Lucasfilm (2015-2016), Buena Vista Home Entertainment (August 30, 2016), 3 Discs, 484 mins, 16:9 ratio, Dolby Digital 5.1, Rated TV-Y7, Retail: $45.99
The crew of the Ghost is now a part of fledgling rebel movement that is not yet an alliance. Their universe expands as they take on new missions outside their home system, and characters from Clone Wars return to bridge the eras. Ezra continues his Jedi training under Kanan, and Ahsoka prepares herself to face her one-time master.
The Sweatbox Review:
The first season of Rebels was good, but we all knew it had the potential to become so much better. And that’s because we knew it was going to get BIGGER.
At the conclusion of the initial season, the small band of rebels from the planet Lothal found their destiny, joining the larger group of rebel cells that was previously only known to them by rumours and whispered messages. Their shadowy contact, Fulcrum, was revealed to be Anakin Skywalker’s former apprentice Ahsoka Tano, who had disappeared near the end of the Clone Wars. With the second season thusly set up, viewers knew the best was yet to come. The planet Lothal still figures in the stories, but no longer is the main base. Now, the Ghost crew runs missions for the larger rebel group, travelling throughout the galaxy and even into uncharted space.
With the larger universe revealed, more locales and dangers are explored; but old characters return as well. Old favorites from Princess Leia to the pirate Hondo— introduced in the Clone Wars TV show— make appearances (as far as I’m concerned, Hondo wonderfully steals every episode he appears in.) The clone ex-Commander Rex joins the fight; and Darth Vader even makes an occasional appearance, complete with voice work by James Earl Jones. The entire season counts down to Ahsoka confirming her worst suspicions about what happened to Anakin Skywalker, and eventually having to face him in the season-ending show-stopping two-parter Twilight Of The Apprentice.
That final battle is set up from the start, in the two-part season opener The Siege Of Lothal, where Darth Vader manipulates events to turn Lothal against the rebels. It is here that Vader and Ahsoka become aware of one another, leading to Vader sending more Inquisitors after the rebels. Those Inquisitors play a large role throughout the rest of the season. Another milestone happens immediately, in The Lost Commanders, as Ahsoka sends the Ghost crew to speak with three retired clones, resulting in another addition to the team during the events of Relics Of The Old Republic. Part of the team encounters those new Inquisitors in Always Two There Are, and here we add to our understanding of the family-themed Inquisitor hierarchy.
Further missions, usually ordered by rebel Commander Sato, serve many purposes: they reveal new information about the pasts of Hera, Zeb, and the droid Chopper; the rebels acquire a new blockade-busting ship; we meet an old friend-turned-foe of Sabine; and the rebels must deal with an Imperial weapon that can pull ships out of hyperspace. The Empire also goes after babies strong in the force, and the Imperial Agent Kallus generally spends his time pursuing the rebels with zeal. Even Kallus is shown to be human, though, when he and Zeb are trapped on a moon together in The Honourable Ones. The rebels conduct numerous raids on fuel supplies over the course of the season, each one more desperate than the last. And of course, there is the episode A Princess On Lothal, where Leia Organa of Alderaan helps the rebels acquire three new ships under the nose of the Empire. (Though surely she is pretty young here, to be flying around the galaxy by herself?)
And, as we get close to the end of the season, we spend an episode in a Jedi temple, and two episodes in a Sith temple. It is in Twilight Of The Apprentice that we get the battle we have been waiting for all season, but it goes well beyond just Ahsoka and Vader. There are more surprises as well, and the events of the final episode of Season Two will allow for no stagnation of plotlines in Season Three. Not only is the season finale a game-changer, it also explores the mythology of Star Wars in a way that the films never have a chance. In so many ways, the TV series (both Clone Wars and Rebels) can be superior to the films in examining and revealing corners of the universe and the pasts of characters that the films never have the time to indulge. And, like Clone Wars, Rebels simply feels like Star Wars in a way the prequels seldom did.
Over the course of twenty-two episodes, the galaxy and its history are revealed in wondrous ways, mostly pertaining to our cast of characters, as we learn more about Zeb’s people, the Sith, space whales, and the fate of Ezra’s parents. The action, though, rarely slows down. All the conflict you want to see in Star Wars happens here. We see Ezra Bridger continue his Jedi training with Kanan, and together they form a formidable Jedi team. Seeing them combine their skills, lightsabres whirling away as they cut through squads of Stormtroopers, is a sight easily worthy of the Star Wars brand. The space battles, too, can be quite exciting.
Lucasfilm wanted this series to show the early days of the forming Rebel Alliance, and also continue to reveal secrets of the Star Wars universe. At the same time, they wished to create a compelling cast that expands and evolves over the course of the show, in interesting and captivating ways. It is hard to imagine any fan thinking that they have missed their mark. This is a pretty great Star Wars show.
Is This Thing Loaded?
Every episode gets a Rebels Recon featurette, lasting several minutes each. Lucasfilm special correspondent Andi Guiterrez spends time with the Rebels creators, especially executive producer Dave Filoni and Star Wars Story Group member Pablo Hidalgo, who discuss each episode and its relationship to the Star Wars canon. A real, live action Chopper also gets his own comedy bits that are actually pretty amusing. These Recon segments are not to be missed.
Connecting The Galaxy: Rebels Season 2 (3:30) shares information on numerous “Easter Eggs” to be found in the Rebels episodes, like a shout-out to designer Ralph McQuarrie. Also explored are various connections to other Star Wars films and TV episodes. Even the most ardent fan will likely be surprised once or twice here.
There is one extra that is a Blu-ray exclusive, From Apprentice To Adversary: Vader Vs. Ahsoka (6:08). Filoni discusses his wishes for this confrontation, really dating all the way back to Ahsoka’s creation for Clone Wars. He says much of what you might expect, but there is some nice development art shown as he speaks.
The first disc also sports a trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
The Blu-ray case has facing discs, with two discs stacked on one side and just one on the other, which will drive some collectors crazy, and confuse others. Inserts are included for Disney Movie Rewards and Disney Movie Club. The cover slip is nicely embossed.
Ink And Paint:
This show looks great on Blu-ray, shown in the 16:9 TV ratio in which it was assumedly produced. While the visuals never challenge encoding like they would for a live action film, the Blu-ray delivers all the details present nicely, and with an absolute minimum of issues. What little noise or banding likely comes from the original source.
We have complained enough about the Star Wars TV shows only getting lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. It is what it is. But yes, the show, though it does have some nice sound effects, does not deliver the audio rush one might hope for. We also get French and German in 5.1, and for some reason the Spanish track only gets Dolby Digital 2.0. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish, as well as English captions.
We do have new Star Wars feature films at last, but the cartoons need not be seen as an inferior product. The graphics may be a little simpler, and there is a bit more emphasis on humor, but all the excitement of Star Wars is present in Rebels. In fact, a TV series can do so much more in terms of character development and can explore a multitude of facets of the galaxy and its history, making Rebels extremely satisfying. With solid specs (even if the audio is not as awesome as it could be), and the addition of great bonus features that place each episode in proper perspective, this is a great set of episodes for any Star Wars fan.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?