This is a recap for the Season 2 premiere of Star Wars Rebels, “The Siege of Lothal,” and as such, is full of spoilers. Turn your ship around and jump into hyperspace if you haven’t watched the episode yet.
Season 1 of Star Wars Rebels wrapped at the end of March. When we left the crew of the Ghost, they’d just rescued Kanan from the grips of the Inquisitor and learned about the existence of a bigger rebel organization. Ahsoka Tano returned, and Darth Vader arrived on Lothal to search for the rebels. The Season 2 premiere, “The Siege of Lothal,” picks up the story and doesn’t waste any time jumping into action and starting to address the whole Darth Vader and Ahsoka drama—drama that will likely eventually turn into trauma—in a way that made my stomach drop.
The episode starts strong with a battle between Imperials and the Ghost crew and their new friends, the Phoenix Squadron. Beginning this way immediately catches you up on a few points. First of all, a little bit of time has passed because Hera and company are in a comfortable groove with the Phoenix Squadron—comfortable enough to suggest they’ve done a few missions together. Secondly, you see Hera is happy to be part of the bigger group and working with others to take down the Empire, while Kanan isn’t as thrilled. At the very least, he’s unsure and not taking well to a more organized, military-esque approach. All of this is communicated as it should be—directly and naturally within the story and dialogue without ever being shoved into your face.
As the rebels complete their mission, we get a glimpse of the current happenings on Lothal. It’s not pretty. The overconfident Minister Tua turns into a nervous mess when she goes face to face with Vader over her failings. Interestingly enough, she seems more afraid when Vader says she has to go see Tarkin. The small moment says something about what the galaxy knows about Tarkin versus what they know about Vader.
Tua is desperate and scared so she finds a way to contact the crew of the Ghost and asks for help. Because she’s not entirely dumb, she offers information in exchange. It’s a tempting deal and though no one trusts Tua—especially Zeb and Kanan—they agree to help her, and it’s here I noticed a little shift in group dynamics. Hera is definitely still the person who looks at the bigger picture and constantly weighs the costs and benefits, but Ezra might have her beat when it comes to optimism. This kid who used to only look out for himself is repeatedly offering up hope—almost to the point where it’s too much. Almost. He was certainly developing in that direction anyway, but I think the discovery of the bigger rebellion has made him more confident about the future.
As the rebels make a plan and travel to Lothal, we see more of the family-like relationship that strengthened over the first season. They’re all comfortable with each other. The banter is natural, snappy, and delightful. I couldn’t help but think of Luke, Leia, and Han escaping from the Death Star as I watched. They’ve nailed the tone. And the flirting between Kanan and Hera? I mean, come on. There’s even a point when Hera says, “All right, kids, do mom and dad proud.” It’s like a nod to fandom since several fans refer to Kanan and Hera as #spacemarried and as the mom and dad of the Ghost crew. I don’t need their relationship to be overt when I can have scenes like the ones in “The Siege of Lothal.”
In an unsurprising turn, the rebels don’t get in and out of Lothal unscathed. Vader lays an intricate trap for the rebels—the Force-vision aided kind. He arranges Tua’s death (and blames it on the rebels), and in no time at all, he’s facing off against Kanan and Ezra. This was the point where I had the, “Oh, they’re going there already” reaction. They’re not making you wait for the inevitable encounter, they’re addressing it head on. It’s a bold move, and if they’re already making this fight happen, I can’t help but wonder what other twists are in store.
Kanan recognizes the new villain is a Sith Lord but doesn’t mention the name Darth Vader–yet another sign that the villain isn’t known far and wide. He also quickly realizes he and Ezra are no match for Vader. The battle is well choreographed and intense and played in a way that legitimately makes you fear for Kanan’s and Ezra’s lives. Kanan says they have to run, and run they do. It’s part of Vader’s plan, and the rebels have to work hard to find their way off the planet safely. They figure it out by turning to Lando at Hera’s suggestion (Ezra and Kanan’s reaction to this is priceless). I’m not thrilled about Lando appearing again, but it was in a small dose this time so his swagger wasn’t obnoxious.
While Sabine uses Lando’s equipment to plot a way off the planet, there’s a scene reminiscent of Luke finding the burnt remains of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru on Tatooine. Vader orders Kallus to burn Tarkintown in order to show the citizens of Lothal the compassion of the rebels is a weakness and leads to trouble. When Ezra sees the smoke on the horizon, he gets closer to explore and Kanan follows. Ezra’s optimism and overconfidence shines though he’s only beginning to understand the consequences their actions can have upon the innocent. It sort of hits you in the gut.
The rebels manage to get out of Lothal, but the second they rejoin the Phoenix squadron (by the way, did you catch Zeb mentioning the squadron reminded him of being part of the honor guard?) they learn Vader tracked them. If you had any doubts about how formidable Vader is, this scene addresses them. He arrives and single-handedly puts a dent in the Phoenix Squadron’s numbers and goes after the command ship.
Hera and the rest of the crew jump into action and take Ghost out to meet Vader head-on—though they didn’t realize it was the Sith Lord at first. Ahsoka tags along. Oh yeah, they’re going there already too. It isn’t long before she, Kanan, and Ezra feel a presence in the Force, and when Kanan and Ahsoka reach out to see how strong the presence is Ahsoka faints and Vader utters three chilling words: “The apprentice lives.”
Later, when talking to Palpatine, Vader tells him he believes the apprentice of Anakin Skywalker lives. Palpatine wants to leverage this and use her to find other lost Jedi—lost Jedi like Obi-Wan Kenobi. What. But in a twist I didn’t expect, rather than keep Vader on the trail, Palpatine tells him to dispatch another Inquisitor. Palpatine doesn’t do anything without a very good reason so my guess is this move is because he’s concerned Vader would kill Ahsoka if he ran into her. And this is a complete stab in the dark, but I think it’s possible that Inquisitor will be Barriss Offee. A confrontation between her and Ahsoka would be something else.
Ahsoka doesn’t know who the Sith Lord is – or if she does, she’s not saying – but she knows he’ll be coming after the rebels.
“The Siege of Lothal” caught me off guard. I didn’t expect Kanan and Ezra to encounter Vader already, and I certainly didn’t expect to see anything regarding the Vader and Ahsoka connection to come so soon, but I find it smart storytelling. It moves the question of who knows what out of the way so it’s not hanging over the season and dominating it—the story shouldn’t become an extension of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and ignore the crew of the Ghost—and they addressed the connection in a way that makes it more exciting and nerve-racking. Ahhh. I am all in.
Season 2 of Star Wars Rebels continues in the fall.
How did you react to Darth Vader saying, “The apprentice lives?” Tell me about that and share your thoughts on the episode in the comments or come talk to me on Twitter.