Spoiler Warning: The following review contains spoilers for “Heroes of Mandalore” and for previous episodes of “Star Wars Rebels” and “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”
“Star Wars Rebels” has returned for its fourth and final season, and its two-part premiere kicks things off in a big way. The Ghost Crew were left in a grim state after suffering a crippling loss to Grand Admiral Thrawn in season three’s finale, leaving fans wondering how they would recover. This episode partially answers that question, but more so focuses on wrapping up Sabine Wren’s struggles on Mandalore along with her family.
The episode begins with a strike on an operating post on the planet, where Sabine believes her father is being held captive by the Empire. Sabine is followed by a small group of Clan Wren members along with Ezra, Kanan, Fenn Rau and the always grumpy Chopper. The group experiences a close call with the Imperials posted there but are rescued with the help of Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff), a fan-favorite character from “The Clone Wars” making her series debut. We learn Bo-Katan was made leader of Mandalore by The Republic shortly before “Revenge of the Sith,” only to quickly lose control after refusing to give in to the newly formed Empire. This gave rise to Clan Saxon as they loyally served the Empire, with Gar Saxon even becoming the Emperor’s right hand man, only to be killed by Sabine’s mother last season and replaced by his brother Tiber. The group soon gains Intel on Sabine’s father being transported back to the capital city to be publicly executed. The band of fighters are able to stop this convoy and rescue Sabine’s father Alrich Wren (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), a key player in speaking out against the Imperial control over Mandalore. The first part of the episode ends with Sabine’s mother and brother seemingly killed by a mysterious weapon after serving as a decoy for the attack.
Though we quickly learn that the two actually survived thanks to a warning from Sabine, the other members of Clan Wren were not so fortunate, with their deaths weighing heavily on Sabine’s conscience. This is revealed to be because Sabine helped create the super weapon when she was in the Imperial Academy, one that releases an electrical attack specifically on Mandalorian armor, meaning Stormtroopers and others would be perfectly fine. We are treated to a tease of Thrawn, who discusses the success yet poor potential in the prototype weapon with Tiber Saxon, pondering if the Mandalorians would actually back the man if he wielded a weapon used specifically on what is essentially the pride of every person on the planet. Sabine then helps put a plan into action that helps destroy the weapon, and hurt the Imperial occupation of Mandalore significantly.
This episode continued my interest in Sabine as a character, someone who was probably at the bottom of my list of favorites before the end of last season. We see how helping to create a weapon made specifically to kill her own people has affected her, and what it drives her to do in order to make peace with that part of her life. The end of the episode sees her passing on the Darksaber to Bo-Katan. who she believes to be the rightful ruler of Mandalore, which means that perhaps she is meant to help the wider Rebellion top the Empire. Bo-Katan helps talk Sabine down from outright killing Tiber with the machine, reminding her of the Mandalorian values that they follow and which Tiber threw out in exchange for power in the Empire. Kanan also sees a lot more action which is a good sign for the season, as he was absent for a good part of season three. From a conversation via Chopper, we also get a glimpse at where Kanan’s relationship with Hera will be going by the end of the season, something that I’m not so sure will be all that happy considering there are no Jedi in the Rebellion by the time “A New Hope” rolls around.
In the episode we learn that Sabine ironically named the weapon The Duchess after the former pacifist ruler of Mandalore, Duchess Satine. Fans of “The Clone Wars” will recognize her as the sister to Bo-Katan and former love interest for Obi-Wan, who was killed by Darth Maul with the Darksaber, the blade which Bo-Katan now carries with her, and perhaps the weight of her sister’s loss still. Tiber Saxon also makes the statement “I am the Empire,” a likely callback to when the Emperor exclaimed “I am the Senate” after Mace Windu threatens his arrest in Episode III.
After its brief stint of pacifism was ruined by Maul and was taken under control by the Empire, the system of Mandalore finally seems to be on the right track. It was great to see Bo-Katan return and end up continuing on her sister’s legacy of rule in Mandalore, as well as Sabine’s mysterious past being explored to its fullest capacity. With the Mandalore plot-line just about wrapped up, I am excited to see what “Rebels” has left in a season that is promised to be much more serialized than before. The next episode is set to take place on Yavin 4, which will be exciting to see on the animated screen as well as what Zeb, Rex, Kallus and AP-5 have been up to since we last saw them. While it may not have matched season two’s premiere, “Heroes of Mandalore” sets things into high gear for what will likely be a fantastic final season. You can catch the next episode of “Star Wars Rebels” when it airs throughout next Monday on Disney XD.