The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

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".

6 comments:

  1. A slight mistake: the episode where Zeb and Kallus team up is called "The Honorable Ones."

    I absolutely loved the ending to that one, BTW - we see Zeb come back to his small group of rebel friends and he's welcomed with camaraderie and family by those who are glad to see him back, and then we see Kallus return to his much larger Imperial crew and barely anyone seemed to notice or care that he'd been missing at all. The last shot shows us quite clearly how alone in his world Kallus is and it made me just feel so bad for the guy despite all the nasty things he's done. It was the perfect note to end the whole thing on.

    I also loved Maul. One of "Clone Wars" other good points was that it brought him back and gave him a character to really make up for the horrible shaft he got in Episode 1. In general I love how "Rebels" brings back that series' better characters like Maul, Ahsoka, Rex and his Clone troops, and Hondo Ohnaka.

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  2. I'm glad you loved maul. I'll admit, I understand why you don't care for clone wars, but I kinda like it, especially with what they did with maul. I just hope they don't overuse him in the third season of rebels, if they decide to bring him back.

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    1. Love is way too strong a word. I enjoyed him, that's hardly the same thing as loving him. He will have to have an incredible presence in the third season for me to love him.

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  3. I'm glad you enjoyed the second season. To me, it was more hit-and-miss than the more consistent first season, but when it hit, it HIT.

    I'm wondering what kind of threat the Empire will throw at the Rebels. Clearly just throwing Inquisitors at them isn't going to work.

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    1. And you can't constantly throw Vader at them without diminishing him.

      Maul is going to play a larger part, that's for sure.

      We'll see soon enough.

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  4. The Inquisitors are a nice touch;

    Fun fact; the world in the finale (Malachor) is based on one of the video games; the final boss takes place on the planet Malachor.

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