Sabine fights to protect her family and Mandalore's future, while at the same time forced to again reckon with her past mistakes.
[Warning - SPOILERS for the Star Wars Rebels season 4 premiere ahead!]
Star Wars Rebels season 4 premieres today on Disney XD, beginning what will be the final adventures of the Ghost and her crew. Last season pitted the burgeoning Rebellion against their toughest adversary yet, Grand Admiral Thrawn, and the season 3 finale had him coming extremely close to wiping out the Rebellion before it could even really begin.
Thrawn is sure to continue being a most ruthless opponent this season on Rebels, but in the season 4 premiere - 'Heroes of Mandalore' - he plays his role from the background, overseeing the new governor, Tiber Saxon (brother of Gar Saxon, who was killed last season by Sabine's mother, Ursa) and his enforcement of the Empire's rule on Mandalore. To do so, Tiber has dug up the schematics for and remade the deadly weapon Sabine created while at the Imperial Academy. And after Sabine successfully leads a rescue mission to save her father from a public execution, Tiber unleashes the weapon on the remaining Clan Wren forces.
Called simply "The Duchess" (a dig at Clone Wars character and former Mandalorian leader, Duchess Satine), what the weapon does is redirect the energy of an arc reactor, conducting it through - and only through - Mandalorain armor, heating it up and turning anyone who wears that armor into ash. It's a frightful weapon and seeing it turned on her own people only triggers the incredible guilt Sabine still carries over creating it in the first place. Having confronted her mistakes last season and reconciled with her family, the consequences of those mistakes are only dug up again in this premiere, forcing Sabine to again reckon with her past.
Season 3 spent a bulk of its episodes on first breaking Sabine down, revealing the dark truth of her past and why she fled Mandalore, followed by building her up to wield the Darksaber and use it to rally and unite her people against the Empire. It's only too obvious that her destiny is for her to be a leader and it's the path Star Wars Rebels continues placing her on. 'Heroes of Mandalore' does this, too, featuring multiple instances of Sabine demonstrating the traits necessary to not only be a strong leader, but a just one, and one that upholds the honor of her Mandalorian heritage.
It is Sabine who leads the assault and eventual successful rescue of her father; it is Sabine who plans and coordinates the infiltration of Tiber's ship; and even though she was the one ultimately responsible for creating The Duchess, Sabine owns her mistake and vows to do all she can to right this wrong. When Sabine admits that her terrible creation could be reformatted to work on Imperial armor instead of Mandalorian, hinting it could become a game-changing weapon for the Rebellion, she demonstrates great discipline and strength, dismissing the idea, recognizing that weaponizing their enemy's own armor is an act of cowardice.
Not that she isn't tempted, employing just that technique - though at only a fraction of The Duchess' full power - to escape from Tiber and his stormtroopers, but she doesn't give in to her baser desires and use The Duchess to kill her enemies. Instead, Sabine makes the right decision and destroys it (along with Chopper wiping the plans from the Empire's computers), ensuring that such a terrible weapon can never be used again.
'Heroes of Mandalore' is full of moments for Sabine's natural leadership and skills in battle to shine, but it's the just and merciful decisions she makes that mark her as the sort of person people will choose to follow. Even so, Sabine just isn't at the point where she can assume that mantle of leadership right now. Sabine has proven herself on countless occasions, but she still has much to learn - as seen in moments like her needing guidance to make sure she followed through on her pledge to destroy The Duchess. Sabine may be exhibiting the qualities necessary to lead Mandalore, but for now she's still too young, roughly only in her late teens during the time frame of Rebels. Sabine is Mandalore's future, and though she certainly has an important role to play, she isn't ready to be the leader the planet needs right now.
Understandably, it may feel antithetical for Star Wars Rebels' season 4 premiere to again develop Sabine so strongly, only to then have her pass the Darksaber to another, but that doesn't diminish Sabine's role in bringing the Darksaber to Bo-Katan and helping her to realize she's is the leader Mandalore needs right now. Bo-Katan is a seasoned warrior as well as a previously chosen leader for Mandalore, having served as Regent prior to the Empire's occupation. She, too, has made past mistakes (Deathwatch, anyone?) but she's also learned from them, allowing those mistakes to better inform her future decisions. Though at first hesitant, Bo-Katan does eventually accept the Darksaber and Mandalore seems poised to throw off the Empire's shackles and be free.
Except, we know that Rebels cannot end with a victory, only defeat, and while Mandalore is uniting behind Bo-Katan, the Empire is hard at work on a weapon even more devastating than The Duchess. So while Sabine may be Mandalore's future, the Rebels have a lot more pain and hard work ahead of them if they're to ensure Mandalore has that future.
Star Wars Rebels continues with 'In the Name of the Rebellion' on Monday, October 23.