[WARNING - This review contains SPOILERS for Star Wars Rebels season 3, episode 7.]
After a week off, Star Wars Rebels returns tonight with 'Imperial Supercommandos', written by Christopher Yost and directed by Steward Lee. The episode again sees Sabine facing off against more of her Mandalorian brethren when she, Ezra, and Chopper investigate why the Rebels have lost contact with the Protectors of Concord Dawn. Joining them on the mission is their "cranky guest" Fenn Rau - the leader of the Protectors who Sabine and Kanan captured back in season 2 - in the hope he can aide them with their reconnaissance. However, waiting for them on Concord Dawn (the planet that's missing half a hemisphere) is a faction of Imperial Mandalorians led by Gar Saxon, the newly appointed Imperial Viceroy of Mandalore.
Having already taken the lead in 'The Antilles Extraction' earlier in the season, Sabine again gets to prove herself essential to the Rebellion with this episode. She also - finally - gets a jetpack, an essential part of any Mandalorian's armor. But more importantly, Sabine continues to stay true to her convictions even as Saxon tries manipulating her with news of her mother, never even considering betraying the Rebellion or her friends. And Sabine's commitment to the cause is an admirable trait, one that also seems to stem from her Mandalorian heritage - something which this episode sheds a little more light on.
Rebellions aren't won alone and Star Wars Rebels season 3 has been making a point of recruiting as many allies as it can for the cause. Wedge Antilles, Hera's father, Cham Syndalla, and even that surviving squadron of battle droids have all come to the Rebellion's aid, and in this episode, it's Fenn Rau who has a change of heart, choosing to return for Sabine, Ezra, and Chopper after abandoning them on Concord Dawn. (Plus, with the Protectors of the Dawn essentially wiped out, it's unclear what other options he really has.)
Rau remains loyal to Mandalore, but after witnessing the brutality of The Empire firsthand and recognizing the honor in Sabine's wanting to fight them, he sees for himself a path alongside the Rebellion. And given how essential Sabine has proven for them, having another Mandalorian on their side can only be a good thing. Mandalorians (especially those from high-ranking clans like Sabine and Rau) tend to not only be exceptionally trained warriors but brilliant tacticians, something that isn't all that surprising when you see the sorts of games they play for fun. What is that, Knife Cube Chess?
"Mandalorians Are Crazy!"
In addition to being well-trained in both combat and strategy, Mandalorians are, as Ezra says, crazy. Or at least they're complicated, what with competing factions and clans and other distinctions which keep individual Mandalorians duty-bound to one group or another. Their concept was first introduced with Boba Fett all the way back in The Empire Strikes Back (well, technically, he first appeared in an animated short for the now infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, but let's all forget that, shall we?), where his captivating design stirred the imagination of fans and creators alike. Since then, Mandalorians and their warrior culture were heavily explored in the Expanded Universe, but after those stories were removed from canon, their next meaningful appearance came in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
In that series, Mandalore was again at the mercy of warring factions as the splinter group, Death Watch fought against the pacifistic rule of the Duchess Satine Kryze and the New Mandalorian government. By now that government has been deposed (something which Darth Maul actually played a hand in), but Mandalore is still by no means united. The Empire has a strong hold, and clearly there are Mandalorians who serve them - like Saxon and his Imperial Supercommandos and possibly Sabine's mother - but there are others who remain fighting to free Mandalore - Loyalists, Rau calls them.
Just how Sabine fits into this complicated picture of Mandalorian society is still not entirely clear. We've learned her family, Clan Wren, is of House Vizsla, making them Death Watch sympathizers, and in the case of Sabine's mother, an active member during the period following the New Mandalorian government's collapse. And in this episode it's revealed that Sabine's mother is supposedly looking for her, implying there are more family reunions ahead on Rebels. Will she be happy to learn her daughter is fighting with the Rebellion? Or will she try and bring Sabine back into Death Watch?
'Imperial Supercommandos' was an episode that offered a lot of new information about the Mandalorians, if simply dealt in snippets which are still only a part of the whole picture. Judging by how fractured their society seems to be, it wouldn't be out of the question for even more Mandalorians to appear later in the season. We do expect Katee Sackhoff to reprise her role as Death Watch member and leader of the Night Owls, Bo-Katan, this season, so there's at least one Mandalorian you can count on.
Star Wars Rebels season 3 continues Saturday, November 19th at 8:30PM on Disney XD.