Star Wars Rebels

Fifty shades Darth- er…

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Un­less you’ve been rot­ting in Jabba’s dun­geon the past few months, you’ll know that Rebels has stopped teas­ing and wheeled out Star Wars’ big­gest bad: a whole sea­son af­ter his Spark Of Re­bel­lion cameo, Lord Vader has ar­rived. It’s enough to over­shadow the re­turn of another fan favourite, but rest as­sured, sea­son two pre­miere “The Siege Of Lothal” sug­gests there’s plenty of arc in store for Anakin’s for­mer Padawan Ashoka Tano.

And what about our core he­roes, the Em­pire- fight­ing crew of the Ghost? Start­ing the sea­son with a “We’re baaaack!” bang, the all- ac­tion episode doesn’t leave much room for char­ac­ter- build­ing. Chuck in the ( en­ter­tain­ing) dis­trac­tion of another SW icon’s ap­pear­ance ( card player, gam­bler, scoundrel, you’d like him) and the likes of Sabine, Zeb and Hera are largely re­duced to bal­last.

Hap­pily, there’s no short­age of dra­matic weight for Kanan and Ezra to shoul­der, in­clud­ing a show­down with a tall, dark an­tag­o­nist – which oddly thrills all the more for be­ing com­pletely one- sided. With James Earl Jones back in the record­ing booth and a heav­ily Ralph McQuar­rie- ified look ( it’s like he’s stepped off the cover of the orig­i­nal ’ 76 nov­el­i­sa­tion), this is the Sith big­wig at his most old- school un­stop­pable.

“TSOL” is ef­fec­tively a Vader Great­est Hits: Force- throw­ing great lumps of scenery; flex­ing his zero- tol­er­ance man­age­rial style; ’ saber­ing in clas­si­cal, no- rush fash­ion… there’s even the near­est thing to an “I am your fa­ther” mo­ment, one that for­ti­fies Rebels’ links to Clone Wars and teases a mouth- wa­ter­ing fu­ture stand- off. How long it’ll be be­fore we get there re­mains to be seen; the show will likely hold back Vader as a se­cret weapon, to be used spar­ingly for max­i­mum im­pact. But with such a heavy­weight loom­ing in the back­ground, you can’t help feel­ing Rebels will need to dou­ble some of its char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion ef­forts to main­tain a healthy Force bal­ance. Matthew Ley­land

Is that Dave Prowse un­der there…?

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