A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The most complex dynamic of Star Wars Rebels, at least on paper, is that the crew of the Ghost is written and displayed as more of a family than a group of friends. That sounds quite trite in a sense, especially when one considers that this is a series about an underdog rebellion group fighting a massive, evil Empire. However, there is a considerable amount of tension in a familial paradigm, as anyone who goes to a tense Thanksgiving dinner (especially after this past election) can tell you. The Ghost crew isn’t a blood-tied familial unit, which isn’t a marker on whether blood relationships or ones forged without that connection are stronger (I do not believe there’s a universal truth to that question, to be honest). They’re a patchwork familial unit, one that came together under a variety of intense circumstances at random junctures. The paradigm of that familial unit is inherently going to be different, with its own advantages and disadvantages. The relationships of support and clashes themselves are going to be of a different nature. The show was always content to display the familial dynamics with the crew but it never seemed ready to acknowledge the clashes within that dynamic outside of the individual relationship skirmishes that have occurred at various junctures. The decision to eschew those specific dynamics up until this specific episode seemed to be an indication that the show simply didn’t care to go to that point, which simultaneously felt disappointing and unsurprising. That decision to eschew a more thorough examination of the patchwork Ghost crew is especially surprising after an episode like this one. In “Trials of the Darksaber,” everyone who is relevant to the script (sorry, Zeb) gets a moment of a sharp emotional examination and the episode is mature enough to be able to understand that in this context, everyone is hurting and one character’s distress isn’t necessarily more valid than another’s.
The most egregious error of the show to date is arguably the lack of consistency in characterizations. Sabine often decks it out with Zeb for the dubious honor of lacking the most proper character development and even though the show has made attempts at addressing that disparity, it’s only really succeeded once at a Sabine-centric story. That next week’s installment looks to directly follow up on this narrative is an exciting prospect, going against the show’s usual paradigm of ignoring at times what ought to be the correct follow-up to create a sense of a smoothly unfolding story structure. “Trials of the Darksaber” provides ample narrative fodder for an immediate follow-up, however, in ways that previous episodes of Rebels necessarily haven’t. The episode begins with a neat animation sequence that highlights the history of the Darksaber, how it was crafted by the first Mandalorian who ever stepped foot inside the Jedi Temple. The Mandalorians went and retrieved it from the temple after his death and now if Sabine so desired, she could use her family heirloom to unite the Vizsla clan and possibly have them join the Rebels. What exactly transpired between Sabine and her family remains a little in the dark, although Sabine lets it loose that she was involved in some weapons development and that she turned her family away to keep them safe. It’s to the episode’s credit that Sabine’s pain feels so genuine and understandable even if the exact circumstances around it are yet to be properly clarified. She acquiesces and trains with Kanan, but that doesn’t make the internal conflict within her feel any less weighted, any more resolvable. That’s mature screenwriting, one that gives weight to its character’s emotional turmoil without offering an easy way out.
Dave Filoni’s script, arguably one of the best scripts he’s written for the Star Wars universe, is notable in that it doesn’t give anyone a particularly easy way out. When Hera asks Sabine to reach out to her family, she knows the gravity of what that means but her responsibilities as a leader of the Rebellion in that moment are more important than her responsibilities towards Sabine. Sabine’s turmoil at reaching back to her family clash with Ezra’s quite reminder that his birth family no longer exists and that it’s a privilege in a sense for Sabine to even have a family to go back to. Without the crew of the Ghost, Ezra doesn’t have a home to go back to, only smoldering ruins on Lothal. Kanan’s growing frustrations as a Jedi Master who never garnered the chance to become a Jedi in the traditional sense come to a clash with Sabine’s frustrations as he trains her on how to handle the Darksaber. Sabine rightfully calls him out on his lack of ability to teach properly as he constantly allows his own emotional turmoil to seep into his teachings the same way a Jedi’s spirit seeps into the energy of the lightsaber. It’s the same weakness that has loosened his grip on Ezra’s journey as an apprentice, but he manages to catch himself in understanding that Sabine doesn’t deserve to bear the brunt of his own insecurities. At the end of Sabine’s trials, she’s conflicted but as ready as she could really be under the circumstances to chart her journey forth into uncertain waters. “Trials of the Darksaber” makers that character arc feel earned and substantial. When one remembers that it happened in about fifteen minutes, it’s all the more impressive.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“Remember how hard it was for her to trust us?”
+“I know you don’t, but this isn’t about you.”
+The addition to the lightsaber lore was impressive.
Episode Title: Trials of the Darksaber
Written by: Dave Filoni
Directed by: Steward Lee
Image Courtesy: Screen Rant
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