Finally, a Sabine episode… for real this time.
Not much has been made of Sabine being a Mandalorian throughout this entire series, in fact not much has been made out of Sabine as a character, and after the last (failed) attempt to give her an episode of her own there was a lot riding on this episode. So FINALLY we get an honest look at Sabine’s character in an episode that focuses on HER and not her friend/enemy who no one cares about. Does this make it a good episode…? thankfully, yes this episode is not only far stronger than the previous attempt at a Sabine episode, but is in of itself a very strong entry this season.
As the Empire tightens its grip the rebels seek out a new hyperspace route, prompting Sabine to suggest Concord Dawn; Mandalorian territory. After attempting to negotiate with them, Hera is severely wounded while protecting Sabine which sets the young mando off on a vendetta with the mysterious Protector of Concord Dawn.
Thematically this episode works with the old Star Wars dilemma of fighting versus negotiating. The moral is usually that negotiating will invariably fail thus prompting a lightsaber battle/blaster fight, but you should always try to negotiate first out of principle. After Hera is injured, the ever trigger-happy Sabine is raring to go and wanting to engage the Mandalorians in a fight, finally making something of her heritage as a warrior and suggesting a connection to Mandalore. Seemingly as a counterpoint to Sabine acting like a true Mandalorian, Kanan is acting far more like a Jedi of old than his usual “cowboy jedi” persona. He appears far more comfortable and responsible as a leader than in the past and he is far less willing to engage in a fight this time around, even with his (beloved?) Hera severely injured by the enemies in question. Kanan constantly tries to put Sabine in her place but eventually realizes she’s more in her element amongst the mandos than he is. The brilliant twist is that Kanan for all his good intentions fails to comprehend the Mando culture and Sabine demonstrates that Mandalorians in fact negotiate through fighting. In the end there is a compromise as they resort to fighting but without any casualties, and end up blackmailing the Mandalorians into giving the rebels what they sought.
Surprisingly (or maybe unsurprisingly) this episode raises more questions about Sabine than it answers, and the answers given just seem to raise more questions. However, this works to the story’s strength as in season one whenever we got the slightest taste of Sabine’s backstory it only intrigued us more. Here we learn that she’s related to Clone Wars baddies, the Death Watch, and it gives the clear indication that this is just the begining of Sabine’s development.
Rebels balances action and drama perfectly in this episode. Witnessing the deaths of more phoenix squad members and the powerful image of an injured Hera made for a tense episode. I found myself honestly worried we could lose her (for a few seconds in a suspension of disbelief kind of way). And to cap it all off, the ending is genuinely heartwarming. Sabine and Kanan acknowledge the strengths of one another’s cultures while gathered around Hera’s sickbed. And the best part? While the three of them feel very much like a loving surrogate family, not a single awkward forced family trope enters the dialogue! And that is how it is done. This was an episode we wanted and needed, and in a very uneven season I hope this week is a sign. Up next we have Zeb’s story, which could go one of two ways…
-I feel the need to discuss the Mandalorians (duh). In the expanded universe they evolved from being supposedly an evil group of warriors to being a little more complex and diverse. Their portrayal was varied, but in short they were always portrayed as a very warlike group, often at odds with the Jedi. Their portrayal in the Clone Wars was definitely one of the more controversial and less popular creative decisions made, and now within this new canon what exactly they are has been muddled. Are they pacifists? Warriors? Peacekeepers? Barbarians? What? It’s been fairly inconsistent which suggests the in-universe explanation points to a very complex culture.
-Kanan claims there was a time when diplomacy always won the day. I don’t recall ever seeing Jedi negotiations working… well, 1 time out of 10 maybe, but for some reason they usually opted for whipping out the lightsabers.
-It’s kind of crazy to think that Sabine might have never existed had Ahsoka beheaded her mother as she did a number of her comrades in Death Watch.
-Also… since Maul is appearing later in this season, and part of Death Watch remained loyal to him… was Sabine’s mom loyal to Maul or Bo-Katan… or was her mother Bo-Katan? Ah the intrigue…
-Am I the only one wondering how in the hell Hera’s busted A-wing traveled through hyperspace and arrived safely?
-I misheard Kanan at one point. When Sabine tells him his Jedi philosophy doesn’t work for everyone I thought he said “That’s why we’re all gone.” Whoa, nice little dark humor there… but no he said, “That’s why we’re at war.”
-I love Steve Blum’s voice acting but… it’s getting a little distracting hearing his voice coming out of 98% of the imperials and now the mandos too. Surely they can let a few other cast members voice the faceless grunts more often.
-With all this emphasis on the Mandos and the plot point of Gall Trayvis putting a bounty on the Rebels… how long until we see a certain Boba the Fett?