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Star Wars: Rebels - Heroes of Mandalore - Part 1 & Part 2 - Review: "The Final Season Begins"

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Star Wars Rebels: Heroes of Mandalore Part 1 & Part 2 - Review:
Part 1 Directed by Steward Lee & Written by Henry Gilroy & Steven Melching & Part 2 Directed by Saul Ruiz & Written by Christopher Yost

The fallout from the Mandalorian-centric episodes last season meant that it was almost certain we'd get a return to Mandalore in this season, especially as it's sadly confirmed to be the show's last. There's a degree of uncertainty going into this final season too with that looming over the show's heads that certainly makes for some more interesting, high-stakes battles where the characters don't have that necessary guarantee of survival. Aside from Hera, who was mentioned briefly in Rogue One, and Rex, who Filoni has admitted that he wants him to be a soldier that plays a part in the final battle on Endor in Return of the Jedi, there has to be some sort of explanation as to why characters like Ezra and Kanan don't show up in the events of the main trilogy. Of course, they were created after the show is the logical one. But the in-universe explanation has to be interesting, too. Will they go the way of Jyn Erso and the crew that sacrificed themselves to obtain the Death Star plans? The Empire too, is growing in strength and becoming more powerful by the day. The Death Star construction is just around the corner.

It's that added agency that really helps provide that extra tension in Heroes of Mandalore as we return in a Sabine Wren-centric episode that deals largely with the power struggle of her planet. The first episode itself largely centres around the search for Sabine's father, as the show takes a more serialized approach for its final season. Now with the episode count ticking down There can be little room for the filler episodes that were often among the weakest of the show's earlier seasons.

The episode itself, and the second part that follows, deals with a range of emotions, action and excitement. It's fast paced and something that effectively looks at the consequences of character's actions, particularly in the case of Sabine's. It helps a lot that the show has matured over the years and it's hard to imagine early season one Sabine or even Ezra facing a challenge like this one. The amount of depth and layers that we've seen added to Sabine's character in the past have helped her transform into a character with plenty of layers and made her one of the more interesting members of the Ghost's Crew. Seeing her in action here only serves as a reminder that she's a long way from where she started.

The action is as typically as Star Wars-y as ever and that's only a good thing. The chase sequences that emerged with the high-stakes attempted rescue of Sabine's father was fantastic, almost Mad Max-esque with the intense drama taking place across the backdrop of the Mandalorian Desert. Seeing the Mandalorian Civil War in action has really helped showcase how good this show can be. The jet-packs and speeder-bike battle conflict is really exciting, but at the same time, the show manages to achieve in creating some effective stakes that really help up the tension. None of the supporting cast is safe and it really shows, in a ending that really takes the show into darker territory that will no doubt stay with the show going forward.

One of the more welcome additions to the show in terms of characters here Bo-Katan, voiced by Battlestar Galactica's Katee Sackhoff. Her role reprises the character from The Clone Wars, but doesn't feel like a cameo that was introduced just to drum up hype for the premiere, it's a natural inclusion that really helps better serve Sabine's character as she finds herself being tested in a new leadership role unlike what she has been before. This was particularly helped by the performance of voice actor Tiya Sircar, who shone here, giving even further depth to her performance.

The balancing of emotions here is an effective one. There's a good element of humour here that doesn't feel out of place and reminds us that despite the darker ending the show can still be very fun at times and the show is shaping up to be the last hurrah that it needs to be in order to go out on a high note. The complex and multi-layered storytelling and approach to the characters is starting to pay off and I'm really excited to see how the writers explore more and more themes as the show progresses, finally given the freedom to take the show in directions that it hasn't been in before.

The second episode, despite the change in director and writer with Saul Ruiz and Christopher Yost stepping in to helm the show did not hurt it one bit as the two-part episode upped the ante from the first. The noticeable tonal shift has been present since the first trailer for the new season which aired earlier this year and it very much continues in this episode with bodies dropping left right and centre. Yes, Ezra's still not super experienced with a jet-pack and the comedic elements very much help this episode from otherwise being completely dark, but it has been one of the show's darker episodes in a while.

Sabine's past as a gifted technician and member of the Imperial Academy has never been truly explored until now. This episode allowed her to help fix what she'd put wrong in her past as she came face to face with the horrifying consequences of developing a super-weapon, and the story arc continued as she had to work out whether or not she was the right person to lead her people. Here it proved that Bo-Katan's appearance wasn't just a simple fan-service inclusion for The Clone Wars fans and was done with the right amount of justice that really helped add to not only Sabine's arc, but also Bo-Katan's in the process as she too wrestled with her own celebrity status on Mandalore.

The disturbing fallout from the death of Sabine's mother was an effective and powerful one that was one of the more chilling sequences that this show has done. Not making it clear what the choice of weapon was immediately as well as seeing them turned into ash certainly felt ominous, and whilst it was indeed a tad bit of a stretch given how young Sabine was to have her make a weapon that could cause this much devastation (kind of justified by the fact that the Empire were tricking her into making a weapon in the first place, not actually telling her what its real purpose was), it did allow the writers chance to flesh out her character a bit more as she dealt with its consequences. Her guilt was something that the show didn't decide to brush aside almost instantly, and as a result it turned out for the best in terms of her arc.

Tiber Saxon here as the villain feels a lot more one-dimensional than any of the other characters in this two parter though but he certainly makes an intimidating foe. Tobias Menzies was superb giving energy to Saxon even though his character wasn't quite the best developed antagonist the Ghost crew have ever encountered, and the way that Sabine was able to deal with him at the end felt incredibly satisfying especially after all that she had went through.

After a harrowing beginning it seems like the show has a lot to deal with in the remaining season. The serialized approach is welcomed, and I don't know what Dave Filoni and co have planned for each of the character's endings, but I hope we get closure that doesn't mean they're all simply killed off. Either way, the show has plenty of episodes left and room to deliver in what is already shaping up to be one of the best series yet.

What did you think of Heroes of Mandalore Part 1 & Part 2? Let me know in the comments below and check out the next episode of Star Wars: Rebels next Monday on Disney XD.

About the Author - Milo MJ
Milo is an Arsenal FC supporter and loves TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Justified, The Wire, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Person of Interest. He reviews Preacher, The Exorcist, Star Wars Rebels, Star Trek Discovery, Silicon Valley and Veep for Spoiler TV and will be covering Castle Rock, Counterpart, Krypton, Marvel's New Warriors, Rise, Marvel's Runaways, Succession and Trust. He also contributes to comic reviews on a weekly basis for All-Comic. He also regularly watches and reviews films on Letterboxd, and you can find his ever-changing list of 300 favourite movies here.
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