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.
Well, hello again, it's been a while since I saw you last. How have you been? Anything new? Oh, right. Star Wars Rebels is back and Season 4 debuted this Monday. So let's talk about that, shall we?
At the end of last season, our Rebels faced Thrawn at Chopper Base and barely escaped with their lives. They were beaten, scarred, and headed for Dantooine, a name Star Wars fans know well, to regroup and recover.
When "Heroes of Mandalore" opens, it's not on Dantooine, but on Sabine's home planet of Krownest. There she, Clan Wren, Fenn Rau, Kanan, Ezra, and Chopper gather for a rescue mission to save Sabine's father Alrich Wren (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) from an Imperial prison facility.
What follows is a one-hour episode full of action, emotion, and loss. The Empire has advantages the Rebels do not: a willingness to win regardless of the cost and a leader who has a tactical and strategic advantage over the Rebellion -- Grand Admiral Thrawn.
What the Rebels do have, however, is heart, and lots of it. While the Empire inspires out of fear and propaganda, the Rebellion inspires out of hope, loyalty, and determination. Where once Sabine was an outcast, she's returned home and earned her place by her mother's side and, in doing so, has gained the allegiance of other Mandalorian clans.
She also has the Darksaber, and it's the bold flourish of that weapon that starts one of the best battles we've seen in Rebels to date.
The jetpacks alone would have made this fight cool, but it's the way the fight is shot, the way the weapons are used (or even misused, in the case of Ezra Bridger) that makes it stand out. Watching it, you can see why the Mandalorians are such formidable fighters. Their versatility alone gives them an advantage. I mean, did you ever think you'd see someone take down a TIE Fighter like that? I hope we see that trick again. Add in the skill, training, and dedication and you realize the Mandalorians may have ruled the galaxy if they hadn't been so busy fighting each other.
Maybe that's why Lord Tiber Saxon (Tobias Menzies) has gained as much power as he has. He uses the warring between the clans as a way to take power. Once again, a Saxon is willing to don Imperial armor and betray their own people to rule. However, in this case, Tiber Saxon has quite literally turned the Mandalorian armor into a weapon in order to win because he knows how important that armor is to all who wear it.
I'll admit to not being able to remember if there was a discussion about how Mandalorian armor has been forged and reforged over the last 500 years and what role all of that has in the honor of wearing that armor. I found the whole thing fascinating and was left with a greater sense of awe and respect for Mandalorian culture.
Luckily, Sabine's quick thinking and determination turn the weapon that could wipe out her people due to that armor against Tiber Saxon and the Empire. I'll admit to hoping Tiber Saxon isn't dead because I thought Tobias Menzies did such a great job, but if that was it, it was worth it.
Speaking of that weapon (and I'm with Bo-Katan here when I say, "You called it 'The Dutchess'?"), talk about having to come back and face your demons! We've learned a few things about the weapon that caused Sabine to leave the Imperial Academy on Mandalore, but seeing its destructive power up close was a stark reminder of how dangerous it really was. Watching Sabine deal with the destruction of members of her own clan with a weapon she created -- it was heartbreaking.
That same pain is echoed in Bo-Katan Kryze.
Whether you already knew Bo-Katan would be making her Rebels debut this season or not, seeing the Kryze Clan fly in was a highlight. Voiced by Katee Sackhoff, Bo-Katan is another deep connection to The Clone Wars, and it was good to see her again. Her reluctance to take the Darksaber and her admission of her unworthiness to wield it work on multiple levels as well. You don't need to know her backstory to understand why she refuses the saber, but knowing about her time with Death Watch, the betrayal of Darth Maul, and the death of her sister Satine at his hand add another level to the story for fans of The Clone Wars.
The fact that it's Sabine Wren, a woman who's had to face her own mistakes and destroy a weapon she helped build, that finally gets Bo-Katan to take the saber and all it entails is a really interesting bookend to the story.
It's interesting to look at how all of this fell into place. Sabine and Kanan face Fenn Rau and the Protectors. Rau is brought back to the Ghost where he learns to trust both Sabine and the Rebels. That leads Sabine back home in an attempt to bring her family into the rebellion, and now Clan Wren, The Protectors, and Clan Kryze are all allies in the bigger fight against the Empire.
On top of all of this, there's Ezra and Kanan, who really are a whole 'nother story in the middle of all of this. It would be easy to think both Kanan and Ezra were on this mission because they're the leads, but both of them bring something to the mission that's lacking if they're not there -- unquestioning support for Sabine. On top of that, they both bring their Jedi skills to the party.
You can also see the growth in both of their characters and abilities. For Ezra, it's the continuance of his training, but it's also his relationship with Sabine that makes him vital to the mission. He can talk to her in a way no one else can, getting her to open up, but he can also be that little brother who's got her back when things get tough.
It's nice, however, that Ezra's growth as a Jedi and a person doesn't mean we don't get a little comic relief. Jetpacks are truly the bane of Ezra's existence. I'm sure he'll get the hang of it one day. But I hope it's not for a while yet, because it's hilarious to watch.
Kanan seems to have made another leap this season. Quite literally. For a man who felt useless and lost at the beginning of Season 3, Kanan Jarrus has leaned into his Jedi abilities and found new talents, the least of which being hopping from jumptrooper to jumptrooper to do his part in the battle. Fenn Rau calls him a showoff, and maybe he is, but it also shows that Kanan's found new ways to use the Force to his advantage, and that's always a good thing.
Kanan also seems to have taken a bit of a leap when it comes to his relationship with Hera. Kanera shippers had to look hard for moments in Season 3 (they were there, but there was a lot going on last season); however, we get a big one early this season. Based on a clip shown at Fan Expo Canada, we also know this isn't the first time Kanan's going to make his feelings known -- and I, for one, can't wait to see where this goes.
From a story standpoint, "Heroes of Mandalore" settled a couple plot points and left a larger question. With Bo-Katan taking the Darksaber and leadership along with it, can Sabine leave things in her hands and return to the Ghost and the larger fight with the Rebellion? Things may not be entirely fixed, but Sabine's goal was to help her family and the Mandalorians. She's done that.
Given her growth as a character, putting her back with the Ghost keeps her story front and center along with Ezra's. That's something that's been mentioned more than once by Dave Filoni and Carrie Beck, so it makes sense we'll see her return.
I hope she does.
Star Wars Rebels will air two episodes each Monday starting at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Disney XD.