Star Wars Rebels had arguably its best episode of the entire series tonight, in an emotional episode that's almost entirely setup. There are no Imperials to fight, no advancement of Thrawn's plans, no immediate danger of death or impending doom. Instead, there's a huge amount of new (and old, added into the new) lore, and an emotional bit of backstory for one of the most mysterious members of the team, Sabine Wren. That adds up to one of the best episodes of the series, and one of the most essential stories for Star Wars fans.
First, there's the lore. You can see the details in the link just above this sentence, but a short recap here: We learn of the saber forms on screen for the first time, learn that the Jedi-Mandalore war (known as the Mandalorian Wars in the Legends universe courtesy of Knights of the Old Republic) happened in some form, we see those mysterious Force owls called Convorees watching Sabine's training, and even learn about how the Force connects a user to a lightsaber, and what makes it unique in its power. That's a ton of new lore, re-established lore, and excitement for fans. Fans will be picking this episode apart and discussing everything about it for weeks (which is good, because they have a four week wait until the next episode and second half of this story, sadly).
But while all that new lore is exciting and fun, even more impactful is the emotional side of the story. As we finally learn what drove Sabine out of the Imperial Academy, away from Mandalore and her family, and into the Rebellion, it is heartbreaking and real. The emotion in her voice, from voice actress Tiya Sircar, and on her face from the talented Lucasfilm Animation team is absolutely palpable. Her family betrayed and left her behind, not the other way around, and she fights so strongly, so passionately, to save them, all her people, and everyone everywhere. She also mentioned that she helped the Empire develop weapons - which they turned on her own people. That's a common theme in the Star Wars mythos, whether you look at Geonosis, or Galen Erso, or even the way the Clone and Droid Armies were manipulated into created an artificial war within the galaxy.
Nearly equal to Sabine's pain is Kanan, voiced by Freddie Prinze, Jr. Despite the balance he's begun to find over the course of this season since his blinding at the hands of Maul, he loses control a bit with Sabine, yelling at her about the importance of what they're doing and pushing her, knowing she has to break through her issues in order to come out ahead. There's so much pain and sadness in his voice - almost like he's already lost this crew; Kanan so clearly fears (yes, that's the dark side talking) seeing these people, these individuals, die, the way he did his master and his friends when the Clones turned on the Jedi under Order 66. He wants to push them, he wants them to get better, he wants them to survive.
When Star Wars makes you laugh, you love it for bringing immediate joy and telling you it's okay to smile in the face of extreme peril. But when Star Wars makes you cry, it lets you confront those harder times and those deeper feelings. It tells you that these characters are closer to you than you think, despite the occasional super power, jet pack, or laser sword. It tells you that Star Wars is yours, and it's when it's at its best.
Star Wars Rebels returns February 18, 2017 with another all-new episode focusing on Sabine, the darksaber, and Mandalore. We can't wait.
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