Heroes of Mandalore I and II were the two opening episodes of Season 4 of Star Wars: Rebels, of its final season. So what did we get? A spoiler-review right here!
Star Wars: Rebels has entered in its final season. So it is a time to review the episodes of this season but also a time to look back at this now ending series.
In recent interviews Dave Filoni said that his aim had been to make everything of the previous seasons pay-off in this season. That would be a lot!
Sabine Wren’s arc only really got started in season 3. The episode’s Trials of the Dark Saber and Legacy of Mandalore connected Sabine’s personal arc to that of Mandalore during, and right after, the Clone Wars. Revolving around her feelings of guilt over her involvement in an Imperial weapons programme and the split between her and her mother her story was told in emotionally compelling episodes. As a result my expectations for Heroes of Mandalore were high.
After the first watch I did not quite connect with the episodes. Quite a few of the character scenes felt rushed while lots of time was spent on two main set-pieces of action scenes in episode 4.1 and another one in episode 4.2. As a result you had to imagine a lot yourself what was going on in Sabine’s head while she was fighting storm troopers. Although I do enjoy actions scenes, I am not the kind of fan that would die to watch fighting Mando’s. A lot of blasters get their nozzle’s chopped off which at a certain point becomes annoying. What’s the point of ‘bloodlessly’ defeating your enemy when subsequently you blow up a Star Destroyer with a few thousand of them on board?
But upon 2nd viewing those little annoyances were immaterial and I really enjoyed the visuals, the emotion in Sabine’s face, the emotional return of Bo Katan, Bo Katan’s brief remembrance of her sister and many more quiet moments that have been tucked in between the action set pieces … sometimes without a single line of spoken dialogue.
Sabine’s reunion with her father is a nice moment. It works because as a viewer we care about Sabine. The father remains a rather opaque and distant character. Sabine’s mother is much more involved and much more ‘alive’. It was nice to see the Ren family completed and it makes you wonder whether we are going to return here again. It is not likely! So in a way the double episode lays the ground work for many more possible Star Wars Stories of Mandalorian flavour.
One thing that I was very curious about was whether or not this first pair of episodes would define Sabine’s fate. Evidently it was never likely to have a fan favourite die inside the first two episodes. But I could very well have imagined Filoni making Sabine decide to remain on Mandalore for good, leaving her Ghost-life behind. At the end of the episodes it isn’t made explicitly clear whether she will stay or not. But exactly for that reason you know she won’t. If this would have been Sabine’s goodbye then it would have been made a moment with a punch.
Mandalore is depicted in these two episodes as being utterly divided under Imperial Rule. The Saxon Clan are the Empire’s willing executioners but even within the clan that is not undisputed. I liked how this was shown, also how their devotion to that ancient armor really hampers the Mandalorians. Because of that I really enjoyed the explicit break with Mandalorian tradition that was reserved for the very last sequence.
Sabine hands the Dark Saber to Bo Katan who, this second time that Sabine offers it to her, accepts it. Just before that Sabine had made another important to choice: to destroy a weapon that could have given them an advantage over their enemies but that was violating their honour code. That was a good choice despite the fact that it meant she stuck to ancient tradition.
The ancient tradition of the Dark Saber however is that it needs to be taken from the hand of the defeated Mandalorian leader. Storywise a battle between Sabine and Bo Katan would not have made any sense. But Sabine’s willing surrender of the saber and Bo Katan’s acceptance send a clear signal: this is a new age. Bo Katan re-affirms that in her final words in which she promises to rule in the tradition of her sister, Satine Kryze. In this way the episode ends with a real hope for Mandalorian renewal, of a good kind.
Obviously Chopper is always around for some comic relief but I really enjoyed how they used Ezra for that purpose in these episodes. His character lends itself so well for this. I think it was the first time since Zeb & Ezra’s meluron-shopping tour in Season 1 that Ezra was truly clumsily funny in an almost Jar Jar’esque way. His struggle with the Mandalorian Jet Pack was simply delicious.
On first watching I didn’t quite get into it. On second watching I had a great time. This double episode was a good season opener.