Star Wars Rebels is back for its final season. And much like series leads Sabine Wren and Ezra Bridger, the TV series is stronger than ever. Rebels Season 4 hit the ground running this week with Heroes of Mandalore, a one-hour special that saw Sabine reunite with her family and face her past head-on. From the canonization of a little-known Legends factoid, to the series debut of fan-favorite Mandalorian badass Bo-Katan Kryze, Heroes of Mandalore had a lot to offer. Join us as we dive back into Rebels as it begins its season-long swan song.
(Robert Mitchell also contributed to this article.)
Beskar is as Strong as Ever
Much of Heroes revolved around the uniqueness of Mandalorian armor. As a longtime fan of the Star Wars material now known as the Star Wars Legends, hearing the word Beskar was like hearing the name of a long-lost friend. The metal from which the armor is made, originally called Mandalorian iron, has been around for millennia. From armor, to swords, to throat-crushing gauntlets, and even starfighters, this metal found only on Mandalore gives the T-visored warriors a distinctive edge in battle.
In almost all of its iterations, Beskar can even stand up to a blow from a lightsaber. Prolific Legends author Karen Traviss, the force majeur in defining and developing Mandalorian culture, affixed the name “beskar” to the metal, and since then it’s stuck.
It was a real pleasure that the armor was given back some of its awe-inspiring mythos. Executive producer Dave Filoni and team are proving adept at borrowing the best of what Legends had to offer.
Even Sabine’s explanation that Mandalore’s desolate, desert landscape is the result of constant war is a nod to the Noghri homeworld, as described in Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire. In that text, the planet was decimated by a massive battle between the Rebellion and the Empire. Here’s hoping that the appearance of the most memorable Noghri, Rukh, later this season delivers a steely punch.
Sabine Wren’s Complicated Family
Heroes of Mandalore brought Sabine’s family back to the forefront of Rebels, and we finally got to see what makes her family special. The most compelling part of Sabine’s family is the difference between her parents’ temperaments. Sabine’s father Alrich is more supportive of his daughter than is her mother, Ursa. We see that Alrich, the activist artist, nurtured Sabine’s gift for artwork — whereas Ursa, the warrior-countess and clan matriarch, was likely the parent who trained Sabine in combat. Alrich and Ursa’s subversion of gender roles is refreshing to watch, especially given the excessive prominence of fathers (and daddy issues) in Star Wars.
We wrote last season about how Sabine’s family situation holds a tremendous amount of potential for storytelling. Sabine and Ursa represent the first true mother-daughter relationship that we’ve seen in Star Wars — bolstered only recently by author Claudia Gray’s exploration of Leia Organa‘s relationship with her adoptive mother, Queen Breha Organa, in the YA novel Leia, Princess of Alderaan. Heroes of Mandalore adds a further layer of complexity to Sabine and her family by bringing Alrich into the picture, and he truly helps us learn more about her.
Sabine’s family saga symbolizes the stories that Star Wars needs more of. No child has a perfect relationship with their parent, and vice versa. Through Ursa and Alrich, we see how Sabine and her brother Tristan came to be the people they are.
This is the kind of lens that humanizes characters and makes them more complex — and above all, it’s damn good storytelling. (Now, if only we could figure out how in the whole wide galaxy Kylo Ren turned out the way he did.)
The Missing Heroes of Mandalore
One of the few shortcomings of Heroes of Mandalore was that it didn’t include all the characters that it should have. Heroes of Mandalore provided some closure to longtime fans of The Clone Wars, which originally included a series finale — left unproduced — that was set on Mandalore. Rebels alluded to that event when Fenn Rau recalled how the Jedi appointed Bo-Katan as the regent of Mandalore.
Yet, Bo-Katan had two other key allies during the siege of Mandalore: Captain Rex and Ahsoka Tano, both of whom have since made the jump to Rebels. Ahsoka has been beyond the purview of Rebels since her unresolved exit in the Season 2 finale, “Twilight of the Apprentice.” Still, it wouldn’t have been difficult for the series writers to work in a way for Bo-Katan to mention Ahsoka in dialogue. Especially because Bo-Katan crosses paths with Kanan and Ezra, who knew Ahsoka and worked alongside her!
As for Rex, his exclusion from Heroes of Mandalore felt like another botched opportunity. Sure, it would have been a bit fan-servicey for him to appear. But the writers could have tossed in a short scene with Rex recalling his time on Mandalore, and it would have provided the perfect setup for Kanan and Ezra to join Sabine on her journey to Mandalore.
Rex has really begun to feel like an underutilized character on Rebels. Why bring him back to Star Wars if he’s not serving a purpose? At least we’ll see more of Rex later this season — in addition to the recent confirmation that Ahsoka will be making another appearance, in some form…
#Kanera is Most Definitely Real, and We are Shipping Badly
— Star Wars (@starwars) October 19, 2017
You’d have to be a stormtrooper to miss this tidbit, but we’re including it anyway because of how it makes our fan hearts flutter. The conversation between Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla this episode continues Rebels’ tradition of strong, character-driven dialogue. Hera reveals a lot about the wider Rebellion as a nascent military force by reminding Kanan that they were allowed to help Sabine and the Mandalorians. Things have progressed far from stealing Meiloorun fruits to help feed the population of Lothal.
But what’s more interesting is Kanan’s overt hint at his romantic feelings for Hera. Their conversation about Sabine’s training in “Trials of the Darksaber” is some of the best Star Wars writing ever, and it solidified them as the Mommy and Daddy of this dysfunctional family (jury’s out on whether Chopper or Zeb is the family pet).
Previews for Season 4 showed Kanan and Hera embracing and obviously hinted at a romantic storyline for them. Their exchange this episode gets things moving quickly. It’s about time. People have been clambering for #Kanera since the very first episode of the series.
Of course, romance has never been easy in this galaxy. Anakin Skywalker went to the dark side to try to save Padmé, Han and Leia raised their own emo-Darth Vader, Obi-Wan had his beloved (Bo-Katan’s sister Satine) die in his arms, and Luke kissed his own sister; things could take a tragic turn. Go easy on us, Lucasfilm. We have our Star Wars–branded Kleenex boxes at the ready, but at least give us some joy before you rip our hearts out.
Will We See Bo-Katan Again in Star Wars Rebels?
That Heroes of Mandalore was almost entirely driven by female characters was an awesome development, particularly since most of the Mandalorians in positions of power — Sabine, her mother Ursa, and Bo-Katan Kryze — are women. What’s more, Sabine found an excellent mentor in Bo-Katan, who proved to be the perfect successor to the mantle of the Darksaber. The only downside is that given the amount of closure that Heroes of Mandalore brought to Bo-Katan’s story, it’s unclear whether we’ll get to see her again.
Bo-Katan would make a powerful ally for the Rebel Alliance, especially once she’s able to fully unite Mandalore and liberate it from the yoke of the Empire. But until that victory occurs, it’s unlikely that Bo-Katan will re-enter the scope of Rebels, as her attention will be directed elsewhere. We’ll just have to hope that Rebels isn’t done with Mandalore.
Rebels continues next Monday with an epic showdown of wits between rival rebel leaders Mon Mothma and Saw Gerrera, expanding on the ideological divide that Rogue One hinted between them. Catch “In the Name of the Rebellion,” and join us next week as we cast our votes on whether Mothma or Saw will win!