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Star Wars Rebels

Heroes of Mandalore (Star Wars Rebels - S04E01-E02) - Animated Series

Series: Star Wars Rebels

Title: Heroes of Mandalore

Season: Four

Episode: 1-2

Original Air Date: October 16, 2017

Runtime: 44 minutes

Credits: Review & Text: Mike Taber; Page layout & Design: Chuck Paskovics

"I don’t want to be a Mandalorian." SPOILERS. 

Welcome back, Star Wars Rebels! The fourth and final season kicked off with a two part premiere and a return to Mandalore. It may be the final season but Rebels is still the same show it has been for most of its run, an enjoyable but uneven show that sporadically flirts with greatness. Since the premiere is so focused on Sabine, let’s talk about Sabine. I have been very critical of Sabine in the past, but her character experienced tremendous growth in season three through episodes like “Trials of the Darksaber.” That character growth continued in the season four premiere. The show’s weakest link has become one of its most compelling characters, and I never thought I would say that in season one or even season two. In case you were wondering, Ezra has very clearly become the show’s weak link. Between embracing her culture, dealing with the guilt of creating a weapon designed to kill her people, and her relationship with Bo-Katan, there was plenty of compelling material for Sabine in this episode. Sabine may not be my favorite Rebels character, but I certainly respect how much her character has grown since we first met here. Tiya Sircar is the main reason why Sabine’s fairly sudden character development has worked so well. She has grown a lot as a performer since the show began (check out The Good Place on NBC to see how versatile she can be). Sircar was given some difficult and deeply emotional material to work with in this episode, and she turned in a great performance that anchored the episode.

   

The episode began with Sabine leading an attack on an Imperial outpost on Mandalore in an attempt to rescue her father. The Imperials gained the upper hand until Bo-Katan arrived with reinforcements. The opening battle wasn’t particularly innovative, but it was a great way to start the season. The battle was well staged and is a reminder of Rebels’ ability to create memorable sequences that feel uniquely Star Wars. Sabine igniting the Darksaber and leading her people into battle was a striking and memorable image. The return of Bo-Katan was probably the highlight of this episode. Bo-Katan’s character began to crystalize just as Star Wars: The Clone Wars came to an abrupt end. There is clearly untapped potential with Bo-Katan and I’m glad her story had to opportunity to continue in Star Wars Rebels. Katee Sackhoff picked up right where she left off and once again demonstrated why she is perfect for this role. In a conversation with Sabine, it was revealed that Bo-Katan was named regent of Mandalore by the Jedi after Darth Maul plunged her world into civil war. When Bo-Katan refused to submit to Imperial rule, she was betrayed by the Saxon clan who pledged their support to the Emperor. I’m glad they took the time to fill in the blanks with this scene. With the cancellation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, there was a missing chapter in both the history of Mandalore and Bo-Katan’s life. While we may never see that chapter unfold, at least we now have an idea of what happened. Although many viewed Bo-Katan as the rightful ruler of Mandalore, she rejected Sabine’s offer to take the Darksaber and lead her people, again saying that she had her chance to rule and failed. Lurking beneath Bo-Katan’s calm demeanor is a great deal of pain and regret, much like Sabine. Sackhoff creates the perfect balance with her performance, only revealing that pain in key moments. A lot of that pain traces back to the death of her sister, Duchess Satine. Remember, when we first met Bo-Katan she was second in command of the Death Watch. She was a terrorist with the goal of overthrowing her sister and destabilizing the pacifist society Satine had built. That’s what makes Bo-Katan such an interesting character. She is a complicated character and has been forced to both live with and learn from her mistakes. Despite very limited screen time, Bo-Katan is one of the most fully formed and complex characters to come out of Star Wars animation.

   

Sabine’s father wasn’t at the Imperial outpost because he was being moved to the capital for a public execution. Although Ezra was largely a distraction in this episode, I did like the conversation he had with Sabine about how different their homewrolds are. Sabine detailing how endless war had ravaged and scarred Mandalore was a powerful moment. While we’re on the subject, Ezra’s role in the story was one of my main issues with the premiere. Rebels has a bad habit of shoehorning Ezra into stories when he doesn’t actually have anything to add, and “Heroes of Mandalore” might be the most blatant example. While humor is an essential element of Star Wars, Ezra’s jetpack antics and one-liners fell flat and took away valuable screen time from Sabine and Bo-Katan. Ezra felt extraneous in this episode and was often a distraction. He doesn’t have to be in every episode, and even if he does I hope they find more effective ways to incorporate him into a story where he isn’t the focus. It was a brief scene, but I did enjoy Kanan’s conversation with Hera. They remain the show’s strongest characters and it was a reminder of both their chemistry and Hera’s unwavering commitment to the Rebellion. Sabine led an attack on the Imperial convey carrying her father. This sequence doesn’t require any kind of deep analysis, but it was a fun homage to the truck chase and tank scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade respectively. Kanan dispatching an entire squad of Stormtroopers and Chopper knocking one out with a blaster are a couple of my favorite moments from that sequence. Sabine’s father was successfully rescued and finally reunited with his daughter. Their initial reunion was touching, but the prolonged discussion about Mandalorian artistic styles won’t make the highlight reel. There has always been potential in Sabine’s artistic side but I generally haven’t liked how they have handled it in the show. Showing Sabine and her father bond over art is a good idea, but that moment just felt off to me. I can’t pinpoint whether it was the writing, delivery, or editing but it just didn’t click with me. Bo-Katan’s slightly exasperated “We need to get moving” was the perfect end to the scene though. The first half of the premiere came to a brutal and chilling end when the Empire used a weapon created by Sabine against Clan Wren, including her mother and brother. In one of the most chilling visuals Rebels has ever created, we saw the landscape littered with the remains of dozens of Mandalorians. It was a brutal and horrifying massacre and showed that Rebels wasn’t going to pull any punches in their final season…

