After the mid-season holiday pause, Star Wars Rebels is back this week, starting the second half of the second season. Not only is this season almost twice as long as the first one, but its story so far has been received with much more enthusiasm from the fans than the first one.

And there are good reasons for it. So far in the first half we have seen the tale taking on deeper, but also darker, tones, with reminiscences of the past of the Clone Wars resurfacing (in the form of Clone Troopers and Ahsoka Tano) and with a lot of focus on individual characters’ backstories. We have learned a lot more about the past of the Ghost‘s crew members before they became what they are now, and from the trailer for the second part of the second season it seems that we can expect much more.

It seems that we can look forward to Ezra finally having to confront the Dark Side in his training, not only in the form of the Inquisitors, but also in the form of lure which every proper Jedi had to face at some point: the lure to use the enemies’ weapons to defeat them, making you only one of them in turn. The images of creepy Sith-looking structures and holocrons, give the proper Sith vibe. What or who is the mysterious “Old Master” remains to be seen, as well as the curious bunch of ancient-looking Jedi. More “family business” can be expected from the reappearance of Cham Syndulla, whom the more hardcore fans would know as being both Hera’s father and the leader of the late twi’lek resistance on Ryloth, their home planet. Of course we are also not yet done with the Inquisitors (and agent Kallus), and Darth Vader and Ahsoka Tano’s relationship begs for being resolved (something tells me it won’t end with Darth Vader’s death, but aside from that, all options are open).

And the last and obviously notable appearance is that of young Princess Leia in this week’s episode, titled appropriately “A Princess on Lothal”. Star Wars Rebels is definitely rushing for making firm connections with both the original films and the past and very old lore (Knights of the Old Republic players must have noticed the use of the Old Republic “hammerhead” ships as Princess Leia’s transport, and who knows if it will stop at that). Season 2 is to Season 1 like the Lord of the Rings is to The Hobbit, with the tale getting darker and more firmly set in the large universe. It is no longer a bunch of kids playing pirates, deeper matters are at stake, but by no means is Star Wars Rebels losing its original, unique feel, and that is mostly due to the continuous presence and development of the characters and their relationships. The mid-season trailer anticipates only going further and I, for one, am very much interested to see how the second part of the second season fulfils its promise.