Regardless of how you feel about your hometown, returning after a long time away can always be a little awkward. If you're from Mandalore and your family thinks you've betrayed them, it can also be violent. That's what Sabine Wren will be dealing with when she pays a visit to her mother in the next episode of Star Wars Rebels, "Legacy of Mandalore."
Sabine hasn't been home since she decided to disengage herself from Imperial life and join the Rebel Alliance. She's only going back now because she has the darksaber in hand and wants to attempt to get her family on board with the whole taking-a-stand-against-the-Empire business. She worked through some of her guilt in the last Rebels episode, "Trials of the Darksaber," but she's going home with a full heart.
Series executive producer Dave Filoni told us, "I like to relate Star Wars to real life. I think it's really not that different than if you haven't seen your family in a long time, and they can't see you as a different person. They are not familiar with how you've grown. I would think that she's very concerned on a personal level, as far as what they think of her, and what they're willing to believe, which is why she never really wanted to go back there. But then she's also concerned on a political level because her being there has huge ramifications, politically, for her people."
Specifically, Sabine goes back to Mandalore to face her mother, Ursa Wren. She's an important leader and well-respected in Clan Wren. In past on-screen stories, Star Wars has explored father issues—Darth Vader and Galen Erso come to mind—but we haven't spent much time with mothers. "I thought it was a really exciting opportunity because, as you have noted, the mother, the matriarch character in the Star Wars saga--you get a tiny bit of that with Shmi [Skywalker]--but you don't really see that character type throughout the rest of the saga," Filoni said. "Here there was an opportunity to have this very strong character, and in a way, it's interesting because she so powerful. She's a warrior, she's a Mandalorian, and she's a leader of her entire group. I wanted her to appear cold and go against the typical kind of warmth that you think is often identified with a mother. She could be a force of nature that way and I wanted her to clearly be the head of the family politically, maternally, and guiding things. Then we removed the father from that equation, which just adds another level to it."
The design of Ursa's armor and the overall look of Clan Wren's hold stands apart from Sabine's colorful flair, and that was a deliberate decision. Filoni said, "The designs of the Wrens, I wanted to be reminiscent of Sabine but lacking the color of Sabine, so that you feel that everything Wren is quite a bit desaturated and devoid of the life. They haven't been living like Sabine has. They're not as risky as she's been and 'out there' as she's been. They've actually been restrained and suffering by trying to maintain some kind of order, but they are all actually kind of living in fear, even though they're these great warriors. They have actually become quite weak, and they don't realize it."
That weakness comes from their decision to work with the Empire. Like other planets in the Star Wars galaxy, they've made a deal that will presumably keep them safe and prosperous, but the Empire doesn't care about them or their traditions. They're using Mandalorians. Sabine carrying the darksaber to her mother's door doesn't mean the Wrens will instantly flip sides, but it opens the door. The darksaber is an important symbol of the power of Mandalore. Filoni said they started thinking about the potential of the darksaber after they brought Maul back.
They had to go back and revisit scripts from Star Wars: The Clone Wars in order to find where they left it. "We decided we would put it on Dathomir, which made a lot of sense," he said, "I thought that Maul probably would've recovered it in some way and had it there. We weren't sure what we were going to do with it, but it started to rise up like well, 'What about Sabine because she's Mandalorian.' You kind of go, 'It seems like a good idea. How do we get that to her?'"
Sabine recovered the artifact in "Visions and Voices," and with a push from Hera, Kanan, and Fenn Rau, she decided to learn how to wield it. That worked out perfectly because Filoni said he'd always wanted to do a sword training episode. He recalled, "It was something that Kathy Kennedy and I had talked about in the very beginning of Rebels--samurai films and the way that they shoot them, just the study of hands and feet and the framing of the battles in Kurosawa films and whatnot. So, when we did Ezra, his training was so different and he's such a different type of character I didn't really get to do it in the way that I thought."
Filoni continued, "We never had time, we never did a full on saber training thing. We did how he found his crystal, which I thought was a nice moment, but for the saber training, I thought if we're gonna do Sabine, we really have to train her and the whole episode has to be about that. There's nothing else in it. But more than the training with the saber, it's what's preventing her from using it, which is her personal history. That became the backbone for that whole event."
Because of exploring Sabine's history in this way, Filoni and his team have been able to dig into Mandalorian culture more than ever. Mandalore played a prominent role in The Clone Wars but exploring aspects like Protectors has been new--sort of. Filoni said he's been developing all of this since Clone Wars. "I've been working on the history of Mandalore, and then once we had Sabine I had to figure out how the Wrens fit into the structure," he said. "And then the Protectors and who the Protectors are--so there are new pieces that we've added and then there are old pieces. I have this insane diagram that actually maps Mandalorian culture."
And it actually is a diagram. "I've put it on a white board, it's been there for like three years now. It maps from the fall of the last leader of the Mandalorians--the last Mandalore--to how their side restructures and that's when Satine takes over as ruler and what that era's like. And it tracks Maul's movements with Pre Vizsla and how that breaks down all the way to what was going to be the end of Clone Wars when there was a big conflict and Bo-Katan eventually rose to power right before Imperial takeover. So, I have this whole thing mapped out and it is really fun. The most fun is to do it before you have to commit any of it to screen. The intense part is when you commit it to screen and then there's no take-backs."
Bo-Katan was going to be in power. Just want to make sure everyone took note of that.
Tune into "Legacy of Mandalore" on Saturday, February 18, at 8:30p.m. ET/PT on Disney XD to see how Sabine fits into the Mandalorian story map.
Images: Disney XD/Lucasfilm