Star Wars: Rebels – The Siege of Lothal Review
I am admittedly a slightly peculiar fit when it comes to Star Wars: Rebels. You see, while I have a decent amount of knowledge pertaining to the Star Wars universe, I have never actually watched the Clone Wars TV series or animated film. How significant a problem this will be is currently uncertain as Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s former padawan, has joined the primary cast. So far, the show has remained accessible to those unfamiliar with Star Wars’s prior animated series, and hopefully that won’t change as it goes on. Actually, the problems with this two-parter lie not in the fact that it has begun connecting itself to Clone Wars, but rather in the fact that it all feels slightly inconsequential. It’s not a bad episode, by any means, but it feels largely like things that we’ve seen before.
The episode kicks off with the rebels attacking an Imperial convoy for supplies. They succeed in recovering the transported goods, but the process was more difficult than they had anticipated, and it turns out that the cargo did not include the shield generators that had been suggested by their intel. Upon returning to the Rebel fleet, they receive a message from Minister Tua, the bureaucratic head of operations on Lothal. Fearful of the pressure being placed upon her by Governor Tarkin and Lord Vader, she wishes to defect and has offered up an Imperial list of suspected Rebel sympathizers who are currently too prominent to be apprehended without further evidence. Ezra believes she is telling the truth as he senses her fear. She also offers to tell the Rebels the true reason for the Empire’s interest in Lothal, stating that that reason is known only to a few and involves orders from the Emperor himself. She is to meet with Governor Tarkin, but her plan is for the Rebels to commander the shuttle that has been sent to pick her up. The Rebels ultimately agree to provide aid, but a number remain skeptical of Tua’s sincerity suspecting that it may be a trap. Furthermore, Kanan and Hera are having disagreements on how involved they should be with the Rebel network, with Kanan feeling that they were better off on their own.
As it turns out, IT’S A TRAP!… Sorry. I promise not to do that again. Vader had apparently expected Tua to try and escape, and had set up an ambush with the aid of Agent Kallus. The crew of the Ghost succeed in escaping into the streets of Lothal, but only after Minister Tua was killed by a bomb that had been placed on her shuttle. They briefly take refuge in Ezra’s old house, but even that location isn’t safe for long as Stormtroopers quickly locate and bomb the hideout. Kanan suggests that they try and steal another Imperial shuttle as the garrison has spread thin guarding the city exits. Using a set of Stormtrooper armor that he had previously acquired along with Ezra’s cadet helmet, he and Ezra are able to slip into the Imperial compound without too much trouble. They even succeed in locating some shield generators which they load onto the shuttle, but are interrupted by Vader. The fight between Ezra, Kanan and Vader is easily one of the highpoints of the entire episode, with Vader commanding a truly terrifying presence. He towers over Kanan, and there is never a point where it doesn’t feel like he is in control. There is a strong sense that the only reason that the crew was able to escape was because he didn’t intend on capturing them in the first place.
The crew then spends the next few minutes of the episode trying to find a way to mask their escape past the Imperial blockade surrounding the planet. This segment really only fills two roles. The first is that it allows Ezra a chance to go and see the Imperial destruction for himself, as Vader has ordered assaults on nearby towns in order to draw out the Rebels. The second is that it allows for the episode to have its mandatory Billy Dee Williams cameo as the crew looks to Lando for help getting them offworld. They use transmitters left in the upper atmosphere which clone the shuttles signature to mask their escape.
While traveling through hyperspace, the crew decides to determine whether to rejoin the rebellion network or return to their more solitary exploits. Kanan and Sabine support the possibility of taking the Ghost and laying low, while Hera and Zeb support returning to the Rebel Fleet. This leaves the deciding vote to Ezra who decides that he wants to return to the Rebel Fleet since he believes that they may be able to make a difference and provide aid to those in need. However, upon leaving hyperspace, a transmitter activates on the shuttle which leads Vader right to their base on Yavin IV… I mean to the Rebel Fleet. Using only his Advanced TIE Fighter, he succeeds in taking out much of the Rebel’s A-Wing squadron and even cripples their command ship. The crew of the Ghost goes out and tries to hold him off. Ahsoka joins them, and together with Kanan tries to use the force against the pilot of the TIE Fighter. Upon touching Vader’s consciousness, Ahsoka recognises him and is incapacitated. With several Star Destroyers arriving, the Ghost tricks them into using their tractor beams against Vader’s craft and is forced to flee.
Despite the fact that so much happens in The Siege of Lothal, much of it feels like a rehash of plot points from the movies or from the previous season. I made references to Episodes V and VI earlier, but even Tua’s death feels reminiscent of the Inquisitor’s execution of Cumberlayne Aresko and Myles Grint back in Call to Action. In both instances, the show succeeds in escalating the intensity as well as removing previously comedic or less-than-capable antagonists while building up the current primary threat. Furthermore, the primary scenario feels more than a little familiar as “The Ghost crew attempts to carry out a smuggling operation involving Lothal, but runs into complications,” is a phrase that could probably describe half the episodes in season 1.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- It really is great that Rebels got James Earl Jones to reprise his role as Darth Vader. He doesn’t get to say too much in this episode, but he certainly isn’t wasted here.
- No sign of Sarah Michelle Geller’s character in this episode. I’m curious as to whether she will be voicing the new Inquisitor that the Emperor refers to at the end. That could be interesting. Speaking of that scene, Sam Witwer really deserves credit for his performance as Palpatine. He had previously voiced that character in several video games, and he really captures the character’s vocal mannerisms quite well.
- Please let her character be a Chiss. Please let her character be a Chiss (Yes, I am a geek. I am fully aware of this fact).
- A-Wings were always my favorite. It’s nice to see them (or possibly their predecessors, A-Wing have a slightly confusing history) here, even though most of them get destroyed pretty quickly. Fun fact, A-Wing were originally intended to have a blue color scheme similar to the one seen in this episode, but it interfered with blue screen effects, so it was changed to red for their appearance in Return of the Jedi.
The Siege of Lothal is a slightly above average episode. It’s pretty good, but it isn’t great. It feels a bit padded and not even an appearance by Darth Vader, one of the most iconic villains of all time, can completely cover that up. Likewise, Billy Dee Williams’ cameo is nice, but feels overshadowed since it comes on the heels of Vader’s first appearance. It’s a rather unsteady start for the season, but I still find myself eager to see what it has in store for us.
The Siege of Lothal is an enjoyable, if somewhat sluggish premiere, that simultaneously leaves me eager to see what comes next as well as concerned. Place your *Lack of Faith* quotes here.