“Just like the old days,” says Captain Rex as two Jedi drop from a ship and open the top of an AT-AT with their lightsabers. He’s talking about The Clone Wars—but, for audiences, the second episode of Star Wars Rebels season 2 was all about the old days of the original trilogy.

The episode, called “Relics of the Old Republic,” also had one of those moments that proves why Rebels is so much more than a simple kids show.

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When we last left our Rebels, an Imperial probe droid had alerted the Empire to their location. Now, there’s a storm on the horizon too, kind of like in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and a Star Destroyer has just dropped out of hyperspace above the planet. To solidify its arrival, we see a shot like the beginning of A New Hope, the first of several original trilogy references coming up.

A fleet of TIE Fighters is dispatched down to the planet and immediately attacks the Clones and Rebels. The Rebels, not particularly trained for this kind of thing, just start unloading. This makes the Clones laugh as they calmly take one shot, and blow a TIE out of the sky.

The TIEs are just the beginning, though. A new threat then emerges on the horizon. Three massive, four legged walkers that look a whole lot like the AT-ATs we know from The Empire Strikes Back. And in case you didn’t see that? We get the shot above, which is a near-perfect match to the iconic framing from the planet Hoth.

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Agent Kallus is leading the charge, but it seems like the Clones have never seen these machines. As they analyzed them, the comic book fan in me couldn’t help but wonder if this will end up being their first appearance in the Star Wars canon, though they do look slightly modified. Anyway, the Clones discuss these new threats and decide they can’t beat them one on one. They turn around and head into the storm.

But wait, you’re asking, how will they see in the storm? No need. “A Jedi won’t be blind” in the storm, says Rex. Chills.

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Into the sandstorm everyone goes, AT-ATs included. Kanan seems nervous about the lack of visibility but Rex says he always trusts his general, which in turn hopefully lets Kanan know these Clones can be trusted. He taps into the Force and figures out the positions of all the AT-ATs.

Here’s where things get really good. It seems like, in every episode of Star Wars Rebels, there are one or two moments that elevate it from a mere kids show to worthy television, and this was it. Everything just gets quiet. The AT-ATs are looking for the Rebels, Kanan is searching for them, and the editing and lack of dialogue created the kind of dramatic intensity you don’t usually get in television animation. Just great, great stuff.

Kanan finally realizes they’re surrounded, which means it’s time to take their shot. The Clones volunteer but it’s decided Ezra, being Force sensitive, should aim the gun. Rex gives Ezra his Clone helmet and wishes him luck.

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Out in the storm, Ezra starts to line up the shot when he’s told to trust himself. He’s never going to see with his eyes. So Ezra takes off the protective helmet and, through the Force, takes the shot. It’s a direct hit.

I mean, the parallel here is obvious, right? Luke taking down the first Death Star without his equipment? “Just like the old days” or, in this case, a prelude to things that will happen.

Losing a walker is a blow to Kallus and his Imperials but just as it happens, things get worse. Back above the planet on a Star Destroyer, an urgent call from Lord Vader comes in. They’re to leave at once, so the Star Destroyer abandons the remaining AT-ATs and leaves. But they don’t know that yet.

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Now clear of the sandstorm, Kanan says it’s time for the Rebels to bring the information they came for – possible base locations for the Rebels – back. Ezra doesn’t want to leave the Clones, saying Ashoka wanted them to bring Rex himself back too, but Rex says it’s okay.

As the Rebels fly away in the Phantom, the Clones begin to attack the AT-ATs. It seems they’re on a suicide mission and, finally, Ezra convinces Kanan they should help. They turn around and just as the Clones are about to be destroyed, the Phantom flies by, Kanan, Ezra and Zeb jump out and Rex delivers that line “Just like the old days.” Again, this was one of those goosebump raising, Star Wars moments.

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The AT-ATs are defeated and Rex expresses gratitude for once again having a Jedi in command. Once they’re reunited with the fleet, Rex and Ashoka Tano reunite. “You got old,” he says to her, and she thanks Kanan for trusting her friend. A new alliance is being born.

What about that urgent call from Darth Vader? Well, it was actually a call on behalf of Vader and the first new Inquisitor of season two arrives. “I will succeed where you and Kallus have failed,” he says.

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With Rex on board, a new Rebel base in the works and an Inquistor back on the case, the tables are set for the second season of Star Wars Rebels. This episode did it with plenty of action but also lots of reverence and reference to not only the original trilogy, but the Clone Wars too. It’s an episode that reminded us not just why we love this show, but why we love Star Wars as a whole.

A final note: in the quick list of the places Rex gives the Rebels for a possible secret hideout, he mentions a Mandalorian Base. That sort of sounds like…

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This image of what looks like a Mandalorian temple in The Force Awakens.

The plot thickens.


Contact the author at germain@io9.com.

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