I'd forgotten all about Star Wars: Rebels until my friend Tim let me know last week the season had properly gotten underway weeks previously. As of last night, when I finally got caught up, there've been five episodes this season, four if you don't count the special première episode which aired in June featuring James Earl Jones as Darth Vader. Vader hasn't been back since, though he's listed as a regular cast member now, yet the show has maintained the "stunt casting of the week" format it's had since the beginning which seems to support the impression that Disney's annoying new characters aren't accruing a big fanbase. The writing has generally improved this season, though, with only two returning from season one, Henry Gilroy and Kevin Hopps, the former being the best by far, an import from Clone Wars, the latter being a lot less impressive. But at least Simon Kinberg is gone, hopefully his involvement with this year's infamous Fantastic Four reboot has scared even Disney away from him. Though actually I seem to recall he was announced as leaving the show even before Fantastic Four.
After the cool Vader led "Siege of Lothal" comes a two parter where the stunt casting goes to Dee Bradley Baker as Captain Rex, one of the clones from Clone Wars, and it's another testament to how good Clone Wars is that characters from that show are expected to carry an episode of Rebels just as well as Frank Oz or Billy Dee Williams. It looks like he's going to be a recurring character now, too, though the show persists in squandering its best potential in mining Clone Wars by relegating Ahsoka Tano to a few random appearances, mostly showing up to endorse Ezra. Disney is praying against all odds that some of Ahsoka's mojo will rub off on that fucking Ezra in the kind of schizophrenic maintenance of two philosophies you only get with Hollywood studios nowadays--we have to push the boy wonder Ezra because mostly only boys like Star Wars but we need to prop him up with an actually popular female character.
The second most annoying character, also with a biblical name, is Kanan, voiced by Freddie Prinze, Jr. and it's his wife, Sarah Michelle Gellar, who's the stunt casting in the fourth episode as a new Inquisitor, a Sith-ish servant of Darth Vader, named The Seventh Sister. The episode is called "Always Two There Are" in reference to Yoda's observation in Phantom Menace that there's always a master and apprentice among the Sith, nevermind the episode actually introduces two Inquisitors, implying Darth Vader has two apprentices. This was the episode written by Kevin Hopps and it involves Ezra, his potential girlfriend character, Sabine, the resident Chewbacca type, Zeb, and their R2 droid, Chopper, exploring an Old Republic base, giving Disney a chance again to exploit the supposedly unpopular prequel material.
Would I be reading too much into things if I observed that Joss Whedon cohorts Drew Z. Greenberg and Ben Edlund wrote for Clone Wars while they haven't been transferred to Rebels, the series that features Sarah Michelle Gellar, star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with whom Whedon seems to have had a falling out apparently related to philosophical or political differences? Maybe my imagination is working overtime, but I can't help correlating it with the moral differences between the two series. Clone Wars, in which George Lucas is said to have had a very active hand, featured a female protagonist in episodes that shifted focus from episode to episode around an enormous cast, had subversive messages about the military, and no traditional family grouping at its centre is replaced by the Disney series which shoves Ezra into the spotlight every episode and gives him conspicuous mother, father, and girlfriend figures. I understand Disney has a formula they have confidence in but they're riding it into the ground now and it looks like zealotry. Leaning on characters from the philosophically different successful series to give a false sense of success to the new series is sort of like faking a divine miracle.
The visuals have gotten better this season. I like the use of shadows.