Rebels is back, and with one of the strongest episodes to date!
I think I have to reevaluate the way I grade episodes. The simple five-stars sort of thing is proving a little ineffective, as 4.5 or 5 stars has become something of a norm for this show. If excellent is the norm, then I’ll really have to raise the bar! For now, rest assured that this episode is as good as they come, even compared to some of the more outstanding episodes of the Clone Wars, and – I hate to say it – but most of the Star Wars films themselves.
The story of this episode really shines, as it starts us off in extremely “Star Warsy” fashion. The Rebels format leaves us without an opening crawl or a narration, and as this episode opens, that feeling of being thrust into the middle of the action is even more severe than it was in the original 1977 film. The ending of Season 1 left us with the idea that the Ghost crew was about to join a bigger fight, and the opening of Season 2 skips almost all exposition, putting us in some future time when the Ghost is already part of an entire (albeit small) rebel fleet. The characters drop a few clunky lines that signal to newcomers what’s going on, but the relative lack of exposition had me very pleased. It really felt like I was getting caught up in an adventure, rather than having to watch the smoldering embers finally kindle into a flame.
This episode was jam-packed with good character moments. Moments I particularly liked had to do with Kanan’s wariness about getting involved in a military conflict. Though he’s something of a Robin Hood character, having lived through the Clone Wars and Order 66 has clearly left Kanan with strong inhibitions about anything that might spark another war. Things like that really help flesh out the characters, and add some welcome depth and maturity to the story.
Of course, there would be a problem if I didn’t mention Darth Vader in this review. Like Tarkin before him, Vader is handled incredibly well in this show. In this episode, he’s given a gravity and a presence that’s practically unrivaled in Star Wars. One thing I noticed is that you almost never see Vader enter a scene. He’s just there as though he was always there. Standing, waiting. And it’s terrifying. Even having grown up on the original films, Vader’s smackdown with Ezra and Kanan was the most meaty and meaningful Vader moments in all of Star Wars – especially when it’s preceded by the chilling clairvoyant feelings that the Jedi heroes have. “Do you feel that?” Ezra asks. “…The cold,” Kanan says with a grave look.
At that moment, the music drops off, and we see Vader standing silently. That single image rekindled any terror and mystery that was lost with the Prequel’s handling of Anakin Skywalker. The way the Jedi were clearly unsettled by his presence and the way he easily overpowered our heroes without so much as flinching spoke to his seemingly unlimited strength and power.
There is so much more I could talk about – this episode is just bursting at the seams with great character moments, but short of writing a book, I could never talk about all of it.
ARTISTIC STYLE & MUSIC
The cinematography of this series continues to impress me, and it continues to be the most visually intentional media to come out of Star Wars. The shots are beautifully lit and meaningfully composed. Sometimes, just the image on the screen will give me goosebumps. Add to that a very good score, and you have an extremely compelling artistic direction to the show. The music in this episode wasn’t particularly outstanding, but they handled Vader’s theme in some really good ways, perfectly highlighting the best moments of his presence onscreen.
“Siege of Lothal” is a superb episode, and in a broader sense, a jaw-dropping addition to the Star Wars universe, in story, character, and aesthetics. The more I see, the better this series gets, and you know an episode is good when I honestly can’t fit everything I want to say into one review. I hope the only direction this show goes is up!