Star Wars Rebels has returned to Disney XD with the double episode The Siege of Lothal, and boy did it prove to be worth the wait.
We open on an intense space fight in which it is learned that the crewmembers of the Ghost have joined the Phoenix rebel fleet. With the members of the Phoenix fleet, the Ghost has been liberating fuel from the Imperial blockades. After an intense dogfight the crew make the jump to hyperspace at the appearance of Imperial Star Destroyers.
On Lothal the Empire has secured their operations and Minister Tua and Agent Kallis are discussing what is being done to locate the rebels. Tua states that she has increased security and established a planetary wide curfew but believes that the rebels have already fled the planet. Dark Vader interrupts the conversation between the two Imperial leaders, who informs Tua that the rebels have escaped they must give them incentive to return to the planet. Tua expresses hesitation about such drastic measures and Vader informs the Minister that she can express the concerns to Gran Moff Tarkin when she visits him to account for her failure.
Back at home base, Commander Sato is debriefing the Ghost crew. The crew’s debrief is interrupted by Chopper who is carrying an urgent message from Jho back on Lothal. Jho presents Tua who is looking to defect from the empire and is looking for safe passage off the planet in return for secrets including a list of rebel sympathizers embedded in the Empire. Despite concerns about whether it is a trap, it is agreed that they will extract the minister from the planet.
Kanan quickly exits the command center only to be cornered by Hera who is concerned about Kanan’s disregard for protocol and safety measures. Kanan argues though that he never signed on to fight another war and once their mission is completed he wants to leave the Phoenix fleet.
While preparing to defect, Agent Kallus grows concerned about her actions and orders a probe droid to follow her intently.
As they return to Lothal, Ezra comments on how dark and cold the planet now feels, sensing the anger and fear, which follows Lord Vader, he also comments on how many Imperial Star Destroyers now occupied the planet. Kanan knocks out a Storm Trooper and steals his uniform. Under this guise the team move to incept Tua only to discover that she has been followed by Kallus. A fight ensues and sadly Tua perishes in a shuttle explosion. As the rebels flee they fail to notice Darth Vader watching from on high.
Having used the death of Tua to turn Lothal against the rebels a plan is devised to steel an Imperial shuttle to use to break through the blockade that is currently prohibiting their escape. Kanan again dressed as a Storm Trooper and Ezra impersonating a cadet sneak into the Imperial complex smuggling the rest of the crew in crates. Hera also manages to steal a few military shield generators. Before Kanan and Ezra can make it to the transport they come face to face with Darth Vader and instantly recognize him as the cause of the intense emotions associated with the dark side of the Force.
A light saber duel ensues and Kanan and Ezra escape by the hairs on their chin. With the help of a distraction provided by Zev and Sabine, the rebels fly away barely surviving the Sith Lord. Realizing they can’t get off the planet they contact Lando Calrissian hoping he will smuggle them for the right price.
Kallus and Vader are discussing their next actions for capturing the rebels and Vader commands that Tarkintown (a refugee camp that had once aided the rebels) be burned to the ground.
Using Lando’s gear Sabine comes up with a plan to finally escape the planet, by using multiple transponders set to their ships frequency to confuse the Imperials. Once they have made it past the blockade and into space Hera makes a jump to hyperspace to rejoin the rebel fleet.
Kanan expresses his disinterest in rejoining the Phoenix Fleet and the rebels but is quickly outvoted by the other crewmembers. However, once they return to the rebels it is discovered that star fighter is secretly transmitting and the crew of the Ghost and the Phoenix Fleet must take on Lord Vader that decimates a great many Phoenix ships. Within range of Vader Tano senses his presence, screams, and falls unconscious and Vader realizes that his former Padawan is still alive.
The rebels are forced to abandon Home Base and evacuate the fleet. However, Vader now obsessed with capturing the Ghost and taking Tano alive are having trouble shaking the tail. It is only after a daring jump to hyperspace between two Star Destroyers that escape is managed.
Once reunited with the remained members of the rebel fleet. Tano lies to Ezra and denies having any knowledge about Lord Vader’s identity but confirms that he won’t stop coming after them but all are in agreement that they will fight Vader together.
Aboard a Star Destroyer Vader reports back to his master, informing him that he intends to capture Anakin Skywalker’s former Padawan in hope that she will lead him to the remaining Jedi, perhaps even Obi-Wan Kenobi.
MY TWO CENTS
I must start this review by saying bravo Rebels, way to start off the season. Gone is the dragging plotlines, gone is the boring filler, and in it’s place is an action packed episode filled with old character favorites who are now being shown in a whole new light.
From the opening frame Rebels has managed to capture the best part of Star Wars, thrilling dogfights in the vastness in space, and they managed to do it well. The introduction of the Phoenix fleet was a stroke of genius.
Darth Vader has been a polarizing character in the Star Wars universe, whether he be the youthful and impetuous Anakin Skywalker or the reserved, robotic Darth Vader. What Rebels has presented is an interesting in between. In Rebels Lord Vader is no longer just a menacing figure lurking in the corners he is in the thick of it and getting his hands dirty hunting the Rebels single handedly reminding us how he managed to decimate the Jedi order. What the introduction of Darth Vader really does though is give Rebels a worthy antagonist but firmly routes the story into the Star Wars Universe (finally).
It is interesting as well to see some antagonists (like Tua) changing allegiances making it clear that not every member of the Empire is on board with Vader and the Emperor’s tactics. Hopefully character depth within antagonists also continues to be explored as Lord Vader and Agent Kallus can come off as a little flat at times.
The main characters also continue to add layers in depth, Kanan’s reservations of joining another war and his less than cavalier attitude about joining and officially hitching his flag to the Rebel Alliance shows that in a post Clone Wars world tensions are still high and the path to Star Wars: A New Hope was a terse journey indeed. It is also a huge shift from season one when the Ghost of the crew almost always follow Kanan’s direction without comment, now Ezra truly holds more influence on the crew and things are now rarely as cut and dry as, ‘do what Kanan says.’
Looking back at the plot choosing to focus on action instead of silly antics and one-dimensional sidekicks (like Chopper or Zev) also helped introduce a more mature Rebels, a Rebels more befitting of it predecessor Clone Wars. However, I cannot help but be hesitant as we have all been here before. The two hour pilot of Star Wars Clone wars had a lot of the same Hallmarks as The Siege of Lothal so it will really come down to the full second season of Star Wars Rebels to determine whether this show is still worthy of our time and fervor.
Until then I will ride the high of a delightful action packed introduction to season two.