The first season of Disney XD's "Star Wars Rebels" introduced Ezra Bridger to the crew of
Thanks to a combination of deep dive references to the works of Ralph McQuarrie, nods to the previous animated series "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," voices that include Frank Oz as Yoda and Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, and themes revolving around good versus evil and destiny, this show acts as the perfect standard-bearer for the galaxy far, far away until the next film comes out.
With all that in mind -- plus a Season 1 finale that brought "Clone Wars" star Ahsoka Tano and Darth Vader to the party -- we sat down to watch the second season's Blu-ray collection (available now) with high hopes and plenty of anticipation. Here are the ten craziest and coolest moments that kept us enthralled and make Season 3's September 24 debut feel even further away -- and more anticipated than ever.
10 Enter: Vader
Season Two kicks off with a two-parter called Siege of Lothal that not only brings Darth Vader (voiced as always by James Earl Jones) into the action, but also directly pits this mysterious new villain against Kanan and Ezra. Though they don't know who truly resides under that helmet, our heroes feel Vader's cold presence well before they see him. That doesn't stop them from trying to battle him with their lightsabers. The act proves mostly futile as the man formerly known as Anakin Skywalker nearly decapitates Ezra with his own weapon! Were it not for some mines placed on nearby walkers that only momentarily distracted the Sith Lord so The Ghost could flee, the season might have ended right there for the Rebels!
9 Vader Flies Solo
Later in that same episode, the Rebels turn to the old smoothie himself, Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), to get them off planet and reunite with Ahsoka's Rebel cell. Not one to let his quarry escape, Vader flies off in his own TIE fighter to take on the entire fleet himself. Thanks to those piloting skills learned on the Tatooine pod racing circuit, Vader handles himself quite well until a pair of Star Destroyers show up. Thanks to some fancy flying of her own, Hera recognizes that both Destroyers have turned on their tractor beams and fly out of the way as they both turn on, leading Darth Vader directly into the trap, giving the good guys just enough time to get away.
8 Sandstorm Standoff
After Ahsoka sent the Ghost crew to find a brilliant clone strategist by the name of Captain Rex -- who removed his own chip as a way to avoid following the Jedi-killing Order 66 from Palpatine -- in the Seelos system. He hangs out with two other de-chipped clones named Gregor and Wolffe on a customized walker. Thanks to some bad decisions, the Empire finds their location and sends three AT-ATs to destroy the Rebels as seen in the fourth episode, "Relics of the Old Republic." In a desperate and risky move, the clones steer their walker directly into a sand storm where they sit and wait for the AT-ATs to get close enough so that Ezra can use his increasingly growing bond with the force to blast one of them into bits. The plan works long enough for the stars of the show to escape leaving the clones to battle the remaining walkers, but, being the heroes they are, they return to finish the job and recruit Rex onto their side.
7 Zeb's Escape Plan
"Always There Are Two" acts as a nice, spooky "Alien" homage as Zeb, Sabine and Ezra search an abandoned medical station for supplies. While there, they come face to face with the season's new villains, a pair of Inquisitors called the Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister (Sarah Michelle Gellar). They get the drop on Ezra and Sabine, but don't capture Zeb who figures out a clever way to get everyone to a bay where he uses his unique brand of trickery and strategy to blast away at the villains and fly off with his friends safely in tow.
6 B-Wing Baller
As we mentioned above, Hera's a pretty awesome pilot. So, when a Star Destroyer blockade blasts Rebellion ships out of the sky while trying to deliver food, she heads to Shantipole on Rex's suggestion to test his new B-Wing ship. Her piloting skills get put to the test right away thanks to the planet's atmosphere leading to a crash landing that she, Zeb and Sabine walk away from. There, they meet the Mon Calamari ship-builder named Quarrie who introduces her to the prototype. After some beautiful flying during a test, she and her crew figure out a way to get it to the blockade where she takes out a whole Star Destroyer with just her tiny ship thanks to a weapon that fires very much like the Death Star. By far, "Wings of the Master" features some of the fanciest flying in the series and also leads Hera to a promotion as captain of Phoenix Squad!
