Despite a drought of extra features, Star Wars Rebels: Season 2 on Blu-ray is worth owning thanks to its high caliber storytelling.
I loved Star Wars: The Clone Wars. It had a shaky start, but after working out the kinks, it became truly compelling television. It introduced Ahsoka Tano and a slew of other fun characters, it resurrected Darth Maul, it showed us the realities of war, and it even managed to give Anakin Skywalker the complex layers the prequels couldn’t be bothered with.
But there was always something nagging me about it, and after two seasons of Star Wars Rebels, I finally know what it is. Despite how great and entertaining it was, hanging over Clone Wars was always this sense that it was… filler. That these were “in-between” stories that could never address the biggest of stakes, could never kill off or drastically change most of its heroes and villains, and could never truly resolve the storylines of major characters. The show was able to add subtle shades to those characters and flesh them out a bit, but that’s all. Since it’s set prior to Revenge of the Sith, every character whose fates were spoken for in that film had to, by definition, remain fundamentally untouched in Clone Wars.
Don’t get me wrong, there was genuinely high-stakes drama in there at times — and these were the times when Clone Wars was at its best. Darth Maul’s killer reunion/showdown with Palpatine. Ahsoka’s heartbreaking exit from the Jedi Order. Asajj Ventress’ surprising, slow turn toward redemption. The Jedi Order unwittingly becoming the very military power it once vowed it would never be.
Bottom Line: The extra features are entertaining but there are too few of them to satisfy Star Wars Rebels fans.
All 20 behind-the-scenes looks at Star Wars Rebels episodes are included. It’s nice to have them collected, even though you could already watch them on YouTube.
Connecting the Galaxy
This all-too-short feature shows how the Lucasfilm Story Group connects the dots between the movies, TV shows, comics, novels, etc. Hardcore fans won’t learn much that they hadn’t already noticed, but casual viewers will come away with a stronger sense of how much thought goes into everything the show cooks up.
From Apprentice to Adversary
A special look at Ahsoka’s journey from the beginning of Clone Wars to where she finds herself in Rebels.
If you’re looking for hints regarding Ahsoka’s fate, Filoni says: “I will
explain what happens when the Temple shuts. You will
know, once and for all: Did Ahsoka live? Or did she become part of the Force? But you have to be patient.” So the answer’s coming, just not anytime soon.
These moments, focusing on characters unique to Clone Wars, increased as the show aged and matured. But there weren’t enough of them. There were too many stories without a distinct beginning that would probably never get a satisfying end. (For the sake of argument, there is some evidence to the contrary on that last point.)
Star Wars Rebels, on the other hand, is a breath of fresh air. No longer confined to the stuffy, societal strictures of the Republic, Rebels is very intentionally designed to mimic the loose, lawless, always-in-danger format of the original film trilogy. At the same time, its main cast is entirely comprised of brand new characters. Sure, it’s set during the Imperial reign between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, so beloved characters from those movies have to remain unaffected. But that’s not really a problem, since most of them never appear on Rebels — and the ones who do, like Princess Leia or Yoda, are used with restraint.
Instead, Rebels introduces us to pilot Hera Syndulla, lapsed Jedi Kanan Jarrus, Mandalorian warrior Sabine Wren, last-of-his-race muscleman Zeb, cranky Astromech droid Chopper, and brash, orphaned Jedi potential Ezra Bridger. These characters being wholly owned part-and-parcel by the show means that there’s no filler here. The show gave us their beginnings, and will one day give us their endings. Every moment matters, and anytime the crew of the Ghost crosses paths with established characters like Tarkin or Vader, there’s no guarantee they’ll all walk away from it.
If there’s anything hanging over the head of Rebels, it’s that very fact that its crew never appear in any of the movies, which suggests that some or all of our heroes may not survive their TV adventures. And that fear has never been more palpable than it was in Season 2.
SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON
The new Star Wars Rebels: Season 2 on Blu-ray — featuring a crystal clear, high-def transfer — contains all 20 episodes, which rank among the finest that the Clone Wars/Rebels crew have ever made. Every character gets at least one moment in the spotlight, with long-awaited details about their backstories finally revealed. But it’s Kanan and Ezra who still get the bulk of the screen time.
That said, history will forever record Season 2 as the time when Ahsoka Tano returned, leading to her climactic showdown with her former master Anakin Skywalker — now known as Darth Vader. (James Earl Jones lends his voice to the show, giving Vader’s every appearance immeasurable gravitas.) Their reunion in the season finale, “Twilight of the Apprentice,” is undoubtedly the dramatic highlight of the collection. But there’s plenty of exciting, gripping developments to hold your attention before you get that far.
Aside from Ahsoka, other Clone Wars characters make welcome returns, and in most cases are more enjoyable now than before. Clone leader Captain Rex comes to mind, who always struck me as uptight in Clone Wars but here his attitude has been tempered by age and experience. Princess Leia even shows up for an episode, and yeah it’s total fan service, but it offers an interesting look at what the young princess was like as a 16-year-old.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW
Some mysteries were finally revealed, and others deepened. Are Ezra’s parents alive? Is Zeb really the last surviving Lasat? Where do the Inquisitors come from? Why doesn’t Hera ever talk about her famous father? Why is Agent Callus such a jerk? Does Chopper really care about the crew? And what’s up with Sabine’s mysterious past? All of these questions are either answered or touched on in Season 2, with some genuinely surprising results.
But as I mentioned before, it’s clear from the spectacular, hour-long season opener, “The Siege of Lothal,” that a reunion is in the offing. (Why else would Ahsoka and Vader both debut in the same episode?) Ahsoka actually appears in very few episodes — I believe she features in four, with a few smaller appearances here and there — a strategy done intentionally to not minimize the importance of the main cast.
But man, is that finale worth waiting for. Not only does it feature the heart-stopping showdown fans have been waiting years for, it sees the return of another old foe, and forever life-altering events for our two main Jedi. In case it wasn’t obvious, the gloves are off — and in a way that The Clone Wars was rarely capable of.
From the moment that Ahsoka and Vader first share the screen, the show reaches electrifying new heights that it’s never before approached. In one of the Blu-ray extras, executive producer Dave Filoni explains the two beats from the Ahsoka/Vader fight that he’d had in mind for eight long years. It’s the emotional undercurrent of the duel that elevates the material to places that were never even achieved in some of the movies. This showdown is everything the Obi-Wan/Anakin fight in Revenge of the Sith should have been, and it’s some of the very best Star Wars ever produced — in any medium.
I’ve said it before, but after the fight, there’s a montage of scenes that ends the season, in which the show commits art. A large reason for that is Kevin Kiner’s extraordinary musical score. Just listen:
Season 2 of Star Wars Rebels is a must-own for Star Wars fans of all ages. Whether you buy it digitally, on DVD, or on Blu-ray as seen here, I can’t recommend it strongly enough. And I have never been more excited for the future of this show.