If I had to use one word to describe this episode, it would be: “YAAAAAAAAAAAAS.” Sabine gets the chance to shine bright like the diamond that she is in this episode, the Mandalorians are fascinating and deadly, the rickety old Separatist shuttle (now dubbed Phantom II) is amazing, even Chopper gets some moments to shine. The only bad thing about this episode was Ezra.
Why is Ezra Becoming Useless?
Alas, poor Ezra. Ever since the start of this Season he has been handed increasingly heavy idiot-balls or been blamed for circumstances outside his control. Whereas Ahsoka became more endearing as The Clone Wars progressed, Rebels seems to be doing the opposite for its Padawan character. For one, Ezra starts the episode by stupidly letting his guard down around Fen Rau, a very dangerous and valuable prisoner for the rebels. The rest of the episode features him being almost completely useless. He is captured right off the bat, and when he and Sabine are attempting to escape the Imperial Supercommandos Sabine has to tell him, a Jedi in training who previously defined himself by his combat abilities, to use his lightsaber to aid in their escape. If this is supposed to be some kind of character development, showing how Ezra is becoming a more spiritual Jedi, it was botched terribly. That said, it was the only negative part of the episode.
Sabine And Her Heritage
Despite all her armor, previous seasons of Rebels showed Sabine as more inclined to leave her past behind, including all her Mandalorian culture. Her arrival on Concord Dawn in Season 2 showcased her using her culture as a means to an end, invoking the code as a way to escape her capture, and forcing Fen Rau and his Protectors to submit to the rebels.
We get scant hints of what has happened to Mandalore since the end of the Clone Wars, but it seems that Sabine’s family was deeply involved with Death Watch. Considering that Death Watch was the organization that orchestrated a coup which lead to a disastrous three-way civil war and a Republic occupation, it is easy to see why Sabine might want to distance herself from that.
I find Sabine’s struggle with identity to be quite personal for me. I come from the Deep South of America, and we are best known for being ignorant, racist, sexist, homophobic hicks that fly the stars and bars from our homes and cars. These southern states have a long history with slavery and all the aforementioned problems, as evidenced by certain political movements that have been wildly popular here. For all this, the South still has a rich and oftentimes beautiful culture and there is much to be proud of as well.
There is a long and celebrated history of capable generals who come from the South, delicious foods that were invented here, and most of American pop-music is derived in some way from the South. I acknowledge this controversial legacy and I do not excuse it, but I can still be proud of who I am and the culture I am a part of.
The same holds true for Sabine, and we can see her come to terms with that in this episode. Yes, Clan Wren was affiliated with Death Watch, and yes Death Watch committed numerous atrocities, but Mandalore has a rich and beautiful history. Sabine still wears her armor, and more importantly she adheres to the strict Mandalorian code of honor. She is loyal to what she considers to be the true monarch of Mandalore, and not to the Empire. This loyalty to the deeper values of what it is to be Mandalorian is not lost on Fenn Rau, and he is duly impressed with her. It is good to see this addressed in a TV show for young children.
The handling of Mandalore as whole was beautiful in this episode. Star Wars on the whole has a tendency to make planets into monoliths. For example, all of Hoth and all of Tatooine are portrayed as deserts. Endor IX and Yavin IV are woodland-covered moons; Endor IX is even called ‘The Forest Moon,” implying that the whole planet is covered in a forest (note that Endor is the gas-giant that the moon orbits, hence the numeral after it). Even worse is the portrayal of whole planetary cultures as monoliths.
Our own little rocky world is home to about 300 countries (depending on which countries you call legitimate) and each one of those countries hosts hundreds of unique cultures, many of which speak their own languages or dialects of languages. 85% of the world speaks 100 separate languages. The remaining 15% speak any one of the 6,809 other languages used, and Earth only has one sentient species that we know of.
Before this, the closest to multicultural planets we got before this was Naboo, which hosted the Gungans (the native species who are portrayed as a monolith) and the Naboo (humans who settled there and drove out the native Gungans), and Tatooine, which which hosted the Tuskens (natives portrayed as savages) and the humans (who settled and live in fear of the Tuskens). In both cases there are only two ethnic groups for an entire planet, and of these only the Tuskens speak a different language. Now I know that Star Wars is science-fantasy and that these planets are supposed to represent countries, but I still think it is a bit bogus that even in the far future planets could consider themselves to be completely united.
Mandalore, however, seems to edge closer to a “realistic” planet. The Clone Wars showed Mandalore as existing in a tenuous peace even before the outbreak of the Clone Wars; Obi-Wan Kenobi and Satine Kryze met because a rival clan was attempting to assassinate Satine and she needed Jedi protection. Once she came to power the problems continued, as shown by the strength of Death Watch. Even within her own faction, Kryze was forced to reckon with disloyal ministers. Once Maul overthrew both the Duchess and Vizsla, Death Watch itself split into factions: those loyal to Maul and those loyal to Bo-Katan.
