After the disastrous, soul-flaying debacles of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith, fans of the galaxy far, far away felt abused, betrayed, and worst of all, bored. Somehow, the very same man who conceived the Star Wars universe, who wrote and directed the first movie back in 1977 and produced two rapturously received sequels, seemed to forget what made his little space opera such an enduring, iconic cinematic landmark. George Lucas answered millions of fanboys’ prayers when he announced he was making a second film trilogy to fill in the backstory only hinted at in the original movies, and then he let us all down by delivering a plodding, clumsily plotted, humorless set of 150-minute commercials for toys no one wanted (except Darth Maul).
So a bit of trepidation about Disney XD’s animated series Star Wars Rebels, beginning its second season on October 14, is more than justified. After all, if the creator of this world couldn’t find the right tone in three of the four movies he directed, what hope would a completely new creative team have?
I only recently caught up to Star Wars Rebels, binging all 13 season 1 episodes, plus the pilot film “Spark of Rebellion” and the season 2 intro “The Seige of Lothal” over the course of a couple of weekends with my 8-year-old son. His reaction to the show was similar to my own: initially skeptical about all the unfamiliar characters, and quickly won over by them.
Beginning with “Spark of Rebellion,” Star Wars Rebels follows 15-year-old orphan Ezra Bridger as he first encounters the Rebel crew of the Ghost: Kanan, a Jedi unlike we’ve met before in any of the six movies; Zeb, an oversized cat-like alien with an Australian accent, a short temper, and a warm heart; Hera, the Ghost’s calm, centered, green-skinned, tentacle-headed pilot; and Sabine, an artistic girl not much older than Ezra whose Boba Fett-ish armor keeps her safe during the crew’s many scrapes.
Over the course of the first season, as Ezra becomes an increasingly important part of the team and begins training as Kanan’s padawan, the crew encounters familiar characters like C-3PO and R2-D2, Grand Moff Tarkin, and Lando Calrissian, and familiar races like Wookiees and whatever Greedo was. But the show uses admirable restraint: each of these characters appears in only one episode of the first season. The emphasis stays where it belongs, on the new characters and their new adventures.
Most importantly, this show recaptures the original Star Wars’ most precious commodity, which was sadly lacking in the miserable prequel trilogy: the dry sense of humor typified by Han Solo. All of these characters (except for maybe Kanan) are quick to bust on each other, to make sarcastic remarks about each others’ plans, and in the case of Sabine, to wearily rebuff Ezra’s teenaged advances. In other words, even though these CGI characters don’t look at all real, their behavior is recognizably human, which puts them all several cuts above Anakin, Padme, or anything in the prequel trilogy.
This series also finds a more than worthy antagonist in The Inquisitor, a bald Sith lord searching for the Ghost. One thing this franchise has never lacked is great villains, but the Inquisitor’s unique lightsaber alone is enough to put him in the pantheon.
The film that opens season 2, “The Seige of Lothal,” was released a few months ahead of the season proper, and it brings a certain helmeted, asthmatic Sith lord into the story, which I think we can all agree is more than welcome.
Season 2 of Star Wars Rebels premieres Wednesday, October 14 at 9:30pm ET, and all previous episodes are available On Demand.