The second season of Star Wars Rebels is already several episodes in, so it’s a good time to do some evaluation.
The plot as a whole is clearly aiming to transcend petty thievery and whimsical adventures on a backwater planet. In Siege of Lothal we got the taste of full-scale epicness, with the appearance of Darth Vader himself and the battles that the seed of Rebellion had to go through. It seems like the idea is to continue along these lines – on the large scale, at least. Ahsoka Tano is searching for truth about the past, while at the same time the Emperor and Vader became aware of her (that scene sent shivers down my spine), the Rebel fleet is looking for allies and resources (although as a person who’s been watching The Legend of Korra, it deeply disturbs me whenever Commander Sato appears on screen). Ghost‘s crew is in the middle of all this and with the appearance of the new Inquisitors, everything gets really serious.
On the smaller scale, it has to be said that Rebels still remains Rebels – for good or bad. Mission to acquire the cooperation of retired Clone Troopers for some reason involves a “fishing” monster-hunt, which is the classic lighthearted adventure you could have in Shrek or How to Tame Your Dragon. But nothing against that; the target group is obviously meant to like this. In fact, I daresay Season 2 has been handling brilliantly the possibility to have both lighthearted amusement and deeper, subtler currents for more solemn audience. I actually very much like where this is heading, if we are thinking about the important target group being a teenage or pre-teenage audience. I share the opinion that “stories for children” do not, or even should not mean “simple and stupid”. If children are in the most formative stage of their life, then a story should offer things beyond their current state. And a story with multiple layers, which Rebels seems to be slowly turning into, is exactly the best way to do it.
This is also probably the biggest change yet. Rebels really started with a classic cardboard crew, an orphan boy with special powers, a girl he might fancy, a mentor who could teach him, a big crewmate whose brutishness can serve as comic relief, and so on. However, Season 2 changes all that. Already in the first few episodes, with some of the characters it has been a 180° turn. Impressions might differ subjectively, but for myself, the least interesting characters in Season 1 personality-wise were Sabine and Zeb (I found Zeb even somewhat annoying). But here? The creators seized the opportunity of the crew’s interaction with the clone troopers and it went far beyond what was mandatory. Especially Zeb’s bonding with the clone Gregor I find truly delightful. This started up a completely different dynamic in the crew and the way we see them act. And I don’t even have to mention the whole issue of having Kanan forced to trust the clones, that was a great part of the plot, and it also went beyond the anticipated clichéish drama. I really hope the series continues in a similar way.
What has been pushed somewhat into the background in the first episodes, however, is Ezra’s Jedi training. Aside from references, we did not see really that much of it on-screen, although now with the appearance of the Force-using enemies the focus might shift somewhat. But not that I personally mind not having as much of Ezra’s training, because it disappeared mostly at the “cost” of more focus on character development. And it is anyway not the thing I would expect to be the main focus of Rebels. (The whole “yet another lost Jedi” subplot was, in fact, the worst – but obviously necessary – cliché that frustrated me about Season 1). I am anyway expecting it to resurface more often, especially since we have not one, but two trained Jedi Knights present. It would be somewhat strange if Ezra’s training was just swept under the rug in the future.
The New Friends and Enemies
I have already mentioned the clones and the nice way in which they have been incorporated in the plot. It is obviously a big fan-service for the Clone Wars audience, similarly with the reappearance of Ahsoka Tano. But it is good that this is not self-serving. All these recurring characters actually have a purpose in the story, and relationships are formed which give depth both to themselves and to the main heroes.
The villains in this season are yet different. We have Darth Vader, who is rightfully portrayed as someone dark and deadly and far beyond the reach of our heroes. There is even important interaction between the baddies, the recurring villain Agent Kallus actually has to cope with Vader disrupting his own plans for larger-scale schemes. And then there are the Inquisitors, who are slowly stepping out of the shadows. Their introduction had a dark and ominous tone, and personality-wise we can’t tell very much about them yet, but one aspect which stands out seems to be their personal quest for prestige within their own ranks. I would not refrain from thinking that baddies thwarting each others’ plans because of personal ambitions might be a significant theme this season.
All in all, if I am supposed to evaluate what we have seen up to now, I am content. The second season of Rebels has been so far very good in comparison with the previous one. Let’s see what more it has in store.