*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Rebels episode “The Protector of Concord Dawn”
From the outset, Star Wars Rebels has differentiated itself from its sister show, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, by presenting its stories in a single episode format as opposed to the multi-episode arcs found in the latter program. Many episodes directly follow their predecessors (this one included), but with few exceptions (like this season’s “The Lost Commanders”/”Relics of the Old Republic two-parter) each week's entry into the Star Wars mythos enjoys some measure of resolution. Most of the time that works fine–especially for a program geared toward kids. But sometimes, wrapping everything up and around 22 minutes feels a little forced (pardon the pun).“The Protector of Concord Dawn” falls into the latter category.
To be sure, there is much to like in this episode. The space battle at the beginning of the episode was quite exciting, and anytime you delve into Mandalorian culture, it's bound to be fascinating. And of course as a bonus, a focus on Mandalorians means gaining insight into Sabine Wren. The creators of Star Wars Rebels have made a concerted effort this season to reveal more of the backstories for each of the characters, and “The Protector of Concord Dawn” continues this greatly-appreciated trend.
A Mandalorian colony not yet fully incorporated into the Empire and a crucial part of a potential new hyperspace route for the Rebellion, Concord Dawn is patrolled by an elite group of warriors (and according to Captain Rex, former Republic flight instructors during the Clone Wars) known as “Protectors.” These “Protectors,” led by a man named Fenn Rau, are fiercely loyal to each other and to their cause, and though not technically Imperial subjects, they're also not interested in sharing their territory with the Rebels and will staunchly defend it–as Hera and Phoenix Squadron discover too late. In fact, Hera is gravely injured in the encounter with the Protectors of Concord Dawn.
After careful consideration aboard the rebel command ship on how to proceed regarding Concord Dawn, Kanan and Chopper (along with stowaway Sabine) travel to the Mandalorian’s base in the Phantom in hopes of completing Hera’s mission to recruit the Protectors and gain access to the hyperspace route. Wren, who reveals herself just as the Phantom touches down near the Protector’s base, has only vengeance on her mind. She plans to make her fellow Mandalorians pay for what they've done to Hera.
Conversely, and as Kenobi had done countless times before, Kanan seeks a more diplomatic solution here and convinces Sabine to try it his way–at least at first. The Jedi will try to convince Rau to join the Rebels while Sabine plants several explosives on the Protectors’ starships. If Kanan fails to bring Rau on board, then Sabine can have her way and blow up the ships. Satisfied with the terms of the agreement, Wren begins to stealthily carry out her part of the mission.
Kanan's optimism regarding Rau is admirable, and his willingness to reveal himself as a Jedi shows the level of his commitment to the operation, but ultimately Sabine is proven right. Unsurprisingly, considering their shared heritage, Sabine anticipates Fenn Rau’s refusal to help the Rebels. And fortunately for Wren, this cultural awareness allows her to seek justice through single combat rather than being executed immediately.
Having been caught trying to plant the last explosive, Sabine invokes her Mandalorian dueling privileges by revealing herself as a member of Clan Wren and House Vizsla. As fans of The Clone Wars no doubt are aware, Pre Vizsla was the leader of the terrorist group Death Watch and a crucial figure during the Clone Wars before he was killed by Darth Maul. The name-drop in this episode is meant to inspire curiosity and to get our attention, but we’ll have to wait for later episodes to see this connection adequately explored.
In any case, Sabine does get her chance at vengeance and faces down with Fenn Rau in a standoff right out of a spaghetti western. Rau is fast, but Sabine is just a bit faster and manages to shoot the Protector’s blaster out of his hand. But rather than using the opportunity to take one life for another, Sabine chooses mercy and instead takes advantage of having all of the attention on her to activate the bombs and destroy the protectors’ ships–except for Fenn Rau's.
Using the confusion of several exploding starships, Rau makes his way to the sole operative craft and is pursued by Kanan. In a sequence very reminiscent of Anakin Skywalker's pursuit of Zam Wesell in Attack of the Clones, the Jedi leaps aboard the ship as its pilot pushes it toward space and clutches the ascending craft with his bare hands. Finally, Kanan disables it by thrusting his lightsaber into the cockpit and captures Rau. Kanan takes his prisoner and leaps aboard the Phantom, which had been in pursuit after Chopper returned and picked up Sabine.
But despite all of the conflict that came before, Fenn Rau goes relatively quietly back to the Rebel base and even calls off his men who are in pursuit in hopes of freeing their leader. Perhaps Kanan and Sabine have shown him enough to change his mind about the Rebellion's prospects against the Empire, but it feels too easy. What's more is that Hera is on her way to full recovery when her friends return. The whole episode feels consequence-free. Personally, I would've liked to have seen Kanan and Sabine stranded at the protector’s base–at least through the end of the episode. If these Mandalorians are such elite warriors, then they should not have been overwhelmed so quickly. It's a delicate balance to be sure, balancing children's programming with adding canon material to the Star Wars mythos. But in my opinion, “The Protector of Concord Dawn” went just a little bit too far toward the former.
Thank you for reading! If you have feedback or just want to say hello, you can leave a comment on this page or email me at email@example.com. You can also contact me on Twitter @influxman or check out my Rogue page on “Star Wars in the Classroom.”
And don’t forget to check out Rebels Reactions for even more insight, discussion, and analysis of this episode.
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