Earlier this week, Star Wars Rebels gave us a taste of what’s to come with Siege of Lothal, a television special setting up the show’s future—and it looks like there’s some very dark times ahead for our Rebel friends. Here are three of the must-watch moments, and what they mean for the show’s second season.
A running theme throughout this episode is our group of heroes realising that the days of the Republic and the Jedi are well and truly over. At one point, Kanan laments to Ezra that the dark times of his own youth are back, except that “back then, there were ten thousand Jedi knights protecting the galaxy.” What’s left? Kanan and Ezra: And it’s nowhere near enough to stop the Empire.
Rebels first season spent a lot of time dealing with the former Jedi and his new apprentice’s relationship as the seemingly final Jedi—and often showed us how capable they both are as Force users, to the point that they even manage to best the Inquisitor. Siege of Lothal, on the other hand, gives the duo their first true challenge, a baptism of fire: a battle with Darth Vader. As you can see in the video above, it does not go well.
Vader is a hugely different threat from the Inquisitor. He’s the first true opponent Kanan and Ezra fight that is strong in the Force (after all, the Inquisitor could use it, be he wasn’t completely trained in it), and he uses that to his advantage, flinging the pair around and nearly getting Ezra to slice his own head off. The theatricality of the Inquisitor’s lightsaber technique—the flashy style that dominated the duels of Clone Wars and the prequels—gives way to the raw power of Vader, who easily bats aside Kanan’s blade time and time again, completely overwhelming both master and apprentice. It’s a sudden, harsh lesson for the two Jedi that they are hopelessly, impossibly outmatched—and that Kanan is right: the Jedi really are no more.
The other running theme in Siege of Lothal isn’t just that the days of the Republic are gone—it’s that the Empire really mean business. Up until Tarkin showed up and showed the (honestly inept) Imperials of Lothal how it was done, the crew of the Ghost could pretty much ring circles around their overlords. They easily defeated and duped them time and time again, with little to no repercussion. That’s changing pretty quick now that Lord Vader is around.
We see it in the ruthlessness with which the Imperials hunt the Rebels over Lothal, driving them underground and eventually off planet. We see it in Kallus’ ruthless murder of Minister Tua, a punishment for her inability to nip the Rebel threat in the bud (and for her attempted treachery). But it shows most in the scene above between Kallus and Vader, where, after the Rebel’s escape from their clutches, Vader orders a refugee camp to be burned as a warning: The Empire does not have the same compassion as the Rebels, and there will be a harsh consequence for their rebellion. It’s not an idle threat either—shortly after, Kanan and Ezra come across the smoking ruins of Tarkintown, realising that this was on them.
Clone Wars slowly began to deal with the consequences of fighting for what you believe in as is progressing, and it’s nice to see that Rebels is doing that so quickly as well. And let’s be honest, it’s nice to see the Empire being less of a joke and more of a villainous force to be reckoned with.
Ever since she made her most welcome return in the first season’s finale, fans have been dying to know if the older, wiser Ahsoka Tano will cross paths her her fallen former master. While Siege of Lothal doesn’t give us a full-on duel between Vader and Ahsoka, we get the awesome moment of the pair realising that the other is still around. As the crew of the Ghost race to defend the Rebel Fleet from Vader’s one-pilot assault, Ahsoka and Kanan reach out into the Force to ascertain the identity of their foe—but as Ezra realises the pilot is the same Sith Lord that
kicked their butts they fought on Lothal, we get the stunning moment of realisation: Vader discovers his apprentice is still alive, and, it seems, Ahsoka discovers the tragic realisation of what happened to Anakin Skywalker, a realisation so traumatic it knocks her clean out.
Many speculated that Ahsoka wouldn’t realise who Darth Vader was until it was too late, but them discovering each other before the inevitable encounter is so much more potent, mainly because we get to see how each of them, so vastly different from when they parted in Clone Wars, react to that knowledge. Both Ahsoka and Vader make a similar choice: to push their emotions aside. Vader calmly relays the existence of Anakin Skywalker’s—poignantly not his, but Anakin Skywalker’s, another man, separate from what he has now become—apprentice to the Emperor and accepts orders to dispatch an Inquisitor to silence her, just another surviving Jedi rather than a foe with an intimate connection to him. Ahsoka, on the other hand, lies to the Rebels, feigning ignorance about the Sith Lord’s identity, despite a knowing look that lets the audience realise that she knows him all too well—a tantalising hint of what’s to come between the pair.
We can’t wait. Can it be autumn, like, right now please?