Spoiler Warning: If you haven't seen the most recent episode of Star Wars Rebels or don't want to know what happened, turn away now. Or, y'know, go watch and come back so we can talk about it.
I'm emotionally compromised.
I say that now so you're not surprised when the rest of this post is full of feelings and exclamations. That said, I'm pretty sure that was the point, so hat's off to Dave Filoni (pardon the pun).
Seeing Filoni's name as the episode writer in the end credits was actually the thing that affected me most. I sat there ugly crying and feeling so overwhelmed with Sabine's struggle, with Kanan's growth as a teacher, with the real story that forced Sabine off Mandalore, with Ezra's earnest willingness as an apprentice teacher. Because knowing he wrote the episode made so many threads throughout the last three seasons connect in my head all at once –– seeing the overall vision finally coalesce was ... overwhelming.
But, enough about all that, let's talk about what happened and what made "Trials of the Darksaber" such a pivotal episode.
The moment Sabine picked up the Darksaber on Dathomir, you knew there was something coming. You don't put the sword that gave House Vizsla power over the clans into the hands of a Mandalorian whose family is part of that house without having a plan. Not that she's happy about it.
Nonetheless, she's asked to take the blade and use it to help rallying the Mandalorians to the Rebellion's side. Sabine's face says it all. Her anger and shock when even Hera, who knows something about Sabine's past and who's been her strongest ally since she's joined the team, wants her to go. Especially after Sabine's just said that she has a family already and doesn't need her Mandalorian family. Killed me. Random interjection: Chopper purring when Sabine pet him. Heart clutch!
Ezra starts off more cocky than helpful but his attitude illustrates the changes in his and Sabine's relationship. The moon-eyed calf is long gone and a brother stands in his place, a brother who Sabine may threaten to beat up, but siblings are like that. The shift is even more apparent as training starts and Ezra steps up to show her the forms (hello lightsaber forms, we haven't seen you in a while!).
Kanan's reluctance to put the saber in Sabine's hands was another shift as the episode went on and that was, in large part, due to his talks with Hera. While they've certainly had serious conversations before, these felt like another evolution. Hera can say things like "This isn't about you" without pissing Kanan off and Kanan's willing to listen and open up to her, even taking coaching when she pushes. That's a rare and beautiful thing, animated or not.
While we're talking relationship shifts, Fenn Rau has definitely come around when it comes to Sabine both as a Mandalorian and a person. When we met him, all he saw was a traitor to Mandalore. Now he sees a warrior who can unite the clans, so his gift of Mandalorian vambraces is a gesture of respect. Of course, like Han Solo, Fenn Rau ultimately learns that the Force will beat blasters and other weapon tricks and his reaction to Kanan's upset about the gift is telling.
Did anyone else guess she was kicking Bendu when she walked off alone? I admit I didn't. Likely because I was so busy just feeling for her. Tiya Sircar's performance in this episode was truly fantastic. The anger and pain during her talk with Ezra are something we've all been through at one time or another. Scared of the future, trying to move forward, and getting in your own way –– as someone who's used to shooting at or blowing up her problems, this is a whole new obstacle to tackle.
Can we also talk about how amazing the music was in this episode? To my ear, there were different themes I hadn't heard previously. More feminine in places, more fierce in others and all of it quintessentially Sabine.
But if we're going to talk about the highlights of the episode, it all starts after Sabine's return and her taking of the blade. The training wheels are off now.
Kanan pushed her, taunted her, but you knew why. As he pushed, the scene got more and more intense. More emotional. He's going to make her break through whatever's blocking her and he doesn't care how hard he has to push. Watching that, seeing his love and commitment to her just wrecked me. You just knew when she got the lesson it was going to hurt and she'd have to power through, but you also knew it had to happen.
When that moment came and we learned about Sabine's past. That the betrayal everyone accuses her of is one she was forced into. That she left to save her family and her family shuns her for it –– I don't know how anyone watched that and didn't want to hug her. The moment took two and a half seasons to be revealed, but it felt like the perfect time and it explains so much.
By the time she asked the question "Why would they follow me?", I was crying so hard it blurred the screen and I'm not saying that to say "Oh, look how sensitive I am", but as an example of the depth of feeling this episode evoked for me and (I hope) for you. The world has been crazy lately and sometimes, you just need a good cry, y'know?
I mean, look at that. That just says it all, doesn't it?
Given just how affecting this episode was, can you imagine what's coming in the next episode, "Legacy Of Mandalore"? Well, you'll have a little time to think about that because that episode doesn't air until February 18.
Gives us all a little recovery time. So, until then, may the Force be with you!
Star Wars Rebels airs Saturdays at 8:30PM ET/PT on Disney XD.