- The Washington Times - Friday, September 9, 2016

A padawan continues to develop his skills and flex his Jedi muscle to help fellow warriors conquer an Empire in Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, rated TV-Y7-FV, $45.99).

The next 22 episodes of the Disney XD hit show arrive on three Blu-ray discs with a story that continues to follow the beginnings of a rebellion, after the Emperor and minion Darth Vader take control of the galaxy with the engineered fall of the Galactic Republic.

A group of fledgling rebels from the planet Lothal — Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus; orphaned, Force-powered young apprentice Ezra Bridger; female Twi’lek Hera Syndull; Sabine Wren, a female Mandalorian graffiti artist; Zeb Orrelios, a muscle-bound Lasat honor guard; and a feisty droid nicknamed Chopper — fly around the galaxy in the multifunctional ship Ghost. They team up with an organized group of freedom fighters to thwart the plans of the evil Imperial Empire one planet at a time.

This season saw the return of famed Clone Trooper Capt. Rex (who resisted Order 66 by removing his brain chip); the emergence of a former padawan of Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano; Princess Leia Organa; and more Yoda (the voice of Frank Oz).

Better yet, Darth Vader appears in multiple episodes as well as a pair of new Inquisitors, the Seventh Daughter (voiced by Buffy herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar) and hulking Fifth Brother. These scenery-chewing bad guys each sport slick, spinning, double-bladed lightsabers as they look to kill Jedi and squash the rebellion.

Also worthy of mention is the “Star Wars” tech evolution on display in the show, including the Mining Guild’s modified TIE Fighters, a look at the origin of the Rebel B-Wing fighter and the Empire’s Interdictor Cruiser with a gravity well that can pull ships out of hyperspace.

SEE ALSO: Blu-ray review: ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’

As far as stand-out episodes, I’ll only mention a few of the offbeat but emotionally satisfying ones, to not spoil the fun:

The Honorable Ones — Our grizzled hero Zeb gets stuck on one of the icy moons of Geonosis with the Empire’s incredibly evil Agent Kallus. The two enemies must now work together to survive. Yes, it’s a classic version of the movie “Enemy Mine” (remember that one?), but watching the pair fight off monstrous attacks and help each other sheds wonderful light on these honorable adversaries.

Homecoming — Herra’s father Cham Syndulla, a legendary resistance fighter and Clone Wars veteran, helps the Rebels capture a massive Imperial Carrier, but he has other ideas on what to do with it. Besides some intense space action, the reunion of estranged father with daughter is one of the more poignant moments in the series.

After watching some spectacular animation in a screen-filling, high-definition presentation throughout the 22-minute episodes — the light saber battles, Vader in action and the Rebels encounters with TIE Fighters and AT-ATs are simply eye-popping — the Blu-ray set’s extras are a deflating disappointment.

After every episode, fans can watch the short vignettes Rebels Recon (roughly 6-minutes each) featuring “Star Wars” social media correspondent Andi Gutierrez.

She primarily interviews executive producer and show co-creator Dave Filoni, writer Henry Gilroy, Lucasfilm resident “Star Wars” canon expert Pablo Hildago, artist Killian Plunkett and some of the voice-over actors, while covering key plot points and mythologies.

It’s great stuff, especially when they dig into the origins of characters while referencing and showing scenes from the previous films and other cartoon series.

However, this is all previously released material and guaranteed already devoured by hard-core fans.

Alas, all that is left are a pair of featurettes.

First, a much-too-short, under-4-minute-long look at some of the Easter eggs used in the second season. The segment briefly explores the Crossroad lightsaber (seen in the movies with Kylo Ren), a lightsaber training mode (never before seen in the franchise), the control chip scars seen on Clone Troopers, the Sith super weapons and the inspiration of Ralph McQuarrie’s original “Star Wars” movie character designs on the cartoon.

Next (super spoiler alert), Mr. Filoni spends 6 minutes discussing the epic confrontation between Ahsoka Tano and Darth Vader seen in the two-part season finale. Except, he really doesn’t have much to say other than he was obsessed with getting it right and hopes the fans enjoyed the fight. He also appreciated James Earl Jones returning as the voice of the Sith Lord.

Despite the extras vacuum, “Star Wars Rebels” is a glorious show for fans. They will binge-watch the episodes multiple times until bloated with trivia and memories of their favorite galaxy far, far away.

By the way, get ready for Season 3 debuting on Sept. 24 and introducing the blue-skinned Grand Adm. Thrawn, an Imperial villain introduced in the 1991 novel “Heir to the Empire” but also seen in “Star Wars” comics, video games and action figures.

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