Rebels had quite the roller coaster of a season this time around, by which I mean it was pretty up and down but ultimately a great ride. Building on the success of the smaller and more minimalist but thrilling first season, season 2 certainly gave us a load of great episodes but ultimately proved that bigger isn’t always better.
Not to say that it wasn’t a good season, which it was, but also undeniably uneven. I get the sense that the beginning and ending of the season was set in stone from the get go, as they’re both considerably strong and concise story wise especially compared to everything else in between, which definitely felt hit or miss, particularly in the first half with episodes ranging from decent, to missed opportunities to just sort of the bad side of okay. The biggest problems aren’t the burden of reintroducing several Clone Wars characters, but the unfortunate tendency to fall back on the less successful elements of the previous season. Forced zany antics and incompetent lead characters resulting in some fairly contrived plots hurt Rebels early on by doing nothing to further the season arc, or backtracking with character development. I will say that the overall season tension does begin to build early on and continues successfully throughout the season, with the ominous threat of Vader ever present, despite him merely bookending the season. Despite the stakes and tension rising throughout, the main villains often fail to represent a tangible threat. The two new inquisitors never became much more than an inconvenience and despite the heroes constantly insisting how much trouble they were, they paled compared to the Grand Inquisitor. Kallus on the other hand subtly evolved into a respectful adversary and even a very human character by the end, which was a highlight of the season but alas not central to the overall plot, which centered on the threat Vader and his inquisitors posed.
The story succeeds with its main arc, that being Kanan and Ezra’s relationship which devolves from Ezra’s childlike adoration for his mentor, to unbearable frustration and resentment as Kanan continues to struggle with his role as teacher. The theme of survival begins in The Siege of Lothal as Kanan, a man whose entire life has been surviving on the run, struggles to teach his pupil that surviving and moving on is central to Jedi teaching as opposed to victory. Ezra’s evolution from do-gooder to revenge-seeker happens very organically throughout as he reverts back and forth between those extremes of himself, and now his future is very up in the air.
While in season one the supporting leads only got moderate to minimal character development, finally they get some of the limelight and their own episodes to focus on their history and motivations. Zeb and Hera come out the most developed while Sabine alas still trails behind (hey she’s at least something of a character now), but the episodes that center on the complexity of their characters give them all their dues.
As previously mentioned, Rebels had the added burden of having to develop new supporting characters as well, but at least had the advantage of them being previously established on the Clone Wars, but for the most part they were implemented smartly in a way that strengthened the core characters. Rex serves not only as a character in his own rite but also a means of further developing Kanan and exploring his feelings about the Jedi Purge and his ability to forgive and move on. Cham Syndulla likewise added a lot of depth and humanity to Hera, as did the mere mention of Death Watch for Sabine’s character. Ahsoka on the other hand, while a strong presence whenever she was around was… well, barely around. Rebels was wise not to shift all the attention to her and make her the new focus of the show but she deserved a few more appearances, especially since she’s once again vanished into ambiguousness and won’t likely be on Rebels again.
Being longer than season 1, season 2 boasted several incredibly strong episodes, but this proved to be a disadvantage to some degree as a number of episodes either failed to deliver their full potential (The Call, Wings of the Master, Always Two There Are) and some were just kind of bad (Forgotten Droid, Blood Sisters, Brothers of the Broken Horn). And yet Rebels Season 2 managed to rise above some of the unevenness and is on the whole another great season and gives a great setup for the third season.
Stray hangups I have with this season…
-I wrongly assumed after The Siege of Lothal that the big mystery of the season would be the Empire’s “true reason” for being on Lothal, as Minister Tua so ominously foreshadows. This is never touched upon again and I can only hope features somewhere in season 3 and is likely Death Star related.
-No Tarkin at all. I understood why Vader was used VERY sparingly, but I was hoping we’d get at least one appearance from the dastardly Death Star commander.
-As for Vader, I was disappointed he wasn’t on the show more. He didn’t need to even need to get into the action, I just wish he had shown up in holograms to threaten Kallus, Konstantine and the others once in a while (like what Dooku did for most of Clone Wars).
Hopes/predictions for season 3…
-Ezra falls close to the dark side but in the end decides to sever his connection the force to going bad ala Kyle Katarn. Either that or he’ll have to die along with Kanan… who is likely going to die.
-I feel as if the rest of the main cast can and will survive and continue to fight for the Rebellion.
-Maul needs to die… Clone Wars resurrected him without very good reason and without a decent explanation as to how he survived, and yet this yielded some good stories and character development for him which was a pleasant surprise. Obviously they had to bring him back for Rebels since his fate was left unresolved but they can’t keep him around much longer before he starts to become Starscream from Transformers, ie a cockroach of a villain who can’t be killed.
-I’m hoping Konstantine gets “removed from command” by Vader early on and is replaced by Rae Sloane (or Thrawn if the rumors are true…), Kallus gets promoted once again but is a changed man and eventually makes some kind of heroic sacrifice for the Rebels and dies a hero without ever leaving the Empire.