This past weekend at 'Star Wars Celebration Anaheim,' a room of under a thousand people became the first general public viewers to see the Season 2 premiere of Disney XD's hit series, [Star Wars Rebels](series:965946). After an emotional replay of the explosive Season 1 finale, the premiere began without introduction, fast-forwarding just a bit to see the heroes of the Ghost crew getting used to, or being uneasy with, joining the Rebel Alliance.
The premiere, though, still lacks an official release date - so instead of spoiling anything you may not know, this instead is a defense of this incredible show. If you're a fan of Star Wars, there are more reasons to watch Rebels outside of knowing the details of canon: the show brings that classic Star Wars feel to life in a familiar but fresh way, and anyone who refuses to watch, in my opinion, is sorely missing out.
Nothing in this article will contain spoilers, but I will reference the trailer for Season 2, so watch it before you proceed:
Move along, move along... let's get to discussing why this is going to be the best thing on Disney XD, once again, in Season 2...
More McQuarrie Nods Than I Can Count
From the angled, long snout of Vader's mask to the beautiful landscapes that make up the planet of Lothal, the art of Star Wars Rebels is a Ralph McQuarrie-inspired masterpiece. The characters' designs may seem odd, but to me, they reflect the creative and unique style of the decades-old Star Wars concept art that built the original foundation for the universe. One of the characters is a direct nod to the artist's original concept for Chewbacca, and the sets look like they were taken straight from the man's canvas.
The era seems defined not only by how strongly it holds on to the vibrant colors and sleek concepts of the prequels, but how far those elements seem: the curves of McQuarrie's smooth style are met with the junk and edges of a galaxy in turmoil, reflective of the rusty droids and dented Landspeeders of the original trilogy. This combination really gets me, and reminds me that in the end, these heroes might not win - in fact, they're basically guaranteed to fail in future missions, and that very real sense of peril is what has me the most eager for Season 2.
Nobody is Safe or Sacred
The adoptive family that makes up the crew of the Ghost have quickly become the beloved heroes of the show, establishing themselves as a diverse group of people with honest feelings and real problems. The two Jedi aboard - Kanan Jarrus and his new Padawan, Ezra Bridger, are faced with maintaining the Force and learning how to wield it without the presence of the council. Kanan, who survived Order 66, must learn how to train a young Jedi with virtually no guidance.
Mysteries that plague the pasts of the Mandalorian artist, Sabine, and the irritable Zeb, continue to surface and boil to a breaking point. The ship's captain, Hera, is faced with hard decisions on where the future of her crew lies. Chopper, the crew's droid, likely knows a lot more than he's letting on, and he'll also likely maintain the crew's sanity with his over-the-top antics sandwiched in between any devastation. If there's anything that Star Wars tends to make clear from the get-go, it's that unconventional bonds and relationships are the norm in a galaxy far, far away.
But beyond all of these personal challenges, what Season 2 seems to immediately establish is that the potential of someone kicking the bucket and staying dead is very, very real. Our heroes tend to come far too close to death, and while this paragraph is far from a spoiler (I promise) audiences were immediately reminded that we may not see these bright-eyed Rebels alive for too many more seasons.
The Iconic Big-Bad Returns
The most exciting thing, more obviously than anything else, is the debut of Darth Vader's murderous wrath on a children's TV show. Just because the younglings are involved doesn't mean we're about to see some serious stuff, as the infamous beheading from the previous season may have hinted. In the season finale, Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin arrived on Lothal to clean up the mess left behind by the Inquisitor, Maketh Tua, and Agent Kallus.
Vader's brutality is not spared for young eyes, and though we don't see heads ripping off, audiences can expect the standard amount of Star Wars violence in the new season. Darth Vader's presence is more than just violence, though - it's fear, and it's a familiar feeling for two characters. They know this cold and daunting presence, even if they've never personally met this version of him, and it's almost too much to handle. Here, we'll see what should have been ghosts of Vader's past being presented to him, and how both sides deal with that.
