What did you think of the Plot?
BEAVeR: I always look forward to two parters as they offer more time to spend on more nuanced character development or allow for a deeper treatment of a theme. However, this episode is a collection of a lot of action sequences that tend to be a bit cliche, could have been a lot shorter and are connected by a plot that hinges on convenience a tad too often to be truly compelling (Mandalorian reinforcements swooping in at just the right time, the Empire only using the Duchess once and then sending regular troops to do the dirty work, the weapon being so easily reconfigurable or the fact that the Empire doesn’t seem to have backup plans of it…).
In between, there are some interesting scenes like Sabine’s choice to destroy the weapon, the possibility that her mother and brother are dead or Bo-Katan finally accepting the darksaber. However, none of those scenes really feel connected to each other because what happens in one scene rarely affects what happens in another scene: Sabine’s choice is not motivated by what happened earlier and even contradicts what she said earlier in the episode, her choice has no real consequence in the end since the Star Destroyer with everybody on board blows up anyway, her mother and brother survive and at no point does Sabine’s relation to them change, Thrawn makes little more than a cameo and it’s still not clear to me what prompted Bo-Katan to finally accept the darksaber when she said in the beginning of the episode that she wouldn’t… It doesn’t help that the episode shifts its focus in the middle: first it’s all about freeing Sabine’s father, but he kind of disappears in the second part, while Sabine forgets about him, focusing on the new problem that has risen. Two parters are something to look forward to if they really take their time to build something interesting up, but this episode failed in that task: instead of following a line, it jumped from here to there. It was an enjoyable watch with good action, but without a lot of substance.
Oky: The fourth and final season of the series kicked off with a two-parter set on Sabine’s homeworld of Mandalore. It’s nice that after Sabine and her people came to the rebels’ aid during the Battle of Atollon, Ezra came back with them to return the favor along with Chopper and Kanan. There’s not much to say about Part I as it is basically just one big action scene where they break Sabine’s father out of prison, but Part II is where it gets juicy. Not only does it wrap up Sabine’s quest to find a suitable leader for her people, but it also finally reveals what that terrible weapon Sabine helped create is, and I am quite satisfied with the reveal. The idea of a weapon that can target a single type of armor and destroy it along with its wearer without harming stormtroopers, potentially decimating whole armies, is pretty clever and quite horrifying indeed. I’d even argue that such a weapon would be even more useful to the Empire than the Death Star since it could wipe out the Empire’s enemies without destroying an entire planet. It’s ironic that the Mandalorians refuse to take off their armor even after learning about this weapon as their obsessive pride in their traditions and gear is literally what is killing them.
What are your thoughts on the Characters?
BEAVeR: This episode had some nice character moments, but they weren’t part of character arcs. Sure, it’s interesting that Bo-Katan goes from not wanting the darksaber to accepting it in the end, but there’s no transition in between which robs the climactic moment of its punch: it just seems like she’s casually changed her mind instead of having went through some struggle. I like what they were going for with her: she is inspired by Sabine and how she places honor, respect and courage up front to believe in the old Mandalore again. But the thing is that the ultimate moment where Sabine shows those values, when she disables the core, is actually brought about by Bo-Katan herself who inspires Sabine to take those acts. Yeah, it’s a bit muddy and it’s clear that in the original draft it was Bo-Katan who wanted to use the weapon until Sabine convinced her to do otherwise. But then it would have been a less compelling episode for Sabine… Anyway, the result is that none of them get the arc they deserve from a two parter.
Before he was rescued, I was very excited about Sabine’s father. Not only could he bring in a new dynamic with Sabine, but it was stated he was an extremely important person to the Rebellion despite not being a warrior but instead an artist. He was going to be more of an activist character, maybe even an introvert rebel, which would have been really interesting. Sadly, he is not much more than a plot device, doesn’t seem to have a closer relation to Sabine than her art teacher and doesn’t even seem to have a reaction to the discovery that his wife and son might be dead. I give Rebels a lot of credit for coming up with really interesting character premises, but wouldn’t it be amazing if they could follow through on more of them?
