No offence to J.J. Abrams, but the best Star Wars storytelling in the past year may have been on Star Wars Rebels. Executive producer Dave Filoni and his team weaved a complex, exciting tale that not only illuminated many previous Star Wars myths, but set up new ones, too.
Next Monday, the second season of Star Wars Rebels hits Blu-ray and, for the series alone, it’s a must-have. Rebels isn’t a series that’s easily, or cheaply, accessible on most streaming services, so if you are a Star Wars completionist or (gasp!) haven’t seen the show, there isn’t even a question here. It’s 22 episodes, containing over eight hours of new, essential Star Wars content; they look great, they sound great and you don’t have to wait week-to-week to see what’s next.
Beyond those episodes, though, I’m sorry to say the second season Blu-ray set can’t hold a candle to the first season, or any of the Star Wars feature films for that matter. Its ancillary features are sorely lacking.
The main extra feature is 20 episodes of Rebels Recon, the Star Wars YouTube show that recaps each episode, offering context, trivia and interviews. These are great, but they’re all already on YouTube. Sure, it’s nice to have a hard copy, and they’re a great addition to the Rebels experience, but because they’re readily available, it’s hard to give too much credit on this particular release.
Really, the only new additions are two featurettes, one that runs three minutes and 30 seconds and another that runs just over six minutes. That’s barely 10 minutes of special features, not a real big selling point.
At least the 10 minutes are solid.
The shorter clip is called Connecting the Galaxy: Rebels Season Two. It’s a quickly edited piece that reveals some obvious (and not so obvious) Easter eggs from the season; among the highlights are a link between Maz Kanata and Hondo Ohnaka as well as a Star Wars canon first: Lightsabers in training mode. There are some Clone Wars connections and historical references, too. It packs a good amount of information into a short time. (EW posted an excerpt.)
The longer clip is called From Apprentice to Adversary: Vader vs. Ahsoka, and it’s a Dave Filoni-narrated feature talking about the long-awaited showdown between the characters in the season finale. Filoni explains why George Lucas wanted Ahsoka introduced in the first place, how early he knew this showdown would occur and the two images he’d created before he even started writing the duel. Filoni also ends by promising he’ll reveal what happened after the season’s cliffhanger finale in the future. The video is really quite wonderful, but it mainly makes you wish there were more.
And really, that’s the main feeling from the entire set. You watch the discs, you enjoy them and then you can’t believe that’s it. We don’t even get the season three trailer, which is kind of odd. (Here’s that if you want to watch it.)
Still, lack of special features aside, Star Wars Rebels is fantastic. The way it takes everything you know and love about Star Wars and still tells original stories is inspiring. And though it tells those stories with mostly new characters, it never steers too far away from the films, giving plenty of context and connections for fans to analyse and smile about. It’s the perfect balance of new and old, one that makes an otherwise disappointing Blu-ray still worth having.