This is starting to get frustrating. I’ve been reviewing this show for almost a season and a half now, and even when we’ve gotten the occasional bad episode, I have always enjoyed the discussion. I like this show and this setting and these characters, and it’s fun for me to get to analyze how the series as progressed and theorize about where it’s going next. If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t be doing it.
It’s getting close to not being fun anymore.
This week’s episode, “Blood Sisters” is once again taking a break from the main arc of the season to focus on the backstory of one particular character, this week it’s a Sabine-centric episode. Actually, it might not even be accurate to say we’re taking a break from the primary story because of the six episodes we’ve seen in the main body of the season so far, this is the fifth that is concerned more with exploring character backstories or one-off situations than with the main arc of the season. At this point, I’m not even sure what that main arc is supposed to be because it’s been touched on so infrequently.
The good news is that this episode is a step up from last week’s exposition dump concerning Hera’s past. The episode opens with Hera sending Sabine on an assignment to rendezvous with a rebel agent carrying top secret intel, but when Sabine finally makes contact with the courier (who turns out to be a GNK droid) she finds she isn’t the only one after the droid. A bounty hunter named Ketsu Onyo is trying to collect the intel for the Black Sun crime syndicate, and as Sabine and Ketsu fight over the courier, we learn that these two share a past. Ketsu and Sabine met as recruits in the Imperial academy, and it was with Ketsu’s help that Sabine managed to escape and take up bounty hunting before finally joining the rebel cause. This adds an interesting wrinkle to Sabine’s backstory. The implication previously was that Sabine joined up with the Ghost crew shortly after her escape from the academy, but the revelation that between these two milestones she spent time as a bounty hunter not only deepens the history of this character, but also feels right given what we already know about her. While undeniably an integral part of the team, Sabine has always been shown to bristle slightly against authority and the idea of being merely a cog in a larger machine. It makes sense that she would have opted to be a lone gunslinger after escaping the strict order of the Imperial military. This, however, raises the question of what caused Sabine to abandon the life of a bounty hunter and decide to once again be a part of something bigger, and while we’re not given the answer to that this time around, we do get a glimpse of what Sabine might have been had she not signed up with the Lothal rebels.
The character that serves as a dark reflection of our hero is a bit of a hoary old trope, but it’s not without its uses, and Ketsu serving as a glimpse into the past of a character we still know so little about is effective. She shares Sabine’s skills in combat and diversion, but she does so with a ruthlessness that Sabine has abandoned. When the conflict between these two takes to the stars, and Sabine refuses to surrender the droid courier, Ketsu doesn’t hesitate to fire upon her old friend, whereas Sabine makes an effort to spare Ketsu’s life even when things are at their most dire. It’s only when an Imperial cruiser shows up that Sabine and Ketsu are forced to work together to get out of the situation in one piece.
After escaping the Imperial attack, Sabine manages to safely deliver the courier to a rebel outpost, and she extends an open invitation for Ketsu if she ever decides to fight for something greater, meaning we will definitely be seeing Ketsu again later this season.
This is going to end up being one of the shortest reviews I’ve written in a long time because, frankly, there’s not much to cover here. Aside from the introduction of Ketsu and the further exploration of Sabine’s backstory, this episode is fairly lightweight. Nothing happens in this episode that feels particularly important, and it’s frustrating because this is the third episode in a row that can be described as such. It’s important for a show to take time to explore the histories and character arcs of its ensemble cast, but ideally this should be done in conjunction with furthering the arc of the season. The revelations and turns in a character’s journey should reflect and inform the story at hand, rather than interrupting it. By and large, this was something the first season of Rebels accomplished very well, which is why it’s maddening that they can’t seem to get it right this time around. It feels like we’re treading water with assignment-of-the-week fluff instead of real, meaningful progressions of the story. It’s crazy that when the show was brand new they were doing this better than they are now, and I can’t figure out what happened. I’m really hoping this show gets back on track soon, because while these episodes aren’t exactly bad, they’re starting to feel increasingly stale.