Now on Blu-ray: Season 2 of ‘Star Wars Rebels’ Expands the Galaxy Far, Far Away

GameStop, Inc.

Star Wars Rebels

We all knew that the Star Wars universe would be expanding once Disney secured ownership of LucasFilm for a staggering $4 billion a few years ago. They’ve certainly gotten off to a hell of a start with the wildly successful sequel The Force Awakens. But what about all the stories that comprised the Extended Universe? What about The Clone Wars? Are these still canon in the Star Wars universe? All the novels and comics that predate the Disney takeover are tossed aside, but The Clone Wars remains as part of the series’ canon. Which brings us to the other piece of canonical stories that now take place in the world of Star WarsStar Wars Rebels, an animated show that takes place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Now its second season lands on Blu-ray with a new set of characters and adventures that intertwine with familiar faces in a fascinating series that does an amazing job in expanding that galaxy far, far away.

I never got around to watching the first season of Star Wars Rebels, so jumping into the series’ second season left me only mildly behind. Within a short while I was able to understand all of these new characters and the dynamics that exist between, a real testament to the show’s clear storytelling; working within the confines of an established world and finding whole new angles.

Front and center in Star Wars Rebels are Kanan (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.) and Ezra (Taylor Gray). Kanan was a youngling learning the ways of the Jedi when Order 66 was executed, leading the death of countless Jedi across the galaxy. Ezra is Kanan’s young Padawan, a young man with natural force abilities learning under Kanan’s tutelage. They’ve aligned themselves with Rebel forces fighting the Empire, including Zeb (Steve Blum), Hera (Vanessa Marshall), and Sabine (Tiya Sircar). Joining them on their adventures are Chopper, an eccentric droid somewhat reminiscent of R2-D2 but with his own scrappy personality.

The heroes of Star Wars Rebels have to contend with the forces of the Empire – Stormtroopers, Star Destroyers, Tie-Fighters, and the like. But they also have to contend with the Inquisitors, lightsaber-wielding forces of darkness tasked with exterminating the remaining Jedi. Of course, the second season of the show features the most famous villain in all of the Star Wars universe, Darth Vader (voiced by the legendary James Earl Jones). Vader’s involvement comes to a climactic finale when the towering Sith lord faces his former apprentice Ahsoka (Ashley Eckstein) in an emotionally charged showdown.

Star Wars Rebels moves at a brisk pace and most of the episodes feature numerous action sequences that should keep fans of all ages intrigued in the events of the story. There are obviously budgetary limitations on the animation that sometimes leads to some wonky character movements, but overall the design of the show seems pulled straight from the paintings of Ralph McQuarrie. The aesthetic of Star Wars Rebels is really some classical Star Wars design, and it add much to the show’s ample charms.

Where the show really excels is exploring aspects of the universe that I’ve never seen in any form of Star Wars media. One of the season’s best episodes is “The Honorable Ones,” where Zeb and the Imperial Agent Kallus (voiced by David Oyelowo) are stranded on an icy moon together. They have to confront their own prejudices about one another and form a bond to survive. For all the Imperial characters that have existed in the Star Wars universe never have I encountered one that was given such depth, a humanity that explains why he would serve a force of evil. There’s another thematically similar episode involving an Imperial droid, “The Forgotten Droid,” which creates a similar character dynamic between Chopper and a droid in service of the Empire.

Another interesting area that Star Wars Rebels explores is the aged Clone Troopers, led by Rex (Dee Bradley Baker). There’s a distrust between these old clones and Kanan, who remember the betrayal of the clones that killed the Jedi. Yet the show finds some fascinating character dynamics in the loyal Clone Troopers of old that removed the devices planted in them so they can disobey their nefarious orders. Eventually, through his heroism and loyalty, Rex and Kanan form a friendship. It’s serves as evidence that for all the marvelous design and action of the show it’s really the characters that make it all work.

The special features on the Blu-ray set include “Rebels Recon,” an episode recap show that features interviews of the cast and crew that explore all of the events that are ongoing in Star Wars Rebels and how the connect to the larger world of Star Wars. There’s also a neat little featurette that examines all of the show’s references and easter eggs that are littered throughout the series. Finally, there’s a featurette that explores the relationship between Ahsoka and Darth Vader, exploring where they’ve gone from The Clone Wars to Rebels before their climactic battle.

Star Wars isn’t going anywhere. There’s a high demand for more stories of Jedi and Rebels fighting the Empire. Just because fans want more and more doesn’t mean that should settle for lesser quality, and luckily Star Wars Rebels has plenty of quality in its character dynamics, visual design, and the story it tells. With expectations and demands, complacency could be an easy fallback for the creators of the show yet they never give in, making Star Wars Rebels smart and entertaining piece of world building. If there’s a weakness for the show it’s the very same weakness that plagues a lot of Star Wars stories in that it does lean a little too heavily at times on the familiar aspects. Regardless, there are worse ways to traverse the galaxy with a blaster and a lightsaber.

Star Wars Rebels: Season 2
  • Overall Score
3.5

Summary

Expanding the Star Wars universe, Star Wars Rebels is an entertaining, fast-paced show that brings new depth to world created by George Lucas all those years ago.

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