When Star Wars Rebels was first announced back in 2013 after the cancellation of the beloved Clone Wars animated series, I wasn’t quite sure what to think — as I suspect many other Star Wars fans were as well.
For one, it was going to be the first major Star Wars project by the Walt Disney Company following their acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012. Was it going to be too kid-friendly and jokey since it was going to be aired on Disney XD? And who were these strange new characters anyway?
After taking their time introducing and developing these new characters in the first season, which was set five years before the events of the original Star Wars trilogy, it’s safe to say that the second season is really where the series has taken off to new heights while exploring both new and very familiar elements of the universe. The creators have done a solid job refining what’s working and trimming some of the excess, while also paying attention to what Star Wars fans have been craving for and yet also resisting the temptation of doing it overtly — as it is a careful balancing act — and bringing in fresh ideas that are worth experimenting in this format. As such, Ahsoka Tano and Captain Rex aren’t simply classic characters popping in here and there to enliven the proceedings (such as Lando Calrissian and Princess Leia, who makes her debut in the series), but intriguing supporting roles that are welcome additions to the core of the larger story — how the Rebel Alliance came to be by the time of the events depicted in A New Hope.
A good chunk of the second season, including the thrilling season finale episode that features an epic duel between Darth Vader and his former apprentice Ahsoka, propel that all-encompassing narrative of the growing battle between the Empire and the fledgling Rebellion. But I also rather liked the “stand-alone” episodes that serve as a bit of a breather while also introducing new elements to the characters of Ezra Bridger, Kanan Jarrus,, Hera Syndulla, Zeb, Sabine Wren, and even Chopper — one of the oddest droids you’ll ever meet in this galaxy. Furthermore, executive producer Dave Filoni mentions in the special features that the events in these episodes will actually serve to play a larger role in the future of the series.
Speaking of which, the special features on both the DVD and Blu-ray formats offer up a bevy of bonus content. Rebels Recon, which was made available on YouTube as an episode companion as they aired, features behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with producers, writers and crew offering up interesting insight into each of the episodes. Connecting the Galaxy: Rebels Season Two is a fast-paced featurette that details some of the Easter Eggs and connections to the larger Star Wars universe, some of them very obvious (such as the Kylo Ren-like lightsaber Ezra comes across in the season finale) and some that die-hard fans might have missed the first time around. A Blu-ray exclusive featurette, From Apprentice to Adversary: Vader vs. Ahsoka is a well-crafted short that goes deeper into the season finale featuring insight from Filoni.
All of the episodes are presented in their original widescreen (1:78) format across three Blu-ray discs or four DVDs. Though the packaging contains a code for Disney Movie Rewards, it won’t unlock the digital copies of these episodes — a bit of a disappointment for those who like to watch on their mobile device (though episodes are available on the Disney XD app if you sign with your cable provider).
Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two is on sale beginning August 30, 2016. Season Three will begin airing September 24.