Salutations, all! Quick reminder: this is not a full review. No matter how many cool things that I really, really want to talk about, I take a closer look at only a few bits. And as always, SPOILERS from here on out.
This week on Rebels, Legacy of Mandalore, which doesn’t take place at all on Mandalore but Kronos’ black sheep sibling, Krownest, the Wrens prove that you don’t have to be a Skywalker to have parental issues, or even a weird relationship with your brother. And on that note, on to the review!
Well, that was a turn up for the books, wasn’t it? Fun fact, which is only going to get less fun the more didactic I get about it: Sabine originally wasn’t meant to be staying behind. According to Dave Filoni, the end of the episode would have have seen Sabine enter that shuttle and leave to join up with her Spectral brethren and sistren, rather than staying behind. And really, could it have gone any other way? Yes, yes it could have – but it shouldn’t have. To go off on a tangent, I often see a phrase bandied about online whenever people debate faults in TV shows, films etc., usually used to say that the product doesn’t need changing: ‘If the story calls for it’. We don’t need more women, the defence goes, because the story calls for the character to be a man. She doesn’t need to be black because the story calls for her to be white – and so on. More often than not, it’s nonsense – and it’s nonsense because the story is an artificial thing. It doesn’t have a mind of its own, it’s the product of one or more minds, and the story doesn’t exist independent of those minds until it’s completed. Those same minds can change and twist the story to fit whatever needs or desires they have.
But every so often there comes a true ‘if the story calls for it’ moment. One moment in the development of the story that if you didn’t do it then it would quite simply go against the grain of the narrative you’re trying to build. Now, of course you can go against the grain because it’s your story and you can do whatever you want – but that doesn’t mean you should. As a mental exercise I want you to take a minute to imagine this episode ending the way it was originally intended. Doesn’t have quite the same impact, does it? Feels a little bit off. At least it does for me. To be fair, I’m being a little bit disingenuous here because even in such moments you can still bend the story so that you get the ending you intended: rewrite the story of the last two episodes so that Sabine is, instead of becoming Space King Arthur, seeks out someone worthy of being Space King Arthur (as she does so in the end of the actual episode). Then you make a further rewrite to show that, oh yeah, her mother or brother (or even father) turn out to be the perfect Mando’ade for the job and she can leave with her adoptive family after all. They could have done that, but I’m guessing that Filoni et al realised that to do so would have removed a lovely emotional moment and plot point of significant consequence and decided to leave it as is, even though that meant losing out on a main character for however long it’ll be.
Or they were just feeling a little bit lazy that day. Hey, it happens, even to us professionals. There’s memes about it so it must be true.
Before I move on, I’d like to mention another impactful Sabine moment: she passed up the throne. I love that she’s wise enough to realise that, well, it would have taken her out of the show on a more permanent basis. and she needs the employment. But she’s also wise enough to know what’s needed in a given situation, and who’s needed. She’s wise enough to know her own strengths but also her weaknesses. Knowing not necessarily who the right people are for the job but knowing that there are such people and that you are humble enough to realise that you’re just keeping the seat warm. It’s that insight that, ironically, marks her as a good leader.
How much of that balcony conversation was real?
This is a question that I’ve spent the last few days agonising over, thinking one way, then another, thinking I’ve got it well understood and then changing my mind completely. My conclusion? That Ursa Wren is one of the deftest political machinators in Star Wars.
Admittedly that’s not a long or competitive list, but still.
At first I went along with the idea that it was all true, that Ursa did everything to protect her family, that it was simply a nice twee moment and nothing more – and given that she changed her loyalty at the end seems to back that up. More on that in a bit, but for now let’s take a closer look at the throne room confrontation (which happened because she, you know, betrayed her daughter) because that colours her earlier acts. Her change of heart came after two developments: Saxon’s betrayal and Tristan’s siding with Sabine. And then later, as Sabine and Saxon duel, she at first hesitated to become involved, citing Mandalorian tradition. On the face of it, that seems like a solid excuse – but remember that that didn’t stop her from killing Saxon after he was publicly defeated and suffered a significant loss of prestige and manpower. The balcony explanation, the saving of Sabine – these things have the veneer familial devotion. But as Sabine stated, Ursa loves politics, power and control, and those instances demonstrate that while she is certainly in it to attain power for her family, she only does so when it’s of use to her. It’s important to remember this when re-examining the balcony explanation …
… Which we shall now turn our attention back to: I have absolutely no doubt that it was all true, but that her motivation in doing so was brought about by cold calculation and not a desire to keep her daughter safe just because she’s family. When Sabine committed felonious acts against the Empire (the first time), I believe Ursa denounced Sabine because she saw the Empire as a means of keeping or increasing her own political power and such denouncement would further that particular cause. Either at that time or later she then allied with Gar Saxon for the protection his name afforded her as her family’s fortunes declined. However, Ursa knew that Sabine was gifted and could foresee a possibility that Sabine could be a route for the restoration of her family’s political standing. I doubt that she foresaw it happening exactly this way, but it’s enough for her to believe that there existed a possibility. To borrow the American phrase, she covered her bases.
And so she went through the motions of condemning Sabine and did the bare minimum to capture her – just enough to cover herself with the Empire while also providing an alternative point of view to share with Sabine, should she ever need to. Then Sabine came back – huzzah! Seemingly Ursa’s back up plan was coming to fruition. But Sabine came back with a stupid sounding idea of using a sword to free Mandalore. How utterly ludicrous is that? What an absurd notion. It seemed that Ursa’s hope of Sabine becoming her secret plan to regain power has failed and so she called in Gar Saxon at the earliest opportunity in the hopes that this little incident would increase her standing. But of course nothing could be further from the truth – and the rest, as they say, is history.
To be honest I completely forgot about Tristan while writing this up. Whoops! It’s not that he was bad; he wasn’t. It’s just that he was completely eclipsed by Sabine being more awesome than usual and Ursa Cersei-ing it up (but competently) that he just sort of fell by the way side.
Having said that, the brother *googles his name because I can’t for the life of me remember even though I wrote it in the above paragraph* Tristan provided some good humanisation to contrast the mothers’ cold calculation. He demonstrated how easily a seemingly good person capitulates to the will of someone who clearly doesn’t have their best interests at heart – choosing what they think is the least worst option, doing what they can to help their family weather tough times. Which is a reasonable thing to want, but it’s on the whole naive to believe that this will ever end well for you. And Tristan’s naïveté was perfectly summed up in his belief their their mother trusts Saxon. Even if I’m utterly wrong in my belief that she’s Littlefingering it up and siding with Saxon because she believes it’ll gain them prestige, but rather that she’s genuinely just doing her best in a bad situation, I absolutely refuse to believe that she trusts that moof milker.
I mean, Saxon says things like ‘I’ll take care of you’ with a smile so sinister he almost spontaneously grew a moustache there and then for which to twirl.Powered by Sidelines