5 Ahsoka Cuts Loose
About halfway through the season, fans of "The Clone Wars" finally got to see what they'd been waiting for since Ahsoka Tano appeared at the very end of the first season: her kicking some evil butt. That moment finally came in the tenth episode, "The Future of the Force," in which the show's heroes discover that the Inquisitors plan to track down Force-sensitive babies for nefarious reasons. Ezra, Zeb and Kanan do everything they can to save a pair of babies and nearly get away when Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister show up and hinder their escape. Just then, Ahsoka leaps into the fray, lights up twin white lightsabers and shows that, even though she might not officially be a Jedi, she sure can fight like one. Ezra and Kanan had difficulty battling these two villains throughout the season, but Ahsoka seems to handle them with ease showing why she's one of the most boss characters in the Star Wars Universe and a welcome addition to the Rebels crew.
4 Princess Leia Schemes
She might go on to give Han Solo trouble for his less than direct nature in the future, but when Princess Leia (Julie Dolan) appears in "A Princess on Lothal," she brings with her sneaky plans. See, she and her adoptive father, Bail Organa fervently support the Rebellion, but can't do so openly for political reasons, so she brings a trio of ships to Lothal where they're to be stolen right from the local Imperial overlords. Leia not only sells a convincing kidnapping ruse, but also helps blast a couple of Stormtroopers when the trouble really starts. Even with all that, the plan clearly succeeds as the Rebellion leaves with the ships and she can blame the whole thing on the incompetence of the Empire! These are the challenges and events that helped hone the leader who stood up to Darth Vader without flinching in "A New Hope" and beyond.
3 Ezra Tames The Purrgil
Sometimes the most obvious solution to a problem isn't the right one. That's what Ezra learns in "The Call," an episode that finds the Ghost crew attempting to steal some fuel from a Mining Guild refinery. Kanan's plan involves stealing the fuel they can use and destroying the facility, but thanks to communicating with the nearby Purrgil creatures, Ezra realizes that they actually feed off the fuel and that blowing the place up would harm them as well. So, he takes matters into his own hands and bravely calls an audible that results in an impressive flying chase scene with the young Padawan riding a Purrgil with his lightsaber blazing. Amazing flying scenes almost become the norm with "Rebels," but it's nice to see them mix it up with something even crazier than aliens flying spaceships!
2 Knighting Kanan
Here's where "Rebels'" heroes were at in an episode titled "Shrouds of Darkness": The season's coming to a close; the Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister hunt the heroes. In fact, this episode kicks off with a pretty impressive battle between the Inquisitors, Kanan and Ezra. After escaping, the semi-Jedi need advice, so Kanan, Ezra and Ahsoka return to Lothal and enter the Jedi Temple where Ezra confers with Yoda, Ahsoka realizes that her former master Anakin Skywalker is truly Darth Vader and Kanan battles a masked Jedi Guard who tells him he should kill Ezra because of his potential for evil. Never thinking once about allowing such a thing, Kanan fights the Guard to the point where he actually earns his Jedi Knighthood! Not only does this mark an important step in Kanan's life -- he gave up being a Jedi as a kid after Order 66 nearly wiped out the order as seen in the first arc of his solo series from Marvel -- but also sets up the rest of the season as our heroes barrel towards a final conflict on the Sith world Malachor.
1 Malachor Massacre
Let's get this out of the way right off the bat: everything in the two-part season finale -- "Twilight of the Apprentice" -- stands as a franchise high point. How else would you describe an episode that not only brings the Prequels' most dynamic villain back into the fray, but also tests Kanan, Ezra and Ahsoka in their use of the Force, all while wondering which side of it they fall on. Jam-packed with epic lightsaber battles between the heroes and not two, but three Inquisitors thanks to the first appearance of Eighth Brother. Without giving too much away, Ezra nearly launches a gigantic Sith weapon, alliances shift, enemies die and one of our heroes survives, but without one of the primary senses. In addition to all of that, the episode closes out with a huge battle between Darth Vader and Ahsoka Tano as the Sith temple crumbles around them, the kind of fight that echoes throughout the films as masters and students clash again and again.
With such an epic and status quo-rocking finale, we're all the more excited for the third season of "Star Wars Rebels" to kick off on September 24.