“Trials of the Darksaber”
A “bottle episode” is a classic science fiction trope, nearly every science fiction show has used it from Doctor Who to Star Trek. The story takes place using only existing sets and locations. Generally, these give us episodes that dig deeper into the characters and rely less on the fantastical battles and deal more with the internal conflicts. “Trials of the Darksaber” is a classic example of this.
The episode opens with Kanan and Fenn Rau talking about the Darksaber. Sabine has not said much about it since picking it up on Dathomir. In fact, she gave it to Kanan for “safe keeping.” Kanan and Rau believe it’s time she learned not only how to wield the weapon, but also how to use it as a symbol to unite her clan and raise a Mandalorian army to fight the Empire. Reluctantly, she agrees, joining Kanan and Ezra out in the wilds to train on how to use the blade.
This is an episode entirely focusing on training. Back in season 1, I wished that we could’ve gotten an episode like this for Ezra’s training. However, I’m glad that they took the time to slow down and focus on Sabine this time. There is so much more going on in this episode than simply training. As Kanan says, Ezra wanted to learn but Sabine is reluctant, to say the least. As the training progresses, more of Sabine’s backstory is revealed. I appreciate the fact that the creators decided to not give us any other subplots or story beats at the same time. The focus is entirely on Kanan, Sabine, and Ezra. What this does is give us, the audience, complete focus on them. The reveals in this episode become even more powerful and we are never distracted from Sabine’s emotional journey of acceptance.
For two and a half seasons, I have asked for more backstory on Sabine. With each season we have gotten episodes focused on the rest of the crew, but Sabine was always left out. She remained a blank slate, not knowing how or why she came to be on the ship. Much of that is revealed here. While we still don’t know everything about her time before joining the Ghost, we now know much of why she left Mandalore and why she is viewed as a pariah among her family.
As a stand-alone episode, “Trials of the Darksaber” is a big step of growth for Sabine. Possibly, one of the best-produced episodes of the series so far. Tiya Sircar and Freddie Prinze Jr deliver fantastic performances, and Kevin Kiner’s music adds an extra level to the already emotional finale. With this episode being the first part of a new story arc, the character growth we see here just adds that much more emotional weight to the episodes that are coming.