Trials of the Darksaber

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What did you think of the Plot?
BEAVeR: Rebels is like a box of chocolates: you never know which one you’re gonna get. One week, you’re watching a pretty bad episode, the next week you’re recovering from one of the best ones you’ve seen. When starting to watch, I certainly didn’t expect this to be one of the few episodes I needed to see twice in order to fully absorb it. But that’s what it was. It’s an episode which feels important without something like the Rebel base being in danger happening. It was exhilarating without big battles raging. It was emotional without anyone dying. That’s because there are not fancy locations, vehicles, gags or quests that distract. It’s just people being people. It is one of the rare episodes with enough confidence in itself and its viewers not to throw anything extra at us, supposedly to make it more interesting.  Am I glad they abandoned the idea of using the previous episode as a subplot of this one! Instead, everything that happened was an integral part of the character arc which made for an intense and layered episode. You can summarize the plot of this episode in one sentence, but the brilliant execution makes you go on and on about the story it told. Sabine really did get a compensation for all of “her” previous episodes that were mediocre at best by getting one of the best episodes in the show.
Oky: You’d think that an episode like this would be a pretty boring one considering that it consists entirely of a training montage. However, what we got instead was an emotional roller coaster ride! It starts off with some Mandalorian lore (some manda-lore if you will :grin:) that explains the backstory of the Darksaber using some very cool stylized 2D animation. It turns out the Darksaber is more important to the Mandalorians than any of us realized which explains why Sabine didn’t want to leave it in the Nightsisters lair, even though it turns out she didn’t want anything to do with it herself. The idea to use this symbol of power to raise an army of Mandalorians for the rebels and have Sabine lead it since she is the rightful owner of the saber made sense and set up the plot for this arc nicely. The rest of the episode is mostly just Kanan and Ezra teaching Sabine how to use a lightsaber, so aside from the setup there’s not much plot here, but we didn’t really need any more since the episode focused more on Sabine’s character and backstory which we will talk about next.

What are your thoughts on the Characters?
BEAVeR: I love how every shot in this episode tells about Sabine’s character. The weighty introduction of the Darksaber is instantly contrasted with her colorful art. It makes it very understandable she is so reluctant to go to the meeting. You see her alone, sad, introspective, and then you suddenly have that angry attitude when she walks into the room. The few moments of setup immediately make us more understanding of her situation instead of doing her anger away as “just a teen thing” and makes us see the vulnerability in that anger. It gives you a first hint of the duality of her character. It continues in her training: you feel she isn’t necessarily angry with Kanan and Ezra, but with herself because she can’t find a way to deal with her emotions. In her lonely conversation with Ezra she’s angry, but sad immediately afterwards because she hurt him. There are some complex emotions going on, but the episode helps us wonderfully in understanding them through a number of means. The acting, animation and music are quite obvious elements that were executed masterfully. But there’s also the symbolism of the actions and objects. Handling the Darksaber is literally equivalent to handling her past for Sabine. With anger towards it, she becomes unstable. But looking back at it through the right lens makes her stronger. In the climax of the episode, it becomes clear she’s so strong because she cares so much, even though others don’t except her caring for them. This was a surprising and touching reveal towards her character, putting everything from her art to her strong attachment to the Ghost crew in perspective. We get to see her as a unique character: the stubornness and pride of a Mandalorian driven by the ideals worthy of those of a Jedi. It’s such a striking portrait that in the end you as a viewer want to kneel together with Kanan, Fenn and Ezra before Sabine, because she’s truly a remarkable person capable of greatness.
Oky: So after giving us nothing but little hints and tidbits of information about Sabine here and there throughout the show until now, we finally get a full explanation of how she went from attending the Imperial Academy to leaving her home and family behind to join the Rebellion in what is easily one of the most emotional scenes in this show to date. Her struggle in this episode was very relatable and executed realistically. She acts just like a rebellious teenager would when faced with difficult tasks and overwhelming responsibilities, and I think we have all been there at some point in our lives. She gets defensive and frustrated easily and does childish things like kicking rocks (and Bendu) and it was clever how Kanan used that to push her buttons and get her to finally open up and face her demons. Kanan had a bit of an arc himself as he was trying to find a way to reach Sabine, showing that he is still struggling to become a good teacher. It is very fitting that it was Hera who convinced Sabine to get over her family issues in order to recruit them for the rebellion since Hera has had to do the very same thing. I also like how Fenn Rau has become a father figure of sorts for Sabine, being the only one on the team who is of the same race as her and understands the Mandalorian ways. Good character development all around.

What is your opinion of the vehicles and locations?
BEAVeR: The vehicles and locations in this episode were great! With that I mean that the absence of new stuff was only fitting for an episode that went to the core of things instead of nice but superficial stuff. New Mandalorian bracelets were introduced for Sabine, but these only helped the narrative move forward. So all in all, this episode had a refreshing amount of restraint to it.
Oky: There wasn’t too much new in this episode which makes sense considering most of it takes place in the desert, although the paintings in Sabine’s room were new. The colorful art is a symbolic representation of the immature, carefree life that she has made for herself to escape her past and responsibilities, so when she is forced to leave this room to go to the meeting and out to the desert to train with the Darksaber, she not only leaves her paintings behind, but also that irresponsible part of her life. Also, having the lightsaber training take place in an open area in the wilderness made it feel a bit like a samurai movie which is fitting considering that Star Wars has always been partly inspired by Kurosawa films. The Mandalorian vambraces that Rau gave to Sabine were new as well and although it features most of the Mandalorian weapons that we have come to know already, it also had some cool new features such as the grappling line which was used to good effect during her practice fight with Kanan.

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BEAVeR’s rating: 5/5 – To me this is easily the best non-finale type of episode in Rebels, executing a character centric story to near perfection. Maybe Ezra’s role was a little bit underplayed or the appearance of the Bendu a bit too fan servicey, but they’d have to come with much worse to bring down an episode with such genuine feeling and wisdom. It’s remarkable that an episode without ships and blasters is one of the episodes that feel most like Star Wars. And feel most like life.

Oky’s Rating: 5/5 – At first, I was a bit disappointed by the lack of action in this episode, but after thinking it over, I really don’t think it needed it. This episode may have been light on action, but it was rich in heart and character development. It’s a much more personal episode where the battle isn’t fought with lasers and starships, but within the characters themselves which makes it all the more relatable, and there is something to be said for an episode that is this emotionally investing without having the survival of entire planets on the line. And considering that the makers of the show were originally going to combine this episode with the disappointing episode “Warhead” in order to interject some action and comedy into this story, I’m very glad that they decided against it and split them into separate stories. So instead of just a training montage interspersed with unfunny shenanigans, this was an impactful, character-centric journey and I can’t wait to see where Sabine goes from here!

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