While the world held its breath for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, hoping against hope that the movie would be good, the first branch of the new Disney-owned Star Wars universe was already up and running with Disney XD’s animated series Star Wars Rebels. As one of the only non-film titles to retain its canonicity following the Lucasfilm sale, Star Wars: The Clone Wars proved a very vital part of the Star Wars Rebels blueprint in season one, but its second season brought that up a few notches. Now you can relive some truly masterful storytelling with Star Wars Rebels season two on Blu-ray.
The second season stepped up the ambition of the series tenfold. While season one established our heroic band of rebels on and around the planet Lothal, it ended with the crew of the Ghost being brought in to the larger rebellion, and began broadening the perspective of its young protagonist Ezra Bridger. In season two, not only did Rebels up the ante of its core characters, it roped many beloved Clone Wars figures into the fold. Brought aboard were Ahsoka Tano, Captain Rex, a few other clone troopers, and (perhaps less beloved) Darth Maul, who becomes a central figure in Ezra’s teaching, and not for the better, driving a wedge between the padawan and his fraternal figure/master, Kanan Jarrus.
This season focused much more on the continuing momentum of the rebellion, and specifically Phoenix Squadron, than simply a mission-by-mission episode structure. We see Hera become a much more important figure to the cause, a leader and an officer, as well as being the parental figure to the crew. And her own parental figure comes back into the frame as she reunites with her hero father. Sabine reconnects with people from her past, getting back to her Mandalorian roots and a long lost friend. Kanan comes face to face with his hatred of the clones following Order 66 and learns that not all clones were necessarily to blame. And in perhaps one of the best episodes of the season, Zeb is stranded on an inhospitable moon with none other than the Empire’s Agent Kallus; the two enemies had to keep each other alive and maybe learn that they weren’t as different as one would expect.
And even though there are great moments throughout the season (including a meeting with one Princess Leia Organa, and the introduction of the new Inquisitors), it all pales in comparison to the two-part finale. In the episode, an ancient Sith temple is reached by the wily trickster Darth Maul with the help of Ezra, and it leads to a massive confrontation between Maul and Kanan which will change everything going forward. On top of this is the even greater confrontation between Ahsoka and Darth Vader, which finally gives a bit of “closure” to their relationship from The Clone Wars.
It’s this relationship that is showcased in the Blu-ray set’s main special feature, in which series creator and cowboy hat model Dave Filoni details the twosome all the way from the beginning to the end of Clone Wars. We begin with Ahsoka as Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice, run through her winding up betrayed and leaving the Jedi order, and end with her introduction in Rebels and discovery of Vader’s true identity. It’s not a particularly long featurette, but it gives good context and is a nice encapsulation of the pair through the years.
The only complaint I have about the three-disc Blu-ray set: the extras. The episodes look and sound absolutely gorgeous, and that’s the main reason you’re buying, surely, but the special features are pretty paltry. The above featurette is maybe five minutes long and is a Blu-ray exclusive; otherwise, there’s only a three-minute rundown of some of the season’s Easter Eggs, and the complete episodes of Rebels Recon, which is StarWars.com’s official aftershow. These are informative enough and there’s some fun to be had, I wish there had been some in-depth examination by the show’s makers about some of the episodes, maybe in the form of commentary, or in some kind of retrospective documentary. This is really my main issue across the board of Lucasfilm’s releases under the Disney banner. People who want to buy these products want something more, because they’re likely big huge fans.
But those complaints aside, nothing can take away from the enjoyment of watching the adventure of Star Wars Rebels season two unfold in an epic and compelling way. Our own Amy Ratcliffe said it best in her quote on the Blu-ray box: it’s “some of the best Star Wars storytelling we’ve seen.” It remains true. And if you’re as excited about the show’s next chapter as I am, check out my spoiler-free review of the season three premiere!
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Images: Lucasfilm/Disney XD