The end is in sight for Rebels. The proverbial swan song is being sung at a meta-textual level. Filoni and crew want to make this last season count and go out with a bang. If Heroes of Mandalore parts one and two are any indication, then Ezra and crew want to do the same.
The two-part episode covers the exploits of everyone’s favorite Rebel team, including Jedi Ezra Bridger and Kanan Jarrus, Mandalorian warrior Sabine Wren, and droid Chopper, as they seek to free Mandalore from the grips of the Empire.
Par for the course for this series, and its predecessor The Clone Wars, Heroes of Mandalore manages a balance between well-animated action and surprisingly touching drama. While the action is as good as it has ever been, it’s these moments of character conflict that really shine.
Of particular note in this episode is Sabine’s relationship with parents. Her relationship with her warrior mother and artist father provide an interesting dynamic and gives the audience a deeper look into her character.
Heroes of Mandalore also gives a great look aesthetic design, an area in which Rebels is not given enough credit. The AT-DP walkers have qualities of the OG era’s AT-ST, and the prequel era’s AT-RT. The speeder bikes have hints of the BARC bike’s seat design seen in Revenge of the Sith/The Clone Wars, but the body of the Return of the Jedi‘s bikes.
This attention to design allows for the more casual audience to have easy continuity, i.e. “that’s an imperial walker.” At the same time, it gives hardcore fans of the franchise an easter egg of sorts, while reinforcing the idea that the show takes place in an in-between time.
This idea of in-between and thematic ties is palpable in the first two episodes. Sabine is at least partly responsible for a terrible new weapon the Empire has, so she must take responsibility while continuing to discover who she is. The thematic connections to Rogue One and Force Awakens strengthen the idea of a connected continuity.
The only area of improvement is editing for the voice acting. While the performances themselves are strong, it is often edited in a way that presupposes the next line. It sounds as though a character ends their sentence knowing what the other should say. A more natural transition, with interruptions and talk-overs, would provide smoother dialogue during the action scenes in particular.