 2-parter “The Siege of Lothal”. This was a top-notch effort on all fronts and entirely worthy of the name “Star Wars”.