What's more, Vader is responsible for dealing out new villains to the Ghost crew, and as the Inquisitor said at the end of Season 1: "There are some things far more frightening than death."
As you saw in the trailer, Season 2 will see the return of a young Lando Calrissian and the sly Hondo Ohnaka, along with Vader himself - but one particular returning character and his comrades provoked wild screams from the audience, many of which had watched Star Wars Rebels and were already reeling from Ahsoka's return.
Traveling on what looks like a rigged barge walker, three meaty men greet our heroes, and one of them prominently stands out: it's Captain Rex, Ahsoka's dear friend and the clone commander that constantly played a huge role in the events of The Clone Wars. No one knows how or why he and the other clones got where they are, or whether they were affected by Order 66, but Dave Filoni gave us a very vague idea at the 'Celebration' panel by stating that previous knowledge of the Order may have played in to it. Season 2 has many, many secrets to reveal, but if there's anything it does promise, it's a lot of respect to fans of The Clone Wars. Speaking of...
Remember The Clone Wars
Take a trip down memory lane with me to the premiere of [Star Wars: The Clone Wars](series:200641), where audiences were promised the story of a developing Anakin Skywalker between Episodes II and III. The series filled the gap between wide-eyed, dangerous Jedi Padawan to the full-fledged and unhinged Jedi Knight we see in Revenge of the Sith. By the time the CG animated series was to air, fans had already been treated to a 2D animated series by Dexter's Laboratory creator Genndy Tartakovsky. The 2D series, which is no longer canon, introduced new villains such as Asajj Ventress and explained how the young Skywalker got his facial scars.
This new, shiny CG show promised longer arcs and deeper stories than it's not-so-well-received predecessor, but fans thought the animation itself looked outright ridiculous, and critics weren't happy with the initial story. One of the newest characters, wide-eyed Togruta Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano, received mountains of criticism, social media hate pages and was even referred to as the "new Jar Jar" for the initial disgust fans felt for her.
Oh, how foolish we were.
After six seasons and a wavering reputation, The Clone Wars was cancelled and later ended permanently when Disney bought Lucasfilm. The cult-like following it had accrued took to the Internet in a wave of evangelism that seemed to hit it's high points when the series was added to Netflix. Then, of course, everything exploded.
The stories of Captain Rex, Fives and the squad, Ahsoka, Cad Bane, Anakin Skywalker, Satine Kryze, Asajj Ventress and countless other fan-favorite characters unfolded through beautiful dialogue, complex storylines and hard-hitting moments. Ahsoka's departure from the Jedi Order at the end of the series was a heart-wrenching moment between Master and Padawan that fans everywhere shared. Anakin, who had fought to defend his apprentice after the Jedi Council turned their backs on her and branded her a criminal, watched as Ahsoka walked away, forever betrayed by the only people she had ever known as family.
took us on a roller coaster ride that we didn't expect, and that isprecisely
whyStar Wars Rebels
is worth watching, and the response to the Season 1 finale reveal of Ahsoka Tano returning toStar Wars
canon as an adult and a Rebel leader is more than enough proof of how much a series and it's characters can change from the beginning.
Regardless of age, Star Wars Rebels has held up against the criticism and became one of the most successful shows on Disney XD, pulling in a wide-ranging audience of both kids and adults, and inspiring two spinoff stories in the form of the Kanan: The Last Padawan comic by series writer Greg Weisman, and A New Dawn, the novel that details how Hera and Kanan met, by John Jackson Miller. There are tons of companion books for kids as well (Servants of the Empire follows the story of Ezra's Imperial friend, Zare Leonis, on a quest to find his missing older sister) and more toys than one can fit in to a single shopping cart. Despite any naysayers, it seems as though Rebels is here for the long haul - or at least for as long as Dave Filoni thinks it should last.