Star Wars Rebels: 4.01 & 02 Heroes of Mandalore Parts 1 & 2
Whether it’s the movies, TV, books or comics, Star Wars has dominated the media since the initial release in 1977. The development of Star Wars Rebels has captured the hearts and minds of fans all over, continuing much loved stories (Darth Maul, Obi Wan Kenobi etc.) and creating new and exciting ones. This series has successfully integrated itself into canon and this season especially marks a testing time for the franchise as it's to be the last season; each episode needs to have more meaning, the stakes are higher. There’s less room for filler episodes and many questions need answering (Will Ashoka live?, will Ezra turn to the dark side?, will we have a Rogue One-style ending?). Fans's expectations (myself included) have risen significantly with The Last Jedi set for release in December (is someone from Rebels Snoke?).
The emphasis for the opening two episodes surrounded Sabine (voiced by Tiya Sircar), who last season demonstrated her progression, learning to lead her people The Mandalorians. We begin with the group led by Sabine attempting to rescue her father from a rival clan working with the Empire. This furthered the development of her character and included fast paced action sequences, reintroducing characters nicely and giving much needed humour.
After the inevitable rescue of her father the dialogue switches and provides more in depth characterisation for Sabine; her love of art clearly coming from her father, talents in war and weapons a trait gained from her mother. Separated in battle, a communication between groups turn disastrous with her mother, brother and battalion are attacked by a weapon created by Sabine while a student, that specifically targets and destroys Mandalorian armour. The climax shows her kneeling over torched armour in disbelief and heartache. This was a beautiful scene in tone and drama although a little dark for a kids show (no complaints here though).
Star Wars Rebels has always done a great job of completing stories left open by The Clone Wars series, such as Mauls demise, the progression and fate of Mandalore and Captain Rex and crews' fates discovered (not to mention him being noted as one of the freedom fighters in Return of the Jedi). This was a pleasant surprise when Bo-Katan, (voiced by Katee Sackhoff) sister of Duchess Satine and ruler of Mandalore, makes an appearance (although hers is unchanged from The Clone Wars) to lend a hand and eventually take over the mantle left by her sister.
Episode two concentrated on infiltrating the Empire's base to sabotage the weapon, rendering it useless. The climax has Sabine and Bo-Katan captured and tortured. Sabine manages to reprogram the machine (named the Duchess, for more The Clone Wars callbacks) to target stormtrooper armour. After using the weapon we see her standing over the enemy, their lives in her hands; interestingly mirroring Luke Skywalker in the Return of the Jedi famous climax, Sabine stops herself from killing the officer, stopping her from (metaphorically) turning to the Dark Side, an unnecessary but nice little wink to the original trilogy.
Although the opening two episodes mainly surround Sabine, there’s plenty more entertainment from the remaining cast. Hera has a brief appearance, having a heartfelt conversation with Kanin teasing the ‘will they won’t they’ arc once more. It also shows that they care greatly for each other, giving Kanin something to fight for and to go home to. Ezra will hopefully play a larger part in this season; his progression as a Jedi and affiliation with the Dark Side after his short apprenticeship with Maul is a big discussion point. His abilities have clearly developed as we see him force jumping between falling vehicles. For now he’s our amusement, stumbling, trying to keep up with the Mandalorian warriors jet pack style of fighting. Even Chopper gets his time to shine; from the first moments you hear that droid babble a smile appears; providing dialogue that has him explaining a joke...well that was genius.
All in all, an excellent start to the final season and hopefully there will be other character story arcs completed . The action and lightsaber combat was excellent and the dialogue was witty and welcoming. The return of Bo-Katan was well implemented, her characterisation melded well and her emotions shone through. Sabine finally took action for her past mistakes and managed to get some good from it and Bo-Katan realised that although she may not be the same as her sister, she still has the ability to unite the clans and save her people.
Welcome back Star Wars Rebels...