Poor, poor Minister Tua…it’s a bad time to be living on Lothal, regardless of whether you’re a civilian citizen or a member of the mighty Empire (unless, of course, your name is Kallus, then somehow your failures don’t get punished…). The citizenry are being run off their land so it can be used to fuel the machine only to have their replacement settlement burned to the ground, and even Imperials like Grint and Aresko are losing their jobs (along with their heads) for less than satisfactory performance. Minister Tua witnessed their execution first hand, so she knew when she was summoned before Tarkin that her fate would probably be no different…unfortunately, her reaction was transparent, and turned out to be a vital part of Vader’s overall plan. In fact, he more or less told her exactly what he was going to do, he just left out the part about her being the pawn that would set everything in motion. Gotta love a good Sith scheme…they’re almost akin to setting up dominoes with purposeful gaps, leaving it up to seemingly random chance that a wind gust or curious creature will happen by to start things falling again…except, when you have the Force, nothing is random…anyway, I’m gonna dive head first into this thing and see what interesting talking points I come up with, so strap yourselves in and hold on to something sturdy…
Let’s begin again
So we get dropped into the midst of a space action sequence, always a good way to open a Star Wars adventure, and there’s an immediate feeling that time has passed since we last saw our rebel heroes. The crew has a swagger about them and are getting along well with their new friends at Phoenix Squadron…aside from Kanan, that is, whose quips turn to outright disdain. Then, later, after Tua unwittingly sets Vader’s trap, he reveals his dislike of how militant and structured things have become, and he and Hera have a very poignant back-and-forth that begins like Robin Hood and ends with the foreshadowing:
“I already survived one war; I’m not ready for another one…I saw what it did.”
“To the Jedi?”
This really broadens the scope of what they’re doing and sets up the coming indirect consequences of their actions. It’s also interesting how Ezra overhears the conversation and looks after them down the hall with an almost angry scowl on his face (a face that’s still scarred from his encounter with the Inquisitor last season, which I think is a nice touch). I think this is indicative of how younger people often can’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak, and Ezra is upset that Kanan doesn’t seem to want to be part of something bigger…I may just be going overboard on that, and the intention was just to make Ezra look contemplative and not angry…but I calls ’em how I sees ’em…anyway, moving on…
The plan is set, Chop’s got the generic shuttle ready to go, the gang’s going to bust out Minister Tua, learn that the Empire is using the resources they’re stripping from Lothal to build a secret weapon, form the Rebel Alliance, and lead us right up to the events of Rogue One…except not quite…the mission starts off well, they arrive unscathed, get setup, Kanan pays homage to A New Hope by donning Stormtrooper armor, they’re even undaunted when Agent Kallus is unexpectedly accompanying Minister Tua on her way to the shuttle; in truth, under normal circumstances, this would have been another job well done for the crew, but they’d never had to deal with the Darth Vader variable before…so, instead of a rousing success, they end up springing Vader’s trap, providing the Empire with footage of Minister Tua’s demise that’s then used as propaganda against them, are allowed to escape, but end up grounded and on the run…
A new partner
New problem? New plan…luckily Ezra carries his cadet uniform with him in his backpack for occasions such as sneaking in the Empire’s front door to steal a shuttle…I wonder what else he has in there…anyway, the crew appears to have bounced back from their earlier setback, with an added bonus of finding some shield generators they’d been hoping for on their previous heist, but once again they’d miscalculated the Darth Vader variable, and this time they’d have to deal with said variable head-on…
I can only imagine the bone-chilling cold Ezra comments on that must radiate out of Vader at this point. He is at his utmost killing machine potential, ruthless, strategic, and deadly…Hoth is probably warm by comparison. I love the somewhat lazy way Vader toys with Kanan and Ezra, much like a cat teasing its prey…if he was going all-in, they would have been dead several times over, but instead he’s using one-handed parries and simply side-stepping lightsaber strikes. Had it not been for Sabine’s handy explosives, there would never have been enough time to cut and run without them being likely cut in two. And, even after he emerges from the burning rubble looking no worse for wear, Vader doesn’t run to pursue them, he simply takes a leisurely stroll in their direction, artfully deflecting blaster bolts back at Sabine and hitting her square the chest and head (though that doesn’t really seem to phase her much, but a shot to the shoulder of a Stormtrooper puts them down for the count)…oh no, Vader’s already called their next move, so instead of hurrying after the rebels, he simply waits for the next time they get caught in his web.
