I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t sold on the first season. The mix of soap-opera drama with a plot torn between high-stake action and melodrama didn’t quite hit the right notes for me. Back for a second season, Rebellion (also known as Resistance) returns with a renewed vision and an espionage flavour this time around. With a slew of returning and new characters to the fold, Rebellion does a decent job re-inventing itself, delivering a well-paced thriller full of tense moments and drama.
The story this time begins in 1920, in the heart of Ireland’s bloody war for Independence. Unlike the first season’s action-heavy focus, this second season feels much closer to an espionage thriller, playing on all the usual spy tropes you’d expect including double agents, moles and tense pockets of action to alleviate the character drama. On the surface, the Resistance appear to have been stifled but under the surface, a growing contingency brews as the Irish prepare and strengthen their forces. This all builds toward a dramatic second half of the season, as casualties are met on both sides with a memorable season finale depicting the infamous Bloody Sunday Massacre.
Split across 5 episodes once again, Rebellion makes the most of its short run time by packing an awful lot into its episodes. The melodrama and soap opera subplots do return from before but this time are merged into the main plot lines of the story. For the most part this works really well, with Ursula being forced to play both sides in order to get her son back a great example of this. A return of several familiar faces from the first season help give some continuity here too, including Jimmy and his brother on opposite sides of the conflict and Harry Butler becoming entangled in the conflict thanks to his involvement with the bank.
The focus isn’t squarely on the rebels here either, with an equal emphasis on both sides of the conflict helping to give some dimension to the antagonists this season. Most of which is depicted through General Winter. Along with his right hand man, Captain McLeod, most of the season sees these two pulling the strings and organizing a mole to infiltrate the ranks of the Resistance. Without giving too much away, both characters do get their comeuppance here and the outcome is a rather satisfying conclusion during the final couple of episodes of the season.
For all the positives, Rebellion is still largely the same show it was before. The large cast and melodramatic subplots are still included here but better disguised this time around. Some of the editing and cutting between scenes feels a little rough around the edges too, with a fair few rapid cuts during slowed dialogue exchanges feeling out-of-place and offsetting the pacing.
Having said all of that, Rebellion’s second season is a vast improvement over what’s come before. It’s not perfect and whilst its unlikely to persuade many put off from the first season to give this another go, this show feels much more confident as a spy thriller than an outright action flick. The character melodrama is still here but it feels much better disguised than before, with each episode chock full of subplots and characterisation to keep things moving at a decent pace.
While the series does suffer a little with its editing and there’s nothing particularly outstanding that hasn’t been done better in other shows, Rebellion’s second season is a nice surprise, and a much improved offering over the first season. If you’re on the fence with this one, it’s certainly worth giving it another go; you might just find yourself pleasantly surprised.