So let’s talk “fanservice” for a moment. We’re consumers of entertainment like Star Wars, but it’s more or less free when we’re watching it on television, and the producers owe us nothing. They make the choices that they want, and it’s Star Wars, so we’ll honestly keep consuming it even if it were nothing more than Jar-Jar dancing for two hours. (Which is apparently a thing in the upcoming Empire’s End novel. Really.)
Having said that, I think we have a little right to be annoyed at this episode, because there’d been a lot of hints dropped in the past that Sabine’s mother was actually Rook Kast, a background character from Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir. It wasn’t a required outcome, but there were clues–Sabine has visual similarities to Kast, Kast knew Gar Saxon, who’s now a recurring character on Rebels, and even Pablo Hidalgo dropped a tweet suggesting it was the same character. And now “Legacy of Mandalore” reveals that Sabine’s mom is…somebody else.
The Star Wars producers are in their rights to make a character whoever they want. I am saying, however, that fanservice moments can be validating to those of us who’ve stuck with the franchise for years. We’ve indulged in the extra elements of Star Wars–the novels, the comics, the video games–where many people do not, so it’s validating when a connection to the expanded universe materials is made. The prospect of a character’s mother turning out to be a minor character we read about years before kind of makes it feel like our investment into this ongoing saga is worthwhile. So then it’s doubly disappointing when we’re led to believe that there’s going to be a connection, and then poof, there isn’t. Ha-ha, just kidding.
I won’t go so far as to call the Rebels producers’ handling of this intentional, but fans have been anticipating for awhile that Sabine’s mom would be Kast. It was weirder still when “Legacy of Mandalore” was held up by a break of several weeks, and Sabine’s mom was only revealed at the last minute. If she wasn’t intended to be Kast, then Hildalgo should have just said so awhile back, or the character’s name could have been revealed ahead of time. The tease here may have been in our heads, but it wasn’t exactly shut down by the Rebels team, either. They knew we were expecting this and could have removed our expectations awhile ago. Again, I acknowledge that this is of little consequence: Kast was a very minor character and this isn’t all that important. Except that, well, it was.
So, okay, whew. That’s out of our system.
As an episode, “Legacy of Mandalore” at least does the long-awaited fleshing out of Sabine’s character, since her history and family has largely been limited to hints and nuggets since the show started. Coupled with the last episode, it feels like we have a more complete picture of Sabine now, to include meeting her mother (a Mando dutchess, no less), her brother, and word that her father is still out there. In her family, we see bits of where her character comes from–her mother Ursa displays her stubbornness, while her brother has very distinct shades of her loyalty to family. Mandalore is Sabine’s home, and she fits well here.
“Legacy of Mandalore” doesn’t present a whole lot new in terms of characterization and storytelling–of course there’s divided loyalties, and of course there’s a showdown, and of course, everything ends with hugs and changed hearts. It’s not unexpected that Ursa Wren’s loyalties are to Mandalore before her family, and that she’d turn over Sabine’s friends to Gar Saxon because she sees a bigger picture at stake. To that extent, “Legacy” plays like an inverted version of “Homecoming” which dealt with Hera’s father and his mini-rebellion on Ryloth. Cham Syndulla put Ryloth’s rebellion above the larger galactic one; here, Ursa puts Mandalore first as well, but this time under the Empire. (Strange, then, that Hera isn’t in this episode, because she could easily relate to what’s at stake.)
Nor does much come from the Darksaber. Sabine’s discovery of the weapon a few episodes ago made it seem like it was her King Arthur moment, finding the sword that would unite her people. “Trials of the Darksaber” seemed to confirm it. Not much happens with the Darksaber this week, though. Sabine certainly has it, and it’s certainly used in the final fight with Saxon, but it really does remain just a weapon, with even Ursa pointing out that it’s “just a symbol.” The episode does end with speculative hope that the Darksaber will make its way to the right owner–the person who will eventually lead Mandalore as a whole–but that’s not Sabine at the moment.
The surprise of this episode is that Sabine chooses to stay on Mandalore with her family rather than return to the Rebellion with her friends. Seemingly, this writes Sabine out of the show with a backdoor for her to return. (Fans are already speculating that Sabine and the Mandalorians could return in the season finale against Thrawn.) There’s speculation that Rebels will cut short this year, as it hasn’t been renewed for a fourth season yet, and the Ghost‘s appearance in Rogue One does limit where things can go from here. Dropping Sabine on Mandalore allows her to leave the show without killing her and frees her up for future appearances–possibly in Marvel’s Star Wars comic, which is still set in the time between A New Hope and Empire and hasn’t used any Rebels characters yet.
So, “Legacy” makes for a decent episode, but one which signals that the end of Rebels could be nigh. Let’s hope not since it’s the only ongoing Star Wars outside the comics that we have right now.
Rating: Four darksabers out of five.