Star Wars Rebels 2.01-02: “The Siege of Lothal (Parts I & II)” Review

The Apprentice Lives

A Television Review by Akash Singh

NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!

Villainy is often difficult to truly capture. It is thusly fairly unsurprising that the most infamous of villains are the ones who are the most intricately crafted, the ones whose mere notion can send chills down the spine. When Darth Vader first stepped onto the Tantive IV, the contrast between his pitch black silhouette and the pure, white walls he had littered with carnage instantly sold the persona he would become infamous for. The tragedy of Vader did add more complexity to the character, but it never took away from the sheer fear that was echoed when a mere decibel of his mechanical breath was heard. Here, Kanan and Ezra feel a sense of cold and when they see even the palest of Vader’s shadows rising out of the mist, their dread breaks into hopelessness.

The premiere to the second season of Star Wars Rebels began in the same fashion as its predecessor but the tone couldn’t be more different. There is little childishness here, little of the slapstick humor the series had been slightly encumbered by at its onset. Conversely Rebels seems determined to espouse instead a darkness that is more befitting its time period, a tonal shift that makes this introduction significantly less jarring than the first outing. The character rapport has been established well enough that there’s a natural flow between the cast and thusly when the stakes hit the fan, the danger to all of our protagonists rises naturally. If certain audiences were turned off by the earlier comedic styling of Rebels, The Siege of Lothal has all the ingredients to bring them back.

The sense of dread that is pervasive throughout the premiere hits the ground running, with Minister Maketh Tua discovering at Lord Vader’s behest that Governor Tarkin wished to see her in person. She instantaneously recognizes that this was an immediate death sentence and arranges to defect towards the Rebels’s side. Minister Tua had never come across as a bloodthirsty Imperial officer, but someone who merely found herself in a cushy bureaucratic job that offered some semblance of security in a world where there was effectively quite little of it. The Empire being an evil entity never truly struck her as being a literal reality considering that (the timeline is slightly iffy on this one) her life had largely existed within its confines, but for the first time here her harboring some deeper knowledge about the Empire’s true activities on Lothal was brought to the forefront.

One of the most challenging moments in an individual’s life can be a challenge to how one perceives the world around them to be . It can be earth-shattering when someone’s world crumbles apart around them and those cracks are evident in Minister Tua’s expressions in this hour. Her knowledge of Imperial activities on Lothal had been buried deep beneath the stifling weight of the bureaucracy before the terror associated with those activities came bubbling back to the surface. Perhaps it was the guilt that came with that resurfacing knowledge that partially pushed her to contact the Rebels and not just a base desire of self-preservation. It was all for naught, however, as Vader revealed his trap and Minister Tua paid the ultimate price for her defection. She had been ensnared within the walls of the Empire her whole life and even her moment of death arrived within the confines of an Imperial shuttle that had so cruelly promised to be her salvation.

If Minister Tua was rushing towards what she perceived to be her salvation, Kanan was reluctant to embrace his own. War is often portrayed through battle sequences but the aftermath of such violence is rarely explored with depth. For Kanan, he has no desire to join the rebellion en masse not out of any fear of the Empire or hesitation about being on the front lines. He barely survived the Clone Wars and the memories of those dark final hours of the Republic’s existence were beyond terrifying, so powerfully etched into his psyche that he has no desire to join another war. Yet there are times when one has to make a choice, where the option of simply extending the same existence one has espoused for so long isn’t viable anymore. And the moment where his blade locks with Vader’s, the choice was made for him.

Kanan has been the reluctant master to an enthusiastic padawan, but the contrast between him and Ezra here is more than lightsaber lessons. For Ezra, he simply has nothing left to fight for except for the Ghost crew and what they stand for. As his mint journey towards becoming a Jedi, Ezra has grown more aware of the world that exists outside of the confines of Lothal’s alleyways and that growing sensibility has taken him into a different direction than his master. I don’t know if there has been a singular image in this series that was as bleak as the darkened smoke rising out of a razed Tarkintown, the billowing black clouds contrasting in sharp tragedy to the golden hue it cut through. For Kanan, it was a symbol of a fight he was going to be dragged into, reluctant as he may be to face the trauma of war once more. For Ezra, it’s a moment that galvanizes him more than ever before to strike back at the Empire, no matter what may stand in the way.

