"Star Wars: Rebels" Season 4 Episodes 1, 2 – Heroes of Mandalore (parts 1 and 2) (9 out of 10) – Based on characters and situations created by George Lucas; Starring: Freddie Prinze, Jr., Vanessa Marshall, Taylor Gray, Steve Blum, Tiya Sircar, David Oyelowo; Special Guest stars: Kevin Kidd, Katee Sackhoff; Rated TV-Y7, Aired on Disney XD 10/16/17.
The Rebellion is licking its wounds from the drubbing it received at the hands of Grand Admiral Thrawn in the season three finale, but they still need to make good on supporting the Mandalorians of House Wren who risked everything to help in the conflict. Sabine and most of the Ghost Crew find themselves on Mandalore, hoping to reunite the clans and, once they discover it's existence, destroy the weapon Sabine built to neutralize Mandos.
This might be the best work with the culture and people of Mandalore since the "Eminence" arc, and, in fact, this episode contains echoes of them. And characters as well, as we see Bo Katan return to help deal with the situation and back Sabine up in her decisions. It's fascinating that we learn that she was given control of Mandalore by the Jedi, no doubt at the suggestion of Obi-Wan, but she bristled under the command the Emperor, which is when the Saxons took over.
This episode reinforces much of what makes the Rebellion so morally pure, in my mind. Throughout the series of Rebels, the Ghost crew has been tasked with helping the Rebellion, sure, but they seem to be in the business of trying to make sure the Empire doesn't have the deadliest weapons. From crates of banned weapons in the first season and trying to sabotage AT-DP and speeder production, all the way to the TIE Defender and the Death Star, they try to hobble the Empire's ability to kill en masse. In this episode, they set their sights on the Duchess, which might be Sabine's largest mistake.
This episode gets into the nitty-gritty of Sabine and Mandalore and it's fantastic at it. Though I wonder if it happens largely in the desert and in Imperial installation instead of the more ornate and architecturally complicated parts of Mandalore because of the budget. In Rebels, we've had stripped bare landscapes in many episodes, and we know what Mandalore is like from The Clone Wars. It's also brilliant writing and character work to have Thrawn realize why this weapon isn't exactly all it's cracked up to be and understand why it wouldn't help the Governor in the way he thought it would. It once again proves that Thrawn is smarter than everyone.
As for moments of inspiration, the first half feels like it's borrowing from Indiana Jones a lot. The entire chase to rescue Sabine's father feels lifted from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, rescuing Dr. Jones from the belly of the tank. Ezra has his moments underneath the transport as well that evoke imagery of Indy assaulting the truck in Raiders. And Ezra even gets to ironically reuse one of my favorite lines from that film in a more comedic context. One of the coolest lines in Raiders is when Sallah tells Indy that the Ark has been loaded onto a truck, and Indy responds with a grave and determined, "Truck? What truck?"
Ezra parrots this when Chopper tells him of a cliff. He offers a deadpan, "Cliff? What cliff?"
And they double down on the moments from The Last Crusade, tossing Ezra off the cliff like Indiana Jones.
But it's Obi-Wan Kenobi that Ezra shares visual connections to in the second half of this episode. Ezra, with a jetpack and an Imperial helmet, comes to aid Bo Katan in the struggle. A door opens and a wonderous battle goes on beyond. The last time we saw this exact situation and shot choice was when Maul had taken Mandalore and Obi-Wan was spiriting himself off the planet in borrowed Mandalorian armour. It was one of the most striking shots in all of The Clone Wars, and seeing it echoed here with Ezra draws an interesting connection between the two characters, given the events of season three.
I also really loved the design of the Duchess, as it evoked the feeling of a Zentraedi Battle Pod with missile launchers from Robotech. It's always great to see some of those design inspirations make their way into Star Wars.
As interesting as all of that is, though, this episode really belongs to Tiya Sircar. The anguish and despair and determination in her voice through the episode is heartbreaking. She's grown so much as an actress and Sabine has grown so much as a character, that it's beautiful seeing them both live up to the promises that were made in the beginning.
Overall, these two episodes are a fantastic opening, teasing a little bit of the overarching story with Thrawn and Yavin 4 (possibly?), and the shape of things to come. It's emotional and advances things significantly, while at the same time answering a lot of important questions. I'm rating this a 9 out of 10.
Star Wars Rebels airs on Disney XD on Mondays.
Season 4 Scorecard
- Heroes of Mandalore (9 of 10)
Season Average: 9 out of 10
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