This Saturday (June 20), the long awaited second season of "Star Wars Rebels" returns to the airwaves with an hour-long premiere and a special guest from the original trilogy -- Darth Vader, who gets to kick ass and take names like the bad sith lord he is. Only, wait, he's trying to kick our heroes' asses, isn't he? We probably shouldn't be rooting for him.
Of course, that doesn't mean the Rebels can't have some fun doing what they do best -- stealing from the Empire. Check out Ezra, Hero, Sabine and the whole team doing just that in this exclusive clip from the premiere:
Darth Vader isn't taking over the role of the series' central antagonist, says series creator Dave Filoni -- instead he'll be sending into the two new Inquisitors, whom we saw in the recent season 2 trailer, to track down the Rebels (and sorry, fellow Expanded Universe nerds -- neither of them is Mara Jade). But his encounter with our favorite gang of misfits, however brief, is going to affect them deeply throughout the new season.
"I think you don’t want to overuse a character like that, and you don’t want to have characters like Darth Vader in a situation where he’s going to lose relentlessly," Filoni told MTV News over the phone. "As we were figuring out the story of the rebels in Season 1, we didn’t want to put Vader in that position. So we waited until their skills kind of grew and as a group they became more formidable, and we thought, ‘Okay, after Season 1 they’ve caused a lot of trouble, let’s send in the heavy artillery and kind of smack them down a little bit.’ Put them back in their place with Darth Vader."
But Darth Vader's not the only beloved "Star Wars" character whose presence will be felt this season -- Ahsoka Tano is back too, as excited fans learned at the end of last year's season finale.
"She’s very much a warrior, but she’s also sort of a mentor and in some ways spiritual leader of the group, [but] she’s not directly tied to our rebels all the time," said Filoni. "One character that I used as a reference point for the writers was if you look at the way Gandalf kind of operates in 'The Hobbit,' he’s in and out of the story because he’s working on many levels and doing many other things all the time. I really see Ahsoka that way, where she’s maneuvering a lot of pieces on the board and putting people in positions, but then it’s really up to them to make something of the situation."
Of course, there are other big changes coming down the pike for the Rebels -- and they aren't all good ones.
"Where season 1 was 'A New Hope,' I feel like season 2 is our 'Empire Strikes Back,'" Filoni said. "Ezra has learned a lot about his world and learned about the world outside of his own planet, but now he’s faced with true evil characters beyond what he thought was possible. It’s not just fun to be a Jedi and have a light saber and go on adventures; the character has to deal with the responsibility that comes with this power, that comes with protecting people and really being a champion of those in need."
"So that’s what we went after in season 2, is this idea that we can both be very fun and exciting and have a dimension of seriousness and gravity that I think 'Star Wars' fans want in their fairytale here. They want that deeper meaning, when Luke goes into the cave to confront his fears – and that’s what we’re doing. And that’s basically what we’re doing this season, we’re going into the cave to confront his fears on many different levels and subjects."
"Star Wars Rebels" returns to Disney XD on June 20, 9pm ET/PT, with the hour-long episode "The Siege of Lothal."