Trials of the Darksaber: Rebels Season 3 Episode 14 Review

Trials of the Darksaber:

Sabine reluctantly agrees to attempt to use the Darksaber to reunite her people, a powerful family of Mandalorians. Kanan, Hera, and the others know it is a difficult and dangerous goal. However, an army of Mandalorians could turn the tide in the Rebellion. Is Sabine equipped to handle the task?

What Worked

The Weight on Sabine’s Shoulders

Our first view of Sabine shows her sitting up sulking in her bunk. No one has asked her to wield the Darksaber as a leader yet, but she knows it is coming. Her head is down, and her shoulders are slumped. It appears an invisible burden is weighing her down.

Her physical appearance is juxtaposed against her art in the room, especially the cartoonish drawing over her bed. It is a scene of the Ghost crew, cutely drawn with every member smiling, save Chopper. Sabine’s hair is blue, Ezra’s hair is short, and Kanan is not yet blind. It is a reminder that simpler, happy times are gone.

There is also a gentleness to Sabine. Chopper arrives to tell her everyone else needs to see her. He does so in a surprisingly sympathetic tone. As she passes him, her fingers gently trace the top of his dome in an affectionate manner. The music is soft and soothing, and it seems to be culturally specific to the Mandalorians. The message is that even though Sabine and the Mandalorians are ferocious warriors, they do have sensitive sides.

This beginning increases the impact of the resolution. Sabine’s conflict is from within and is based on how she feels her family views her. As she unburdens herself during a practice duel with Kanan, it is clear that she no longer will allow that weight to bring her down.

Sabine gains confidence as she faces inner turmoil.

Kanan’s Fatherly Affection for Sabine

Kanan shows his paternal protection of Sabine. When she agrees to wield the Darksaber, she reaches out to take it while at the same time she half jokingly threatens to kick Ezra’s butt. Kanan holds firm to the blade until Sabine takes a more solemn tone. He wants her to think soberly about the consequences of her decision before she agrees and not do it just because everyone else wants her to.

The relationship is reinforced when Kanan trains Sabine. He says he doesn’t want her to use the saber until she has practiced with wooden swords. Kanan states if he lets her use the real Darksaber, she will get hurt. Deep down, Kanan knows once Sabine goes public with the Darksaber, she will become a target. This gambit could cost Sabine very dearly, maybe even at the price of her life.

Hera’s Motherly Affection for Sabine

Hera’s relationship with Sabine as well as Kanan highlights the nuances of a greatly written episode. Hera shows the same concern about Sabine undertaking this quest, yet she knows she must ask Sabine to do it. She understands how Sabine’s relationship with her family clouds her judgment. She uses this understanding to offer comfort to Sabine but also to goad Kanan into helping Sabine defeat her demons by letting her practice with the actual Darksaber. It is another example of how Kanan and Hera trust each other enough to speak very frankly. Theirs is a relationship deeper than the other crew members of the Ghost.

Force Imagery

Images of creatures related the Force, specifically the Convor Bird and the Bendu, are used beautifully in the episode. Both are mysterious. We know the Bendu is between the dark and the light, and the interpretation of the Convor Bird is still up for debate. Neither creature speaks or interacts with Sabine in this episode. They just observe. Based on comments from Kanan, maybe they are waiting to see if Sabine will open herself up to the Force as she trains. What does it mean that she has the image of a Convor Bird drawn on the shoulder of her armor.

Visuals and Music

All I can say is that the music did an incredible job evoking emotions during the episode. The aforementioned scene of Sabine being called to the meeting where she knows she will be asked to become a leader of a clan is just one example. It exudes a melancholy similar to memories we each have of an event or a time when we first realized we were leaving childhood forever.

The music works the same way in a later scene after training is going badly. Sabine does her best Luke Skywalker impression as looks longingly at the sunset. However, unlike Luke,she does not seem to be regretting the future events she will be missing. She seems to be dreading the future events she must take part in. Her discussion with Ezra about her family during this sunset makes the audience feel sorrow for both characters.

Sabine watches the sunset as she dreads the future.

Even after the great music during these two scenes, it gets even better in the final scene. It starts off gloomy as Sabine and Kanan make peace with one another. Then the drums kick in as a real tribal feel takes hold as Sabine uses the Darksaber for the first time. The music tries to build, but it stops abruptly every time she is knocked down by Kanan in their duel. Until finally, the music builds to a crescendo and then slowly softens as Sabine becomes more successful in the fight. The music hits you the force of Sabine’s strikes while she puts voice to the inner turmoil which has held her back.

I will confess, the music and Sabine’s admission worked to put a lump in my throat the first time I watched it. I replayed the episode several times while I wrote this review. The emotions became more intense with each viewing, the last of which brought actual tears.

Visually the episode had very good moments. The best part was the light given off by the Darksaber. This was accentuated visually when the blade was ignited and in the light it cast, the story of the Darksaber was told with shadow images. The shadow theater made the story even more compelling.

At the very end, Sabine learns who her real family is. The acknowledgement of others regarding her maturation is symbolized in way not uncommon.One example is in The Return of the King. That visual gets me every time.

What Didn’t Work

Nothing. It was a great episode.

Verdict

This episode is remarkable because, without the appearance of an external enemy, it showed growth from multiple characters. Even between members of the Ghost crew, decisions are not cut and dry. Not black and white. Not universal. The experiences of Kanan and Hera make them look at Sabine differently, but allow them to reach the same conclusion. That decision is in conflict with Sabine’s. All three characters seem to know that much destruction will come from their course of action.

Unfortunately, we sometimes have to act in ways that are detrimental to ourselves in order to benefit the people we call our family.

5 Death Stars out of 5.