– Spoiler Review –
This review focuses mainly on Part 2 of the Star Wars Rebels’ final season premiere episode, “Heroes of Mandalore,” but it also sums up my feelings on the entire episode, feelings that have changed in both pluses and minuses since seeing only the first half at April’s Celebration Orlando. The whole review will tell you one thing though: why I’d say this is the best premiere episode of the series.
Sabine has had some of the most heart-wrenching moments of Rebels, from “Trials of the Darksaber” up to the terrible discovery her weapon is back in use against Mandalorians in Part 1 (here’s my review). Grief wracks her, as it seems both Ursa and Tristan perished in the blast, and she’s back to the emotional low she felt when airing her inner turmoil regarding her past back in “ToD.” But thankfully the episode doesn’t spare too much time in revealing her mother and brother survived the attack, allowing her a glimpse of hope in an increasing series of terrible moments. As happy as their survival is, the continued confrontations and accusations from fellow Mandos regarding her involvement with the weapon’s origins weighs on her, and she steps up to shoulder the blame and lead the charge against destroying the weapon once and for all. However, this leaves her desperate to make things right, leading to a flirtation with a dark, cowardly path to see Mandalore free. Initially, it almost seemed out of character for how far she goes in retribution to Tyber Saxon, but considering the way her own people treat her for a stupid, young mistake and how Tiber tortures her, it became less surprising she hesitated about doing the right thing. Her family support system taught her better though, and Bo-Katan’s sage advice happens to pierce through Sabine’s anger and make her see the right way forward. At the end of the episode, Sabine has managed to atone for her past and help bring the rightful leader of Mandalorians to the forefront of her people’s battle against the Empire. That the entire two part episode hinges on Sabine’s development and character arc is what makes it such a strong premiere, as the stakes are big, but the focus is intimate with the members of the Ghost crew at the forefront.
Tiya Sircar owns every moment she’s given here, taking us along Sabine’s emotional ride in a convincing, compelling manner, and not even the episode’s light moments of humor can break the spell of her acting. In an interview I’ve linked to below, Sircar says she’s only imagined herself as playing a live-action version of Sabine and honestly, after these latest episodes (and I’m sure we’ve got more big moments for her ahead), I’d not want it any other way.
After Bo-Katan’s (Katee Sackhoff) introduction in the first half, the character flourishes in the second, coming to own the role we all know she’s destined for: leader of the Mandalorian people. How Sabine and Bo-Katan help each other throughout the episode, reminding one another what’s important about what it means to be a Mandalorian, is one of my favorite aspects of the episode. It’s fantastic we can have two female characters who serve as inspiration for one another, whose development doesn’t hinge on a male character’s involvement, as relationships like this are something Star Wars needs more of in general, as the saga is lacking mother/mother-like figures. I also liked how the episode ended on an upbeat moment for the clans of Mandalore, coming together under Bo-Katan’s leadership, but left us knowing their fight was just beginning in their war against the Empire/taking back their planet. Not everything needs to have a comfy conclusion on the show, and even if this is last time we visit Mandalore on Rebels, I imagine we’ll get to see their fight for freedom in the future.
Tyber Saxon, S3 baddie Gar Saxon’s brother (this wasn’t clear when I saw the first half in April), was a great juxtaposition to his brother, as he was committed merging the Mandalorian identity with the Empire while Gar was still set in Mandalorian ways but loyal to the Empire. It actually made Gar seem like a slightly less terrible person, as the alternative is the near lunatic loyalty of Tyber. I’d be interested to learn how/what Palpatine did to twist Tyber to the Imperial cause, but it looks like we won’t have to deal with his type of crazy again. Grand Admiral Thrawn makes a brief appearance and he spends it raising his eyebrow at the fanatic that is Tyber, seeing what the other couldn’t about how Sabine’s weapon would more likely galvanize Mandalore to rebellion than subdue it in fear. Thrawn has been keeping his distance from endeavor’s such as Tyber’s, so that if they fail, he can keep his hands clean, but if they succeed, he can swoop in and use it to his advantage. It’ll be interesting to see what else he’s watching over and how far he takes his TIE Defenders this season.
Not spending much time with Ursa and Alrich being reunited is understandable considering the busyness of the episode(s), but as Alrich gets his brief moment to shine in the first half, Ursa gets the second half. Standing by her daughter and Bo-Katan’s sides, and how much weight her stance holds with the Mandos, really puts her in a position of power and influence we might not normally see for a female character in a Mando-filled world, so it’s both refreshing and exciting to see here. I really enjoyed her moment in the briefing room where she insists she can fight despite being injured, as even in the little moments her characterization shines through.
Much like the first half’s spectacular action, Part 2 takes it somehow to the next level. From the battle in the beginning, which moves from the open deserts of Mandalore to the skies as Bo-Katan, and Ezra, show how powerful a Mandalorian with a jetpack can be, taking out several pursuing TIE fighters. And the final battle aboard Tyber’s Star Destroyer recalls the epic melee of the Mandalorian episodes of The Clone Wars, just scratching at the surface of that series’ chaotic, multi-tiered action scenes. There’s even a nice little callback to TCW‘s “Lawless,” as Ezra goes through a door, unveiling the mayhem of a battle on the other side, much like a scene with Obi-Wan from that episode.