   

…until they did. Few things in television irritate me more than the fake-out death. The only purpose of a fake-out death is to shock the audience, just without the consequences of the shocking event. I was legitimately shocked when it seemed like Sabine’s mother and brother had died in the attack. Don’t worry though, they were on the edge of the blast so they were fine. I’m not trying to discount the horrifying nature of the massacre and how devastating it is, but it reveals a double standard. Dozens of nameless Mandalorians? Burn them all. Two extremely underdeveloped but named characters? You can’t touch them. The fake-out with Sabine’s mother and brother undercuts the entire sequence. The unrealistic nature of the only named characters miraculously surviving distracts from the actual horrific event that occurred and lowers the stakes by creating an artificial shield around established characters. The sequence is still effectively devastating, especially Sabine’s speech accepting responsibility for the massacre, but the fake-out deaths were a needless distraction. Saxon’s Imperial forces moved in to finish off the survivors, but Bo-Katan’s clan arrived with a ship that allowed them to escape. Bo-Katan jumping out of the ship and destroying a TIE Fighter? Yeah, she’s awesome. Thrawn made a brief appearance in this episode as well. Governor Saxon contacted Thrawn to show off the power of the weapon Sabine had created. As usual, Thrawn demonstrated that he is smarter than just about everyone and sees the big picture. The weapon targets Mandalorian armor, heats it, and vaporizes the subject wearing the armor. Thrawn astutely pointed out that turning Mandalorian heritage into a weapon might backfire and inspire more widespread resistance. Bo-Katan confronted Sabine about creating a weapon that specifically targets her own people, and Sabine took responsibility for her actions and said they need to work together to destroy it. I really like how they developed the relationship between Bo-Katan and Sabine in this episode. They’re parallel characters in a way, but it didn’t feel forced. They accepted responsibility for their mistakes (Death Watch, the weapon), but moved forward and worked together for the good of Mandalore. They needed each other to take the next step in their respective journeys. Bo-Katan pushed Sabine to embrace her heritage and honor her people while Sabine inspired Bo-Katan to move on and accept her role as leader of Mandalore.

   

Sabine and Bo-Katan assembled a team and launched an attack on Saxon’s ship in hopes of destroying the weapon. One of my favorite moments in the episode was when Bo-Katan realized that Sabine named her weapon “The Duchess” after Satine, the pacifist. Yes, Sabine that was clearly a series of bad decisions. The assault on Saxon’s starship was also the best example of the impressive action and larger scale of these episodes. Yes, Rebels still doesn’t come close to scale and beauty of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but this is a noticeable improvement on previous seasons. Saxon used the Duchess to capture Sabine and Bo-Katan and forced Sabine to increase the power of the weapon. Even one of Saxon’s soldiers told him it was a bad idea and the Empire would just use the Duchess against them too. Saxon wasn’t the smartest villain apparently and immediately used the weapon after Sabine “fixed” it. She altered the weapon so it would be attracted to Stormtrooper armor instead of Mandalorian armor. Sabine considered using the weapon against the Empire, but Bo-Katan pulled her back from the edge. Sabine used the Darksaber to destroy the Duchess. Almost twenty years earlier, Maul used the same Darksaber to kill the actual Duchess Satine (parallels!). With Saxon and the Duchess destroyed, Sabine told Bo-Katan that she needed to lead their people. All of the clans pledged support to Bo-Katan, including the remnants of Pre Vizsla’s clan, and she finally accepted the Darksaber on behalf of her sister and all of Mandalore. It was the perfect way to end the episode, and Bo-Katan is the right person to lead Mandalore. I hope we see more of Bo-Katan and the Mandalorians in the future. It will be interesting to see if Bo-Katan and the Mandalorians get more directly involved with the Rebel Alliance. More specifically, I would like them to further develop the relationship between Sabine and Bo-Katan. They’re a great team. An uneven episode, but “Heroes of Mandalore” was great start to the season. It brought a degree of closure to Bo-Katan and the Mandalorians and continued to develop Sabine as a character.

   

What Worked

  • The return of Bo-Katan
  • Tiya Sircar’s performance
  • Continued character growth for Sabine
  • Impressive action and scale
  • The Duchess’ massacre…

What Didn’t Work

  • … until the fake out
  • Ezra’s role in the story
External Links:
Added: October 20, 2017
Category: Star Wars Rebels
Reviewer: Mike Taber
Score:
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