Oky: I enjoyed seeing Sabine come to grips with her past mistakes and trying to make up for them. You could really tell that she carries a lot of guilt and anger for her actions which she channels towards Saxxon and the Empire. This anger nearly causes her to lose sight of who she really is. Bo-Katan helps her see that, and while I like Sabine’s decision to spare the Imperials’ lives, that action becomes kind of mute when she slashes the power core instead which ends up blowing up the Star Destroyer and killing them anyway. Bo-Katan undergoes a nice arc herself when she decides to accept the Darksaber from Sabine. By helping Sabine become a better person she demonstrated that she knows what it means to be a true Mandalorian and seeing Sabine do the right thing inspired her to do the same and become the leader she was meant to be. It gives a nice sense of closure seeing her go from being a clear antagonist in the Clone Wars to becoming the honorable leader of Mandalore. As in every Sabine-centric episode, Ezra inexplicably turns into a bumbling comic relief character again, although I did like that somber scene where he tries to comfort Sabine. Kanan was kind of fun to watch as he took out numerous Imperials with almost too much ease by jumping from one vehicle to another, but ultimately he felt a bit redundant here. However, no characters were as useless as Tristan and Ursa. The only thing they did was to provide a bit of exposition and support for Sabine, and the writers’ decision to have them survive the attack was a huge cop-out in my opinion. It would have been so much better if they would have left them dead or waited to reveal that they’re alive until the end as it would have made the attack a lot more personal for Sabine and given her even more motivation to use the weapon against the Imperials at the end which would have made it a lot more meaningful when she showed them mercy. I was also not impressed with Sabine’s father. The fact that he is an artist means that Sabine got her two character traits of being a warrior and an artist from her mother and father respectively which I think is a bit cheesy. Having Ezra point out the obvious didn’t help.
What is your opinion of the Vehicles and Locations?
BEAVeR: The look of Mandalore was perfect for the setting of the episode, showing how little remains of a once glorious culture, but on the other hand it was yet another barren planet like so many others previously seen on Rebels such that it doesn’t really stand out and has the impact it should. At least the architecture left an impression with its creative features. The Duchess looked great as a fusion between the standard Imperial AT-DP and a flair like the Mandalorian Royal Guards. It looked menacing and at the same time looked like it would make a great toy.
Oky: Sabine, Bo-Katan, and the rest of the Mandalorians clearly have a troubled past, and the environment reflects that perfectly. Mandalore is a pretty boring and depressing place to look at, but knowing that the Mandalorians’ constant state of civil war has destroyed all plant life on the planet puts a whole new perspective on it. We also get to see some new locations on Mandalore such as the Kryze command camp and the prison outpost. The camp was nothing special though, and the prion building looked a bit odd and not very secure honestly. The AT-DP Arc Cannon prototype walker on the other hand looked pretty cool, so it’s kind of a shame that it got destroyed.
BEAVeR’s rating: 3/5 – The action sequences were fun, a lot of loose ends were tied up and there were some nice character moments – always with really nice music – fitting in the theme of how brave and inspiring it is to face your own mistakes. But on the other hand the change in personalities came without actual development of the personalities while the plot shifted focus and relied on convenience too much which broke the immersion. With Trials of the Darksaber, Rebels showed that they can make compelling character pieces and that’s what this episode should have been, with a few action scenes in for extra measure. Instead, it was the other way around: lot’s of action with some character filler in between. I hope the next two parter finds a better balance.
Oky’s rating: 3/5 – I really liked the theme of not letting your past define you. Everybody makes mistakes; it’s whether you learn from them that matters. Sabine and Bo-Katan both had a nice character arc in that regard. It’s too bad that all the other characters felt pretty useless for the most part. I liked the second part of this season opener a lot more than the first part which was basically just a setup for Part II with a lot of filler. The second part had its problems too, mainly keeping Sabine’s mother and brother assumed dead for only about 10 seconds and blowing the Star Destroyer up after deciding not to kill the Imperials, but I still enjoyed it. It gave a satisfying conclusion to the Mandalore arc, and it will be nice to see Sabine back with the rebels, so I look forward to the next episode.