The smooth-meter on this premiere event goes through the roof when Mr. Lando Calrissian makes his triumphant reappearance. I honestly thought Hera was talking about Vizago until the “Not him!” chorus from the boys, but Lando was a good choice for off-world smuggling and I didn’t feel like they were stretching just to sprinkle him back in…his droid, however…definitely the low point in the episode, and kind of a stain on the series, honestly. The look was great, flashy, stylized, very Lando, but the voice…I audibly groaned the first time I heard it, and have slumped my shoulders and rolled my eyes each time after. There’s just no good reason for it whatsoever. Mercifully, he says very little, and Ezra noticing the smoke rising from Tarkentown brings the focus back to the story, so I’ll do the same thing…and just pretend like Lando’s droid was more like Lobot and never spoke…so yeah, plan number three seems like a clever ploy that should buy the crew enough time to zip into hyperspace before they’re intercepted, and, albeit without the intended cargo, they will be leaving Lothal with some consolation prize shield generators, making the mission, as a whole, not a complete failure…plus, third time’s the charm, right? As it turns out, yes…but only kind of…also, as an aside, I like how the TIE pilots couldn’t even hit the transponders that were just floating in space on their first shot. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not, but I thought it was pretty funny.
The crew breathes a collective sigh of relief, thinking it’s time to lick their wounds, regroup, and move forward, but, instead, it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire. A fire consisting of Darth Vader in what I would argue is his most comfortable setting, flying; it’s something he’d been doing all his life, long before lightsaber or Force training…a cockpit is home, and home is where all hell breaks loose. It’s just one fighter, they said, it’ll be easy, they said…poor Phoenix Squadron…though, I must admit, watching Vader take them apart was very exciting, especially that about-face-flip-fire move right before the Ghost gets involved. And then, when the Ghost does join in, a beautiful thing happens…”the apprentice lives”
I have been waiting for the first interaction between Vader and Ahsoka since they introduced her at the end of last season. I’ve also made it quite clear that I really want her to die by his hand, and I want her to know who he really is…and, even though she later says she doesn’t know, I think this is the face of recognition mixed with disbelief…I’ll have to wait to find out for sure, but I think I’m right, I think she knows but she won’t accept it as reality. I really like the juxtaposition of their reactions; while Vader simply makes an out-loud observation and goes on about his business, Ahsoka faints under the weight of his power mixed with whatever other feelings, visions, etc. she receives. I’m glad this stage gets setup this early, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out (i.e. how he ends up killing her).
You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here
So, Ahsoka’s passed out, the command ship is in ruin and they’re evacuating, Imperial reinforcements have arrived, and now the mysterious super fighter is focusing his full attention on the Ghost…what a day, huh? But, don’t worry, Hera has a plan, and surely this time it’ll go through without also plunging them further down the rabbit hole…technically, yes, but, as if they didn’t have a big enough target on their backs before, now Vader is personally vested in finding them, and that means no place is necessarily a safe place. I love how when Vader is telling Palpatine about Anakin’s apprentice (also, I love how he refers to Anakin as if he were another person, really portraying the severed ties between his old self and who he is now) that he’s more concerned with her possibly leading them to Obi-Wan than dealing with her. I think this mirrors Vader’s one-track-mindedness concerning Luke after A New Hope. Him being singularly focused on finding and destroying Obi-Wan from, I imagine, the moment he’s left to die on Mustafar until that moment on the Death Star when he finally gets his revenge makes perfect sense in comparison. I like that they didn’t make the focus shift to Ahsoka as the primary target, but made her a means to a greater end. As an evil mastermind myself, this lines up well with how I am, so I find it very fitting (just kidding, I’m not an evil mastermind…yet).
So, yeah, great start to season 2, and I can’t wait (even though I have to) to see where it goes from here. I’ve already talked about what I’d like to see happen, so it’ll be interesting to find out how in-sync I am with what becomes reality. Though the return of the clones and Hondo should be interesting, I’m definitely most looking forward to the first and subsequent (I don’t think they’ll kill her off the first time) encounters between Ahsoka and Vader. That is the meat and potatoes of the series to me; that and the overarching story of how the Rebel Alliance comes together coupled, of course, with what happens to the Ghost crew…ah, who am I kidding, the whole series, and everything Star Wars, really, is a smorgasbord of meat and potatoes and I have an endless stomach. So, next time I digest something, I’ll be sure to write it here…until then, may the Force be with you…