Let us begin with the most obvious note first. James Earl Jones is and forever will be Darth Vader. When Vader returned to the small screen for the special ABC screening of Star Wars Rebels: Spark of the Rebellion, it might have been considered a gimmick, a way to bring in old fans to a new property. It was beyond awesome to have James Earl Jones back in the driver seat even for 5 minutes. With the repercussions of the first season finale of Star Wars Rebels, Lord Vader is back to purge Lothal of our band of heroes. Only, this isn’t a gimmick, just the natural order of things.
Governor Tarkin was dealt a crushing blow as our band of Rebels destroyed his Star Destroyer. To hurt the Empire even further, Kanan (Freddie Prinze Jr.) managed to defeat The Inquisitor (Jason Isaacs) that plagued him all of season one. Our heroes finally met Fulcrum face to face who turned out to be Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein), the Padawan who left the Jedi Order at the end of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Where we pick up for season 2 is with the crew of The Ghost fighting side by side with Ahsoka’s band of Rebels.
Outside of a great star battle and the introduction to an A-Wing unit called Phoenix Squad (literally lifted right from Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art), we learn all is not well with with our heroes. Kanan is not happy to be joining an “army”, taking orders and following procedures. Hera (Vanessa Marshall) assures him that they are still fighting the same fight only a larger scale. They receive word that Minister Tua (Kath Soucie) wants asylum from the Empire since her failures in suppressing the rebel uprising has left her in hot water on Lothal. Ezra (Taylor Gray) wants to save her because it is the right thing to do, and her offer of naming the whereabouts of other Rebel cells is too good to pass up.
This is a two-part episode of Star Wars Rebels and completely sets the tone for the universe in which they are living. The first season was full of hope and established that things were dark enough to get people to fight back. When Ezra comes back to Lothal, he immediately remarks on how things are worse than ever and it is the Rebels’ fault.
Minister Tua’s defection is a trap to enable Lord Vader to capture the crew of The Ghost. Vader is methodical, cut-throat, and not the Anakin Skywalker we saw in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Which brings us to the return of Ahsoka. With her joining our Rebels, we have that complete bridge between between Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels (for that fact, a bridge between the prequels and the original trilogy). In the course of “The Siege of Lothal,” Ahsoka and Kanan reach out to find out who this pilot is that is single handily destroying the Rebel fleet. We are given but a moment of realization that Ahsoka knows who is flying that TIE Fighter. Furthermore, Vader knows that his one and only padawan is still alive. Nothing more is said or revealed to the other characters in the series, but that moment is enough to fill volumes of backstory and speculation.
As dark as “The Siege of Lothal” is, there were still a few great moments of humor. There is a Jedi mind trick that doesn’t go so well for Ezra, Zeb (Steve Blum) acknowledges his personal body odor, and we even get the return of a certain smuggler. If you are looking for the Clone Troopers that were teased in the season 2 trailer, you will be disappointed. Seeing Vader fight, however, for the first time in over thirty years, more than makes up for it. The old Clone Trooper story is coming, it is just another tale to be told.
Another Inquisitor has been sent for, as Vader is needed elsewhere. Frankly, a full season of Vader would be overkill. When he does appear, he literally sends chills down our characters’ spines as well as our own. Supervising Director, Dave Filoni, knows the power that James Earl Jones/ Darth Vader can deliver with a single sentence or force push. Our heroes cannot defeat a Sith Lord, which is okay because that isn’t their fight. Their fight is to pave way for the one that can.