Star Wars Rebels: “Heroes of Mandalore” Season 4 Premiere Review

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Star Wars Rebels‘ previous two series premieres display excellence not only in telling thrilling Star Wars stories, but re-establishing this specific corner of the universe and projecting where these characters are going to go over the course of that season. “Heroes of Mandalore,” on the other hand, is confident in its audience to know the gist and gets right to the meat. The premiere belongs to Sabine and Sabine alone, and that’s for the best. So while we’ll have to wait until next week to get a proper reintroduction to Hera and Zeb, giving Sabine the spotlight after her incredible development last season feels justified. What the episode does with that spotlight is another story.

Spanning two episodes, “Heroes of Mandalore” is almost all action. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Watching Mandalorians jet pack around Imperial walkers is legitimately cheer-worthy. But there are also a few character moves that feel a little bit underdeveloped.

The goal of the first half is to rescue Sabine’s father from the Empire while they’re transporting him to the capital. Joining Sabine, Ezra, Kanan, Chopper, Fenn Rau, and Clan Wren is Clone Wars favorite Bo-Katan. With Rebels having no shame in tying Clone Wars‘ loose ends, the character’s return is more than welcome, if not all that surprising. And she’s as badass as ever. But “Heroes of Mandalore” also rushes to establish her as someone who might wield the darksaber. If that’s the case, with still a whole season to go I should note, then what kind of arc does that set up for Sabine going forward? The one she has in the premiere is quite strong, but with the episode’s ending, her path is now murky.

After successfully getting her father out of Imperial hands, a dark weapon, the one Sabine built for the Empire before she left, is used to vaporize a number of Clan Wren’s warriors. For a moment, we’re even tricked into thinking the weapons got Sabine’s mother and brother. It takes the episode to an incredibly dark place emotionally, but then undoes it after a commercial break. I know this is a show kids should be able to watch, but man, not only was I moved, I was ready to see Sabine take on the guilt. Unfortunately, that doesn’t end up being the case.

Most of what dialogue there is in “Heroes of Mandalore,” besides Ezra’s usual fumbling, goes to Sabine and Bo-Katan separate and together expressing leadership to other Mandalorians to rally them against the Empire. Rebels doesn’t quite mishandle Bo-Katan, but I can’t imagine fans who haven’t seen Clone Wars finding the episode’s resolution at all rewarding. Last season’s blockbuster episode “Twin Suns” had a similar problem, though this one does a far better job incorporating Sabine’s personal journey than that one did Ezra’s. In the end, it’s Bo-Katan who will go on to lead Mandalore’s rebel forces, but it still feels like it had to be Sabine to get here there. The former Death Watch warrior helps Sabine along as well, the show just has a bit of a confused road for who Sabine is supposed to be when the show ends. Luckily it still has a lot of time to answer that.

Regardless, “Heroes of Mandalore” did a nice job evolving the conflict on one of the most iconic planets from outside the films. The action was great, and it’s frankly just nice to have Rebels back on the viewing schedule. This premiere wasted no time in trying to dive deep into at least one main character rather than the usual table setting. The success rate here is a mixed bag, but if this is indicative of where this final season is going, there are lots of reasons to be excited. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty



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