Star Wars Rebels: “Trials of the Darksaber” Season 3 Episode 13 Review

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In my years of covering television, there’s never been a show I’ve reviewed as maddeningly uneven as Star Wars Rebels. But the highs make it worth it. Finally, we’ve gotten one with “Trials of the Darksaber.”

Rebels‘ handling of Sabine has been frustrating for a long time. With her backstory so far hidden, and her character specific episodes being hit and miss due to the writers failing the character, the young Mandalorian has been the least developed character on the show since the beginning. That even counts Chopper. But at last, Dave Filoni pens an episode, in the doldrums of season three’s filler section, no less, that once and or all tells us who Sabine is as a person.

“Trials of the Darksaber” is so flawlessly written, with every character necessary here beyond Sabine getting pitch-perfect beats that not only develop Sabine, but the family as a whole. Who knew all this would come from merely Sabine recovering the Darksaber from Maul’s lair in “Visions and Voices?” But, as Fenn Rau illustrates to us through a gorgeous, Deathly Hallows-esque history lesson, the Darksaber means far more to Mandalore than previously indicated. Forged by the first Mandalorian to be accepted into the Jedi Order, the weapon resembles unity for the planet’s people. That was before Pre Vizsla’s terrorist group, Death Watch, broke off and threatened Mandalore’s peaceful period heading into the Clone Wars. Then Maul took the planet for himself and, as far as we know, all hell broke loose. Now, the Darksaber returns to the hands of a Mandalorian, one who comes from a powerful enough family that may just rally the planet’s people to the Rebellion’s cause.

Sabine has resisted most emotional connections with just about anything or anyone since we’ve met her, which is likely part of why writers have found difficulty shaping her before this moment. I loved how Hera asked her to take on this responsibility. It was the request of both a mother and an important military leader. Only then does Sabine agree to be trained. The Darksaber alone isn’t going to win her Mandalore, but the show smartly ties Sabine’s emotional arc into her training to finally dig deep into this character.

I also loved how Kanan approached Sabine’s training, confidently taking it on as a responsibility, showing growth from his reluctant teaching of Ezra back in the very beginning of season one. But this episode even had room to show the Jedi’s growth as well, as he mistakingly tries to teach Sabine as if she’s going to be a Jedi. It’s the ever-wise Hera, naturally, who finally points him in the right direction, getting him to allow Sabine to train with the weapon itself, not just wooden sticks.

But Sabine has to want to pick it up first. Frustrated and overwhelmed with a task she did not ask for, we get a lovely moment where Fenn Rau gifts Sabine some classic Mandalorian gauntlets specifically designed to combat Jedi (her mechanical “Force push” was just flat-out awesome). But after giving up and Ezra follows her to talk, we start to get some insight on where Sabine came from. She lets Ezra in on some vague details about how her family rejected her, leading to her exile from the planet. Upon returning, her training with Kanan turns into a full-blown catharsis and reveal. Sabine’s family was making weapons for the Empire, which they used on Mandalore itself. When Sabine stood up to oppose the Empire, her family didn’t stand with her, and she was forced to leave. Betrayed and alone, Sabine’s sometimes icy demeanor has finally been justified.

A lovely moment closes out the episode where Fenn, Ezra, and Kanan kneel to Sabine, telling her that this family won’t leave her behind no matter what choices she makes. Even if her quest to bring Mandalore to the Rebellion fails, she’ll still have the Ghost to call home. Taking that security and turning it into strength, Sabine finally feels ready to become who she’s meant to be. There’s a reason Star Wars fans are so obsessed with Mandalore and its people beyond Boba Fett. Now Rebels has a chance to define that obsession with a new, powerful face. Grade: A

Some Other Notes:

  • “At least you have parents to go home to,” Ezra says to Sabine. Cold but necessary. Definitely a powerful moment of introspection for Sabine.
  • I loved how Sabine felt that Maul had defiled the Darksaber, and her planet. I’d love for the show to explore what could be a very fun rivalry a little bit more.
  • “This isn’t about you,” Hera tells a frustrated Kanan. I mean, damn, every character beat was seriously perfect this week.
  • It looks like we may finally get to find out who Sabine’s parents are in the next episode. If her mother isn’t freaking Bo-Katan, I’m going to be a little furious.
  • And finally, Rebels gains some major steam only to go on break for about a month. Mid-arc too. Sometimes Disney’s handling of Star Wars is so frustrating that it makes me hate them.

By Matt Dougherty

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