Rebels Review – Heroes of Mandalore – S4, Ep’s 1 & 2

So Star Wars Rebels is back with it’s fourth and (gasp) final season with a two-part opener entitled Heroes of Mandalore. So how was it? Did it live up to the promises of the beginning of a satisfying end? Did Sabine’s return to Mandalore arc reach a satisfying conclusion? Well……… ****SPOILERS**** after the break, and they’re bloody. Just sayin’….

Todd's Rebels Review - Heroes of Mandalore

OK, so here goes nothing. I’m not going to do a long-winded recap summary, I’ll keep that part brief so I can get to what worked for me and what didn’t. In a nutshell, Sabine and part of the crew of the Ghost (Kanan, Ezra, and Chopper) return to Mandalore in hopes of liberating the planet from Imperial occupation and to find a worthy wielder for the Darksaber. After season three’s Mandalore arc my hopes were super-high that we were building towards not only an epic showdown on Mandalore in regards to not only the aforementioned Imperial occupation and the Darksaber but also Sabine’s complicated relationship with the planet and the weapon she created that we’ve been hearing bits and pieces about since season one if I’m not mistaken.

OK, so here’s the quick rundown – the crew fights to liberate Sabine’s dad from Imperial imprisonment, and after a successful rescue, Mandalore’s new governor, Tiber Saxon (who came completely out of nowhere to replace his dead brother, Gar Saxon, who was killed by Ursa Wren in season three) dispatches the weapon that Sabine designed for the Empire during her time in the Academy on her family and clan. Also aiding in the rescue was Clan Kryze, led by none other than Bo-Katan Kryze who made her first appearance in The Clone Wars. After some dissent and anger towards Sabine over the creation of the weapon (which happens to be called the Duchess of all things), the Mandalorian clans unite to fight Tiber Saxon and disable the weapon. In the end they are successful and Bo-Katan accepts the Darksaber from Sabine to become the symbolic leader of Mandalore. Ok, let’s get to the best part – my opinions!

What worked for me:

  • Kanan – he was awesome in this episode and I have really enjoyed his arc throughout the series from the middle of season two on. His interaction with Hera via hologram was touching and is obviously foreshadowing the tragedy their relationship is sure to suffer before the end of the final season. His calm and cool demeanor is welcome in this show, as immaturity has a tendency to run rampant, even as the younger members of the Ghost crew get older.
  • Chopper – always funny, always on point. I am really just putting him in here so I can reference his ‘get a room already’ comment to Kanan and Hera. Hilarious.
  • The chase – lots of Indiana Jones influence in the chase sequence on the surface of Mandalore to rescue Sabine’s imprisoned father, Alrich Wren. Mando’s flying on jetpacks and Jedi doing Jedi stuff was an awesome combination.
  • Bo-Katan Kryze’s return – I’ve been speculating that Bo-Katan would wield the legendary Darksaber since Sabine and crew claimed it from Maul in season three, and it was awesome to see that prediction come to fruition. As the sister of the former ruler of Mandalore (and love interest of Obi-Wan Kenobi), Duchess Satine Kryze, it only seemed right that she would become the symbolic leader of Mandalore and unite the clans in their fight against Imperial occupation. I do have a few gripes about this which I’ll touch on below, but overall this wraps up the Mandalore storyline in a fitting way.
  • Mandalorians being Mandalorians – although I like the portrayal of Mandalore and it’s people in The Clone Wars, I understand many fan’s gripes about the direction George Lucas and Dave Filoni took the planet and it’s people. In Rebels we’ve seen a return to what we were led to believe via the old EU/Legends material that Mandalorians were like – bad ass! It’s cool to see the different clans flying around on jetpacks and being the fierce warriors we have come to expect. I’d also like to give kudos to the design team for not taking the easy way out design-wise with the clans, giving each a distinctive look and aesthetic. It didn’t go unnoticed.
  • Beskar Alloy – the legendary (pun intended) material Mandalorians use to construct their armor is officially canon. Awesome, thanks Dave!

