Star Wars Rebels isn’t just a knock-off TV cartoon that was created in an attempt to lighten the wallets of Star Wars fans through a line of new toys. Star Wars Rebels Season 2 is a heady, heart-wrenching mix of new stories and old friends. The second season takes what was working in the first season and soars with it.

Disclaimer: I received a free DVD of Star Wars Rebels Season 2 in exchange for my honest review.

Synopsis

Amid growing Imperial oppression on the planet Lothal, the rebels are forced to seek out new allies throughout the galaxy and additional resources to sustain their fight against the Empire. With the help of Jedi Ahsoka Tano, the crew of the Ghost bands together with a secret rebel cell and ex-soldiers from the Clone War to join a fledgling alliance determined to restore peace and freedom to the galaxy.

Star Wars Rebels

(L-R) Sabine, Zeb, Hera, Kanan, Ezra and Chopper in ‘Star Wars Rebels’ 2

As Ezra continues his journey to become a Jedi under Kanan’s guidance, the threat of the dark side looms large over the fate of the growing rebellion. Darth Vader himself will dispatch new Inquisitors to snuff any spark of resistance, setting the stage for a climactic showdown in which past lives will be revealed, terrible truths will be discovered, and the lives of our heroes will be changed forever.

Rebels

Star Wars Rebels Season 2 draws you in so successfully because each character is, essentially, lost. They come together because of a common goal, to defeat the Empire. But prior to their friendships, each of them lost their families, their homes, or someone dear to them. So, each one of them has a story that tugs at your heartstrings.

Like all good heroes, they each have a talent, a strength that makes them a good team member. This season, Ezra grows into his role as a Jedi apprentice, while Kanan more comfortably wears the mantle of Jedi Master and military leader. Sabine gets more and more creative with explosives and engineering; Hera becomes a capable squadron leader; and Zeb finds himself being more than just the muscle of the team. Even Chopper gets in on some action this season.

Like Star Wars: The Clone WarsStar Wars Rebels is void of sappy romance and cliché relationships or dialogue. These guys mean business. For instance, when someone is holding off Stormtroopers or other enemies, and they give the others the order to leave them behind, the team takes off. There’s no debate about staying behind, trying to save them. Each of them knows their job. And when the freedom of the galaxy is on the line, the team knows that the sacrifice of an individual is sometimes the price you pay.

Ahsoka Tano Star Wars Rebels

Ahsoka Tano in ‘Star Wars Rebels’ Season 2

Note to those who pooh-pooh cartoons: Star Wars Rebels is more serious and less condescending than most live-action TV shows. All kinds of themes are explored, like the gray area between being good and evil, what it means to be a family, and how sacrificing part of yourself for the greater good can be rewarding.

Story

Once you’ve acclimated to the lovely looks of Star Wars Rebels, the character-driven cartoon will suck you into a binge-watch before you know what’s happening. The 22-episode season begins with the rebel band escaping a new-to-them enemy, Darth Vader. The story follows our merry band as they find themselves drawn deeper into the rebellion against the Empire.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars was a well-crafted cartoon series, winning several Emmy Awards, but Star Wars Rebels is closer to my heart. Star Wars: The Clone Wars depicted the time period leading up to the Clone Wars, and Anakin Skywalker turning to the Dark Side. But Star Wars Rebels happens not long before the feature film Star Wars: A New Hope. That was the original Star Wars movie, the one I fell in love with when I was a kid. So, seeing Darth Vader, and even Princess Leia, on Star Wars Rebels, brings out the affection I have for the franchise. Seeing familiar Imperial uniforms and ships is a shortcut to rooting for Ezra and his friends.

Inquisitors

(L-R) Fifth Brother, Seventh Sister, Ahsoka Tano, Kanan, Eighth Brother

I love hearing familiar musical themes too.

Characters

During Star Wars Rebels Season 2, each of the characters gets an episode or two that fills in more of their backstory. In “The Lost Commanders” and “Relics of the Old Republic,” Jedi Kanan has to put aside his beef with Clone Troopers to work with Captain Rex and two of his mates, at the request of Jedi Ahsoka Tano.

In “Blood Sisters” and “The Protector of Concord Dawn,” we learn more about Sabine and her time at the academy, as well as her Mandalorian roots.

“Legends of Lasat” shows us a more tender side of Zeb, which emerges when he encounters and elderly couple from his planet.

“Shroud of Darkness” and “Twilight of the Apprentice” take Ahsako Tano further on her journey, looking for answers about her Jedi Master, Anakin Skywalker.

“Homecoming” explores Hera’s complicated relationship with her powerful father.

And Ezra finally founds out exactly what happened to his parents in “Legacy.”

Within each of these episodes are inventive and unique battle sequences that have you cheering for the rebels, and throwing some serious shade at the Empire.

Princess Leia Organa

Princess Leia Organa in ‘Star Wars Rebels’ Season 2

Canon

The Star Wars universe expands every time we meet new characters and explore new planets. We encounter bounty hunters, miners, political leaders and Clone War veterans.

Two of the best new characters are a pair of Inquisitors, Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister. I particularly liked Seventh Sister because she is voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar, who will always be Buffy the Vampire Slayer to me. Their brand of intimidation rivals Darth Vader’s. No wonder, considering they are agents of Vader’s.

In addition to classic Star Wars characters, like Darth Vader and Princess Leia, Season 2 sees the return of other favorite characters from Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the first season of Star Wars Rebel. Hondo Ohnaka, the endearing pirate, shows up to inadvertently foil their plans in a couple of episodes. As I mentioned above, Ahsoka Tano plays a big part in the beginning and the of the season. And seeing Captain Rex as a bad old dude is a lot of fun. One of my favorite characters is Chopper, the astromech droid with attitude.

Can you watch Star Wars Rebels Season 2 without watching the first season? Yes. You can jump in any time and follow an episode. Like any good series, each episode is crafted to stand alone. But also like any good series, the more past episodes you watch, the more you’ll get out of it. One of the best stand-alone episodes is “The Honorable Ones,” that finds rebel Zed and Imperial Agent Kallus having to join forces to survive on a barren moon.

Walkers in 'Star Wars Rebels' Season 2

Walkers in ‘Star Wars Rebels’ Season 2

Animation

Watching Star Wars Rebels, it’s easy to be dazzled by the gorgeous CG animation. Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the Disney XD’s cartoon predecessor, was a beautifully animated cartoon, but Star Wars Rebels is just a bit more stylish, a little more shaded, and the characters are a tad more supple, especially in their movements. The star cruisers, transports, TIE fighters and other ships are so well defined, they look tangible.

The third season of Star Wars Rebels will premiere this fall on Disney XD.

Bonus Features

Blu-ray

From Apprentice to Adversary: Vader vs. Ahsoka (Exclusive to Blu-ray) – Executive Producer Dave Filoni reflects on the climactic ending of the season, when Ahsoka Tano finally confronts Darth Vader in a long-awaited, fierce and epic lightsaber battle.

DVD

Connecting the Galaxy: Rebels Season Two – Uncover hidden references, easter eggs and connections to the Star Wars universe found throughout the season.

Rebel Recons – Blast off with 20 fun, fast-paced episode recons, featuring behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with cast and crew, and more.