Galactic Hunter Video Theater Presents: Star Wars Rebels - The Siege of Lothal

By Adam Pawlus — Tuesday, June 23, 2015

We're back! But just for this one - the season starts in the Fall. Star Wars Rebels kicked off season 2 on Saturday with the one-hour "The Siege of Lothal." Ahsoka's back, and we see Darth Vader being an incredible pilot. We meet Phoenix Squadron, we see the return of another familiar face from the original trilogy, and we also see the return of another government official who isn't quite ruthless enough for the new boss. Tarkin's specter looms large over Lothal, but we don't see him this week - that's OK, because Darth Vader keeps it real for the always Star Wars-y show on Disney XD. Darth Vader isn't afraid to sacrifice the pawns to get to the important pieces.


Read on for more! As always, spoilers follow.



The story: the Rebel cells coalesce around Ahsoka Tano, a rogue Force-using warrior who disappeared at the end of the Clone Wars. The crew of the Ghost has to come to terms with being a part of a larger world, rather than a rogue bunch of pirates and thieves. Convoy hit-and-run missions are still an important part of their missions, and Darth Vader takes advantage of their do-gooder nature in very much the same way as you might expect on classic 1980s cartoons. This episode does a bang-up job balancing newness with what has come before, but your sense of deja vu will go into overdrive during several sequences. With the era of the Empire, the showrunners still can't resist framing and scoring scenes to mimic the first three movies.


As with last season, this show is killing me with its designs. The lack of Hasbro toys just drives me crazy - the new McQuarrie-inspired blue A-Wings and the red-suited pilots just make me giddy, but at least we know we're getting Ahsoka and Darth Vader later this year. We're seeing minor changes in character designs, like Ezra's newly-scarred face and what I think are minor tweaks to Sabine's suit, so it keeps the show looking a little more alive and vital. Of course, we get to see returning faces like Maketh Tua. She's really the crux of the episode, as her inability to keep Lothal's Rebellion down as she's less of a ruthless warlord and more of an enthusiastic young political go-getter who wasn't exactly up for torture and killings. She's one of the people in the Empire we heard about in Clerks, those who do the daily business of the New Order who don't really get their hands dirty. They have a desk, they do their job, and typically keep their heads down.

We're told, after a great little space battle, that her annual review with Tarkin is up and our pals Kallus and Darth Vader want to make sure she's on the shuttle to get what's coming to her. They know she's a coward - she doesn't want to die, so she reaches out to the crew she didn't do a very good job capturing earlier. With a list of Rebel sympathizers in her back pocket, she's quite a valuable get and everybody decides that it's worthwhile to pick her up. But it's a trap - of course it's a trap. Darth Vader loves traps, as we saw in The Empire Strikes Back. This is his thing, and he's very good at picking the right bait.


As Star Wars Jr., this show continues to do a bang-up job giving us recreations of similar events - like the Cloud City hostage situation, or Ezra and Kanan playing off the Jedi Mind Trick and Stormtrooper armor gambits from the original film. Kids will probably find these beats to be familiar, while older fans will find them charming and nod along or wonder why we're treading on the same ground again.


If it hadn't already been previewed several times, the three-way duel between Ezra, Kanan, and Darth Vader would be the most tense and amazing surprise of the episode. The creators knew what to do - you had to treat the bad guy like an unstoppable force, as Vader's strength allows him to treat his Jedi quarry like a couple of toys. Since the episode dictates that our heroes must live, we see them drop everything they have on the Dark Lord - and he walks away with barely a scuff on his McQuarrie-inspired armor. It recalls both the Dooku duel in Attack of the Clones - divide and conquer - as well as Vader's first duel with Luke in The Empire Strikes Back. You can tell that he's very sure of his powers in this episode, from flinging his fighter around to recklessly taunt and destroy Phoenix Squad.


The original trilogy showed us Darth Vader as a strong - but slow-moving - threat. Here, he's in charge. He moves quickly, each move holds great strength and foresight. He knows what he's doing before his opponent does and he takes full advantage of his intimidating appearance. WHen he attacks Phoenix Squad, he drops out of orbit early - alone - just to show them who's in charge. He even lets them go at the end, mostly for narrative reasons but I have to think it's also just to let them take back the warning to their friends. You got lucky this time... and we're just getting started.

Tensions within the group continue to rear their heads, because everybody is being pulled in different directions. Heck, we still don't know much about Sabine - what's her deal? I still don't know. But I do know Kanan is fearful and distrusts authority, Ezra wants to be a part of something bigger, and Hera is ready to take their hit-and-run missions to a larger, more organized next level. Zeb and Chopper are just there to help, sort of like Sabine so far. We know she's good at what she does - but what else? I hope we find out more.


Because Darth Vader's plan is like a multi-layered onion of death, our heroes have to think fast to get out of his clutches. It turns out it isn't so hard - they use a conveniently-placed shuttle and shield generators to barter with a returning Lando Calrissian to get to safety. Of course, their ship is bugged. Of course, Vader burns a refugee camp to the ground in another one of the episode's overly overt callbacks to the original film. Ezra runs off on a speeder to scope out the damage, just like Luke did. Kanan helps to ground him, just like Obi-Wan did. I don't know if I should give it credit for hitting the same emotional beats or rip it for being lazy. Kids watching this as their introduction to Star Wars get to enjoy much of what we did, except theirs is a 21st century TV show and ours was a state-of-the-art 1970s blockbuster film series.


The end of the episode was basically a remixed space battle and briefing from Return of the Jedi, which means we basically got a season's worth of awesome action in just one double-length episode. That's great because maybe we'll see them ratchet up the action each week from now on. Of course, maybe they'll cut the budget next time and use this as an overly filling appetizer to keep us on the hook for the next 19 episodes of the season... assuming this one didn't count as two. It was good. It's worth seeing. If you skipped last season, this episode will make you want to watch it - it's one of the best, if not the best, so far because you get to see real Rebels with ships fighting real Imperials with ships. For what it is, it's spectacular. Unless all Star Wars from here on out is just a remix of the first three movies... in which case, nostalgia really was better in the old days.

Takeaway from this week:
Ahsoka lives! Darth Vader knows!
The history of the A-Wing is rewritten - or maybe it's more consistent with the original Droids cartoon appearances. I can live with that.
Sam Witwer did Palpatine's voice in the episode's button - he did a magnificent job in The Force Unleashed games as the Sith Lord. Good casting, that.

Next time: Rex returns in "The Lost Commanders." That's airing in the Fall. See you next mission!