What didn’t work for me:

  • Ezra – seriously, isn’t it time for Ezra to be a hero and not the comic relief? It’s so frustrating watching Ezra’s character arc continually regress from the end of season two/beginning of season three, and it’s hard not to think Filoni, Gilroy, and crew are taking it too easy on the audience here. His ridiculous series of hijinx with the jetpack was a distraction and quite simply wasn’t even funny. Also, that stupid Scout Biker helmet needs to go, why the hell does he keep wearing that thing?? I’m going to (hesitantly) stick by my prediction that Ezra will in fact be the Jedi to die (rather than Kanan), but I reserve the right to change that prediction as late as halfway through season four, because well, it’s my blog…
  • Sabine – after an emotionally-charged arc for Sabine in season three I feel like the resolution to the Mandalorian story arc and her role in it was completely rushed and unfulfilling. And while I admit I’m glad the Mando arc is over (hopefully), way too many scenes in Heroes of Mandalore felt rushed and unconvincing. Also, we know Sabine is a prodigy, but to think that she was able to build this superweapon that was so devastating to Mandalorians in armor at the age of 14 or 15 is pushing it. I’m surprised nobody else is talking about that…. Furthermore, she named it the Duchess? That’s just wrong, and her excuse was super lame. Duchess Satine was by far the best leader Mandalore has had in canon, I have a very hard time believing even the most angsty teenager would name a superweapon that only targets Mandalorians after her. Come on man.
  • Take a chance Filoni!!! – dude, you had a chance to make a real difference in Sabine’s arc by killing her mother and brother off when the superweapon is used on them and you wimped out!!! Don’t be afraid to kill off characters, man! And these two in particular were so ripe for the picking, as their deaths would’ve resonated strongly in the show given we are in the final season, and shown the audience that the stakes are very high for our heroes as the series winds down. Huge missed opportunity there, let’s hope the creators show more guts moving forward in the final 11 episodes of season four….
  • Alrich Wren = Bail Organa? – not really, but it would be hard to tell just by looking at the animation models… Could the design team not have come up with a character model for Sabine’s dad that looked original? I mean the resemblance to Organa is startling, to say the least, and distracting.
  • Tiber Saxon, where’d you come from? – OK, so it’s not a stretch that the recently deceased Gar Saxon’s brother Tiber would take up the mantle of Imperial Governor of Mandalore, but this dude came out of nowhere. This belies a huge problem with Rebels in that there is continually no build up. I wish the creative team would trust the audience like they did with The Clone Wars and build longer story arcs. It wouldn’t have been hard to introduce the character of Tiber Saxon in season three so he didn’t just seemingly appear out of nowhere. This brand of storytelling just isn’t fulfilling to me. Which speaks to a larger problem of….
  • Lack of real story arcs – I get that Rebels loves to wrap up story arcs in one or two episodes, but it’s so hard to do that convincingly as the series progresses and gets more complex. I was really hoping that the fourth and final season would have a true sense of connectivity in the way that The Clone Wars did, but unfortunately I’m not very hopeful that will happen in the way fans want it to. I would love to see true demographics on just who is watching Star Wars Rebels, because I think the fanbase is older and more mature than Lucasfilm is trying to cater to.
  • The destruction of the Duchess – OK, so Sabine (very quickly, conveniently enough) is able to turn the weapon against the Empire and use it to target the Stormtroopers plastoid armor as opposed to the Mandalorian’s beskar alloy armor and you destroyed it??? And Chopper and Kanan destroyed all the plans and blueprints??? Don’t you think you could’ve used that in the future? OK then. Saw Gerrera would NOT approve.
  • Bo-Katan and the Darksaber – I know up top I said I liked this, and I still do. However, I must point out that it’s a little morbid that Bo-Katan now wields the weapon that was used by Maul to murder her sister but OK. You do you, Bo-Katan.

And finally, the ‘what the hell’ category:

  • Aging on Mandalore – we know the twin suns of Tatooine cause the residents there to age rapidly, but does the the moon of Concordia have the complete opposite effect on the people of Mandalore by chance?? Bo-Katan is almost 20 years older than we last saw her and she looks younger now than she did then. It was comical to hear the creative team talk on Rebels Recon about her character model, quite frankly….

Overall this was a very unsatisfactory start to the fourth and final season of Star Wars Rebels, and by far the worst season premiere in the series’ history. My hope is that things will pick up now and that we can leave Mandalore alone moving forward. Quite frankly, these two episodes should’ve been part of season three, but oh well. Fingers crossed as we move into the final 11 episodes of Rebels. Below are some pics from the official Star Wars site as well as a link to Rebels Recon. Feedback? Gripes? Agreements? Wanna be a guest on The Exhaust Port podcast? Hit me here.