“What happened to your real family?” Ezra asked Sabine way back in the first episode of the series. Sabine’s response was short and simple. “The Empire,” she said, averting his gaze and changing the topic soon after to focus on him. From the beginning, Sabine established herself to be the type of person who would keep to herself. She’s not one to talk about her emotions or her past. She also doesn’t place her trust so easily in others. Hence, the conflict she and Hera had back in season one when it came to Fulcrum’s identity, and even prior to that, when she first joined the Ghost crew. Sabine’s story has been gradually building over the course of the past seasons, and it’s because of her reluctance in facing her inner demons that we had such a powerful and emotional result in “Trials of the Darksaber.” An incredibly well-written episode by Dave Filoni with outstanding performances from Tiya Sircar, Freddie Prinze, Jr., Vanessa Marshall, and Taylor Gray, it’s no wonder why fans have been calling this the best Star Wars Rebels episode of the series.
In the episode, Sabine reluctantly agrees to wield the darksaber, an ancient Mandalorian weapon with its own past. One of my favorite moments is when Fenn Rau narrates the story of how the darksaber came to be and what it symbolizes in relation to Sabine and House Vizsla. It only lasted a few seconds, but it was so spectacularly done, I’m still in awe. I also can’t help but point out the fact that if Ezra had not made the deal with Maul to go to Dathomir in “Visions and Voices,” the darksaber would not have fallen into Sabine’s possession, and therefore, we wouldn’t have gotten one of the most compelling and relatable performances in Star Wars storytelling. It is because of this saber and the responsibility and consequences that come with it as well as what’s being asked of her that Sabine has no choice but to face the truth of her past in a raw and real way. Once again, I’m impressed by how everything is so well-connected and how things throughout the story are done with a purpose in mind.
Something else I also realized is that in accepting the role and power that comes with the darksaber, Sabine is also risking the one thing she truly cares about: her Ghost crew family. The drawing in her room reinforces that. In taking up the sword, she’s potentially pulling herself away from the people she’s come to trust and love as well as the Rebel cause to which she’s dedicated herself in order to focus on something else, specifically unifying the Mandalorian clans. So in addition to not wanting to face the Mandalorian family who abandoned and rejected her, she also doesn’t want to be put in the position where her newfound family might do the same or that she might lose them in the process. Thankfully, Sabine has an amazing support system in Kanan, Hera, and Ezra.
Speaking of which, I’m so pleased that Kanan sought advice from Hera and not the Bendu. Hera knows what Sabine is going through due to personal experiences with her own family. She was correct in telling Kanan that it’s not about him and his concerns as a mentor figure. This episode is about Sabine coming to terms with the truth she’s kept hidden not just from them but from herself. I love that along the way, Ezra is there to help train her, something he is eager to do and falling naturally into the role of a student-teacher. It was interesting to see them take a more brother-sister role in this episode, with Ezra being more “annoying” but also supportive in a brotherly kind of way. (For the shippers out there, that is just one interpretation. Feel free to continue shipping Sabezra—I know I will!) As for the three convor birds that watched over them, I like to think they represent Kanan, Hera, and Ezra—three different mentors and cornerstones that helped her own who she is meant to be.
The person who exceeded expectations in this episode was none other than Tiya Sircar. She poured so much emotion into her voiceover work that it informed the animation, enhanced the performances of everyone else in the cast, and brought many viewers to tears. That said, there were fans in the community who found Sabine to be too perfect and flawless at everything she did. This episode, however, helped define her character more and challenged her in ways that showed the audience that she is a product of betrayal, rejection, and disloyalty, making her more identifiable and relatable than the rest. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a loving and supportive family, but not many can say the same. Sabine’s stirring reveal and the series of emotions she experienced changed opinions of her and that, once again, demonstrates the power of storytelling and how it has the ability to move people and shape thoughts. This episode is a perfect example of that power.
From the 2D animated story to the superb fighting choreography, this episode excels on every level. Filoni did a fantastic job at accurately capturing the characterizations of these protagonists, making it easy for viewers to understand where each character was coming from. A lot of us will be surprised if this episode goes unnoticed by the industry because it deserves several nominations. I am excited and eager to watch the follow-up to this emotional journey, but until then, I’ll just keep watching this particular episode over and over!
Make sure to visit the episode guide and tune into the next all-new episode on Saturday, February 18, 2017, at 8:30PM EST on Disney XD.
Also, stop by later this week for a new podcast episode from Rebels Chat.
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