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Star Wars Rebels (season 02 premiere)

Welcome Back, Darth Vader!

I just recently watched “The Siege of Lothal,” the one-hour second-season premiere of Star Wars Rebels.  It’s a terrific episode, the best Rebels has done so far.  The main reason why it’s so good?  The welcome return of Darth Vader.  And when I say the return of Vader, I mean the evil, unbeatable, kicking-ass-and-taking-names version of Vader from Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.  This is the top-of-his-game, evil and terrifying Vader we haven’t truly seen since 1980.  It’s joyous to behold.

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As I have written before, I was dubious about the animated Rebels series when it debuted last year, but the last several episodes of the season were spectacular.  The season one finale teased fans by bringing Vader into the story, and the season two premiere wasted no time before making good on that promise.  Vader is all over this episode, tasked with hunting down the small band of rebels who have been making trouble for the Empire on the planet Lothal.

Somehow they got James Earl Jones to reprise the voice of Vader, and it is an incredible delight to hear new Vader dialogue spoken by Mr. Jones.  Even better, the characterization of Vader is absolutely spot on, a triumphant return of Vader at the height of his villainous powers.  This is a Vader who is enormously powerful with his mastery of the Force.  When Vader confronts the show’s two Jedi characters, Kanan and his young Padawan Ezra, Vader easily overpowers them, as well he should.  The rebels try to stop Vader by blowing up two huge Imperial Walkers and toppling them on top of him.  But in one of the show’s best moments, Vader uses the force to lift the wreckage and strides confidently out of the flaming debris, Terminator-style.  (Compare that sequence of badass Force mastery with the great effort all the Jedi seemed to need in the Prequels just to lift small objects, all despite our learning from Yoda in Empire that “size matters not.”  That really bugged me in the Prequels.  It’s great fun here to see Vader as a hugely powerful Force-user.)  The show also nails the casual cruelty of classic Vader.  In this episode, Vader has an imperial governor killed in front of the characters trying to rescue her, he burns a refugee town to the ground in an effort to flush out the rebels, and when he defeats Kanan and Ezra he uses the force to have Ezra almost decapitate himself with his own lightsaber.  (The kid is rescued in the nick of time, but I love that Vader wouldn’t even trouble himself to walk over there and kill Ezra himself.)

But the best Vader sequence comes later, when … [continued]