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Star Wars Rebels

Trials of the Darksaber (Star Wars Rebels - S03E15) - Animated Series

Series: Star Wars Rebels

Title: Trials of the Darksaber

Season: Three

Episode: 15

Original Air Date: January 21, 2017

Runtime: 22 minutes

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

“I’ll damage you if you don’t shut up.” SPOILERS. 

I have been very critical of Sabine in these reviews and I think I have made it clear why I think she is the series’ worst character. With that being said, this was a fantastic episode of Star Wars Rebels. “Trials of the Darksaber” was the first time I was interested and invested in Sabine’s story. After two and a half seasons, Sabine finally experienced genuine and meaningful character development. This review will be a little different than my usual Rebels reviews just as this was a unique episode of Star Wars Rebels. I am going to forgo my usual episode summary because this was such a character driven episode. The plot can be summed up by saying Sabine had to come to terms with her past when she trained with the Darksaber. The fact that this story was driven by character and not plot is one the episode’s strengths. I love this episode because of how focused it is. There is no external threat. The Empire doesn’t show up and interrupt Sabine’s training. This episode was all about Sabine coming to terms with her past. I think it is important to note that Dave Filoni wrote this episode himself. Previously, Filoni had only been a credited co-writer on “Twilight of the Apprentice” and “Ghosts of Geonosis.” I have stated many times that Filoni understands Star Wars and how to tell Star Wars stories better than almost anyone, and this episode absolutely reinforces that idea. He got me to care about Sabine in twenty-two minutes. That hadn’t happened in two and a half seasons. This episode didn’t suddenly make me a Sabine fan, but this was a huge step in the right direction. In summary, Dave Filoni needs to write more episodes.

   

In addition to the great character work in this episode, I really enjoyed learning more about the Darksaber. The Darksaber originated with the only Mandalorian Jedi, Tar Vizsla. After his death, the Vizsla clan stole it from the Jedi Temple and used it to unite Mandalore. I thought this was a pretty interesting backstory for the Darksaber and I never considered that it could have belonged to a Mandalorian Jedi. The 2-D animated sequence that recounted the history of the Darksaber was beautiful and is one of my favorite moments in the entire series. That was a brilliant way to visually show the history of the Darksaber because it played into the mythical nature of the Darksaber. The scene where Sabine was first confronted with the idea of training with Darksaber so she could unite her clan had me a little worried. Sabine repeating “You don’t understand!” and folding her arms was concerning for two reasons. One, it reeked of clumsy teenage angst and the show already forced us to go through that with Ezra. Two, we’ve been down that road before. Previous episodes that focused on Sabine replaced character development with cryptic hints about her past and Sabine telling other characters that they don’t understand. The problem with that was we didn’t understand because we didn’t really know anything about her other than she’s a Mandalorian who likes spray paint and explosives. Sabine and the show would always hold back which made it impossible to form a connection with her character. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case here and both the show and Sabine finally helped us understand her character and motivations. I also thought it was interesting that Hera was the one who ultimately asked Sabine to train with the Darksaber. Hera is the maternal figure in Sabine’s life and yet she is the one who asked Sabine to do this difficult task because the rebellion could use more Mandalorian warriors. It once again demonstrates how devoted Hera is to the rebellion.

   

Although this episode was focused on Sabine, it was a great episode for Kanan too. Watching Kanan train Sabine and seeing how it was different from the way he trained Ezra was very interesting. The first scene with them set the tone. While Kanan reluctantly trained Ezra, he didn’t hold back with Sabine. Kanan scolding Sabine for using the Mandalorian weapons Fenn Rau gave to her was a particularly powerful moment. Whenever the show has leaned into the idea that the Ghost crew is a family, it felt gimmicky and reminiscent of a bad ABC sitcom from the 90's. However, that idea felt very genuine here. The scene with Hera telling Kanan how much Sabine’s family hurt her is a perfect example. This wasn’t Ezra and Zeb bickering like children with Hera threatening to ground them. It succinctly captures the idea that the Ghost crew is made up of broken people who came together because they had no one else. That’s how this show needs to use the idea of family, not Ezra, Zeb, and Chopper chasing each other around the Ghost. Again, I think we need to give credit to Filoni for taking an idea that felt clumsy in the hands of other writers and making it something meaningful in this episode. The final confrontation where Kanan kept pushing Sabine until she finally broke was one of Star Wars Rebels most visually stunning and emotionally powerful sequences. Learning that Sabine built weapons that helped enslave her people and spoke out only to have her family abandon her and side with the Empire finally helps understand what drives Sabine. I have never been a fan of Tiya Sircar’s performance as Sabine, but she was phenomenal in this episode. Tiya made us feel Sabine’s pain and it was heartbreaking to watch. Which is amazing because I unequivocally disliked this character when the episode began. This episode demonstrates that you can tell a complete and moving story in 22 minutes, something Rebels has had issues with since day one. Finally, I want to end with a few random thoughts. Why was Bendu in this episode? What was the point of having Bendu wake up from his nap when Sabine kicked him? There’s a lot of potential with the Bendu character, but he’s being wasted. It only had a brief appearance in this episode, but I still can’t stand Sabine’s artwork. The mural of the Ghost crew in her room is way too cartoony (Yes, I know this is cartoon but they looked like something out of the Muppet Babies). My main issue with this episode was Ezra. The episode would have been better off without him. It would have been even more impactful if the episode was just Kanan and Sabine with the existing supporting appearances from Hera and Fenn Rau. I agree with Sabine for once. Shut up, Ezra! Once again, Kevin Kiner created an absolutely beautiful score for this episode. It’s some of his most powerful and moving work yet. I hope Kevin Kiner gets the opportunity to score a live action Star Wars film someday. He has more than proven himself. “Trials of the Darksaber” did the impossible. It made me care about Sabine.

   

What Worked

  • Genuine, meaningful character development for Sabine
  • A character driven story
  • Kanan the teacher
  • The Story of the Darksaber
  • Kevin Kiner’s beautiful score

What Didn’t Work

  • Shut up, Ezra!
External Links:
Added: January 28, 2017
Category: Star Wars Rebels
Reviewer: Mike Taber
Score:
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