Here's how Star Wars Rebels season 4 episode 1 "Heroes of Mandalore" helped set the dark tone of the show's final year. The original Star Wars ignited the imaginations of movie fans back in 1977 and suggested a much wider universe outside the main adventure. The first Expanded Universe novel was Splinter Of The Mind's Eye, which found Luke and Leia off on another adventure on a swamp planet and facing off with Darth Vader again.
Splinter was originally conceived by George Lucas as a potential low-budget sequel that could reuse props from Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, should the movie underperform. When it proved to be a success, the concept was instead turned into a book. It didn't take long for the franchise to expand into further comic books, novels, video games and animated series that took fans to new corners of the galaxy. This includes acclaimed animated spinoffs like Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels.
Over the course of its four seasons, Star Wars Rebels found its heroes battling against the Empire between the events of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith and Rogue One. The show introduced new characters like Ezra and Sabine and while it featured some great action sequences and humor, it wasn't afraid to get a little dark either. This can definitely be seen in Star Wars Rebels Season 4 Episode 1 "Heroes Of Mandalore," which proved to be the darkest series of the show.
Episode one is the first half of the Star Wars Rebels two-part "Heroes Of Mandalore" arc, which finds Sabine, Ezra and Kanan on a rescue mission to Mandalore to save Sabine's kidnapped father. She teams up with Clone Wars fan favorite Bo-Katan to attack a convey holding her father and succeeds it rescuing him after an epic chase. Part one feels like it's going to end on a victorious note until the Empire unleashes a new weapon called the Arc Pulse Generator, also known as "the Duchess," which incinerates those wearing Mandalorian armor. The crew finds all the Mandalorians who aided in the rescue were killed by this weapon - and her father reveals it was Sabine who designed the Duchess.
Star Wars Rebels season 4 episode 1 has all the action and humor inherent to the show, but it also shows the impact of the war against the Empire. Mandalore is said to have once been a beautiful place but it's been turned into a wasteland through endless battles. Sabine also has to confront her past when the weapon she created is deployed against her own people, though thankfully by the end of part 2 she's destroyed the Arc Pulse Generator and Bo-Katan is appointed the leader of Mandalore after accepting the Darksaber.
Star Wars Rebels season 4 episode 1 sums up what was always great about the show, from expanding the mythology of the series to combining action, humor and drama. "Heroes Of Mandalore" established the darker tone for the final season and that not even the heroes can fight in a war without paying a terrible price.