[WARNING - This review contains SPOILERS for Star Wars Rebels season 3, episode 16.]
Before going on hiatus, Star Wars Rebels took a hard look at Sabine, revealing a complex and troubled backstory. Her defiance of The Empire ostracized Sabine from her family, and her later decision to join up with the Rebellion made her enemy of her own people. It's a painful past but one she'll need to face when she travels to her homeworld -- with the fabled Darksaber in tow -- hoping to sway Mandalore to their cause.
In tonight's episode, 'Legacy of Mandalore' -- written by Christopher Yost and directed by Mel Zwyer -- Kanan, Ezra, and Fenn Rau join Sabine on her journey. Their plan involves meeting with Sabine's family in the hope they can convince Clan Wren to abandon the Empire and join the Rebellion. It's a tricky play, and one made all the more difficult given the complexity of Mandalorian politics. That's where the Darksaber comes in; the legendary blade that was once united all of Mandalore. With Sabine wielding it, can she use the Darksaber to unite Mandalore's many clans against the Empire?
Power & Politics
As Star Wars Rebels has been slowly revealing throughout this season, Mandalorian society is complex, full of clans and houses all vying for power and allegiance. When Sabine defied the Empire and fled Mandalore, her family was disgraced and lost their good standing. In order to reclaim their position, Sabine's mother, the Countess Ursa Wren has sworn loyalty to the Empire -- specifically the Emperor's Hand, Gar Saxon. She's also sent her only other child, Sabine's brother, Tristan to serve in the Super Commandos, a move that ingratiates Clan Wren with Saxon but also gives him a hostage if need be.
The fact that through Saxon the Empire rules Mandalore speaks to the insidious nature of power, but it also speaks to Mandalore's folly in having a society so ripe with political scheming. Saxon only rules because he seized the opportunity in the power vacuum after the dissolution of the Shadow Collective. But were Mandalore to rise up, united as one under a new leader (hey, maybe even one who has the Darksaber maybe) then they could again be a free world. That's why Saxon is so threatened by Sabine -- he recognizes she has what it takes to be that person. And as it turns out, he's probably right.
While there are galactic politics in play, the 'Legacy of Mandalore' also has a far more personal story to tell -- that of Sabine reuniting with her family. Though their clan was punished because of Sabine's treachery, it turns out that her family wasn't ever wholly on board with the Empire's rule of Mandalore. Ursa admits that she had also tried to oust the Empire, but failed, and afterward Sabine's father was taken prisoner. He's held by the Empire still, and were Clan Wren to again defy Saxon or the Empire, he'd be killed.
That doesn't absolve Ursa of all her wrongdoing, and she still attempts to trade Kanan and Ezra to Saxon in exchange for her daughter's safety -- a plan which thankfully backfires, but does exemplify how far Ursa is willing to go to protect her family. She's a fierce mama bear, so her name is by no means a coincidence. Her methods may be misguided, but her heart is in the right place. And when tested, both she and Tristan choose family over any allegiance to Saxon and the Empire.
The bond of family is obviously a strong theme throughout all of Star Wars. Here in Rebels it gets explored again, where even through the harsh lens of Mandalorian honor, family comes first.
The Woman She Becomes
Season 3 has been a transformative one for Sabine and not just because she changed her hair. Earlier in 'Legacy of Mandalore', Kanan urges Ursa to trust in her daughter, warning her that she is "underestimating the woman she's become." Saxon underestimates Sabine too, even while noticing she's become more skilled since their last encounter. In this episode, Sabine's journey comes full circle when she duels Saxon for the Darksaber, handily beating him and earning the blade for herself.
While Ezra is on his way to becoming a Jedi and Hera is advancing in Rebellion, it's never been as clear just where Sabine was heading. Since reintroducing the Darksaber, however, and landing it in Sabine's possession, it appears that Rebels intends for her to unite Mandalore against the Empire. After defeating Saxon, rightfully claiming the Darksaber, and in a shocking turn of events, choosing to stay behind on Mandalore, that becomes all the more likely. But then, Sabine herself seems to shoot down the idea, instead saying: "I'm not Mandalore's leader, but I'll find the person who is."
But if it isn't Sabine, then who? Bo Katan? What about Fenn Rau? Still, it's Sabine who has more than proven herself in this episode, defeating Saxon in spectacular fashion and earning the respect of her clan. Not to mention she has the Darksaber! (Isn't that thing like a Mandalorian Excalibur?) Let's hope this is merely misdirection, because it seems all but certain that Sabine is destined to lead Mandalore against the Empire, if not for longer.
'Legacy of Mandalore' was definitely an episode worth the wait, filled with political intrigue and great combat action. Sabine's fight with Saxon was easily one of this season's most thrilling moments, capping off an incredible journey for her character. Though it's sad she's leaving the Ghost crew, it's doubtful this is the last they (or we) have seen of her. And when she returns, who knows!? She may just become the leader she was looking for all along.
Star Wars Rebels continues next Saturday @8:30pm with 'Through Imperial Eyes 'on Disney XD.