For the most part, I have enjoyed Disney's Star Wars series. Of course, the reigning cute couple is still Din Djarin and baby Grogu, but Boba Fett and Fennec Shand made an interesting quasi-mob-boss and sidekick, even if she was sorely underused. Ewan MacGregor returning as Obi-Wan Kenobi and an older Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader was a nice second look at those characters' dynamic, although the show was stolen out from under them by Vivien Lyra Blair as the young Princess Leia. Quality-wise, I would have said The Mandalorian would continue to reign supreme, especially with the show's upcoming third season set to explore Mandalore and Din Djarin's dilemma of having a Darksaber and a rulership he does not want.
However, that was before I watched this show, which proceeded to blow all of them out of the water.
There is nothing "kidsy" about this show. It is family-friendly in the sense that there is no nudity or graphic sex scenes (though the characters are shown to be having adult sexual relationships) but the themes are thoroughly adult. The characters grapple with the Empire's growing fascism, and the slow creeping clampdown on their rights and freedoms, until a character's speech in the finale strikes the spark of rebellion. (It's a testament to the strength of the writing that the moments remembered are Luthen Rael's, Maarva Andor's and Kino Loy's speeches, rather than the action scenes, although Luthen has a pretty good action sequence getting away from an Imperial cruiser.) The season finale, "Rix Road," ties up almost all of this season's character arcs and subplots and sets the stage for the next season, when Cassian Andor will be going all in for the Rebellion.
Since this is a prequel to Rogue One, we already know what his fate will be. Still, there is a lot to be said on the journey there. I particularly loved how new and/or side characters are given their due, even if they only appear for a few episodes. Andy Serkis's Kino Loy, only seen in the "prison break" mini-arc of episodes 8, 9 and 10, is a fully rounded character who meets an ironic and tragic fate, and you feel for him just as much if he was the show's titular hero. (The final episode of the prison arc, "One Way Out," is tied in my mind with "Rix Road" as the two best episodes of the show.) Season 2 is supposed to take some time jumps to bring the characters up to the beginning of Rogue One, although from what I've read the plan is to follow the structure of this season by breaking it up into three or four mini-arcs.
However they do it, this season was some excellent, excellent television. Many of the comments I've seen on IMdb and elsewhere express surprise at Disney's being able to produce such a mature Star Wars show as this, and they're not wrong. Of course, there is a place for a wisecracking Han Solo as well, but that character isn't found here (or at least not yet). But when you have such great writing as this...
Supervisor Lonni Jung: And what do you sacrifice?
Luthen Rael: Calm. Kindness. Kinship. Love. I've given up all chance at inner peace. I've made my mind a sunless space. I share my dreams with ghosts. I wake up every day to an equation I wrote 15 years ago from which there's only one conclusion, I'm damned for what I do. My anger, my ego, my unwillingness to yield, my eagerness to fight, they've set me on a path from which there is no escape. I yearned to be a savior against injustice without contemplating the cost and by the time I looked down there was no longer any ground beneath my feet. What is my sacrifice? I'm condemned to use the tools of my enemy to defeat them. I burn my decency for someone else's future. I burn my life to make a sunrise that I know I'll never see. And the ego that started this fight will never have a mirror or an audience or the light of gratitude. So what do I sacrifice? Everything!
...and an actor of the caliber of Stellan Skarsgard to say it, I have to say I'm not missing the snark.
Please do yourself a favor and watch this. You won't regret it.