It is unfortunate for Ezra that Vader is standing in the way and in the span of about twenty minutes or so of screen time, the masked terror proves his name’s worth. It is beyond a miracle that Kanan and Ezra survived the fight against a Sith Lord who almost crushed Kanan, slit Ezra’s throat with his own lightsaber, and casually lifted a walker that had crashed on top of him. Moments later, a normal antagonist would perhaps be licking his or her wounds as they tried to recover from having thousands of pounds fall upon their being. Vader instead returns to single-handedly destroy the Phoenix Squad and cripple a Rebel command ship, rendering it dead mid-air. Seeing Vader stymy the hell out of an entire Rebel fleet was phenomenal to witness, but even his Force-fueled battle prowess paled in front of the most pulse-pounding moment of the series thus far.

I’m not quite sure what Ahsoka thought had happened to Anakin after the events of Order 66, with the most likely option being that she assumed that he was dead. When her and Kanan try to discover the identity of the mysterious lone fighter pilot, they instead discover a presence they haven’t felt… since the Clone Wars. Ahsoka goes deeper into the connection, searching through the fear, the anger, and the hate. Her eyes grow wide with the shock of realization and Vader discovers that the apprentice to Anakin Skywalker lives. Hera is absolutely committed to the fight, perhaps just because it’s a cause she truly believes in. Ezra’s committed because of what he has come to believe in and Zeb is committed because of the rebels’ connection to his past. Sabine’s motivations are obscure and Kanan is still a question mark. As committed or otherwise any of our protagonists may be, the time to buckle up is now. With Vader on the scene, this isn’t just another hopeless situation they can escape by blowing stuff up. May the Force be with you and see you in the fall.

Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:

+“Mission accomplished!” as a cue for the opposite

+“My intentions are sincere.”

+Hera’s smile at Ezra’s pronouncement that the Ghost crew always helped others in need

+“I feel so cold.”

+The music was top-notch this week

+The brutality of the Rebels killing Stormtroopers kept intact

+Minister Tua’s death blamed on the rebels

+“Guess there is no going home.”

+Then there was this magnificent little exchange on mind tricks that worked for Kanan but not Ezra (a nice touch in and of itself):

“No, you don’t have to check inside.”

“I wish that worked for me.”

“I wish it worked on you.”

+Vader’s intro with the lightsaber was so perfect

+The methodical lightsaber choreography

+Ezra not knowing o Vader or the Sith Lords

+“Compassion is a weakness”

+The design of Lando’s droid is exquisite

+Kanan explaining to Ezra that actions always have consequences

+“I’m not afraid.”; “That’s what worries me.”

+The shot of the Ghost flying through the clouds was stunningly gorgeous

+The hint towards Zeb’s past

+“Getting involved.”

+“Remember your training.”

+Commander Sato not going down with the ships

+Ahsoka lying about not knowing the fighter pilot’s identity

+“He’ll be coming, they’ll all be coming now.”

+“Greater courage lies in knowing when not to fight.”

+Cut between Ahsoka and Vader

+The shot of Kallus in Vader’s doorway, hesitating for a single second before he closed the door seems to suggest something more intriguing happening there

+The Emperor wanting to use Ahsoka to discover the identities of other, hidden Jedi

-The placement of the title card in the middle of a battle scene is a nuisance

-Sabine still doesn’t feel like an actual character yet. With news of her past being explored further, however, I’m looking forward to her becoming a more complex, nuanced presence on the show.

P.S. What could be the Empire’s real reason for its heavy presence on Lothal? Feel free to speculate below.

Brilliant

9/10

Title: The Siege of Lothal

Written By: Henry Gilroy

Directed By: Bosco Ng, Brad Rau, Dave Filoni

Image Courtesy: Dork Side of the Force

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