The Mandalorians Are Back
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
After a bit of a rough patch with the fairly disappointing appearance of the famed Princess Leia, Star Wars Rebels hit a home run with an episode pitting Sabine and Kanan together against a foe whose allegiance was decidedly murky until he opened fire and injured Hera. The Protector of Concord Dawn, titled after the planet all diehard Star Wars fans know as the birthplace of Boba Fett, is a sublime episode of Rebels and especially since it doubles as the series’s high mark for Sabine. Sabine for the longest time felt like the crew member most lacking in character development (outside of Zeb, perhaps, and the occasionally homicidal Chopper). The same certainly couldn’t be said for Kanan and it was precisely due to the nature of this dichotomy that the Sabine-centric Blood Sisters turned out to be such a massive disappointment. The cool punk artist who liked to use a plethora of explosives oozed a mysterious enigma in her first appearances but soon became a cipher while other characters around her became more complex. That cipher broke this episode, in large part due to the writers actually paying active attention to the ideals of character development from a well that is one of the most enriching in the galaxy (if you haven’t checked out the Mandalorian tales from Star Wars, and especially their appearances on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, you should do so). Sabine’s Mandalorian and Imperial past is a natural hub for conflict and it coming into that conflict with Kanan’s own past as a Jedi works tremendously well.
Concord Dawn’s relationship with the Empire was an interesting note to open the episode on and a positive harbinger for the rest of the episode that would follow. The full reach of the Empire is never truly established in the visual canon and it makes natural sense that the Imperial reach wouldn’t be found in every corner of the entire universe. The Mandalorians occupying that niche yet having to deal with an Imperial occupation anyhow is a complex bit of galactic geopolitics that grounds the episode while presenting an underlying complexity to the actions of Fenn Rau. Rau as the leader of this group of Mandalorians is a neat antagonist for Sabine and his capture presents a quandary for the rebels as they go forward. The rebels have prided themselves on having a moral code that is superior to that of the Empire (which, to be fair, is a fairly low bar), but it is a moral code that the team shares as a whole on the surface. Fenn Rau’s capture is a balance between death and complete mercy, but his imprisonment also drives a crack into that moral code the rebels espouse. How long do they keep Rau in prison? At what point do they let him go? And how, after this terrific episode, can Rau’s loyalty be kept in check? These are questions the show might not ever return to, but they are questions the rebels ought to contend with in their quest to defeat the vile Empire.
The opening dogfight sequence is delightful in its execution and a solid foundation for the rage Sabine feels. The sight of an injured Hera was a solemn one and it’s a sight that hits Sabine hard, tackling her love for Hera and the guilt she feels at the attacker being a Mandalorian. Sabine’s ways have always been a bit rogueish in comparison to her team members but here they’re sharpened and focused as a rebuttal to the ways of the Jedi Kanan has espoused throughout his life. In Sabine’s perspective, the Jedi philosophy is something that simply doesn’t work for everyone. In her mind that is a nice, almost naive sentiment to behold that negates the complexities that exist in the real world, for lack of a better phrase. Her past, her Mandalorian heritage, and her training within the walls of the Imperial Academy all suggest a cynicism towards that perspective and it becomes quite difficult to refute her outright. Kanan’s Jedi beliefs counter Sabine’s cynicism with a cynicism rooted instead in a belief that if everyone followed the Jedi path, then war wouldn’t exist. He’s savvy enough to understand that the galaxy doesn’t function like that, no matter what time or era or government in charge and that understanding has embittered and frustrated him in equal measure. Nevertheless, he tries to take the calm and measured path in his meeting with the Mandalorians while Sabine uses her heritage to bring forth a more forceful concentration. It’s a clash that gives rise to on organic meeting of the middle, fueled intensely by complexity of characterizations enlightened by how cleverly the writers brought forth parallel character arcs from two starkly contrasting perspectives. The Ghost team is close knit, there is no doubt, but when each characters stands out on their own while remaining an organic part of the whole, that’s when Rebels shines.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“They like to make up their own rules.”
+“People don’t need a reason to pick a fight.”
+“This Jedi Philosophy thing doesn’t work for everyone.”
“That’s why we’re at war.”
+“You always bring enough explosives.”
+“Alone is who we are.”
+“He’s already the enemy.”
+“I’m not planning on dying.”
+“I hear we’re taking prisoners now.”
+“There’s no need to take their lives if we don’t need to.”
-Awkward title logo card placement
Episode Title: The Protector of Concord Dawn
Written by: Henry Gilroy & Kevin Hopps
Directed by: Brad Rau
Image Courtesy: Dark Side of the Force