Saturday, May 14, 2016
Star Wars Rebels - Season Two
Sometimes your mindset can affect your enjoyment of something. Case in point, "Star Wars Rebels" season one. I didn't think it was bad when I watched it, but I had trouble enjoying it. Well, I'm here to eat crow because I recently re-watched it and, while some of my complaints about Ezra Bridger still stand, I was wondering what I was talking about. Honestly, I was still bitter towards the franchise as a whole. The sour taste of the prequels was still in my mouth.
What has happened since then? Well, Marvel Comics has put out some excellent comic books, particularly "Darth Vader" as written by Kieron Gillen. Rebels' season two kicking off with the impressive "Siege of Lothal" two-parter which also helped fix Darth Vader in my eyes. Even little things like the Death Battle between Darth Vader and Dr. Doom reminded me of what I enjoyed about the franchise to begin with and why. Also, a little movie called "The Force Awakens" which I really ended up loving.
As such, I recently re-watched "Rebels" season one on Blu-ray and I loved it. I was wondering what the hell I was complaining about. My comments about the Inquisitor (the Grand Inquisitor as revealed in season two) about becoming very Saturday Morning made me face palm. He only had two actual encounters with the crew of the Ghost before Grand Moff Tarkin showed up. Honestly, I must have been letting my bitterness towards the prequels and other recent Lucas approved entries into the franchise cloud my judgement. So, I would like to retroactively raise my grade to an A-. This is a quality action-adventure animated series. Probably the best one to air since the wave of "Spectacular Spider-Man", "Young Justice", "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes", etc. So, mea culpa.
I watched season two in a few large batches. A lot of it has blended together, but it was pretty damn enjoyable. I'll keep it to the highlights.
"Siege of Lothal" was a terrific opening that reminded you of why Darth Vader was and still is one of cinema's most iconic villains, if not the most iconic villains. When I left him off my Top Twenty-Five Movie Villains list and video, well that was me being mad at the prequels. He definitely deserved to be in the Top Ten based on the Original Trilogy alone. "Siege of Lothal" helped remind me of that. Re-introducing Darth Vader as a specter of death in a galaxy far, far away. James Earl Jones returning to voice Vader just helped authenticate it. Sam Witwer turns in a great performance as Emperor Palpatine, so much so that until I looked at the end credits, I thought it was Ian McDiarmid.
The crew of the Ghost also gets fleshed out alongside the universe. We're no longer confined to the Lothal System, although it will still play a large part. We visit other worlds, meet old and new characters alike. Princess Leia makes a welcome appearance midway through the season, and a returned Maul (no longer Darth) makes an appearance in the finale where it becomes clear he will play a larger part... and that is not unwelcome as "Rebels" infuses him with something "The Phantom Menace" did not, a personality. Personality goes a long way.
I should also discuss Ahsoka Tano. Now, I didn't care much for "Clone Wars" at all. Honestly, it's part of an era that I don't care for, but I schooled myself on Ahsoka and watched some of her essential episodes, and I'm glad I did because I found a very likable character. Also it made Anakin Skywalker a likable character, the character Obi Wan Kenobi was talking about in "A New Hope". And I'm glad I watched them because it made Ahsoka's fateful encounter with Darth Vader in the season finale "Twilight of the Apprentice" that much more powerful.
Lots of characters get fleshed out. A highlight in "Matters of Honor" when Zeb and Agent Kallus are stranded together on a moon of Geonosis and must rely on each other. It's a plot I've seen a million times before, but Zeb and especially Kallus benefit from it and by extension, through Kallus, the Empire benefits from it. It's not often we get into the mindset of an Imperial and see what motivates them, their nationalism, how they feel about the orders they are given. While we can hardly excuse Kallus's actions regardless of the fact that he was following orders, we gain an understanding of the man. Likewise we understand Zeb, played by the always fantastic Steve Blum, more.
The new Inquistors are fun, but don't have the air of the Grand Inquistor. The Fifth Brother was kind of a throwaway, but I enjoyed the Seventh Sister, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar... "Star Wars" has always lacked women as villains, so it was nice to see one... and I winced as she suffered a brutal death at Maul's hands.
Kanan and Hera remain the strongest of our protagonists, and I eagerly anticipate seeing where Kanan goes considering what happened to him at the season's climax. Also, I recommend Greg Weisman's excellent "Kanan" comic book. I've warmed up to Ezra a little, but he's still not my favorite character. But that being said, he's finally in a spot where I can say he's got potential. We'll see where he goes from here, but I hope that no punches are pulled.
Good stuff. Good show. I look forward to season three.
Next: "Civil War".