“Star Wars Rebels” is an all-ages cartoon about a found family, and “Trials of the Darksaber” packs much into its 22-minutes: Over that time, it tackles the burden of dual heritage, family in-fighting, lingering resentments, and the criss-crossing web of insecurities that inform the characters’ relationships with their loved ones.
It’s consequential that one of the few lightsaber-training episodes in Star Wars’ television canon focuses on a non-Force-sensitive character, the young Mandalorian Sabine Wren. During a training session with the Darksaber (a special lightsaber imbued with a complicated history), Sabine prepares for the cumbersome pressure that comes wielding the sacred saber, hoping to bring unity to the fractured Mandalorian people. At its core, it’s an episode about how Sabine’s “Rebels” family supports her, bringing their personal perspectives to light an attempt to heal her mental wounds and get her ready for a cathartic lightsaber fight.
The millennia-old tension between the Mandalorians and the Jedi is not a distant specter. It imbues and informs every relationship here, even the nurturing one between Kanan and Sabine. As a Jedi, Kanan is aghast at Sabine’s hot-bloodedness and her Mandalorian-style weapons, although they’re both important components of background. While Sabine and Kanan are the focus of the episode, almost everyone gets in on the action, giving us further insights into the layered personal conflicts that drive “Rebels.”