As for my thoughts on both parts combined, as I mentioned earlier, the fact that the stakes were huge but the focus was primarily on Sabine’s journey dealing with her past and present really set this premiere apart. Previous ones have typically shouldered the burden of introducing new ideas/characters or tore the focus away from the Ghost crew (to characters like Vader and Ahsoka, though I’m not complaining), but “Heroes of Mandalore” builds off character arcs and ideas put down by the series in previous seasons. This is the main reason I feel like this is the series’ strongest (but final) premiere of them all (I’d rank it S4, S2, S3, and S1). “Heroes of Mandalore” didn’t end up as dark as I had thought the show was going, considering Ursa and Tristan didn’t die, like the rest of the Celebration Orlando crowd and I were left wondering back in April, but the expectations made from viewing one half of the whole are my fault alone. The show didn’t need to get remarkably darker in its final season to be good, but it needed to mature just a bit, and “Heroes of Mandalore” does that, as it contains some darker themes and moments (especially related to torture by the Duchess, Sabine’s weapon). There’s still some of the show’s humor abound, especially in the first half, but it lessens in part two as things get serious and stakes rise higher. Season Four looks to be headed in a bigger but still character focused direction, while retaining the little things that make it special.
Here are a few other things:
- One of Kevin Kiner’s strongest pieces, “Sabine’s Catharsis,” weaves its way in and out of key moments of the two episodes, and I appreciated how it melded into the hopeful song at the end as Bo-Katan took ownership of the darksaber. The music matched the moment, as Sabine’s settling of her past leads to a brighter future for her people.
- TheWookieeGunner released an article with a truly stunning collection of fan-artists who came together to create an epic poster for the show’s final season. Do not miss this amazing collaboration!
- At NYCC 2017, the sequel to this year’s Thrawn novel was announced, Thrawn: Alliances, and it’s been written by Timothy Zahn, of course. This means it’s likely Thrawn won’t die by Rukh’s hands in this final season of Rebels, so I’m intrigued to learn what they do on the show with the character, the Noghri, and where it could all come into play for Thrawn’s continued canon existence.
- In the lead up to the season premiere, Amy Wishman Nalan (@AmyWishman) started a #RebelsPhotoChallenge on Twitter to help get fans back in the mood. A big thanks goes out to her for starting this endeavor, because even though I was doing a rewatch already, the photo challenge got me even more excited for Rebels thanks to watching fans share their excitement as well. You can check out Amy’s answers to the Photo Challenge here and here are mine!
- Over at Cinelinx, Tiya Sircar was interviewed regarding the final season and Sabine’s place in it, revealing when they found out about this being the final season and that she believes she should play the live-action Sabine (as I mentioned above).
- Dave Filoni was on the Star Wars Show last week, discussing how happy he is to get to tell these character’s endings and the early difficulties changing from The Clone Wars to Rebels. And he tweeted out this sketch of Ezra on Lothal for premiere night, but read into it at your own risk.
- I know it seems like only Filoni is behind these shows, but Rebels wouldn’t be here if not for Carrie Beck, who has so many pivotal roles in Lucasfilm, we’ve got plenty to thank her for; this interview at at Syfy Wire starts to give Beck her due!
- Both Rebels Recon and the official site’s episode guides are back! The latest Rebels Recon included some new faces and ones we don’t get to see very often, that were interviewed about the episode, something I was very happy to see. And the episode guide‘s trivia gallery contained more BTS material than they done in the past, so make sure to check it out!
“Heroes of Mandalore” kickstarts Star Wars Rebels‘ final season with a one-two punch of character development and spectacular action.
+ Sabine’s journey
+ Bo-Katan and Sabine supporting and helping one another
+ Excellent action sequences
STAR WARS REBELS REVIEWS:
Season One: Spark of Rebellion | Ep. 2: “Droids In Distress” | Ep.3: “Fighter Flight” | Ep.4: “Rise of the Old Masters” | Ep.5: “Breaking Ranks” | Ep.6: “Out of Darkness” | Ep.7: “Empire Day” | Ep.8: “Gathering Forces” | Ep.9: “Path of the Jedi” | Ep.10: “Idiot’s Array” | Ep.11: “Vision of Hope” | Ep.12: “Call to Action” | Ep.13: “Rebel Resolve” | Ep.14: “Fire Across the Galaxy“
Season Two: The Siege of Lothal | Ep. 2: “The Lost Commanders” | Ep. 3: “Relics of the Old Republic” | Ep. 4: “Always Two There Are” | Ep. 5: “Brothers of the Broken Horn” | Ep. 6: “Wings of the Master” | Ep. 7: “Blood Sisters” | Ep. 8: “Stealth Strike” | Ep. 9: “The Future of the Force” | Ep. 10: “Legacy” | Ep. 11: “A Princess on Lothal” | Ep. 12: “The Protector of Concord Dawn” | Ep. 13: “Legends of the Lasat” | Ep. 14: “The Call” | Ep. 15: “Homecoming” | Ep. 16: “The Honorable Ones” | Ep. 17: “Shroud of Darkness” | Ep. 18: “The Forgotten Droid” | Ep. 19: “The Mystery of Chopper Base” | Ep. 20: “Twilight of the Apprentice“
Season Three: Steps into Shadow | Ep. 2: “Holocrons of Fate” | Ep. 3: “The Antilles Extraction” | Ep. 4: “Hera’s Heroes” | Ep. 5: “The Last Battle” | Ep. 6: “Imperial Supercommandos” | Ep. 7: “Iron Squadron” | Ep. 8: “The Wynkahthu Job” | Ep. 9: “An Inside Man” | Ep. 10: “Visions and Voices” | Ep. 11: “Ghosts of Geonosis” | Ep. 12: “Warhead” | Ep. 13: “Trials of the Darksaber” | Ep. 14: “Legacy of Mandalore” | Ep. 15: “Through Imperial Eyes” | Ep. 16: “Secret Cargo” | Ep. 17: “Double Agent Droid” | Ep. 18: “Twin Suns” | Ep. 19: “Zero Hour“
A New Dawn (Novel)