Star Wars is a cinematic icon, but it is much more than its movies. Blaine and Josh dive right into the middle of Star Wars Rebels, the fantastic animated show on Disney XD, and will be reviewing the first half of Season 2. As a show aimed at kids, but also clearly for the kid in every adult Star Wars fan, they’ll also have a discussion section to talk about the themes covered in each show.
This episode, the double-length, summer released “The Siege of Lothal”, remains one of my favorite Rebels episodes because of the presence of Darth Vader. Clearly, this was too good to hold in until October of last year. James Earl Jones returned as the voice of Vader and has an important part to play in this episode. After the multiple failures of Lothal’s Imperials to quell the Rebels, and even after Tarkin is not able to fully eliminate them, Vader arrives to definitively quash the band of rebels and secure the planet of Lothal for the Empire’s continued use. What use that is? It remains unclear even after the conclusion of Season 2. My best guess is it was either because of the yet undiscovered Jedi Temple or it has a small part to play in the construction of the Death Star.
Continuing on with this episode, the Ghost crew has left Lothal in the wake of defeating the Inquisitor and rescuing Kanan, but now they return to run operations on the planet. However, it is all clearly a trap! They are lured down to Lothal and are confronted by Vader with Minister Tua, who had contacted the crew to defect from the Empire, as bait. When they arrive to intercept her and bring her to safety, her ship is blown up with her inside. Agent Kallus is a witness to the whole ordeal and he records the Ghost crew escaping in order to frame them for the death of Minister Tua. It is implicit that Vader and Kallus had set up the whole incident in order to capture the Rebels of the Ghost. Whether Minister Tua knew if she was bait and unwittingly went to her death is never answered.
The cold shrewdness of Tua’s demise is what makes Vader scarier than he has ever been . Not only is he a pursuing presence, much like he is in The Empire Strikes Back, but he is clearly the most clever and most powerful being around. He is utterly ruthless in executing his plans and unapologetic for doing terrible things like killing an incompetent Imperial like Minister Tua and burning an entire refugee village in order to draw out Kanan and Ezra by playing on their compassion and sense of justice.
And when Vader finally confronts Kanan and Ezra, along with a squad of stormtroopers, he becomes otherworldly to them as he attacks. He easily throws them around with the Force, overpowers them in lightsaber combat, and even deflects blaster bolts at the others hitting Sabine twice in the process. The picture of him rising out of the burning blaze after the Ghost crew tries one last ditch plan to get rid of Vader has a demonic, hell-like quality to it. Where he came from or his identity matter little when his power has a god-like wrath to it. Ezra quips, “If that doesn’t kill him, what will?” and Kanan’s response is a wonderful summation of their efforts to defeat the Dark Lord of the Sith; “Not us!”
Vader then goes from demonically scary to truly awesome when he pursues them into space with his TIE Advanced Fighter. Outside of flying down a trench in A New Hope and then spiraling away, we have never gotten to see Vader fly a TIE fighter. It combines the skill and ingenuity of Anakin, who we got to see in The Clone Wars as Obi-Wan said ,”the best star pilot in the galaxy.” Vader easily dispatches a whole squadron of A-Wing fighters and takes out Commander Sato’s command ship. It is only through a bit of Hera’s own piloting skills, which are highly skilled, to escape with their lives. This is my favorite Vader scene because of how it takes what we know about Anakin Skywalker and shows us how his skill and unique abilities live on inside Vader.
Not only do we get to see this, but probably the most important scene in the whole episode is Ahsoka’s moment of connection with her old master. While Vader immediately is able to sense his one-time padawan and remark, “So, the Apprentice lives,” Ahsoka is overcome by Vader’s dark side power and passes out. She is not aware of who the Dark Lord is, but she now must seek to find some answers.
The overarching theme of this entire episode was summed up by writer Henry Gilroy. While writing the episode he wanted to drill down the idea of, “sometimes you can’t go home, but you can find a new one.” Both Ezra and the Ghost crew have lost their home but gained a new one. The Ghost crew has lost their base of operations to the siege led by Vader. Ezra has lost his place of birth and his only connections to everything he has known, including his parents. However, he has found a new home, a new community, among the Ghost crew and now with the Rebels. Like many before and after, the Rebellion against the Empire is a fight to regain a little of what the Empire has taken from them. This will be a consistent theme of returning to what has been left behind throughout Season 2.
Star Wars Rebels is a family show. Parents love watching as much as their kids. Infusing the spiritual with the fantastic and adventurous, Rebels continues the spirit of what makes Star Wars great. In order to foster the young minds and hearts of your Reel World Theologians, each week there are questions you can use during or after the show to talk about with your kids. Enjoy the show and then enjoy conversation, but always remember that story is powerful and Star Wars Rebels is not mindless.
- Why is Darth Vader so scary? What convinces Ezra and Kanan to run and not fight Darth Vader? Is fear and being scary a good way to be in charge of other people? Is there something that works better?
- Why do the Rebels decide to help Minister Tua even though they don’t really trust her?
- What happens that shows Ezra he cannot stay at home? Why do you think that is hard for him? What makes it easier to not stay at home?
- The screenshot as the featured image in this post is directly inspired by Ralph McQuarrie’s famous concept art of an earlier draft of George Lucas’ The Star Wars. That painting, along with many of McQuarrie’s other earlier works, serves as the inspiration for many of the design elements of Star Wars Rebels.
- As of now, there is no formal Rebel Alliance, per Dave Filoni in “Rebels Recon”. It is likely the group of Rebels who destroy the Death Star find their origins, or inspiration, in this group of rebels led by Commander Sato and the Ghost crew.
- The final scene with Vader featuring a hologram of the Emperor was added to this episode at a later date than its initial completion. Sam Witwer, who has voiced Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Apprentice from The Force Unleashed video game, and the Emperor in other assorted platforms, provides the Dark Lord’s voice in this episode.