Rebels Reconnaissance: “Heroes of Mandalore” Review

*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Rebels episode “Heroes of Mandalore.”

The fourth season of Star Wars Rebels opens with an episode that packs a punch–albeit one a bit weaker than it might have. At its core, “The Heroes of Mandalore” is about legacy–what one leaves behind–and for Sabine, it’s about the sins of the past infecting the present. Fortunately for the Ghost’s (erstwhile?) demolitions expert, the cost of her bygone indiscretions are somewhat mollified.

As the show nears its end, the legacy of Rebels is still being written as well. For a program that consistently augments the mythology of the greater Star Wars story, Rebels still must manage to strike a balance between featuring real consequences and appealing to its intended demographic. Episodes like “Heroes of Mandalore” manage to thread that needle fairly well, but a few key choices this week make me wonder how far Star Wars Rebels will go to tie up its loose ends.

Set on the Mandalorian homeworld, “Heroes of Mandalore” opens on a daring rescue mission of Alrich Wren, Sabine’s father and a man who is apparently something of a political artist. The sequence is notable firstly for its inclusion of the return of Lady Bo-Katan Kryze, a fan-favorite from The Clone Wars. Being the sister of Mandalore’s former leader Duchess Satine, Bo-Katan is seen by many of her people as the rightful ruler of the planet, but Kryze’s checkered past and displacement by the Saxon clan has left her feeling unworthy of taking on the mantle of leadership. To wit, she initially refuses to wield the Darksaber when Sabine offers it to her and beautifully sets up the parallel between herself and Sabine. Both women are haunted by pasts that continue to linger in the present, and it’s fitting that bonds they form in “Heroes of Mandalore” move both characters toward resolution.

Another notable facet of the episode’s rescue sequence is its explicit homage to Indiana Jones. Ezra Bridger capably stands in for the fedora-wearing archaeologist here as he both hangs from the side of an Imperial transport and is dragged under it (à la Raiders of the Lost Ark) before barely escaping the transport’s plunge off a cliff (à la The Last Crusade). Four seasons in and Star Wars Rebels continues to deftly employ Easter eggs.

But what I’m not sure about “Heroes of Mandalore” is why the writers decided not to kill off Sabine’s mother and brother as a result of their encounter with the “Duchess,” an Imperial weapon designed by Sabine that targets the beskar-infused armor worn by the Mandalorian people. As “Heroes of Mandalore” is a two-part episode, having the attack by the “Duchess” at the end of the first part creates a bit of tension, but since one can almost immediately view the second half and be reassured that Sabine’s family is safe. It’s a quirk of the scheduling that Lucasfilm probably had no control over, but regardless it negates much of the power of the moment. Furthermore, Sabine is later faced with a choice of taking revenge on Tiber Saxon (the Imperially-installed ruler of Mandalore) and the Empire itself. Having to also deal with the all-too-recent murders of her mother and brother would have made that decision a Herculean task and spoke volumes about the measure of Sabine’s character and lent a sense of gravitas to Star Wars Rebels.

I had a few other quibbles with “Heroes of Mandalore” as well. Despite his heroics during the rescue, Ezra seems to have regressed in this episode. For much of last season, the headstrong Padawan plunged forward at every opportunity to build his burgeoning power. But here, he seems awkward at times–even a bit goofy–as he takes a (necessary?) backseat to Sabine. “Heroes of Mandalore” is not meant to be his story, but it seems that Rebels on the whole is. What the writers do the character as the show wraps its final season will go a long way toward deciding the legacy of Star Wars Rebels.

Rebel’s other resident Jedi, Kanan Jarrus, has some great moments in “Heroes of Mandalore” as well, but I can’t help but feel like his blindness should be a bit more of a factor in his action scenes. While it’s conceivable that an individual as in touch with the Force as Kanan could tap into it enough to make up for having sightless eyes (Chirrut Imwe, anyone?), it seems that his disability hasn’t remotely slowed him down. Personally, I’d like to see this expanded upon to illustrate how powerful Kanan has become rather than glossing over it like it never happened.

Conversely, the relationship between Kanan and Hera seems poised to be finally explored in a definitive fashion. The true nature of this relationship has been debated since the first Rebels shorts and both Freddie Prinze, Jr. (the voice actor behind Kanan) and Vanessa Marshall (the voice actress behind Hera) have weighed in with their own disparate opinions that seem to reflect that of their respective characters. “Heroes of Mandalore” gives us the briefest of scenes between the two leaders of the Ghost crew, but it is imbued with a palpable tension. There is a resolution coming, and since this is the final season of Star Wars Rebels, why not?

And really, that’s the question that should drive the drama of season four. Dave Filoni never got the chance to end The Clone Wars the way he wanted to, but he does with Star Wars Rebels. There’s no reason not to expect the biggest of reveals, the bravest of choices, and the resolution of every loose end. Hera, Chopper and the Ghost survive–at least until Rogue One, but literally everything else is up for grabs. As we move forward throughout this final season, be prepared for what will surely be an exciting ride.

Thank you for reading! If you have feedback or just want to say hello, you can leave a comment on this page or email me at cdickinson@coffeewithkenobi.com. You can also contact me on Twitter @influxman or check out my Rogue page on “Star Wars in the Classroom.”

And don’t forget to check out the latest Rebels Reactions for even more insight, discussion, and analysis on this episode.

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