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STAR WARS REBELS / Lucafilm, Disney

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!!

Fans got a an unexpected surprise from a galaxy far, far away this summer when the STAR WARS REBELS season two premiere dropped a few months early in an effort to tide fans over until the rest of the episodes air this fall.  The premiere, titled The “Siege of Lothal”, finds the crew of the Ghost keeping busy with the rebellion by taking part in raids against the Empire.  On the flip side, the Imperial forces on Lothal are doing everything they can to smoke out the rebel cell or trying to find some way to draw them back if they’ve escaped the system.  A clever plot laid by the Empire does the trick, and Kanan and his band find themselves in a trap and come face to face with Darth Vader for the first time.  This sets off a chase that will bring the fledgling rebellion to the brink of destruction and will force each member of the Ghost’s crew to decide what they are willing to risk for the greater goals they are trying to achieve.

By far the best part of the premiere is the great story.  As a fan, I love getting to see the early days of the rebellion and what that looked like, and while we don’t get to see a whole lot, it looks like this season is going to be delivering much more, which I am greatly looking forward to.  Also, the internal conflict between the crew of the Ghost as to whether or not to stay with the rebels or go back out on their own struck me as very realistic and engaging.  From the imperial side, it was interesting to see how Vader and the Emperor approach rebels and to learn that they were more concerned with keeping them ineffective as opposed to outright eliminating them to the last man.  Add to all this some impressive moves from Vader and some much desired revelations, and you’ve got a premiere that will have fans begging for more episodes.

STAR WARS REBELS continues to impress with its production values.  The show looks great, with characters, ships, and locations being animated well enough to look believable but not so over the top as to be distracting.  One of the highlights continues to be the audio effects, as everything from lightsabers and blasters to starships and speeders sound like they are right out of the films and easily transport us into the unique universe.  Another great aspect of the production are the wonderful references thrown into each episode.  Whether, lines, locations, characters, or something as silly as a scream, they are sporadic enough to be fun and amusing, but sparing enough that they don’t overshadow the show or detract from it.

While the primary cast of STAR WARS REBELS continues to do a wonderful job with their voice acting, I want to touch on some of the not so regular actors in this episode.  Disney decided to give fans exactly what they wanted in a villian, namely Darth Vader voiced by James Earl Jones.  It’s so fun to hear Jones reprise his take on this iconic character, and his voice is full of just as much power and malice as when we first heard it.  Another boon for fans will be Ashley Eckstein reprising her role as the voice of Ahsoka Tano.  Years have passed since the end of the CLONE WARS, and Eckstein does a nice job of giving the now grown Ahsoka a much more womanly voice than we have previously heard while still keeping the voice distinctly Ahsoka’s, which is very impressive.  I’m not sure if she will be making more regular appearances on the show, but I certainly wouldn’t be against it.  Lastly, this episode had a brief cameo from Billy Dee Williams as he lends his voice to his most famous character, Lando Calrissian.  Williams is still fantastic at being a silver tongued scoundrel and it was fun to hear him bantering with the crew of the Ghost.

“The Siege of Lothal” propels STAR WARS REBELS into the brave new world of open rebellion.  It’s a wonderful examination of the risks and losses that come when one steps out of the shadows and stands up against a more powerful adversary.  REBELS is some of the best material to come out of the Star Wars universe in years, and If you are even remotely a fan than you really need to be watching this show, because it is everything an animated Star Wars series should be.

Final Score: 9 out of 10