Sunday, January 22, 2017

Star Wars Rebels S3E14 Trials of the Darksaber Recap/Review (Spoilers!): Well Done Character Development

Trials of the Darksaber, the fourteenth episode for Season three of Star Wars Rebels, is focused on Sabine. The crew want Sabine to learn how to wield the Darksaber to try and unite Mandalore behind her to join the Rebellion. Sabine from the start of the episode has mixed feelings on trying to achieve this. No reason as to why she joined the Rebel crew has ever been given, but there was a falling out with her family when she left the Imperial Academy. The only reason Sabine is entertaining the thought of trying to go back to Mandalore is because Hera and the other members of the crew ask her to do it. This interaction at the start of the episode is highly dramatic and impactful, and set the stage for the entire episode.

Trials of the Darksaber is one of the most dramatic episodes the series has ever attempted, and it succeeds on almost every level. There is an insane amount of content packed into the short twenty-two-minute episode. The story of the first Jedi Mandalorian who made the Darksaber started the episode off with some fantastically integrated exposition. The 2D animation used to explore this brief story was well done and flowed within the show. This brief story setup the conference between Sabine and the rest of the crew, and there is an immediate tension. Sabine does not want anything to do with Mandalore or trying to unite them behind her. She will try because it is needed, but her heart is not in the effort.

The episode doesn’t have much action, but it doesn’t need any due to the content of the story. The entire episode is out in the desert of the planet with Sabine being trained by Kanan and Ezra. The entire dynamic of how her training progresses is built perfectly.  The struggle Kanan goes through about how to effectively train her is told and explored extremely well. Every action he takes with Sabine is explained and explored as to why he wants to proceed a certain way. Kanan is having to walk a delicate line with her training and he doesn’t know if he doing it the best way. He second guesses his actions, and realizes when he makes a mistake by not allowing her to train with the actual Darksaber. Once he does the ensuing bout between them is emotional and powerful. The episode builds to the dramatic reveal of why Sabine left Mandalore and how she feels betrayed by her parents and people. Her reveal is emotional and Tiya Sircar, who voices Sabine, does a masterful job in her performance. The emotion of the last fight can truly be felt, and for an animated series geared for kids this is impressive.

This was an episode more geared for adults who watch the show. It has a few moments for the younger audience, but overall if you are an older viewer the character driven episode had more impact. The only small complaint I had with Trials of the Darksaber where the interactions with Ezra and how whiney he became at a few points during the episode. His teenage angst felt misplaced in this story. Ezra did have one fantastic moment when bringing up his parents, but a few other times he didn’t add anything of value to the episode.  His presence and jokes may have been the only thing tying in the younger audience, so I understand his need to be there, it just didn’t mesh as well with the overall tone.

The episode set up a short series arc. The next episode will follow up this story and can be viewed as a long two-part story the way The Clone Wars show used to do. Trials of the Darksaber was the first act in hopefully a fantastic two or three-part arc which will draw the Mandalorians into the conflict with the Empire. There were also hints of Sabine being force sensitive in the episode. The Bendu made a brief appearance and knowing glance at Sabine. I’m hoping she isn’t force sensitive, but there does seem to be more people in Star Wars who could be “force aware”. For example, Chirrut Imwe from Rogue One, or Jyn Erso’s mom from Catalyst. They are aware of the force and can feel it, but not necessarily control it. Sabine could help confirm this type of individual in the Star Wars Universe.

Comment and let me know what you thought about Sabine and the character arc in this episode. Did you find any major problems with it? 

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