It can also be assumed that there was a third faction that was loyal to the Republic once the Siege of Mandalore began. This faction linked up with the Empire after the Palpatine’s rise to power, and it rules Mandalore in the name of the Empire. Now in Rebels there is yet another faction introduced: The Protectors under Fen Rau, who also fought alongside the Republic in the Clone Wars.
The lore and history of the Mandalorians even more fleshed out as well. Mandalore itself is an irradiated wasteland, the product of thousands of years of infighting on the planet itself. Condord Dawn is split almost in half and orbited by a debris field of the other half. Sabine implies that all of this damage was done in the course of mandalorian wars. Terrifying, yes, but also very realistic. It seems a miracle that Mandalorians made it this long at all, as they seem quite keen to destroy themselves. In the aftermath of the Expanded Universe’ discontinuation, I worried that Mandalore would be handled poorly, but it now has grown into a new mold that is just as wonderful as it was before.
Episode Rating: 8, Inspiring: Any shortcomings are nothing but small dots on an otherwise perfect painting. Despite some minor issues, it’s on par with some of the best. I could definitely watch it more than once (or twice).
Favorite Fanservice Moment: Gar Saxon returns from the Son of Dathomir comics. It was a wonderful touch to include him.
This episode, in my opinion, is very okay. In comparison to the excellent Hera’s Heroes and the nostalgia candy of The Last Battle, Imperial Supercommandos is very okay. The story hits standard beats, with a climactic battle, and an easily foreseeable heel face turn. This beats were hit well, but it didn’t quite blow me away.
Reflections on the Season and Sabine’s Perceived Opacity
The first half of this season has been very focused on nostalgia and the Star Wars universe. I understand why. With a topic like Star Wars, nostalgia is almost inescapable. But I’m starting to yearn for more episodes furthering the Rebel’s plot line. While this episode did a lot to build up Sabine’s future, it still felt very rooted in the past of Madalore and Madalorians. In a way it’s a lot like Hera’s Heroes. Yet I have trouble getting into Sabine’s plot line. In comparison to Zeb, Hera, or even Chopper, I still know so little about her, that it’s hard for me to sympathize with her story. This has been a problem for me since Season 1. In fact, I think the biggest problem of this episode is my inability to care about Sabine or her story. Its sound callous to say, but I have a hard time relating and enjoying Sabine. Because she is so opaque, it’s hard for me to really connect to her story.
Sabine Acting on Her Principles
The theme of this episode concerned duty and how one identifies with one’s culture. Since Sabine and Fenn Rau are how this theme is explored, how one feels about Sabine and Fenn will affect their viewing of it. Even though I have my issues with her, the way this show handled the theme was a bit effective.
Fenn and even Gar Saxon has issues with Sabine abandoning her people to join the rebels. She went against her entire family, a family that’s allied itself with the empire, to fight against the Empire. Sabine views her service to the Rebel Alliance as an expression of her Mandalorian values. She hates what the Empire’s done and what it’s done to Mandalore. Her mission with the Rebels is an expression to restore Madalore, not abandon it.
Ultimately Fenn comes to respect Sabine and her fight against the Empire. She inspires him so much that he pledges himself to join the rebellion, not as a disgruntled grumpy guest, but as an ally to the Rebellion.
Something I will give this episode credit for is it’s fight choreography and staging. From jetpacks, simple escapes, to sneaking around and doing stuff, this episode put a lot of work into its fight scenes. Most of them revolved around Sabine. There were blasters, and clever diversions. It was a clever escalation from
Thoughts on Episode Apathy and the Nature of Reviews
As ‘meh’ as I feel about this episode. Despite my respect what it’s trying to do for the Star Wars canon, I can’t find much excitement or interesting things to say about this episode. (In comparison to Zach.) It did everything safely and nothing stood out to me as much as Hera’s Heroes(which deserved so much more than my meager review), or the Holocrons of Fate, or even The Last Battle. Yet I find Zach has so much more to say.
I suppose this is how fans react differently to an episode or story. I feel apathetic to Mandalore, yet Zach has a clear and distinct passion. It’d be easy to be pedantic and focus on why we have these differing views; Zach connecting to Sabine more easily, my disappointment after the last few episodes, there is an endless amount of reasons one could point to. In conclusion it only goes to show how people have different opinions, and how reviews like these help us explain ourselves and our differing viewpoints. Everyone is their own PoV.
Episode Rating: 5, Average: It was not bad, it was not good, it was just mediocre. Will leave the viewer feeling ambivalent. The Bendu rating.
Favorite Fanservice Moment: Sabine’s Jetpack. It was cool.