Star Wars: Rebels is an ensemble show, there is no one main character, but several main characters who share time as the focus of the program. Yes, some get a bit more time than others, namely Ezra Bridger, who often serves as a ‘point of view’ or POV character for the younger viewers, but especially in the second season of the show he has more often than not shared equal time or even pushed to the side for the purposes of telling the stories of the other characters. Our last episode, “Wings of the Master,” focused on Hera, and the one before it, “Always Two There Are,” in a rather haphazard manner focused attention on Zeb. In “Blood Sisters,” Sabine Wren is provided the spotlight with Ezra and Chopper along as sidekicks.
Prior to “Blood Sisters,” we had already learned that Sabine had dropped out of an Imperial Academy (thanks to Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars, we know there are multiple Imperial academies). What we did not know was that Sabine had done so not alone. An errant spray painted mark on a wall early in the episode, over which the Mandalorian paused was our sign to expect something to happen.
The mission begins with Hera assigning Sabine the task of intercepting a rebel courier who needed to be transported from the local space port and into rebel hands elsewhere. Who this courier was or what their appearance would take was left up in the air; their identity only coming in response to a pass phrase. Ezra, both eager for a mission and perhaps, adolescently infatuated with Sabine, begs and gains permission to join Sabine on her mission. Toss in our favorite psychotic droid, Chopper, and you have the complete team.
It’s on the way to the space port’s space bus landing pad that Sabine pauses to study graffiti on a nearby wall. When asked by Ezra about it, she dismisses it and they continue on their way. Ezra stands in for the viewer, as well, peppering Sabine with comments about how she’s something of a loner on the team, someone who doesn’t share much of who they are. At the landing pad, a multitude of different aliens and passengers disembark, and both Ezra and Sabine find themselves in a small competitive attempt to be the first to identify the courier. This competition bleeds into tedium as they query every face they meet with the phrase, “It’s a long way to Alderaan,” and get nothing but odd looks in return. Eventually, the last visible passenger walks away and as the duo express their frustration, and Ezra exasperatedly enunciates the pass phrase one more time, a gonk droid stands up from its hiding in plain sight position amongst similarly colored cargo containers.
The victory is short lived as a visitor from Sabine’s past drops to the ground in front of them in the form of a bounty hunter named Ketsu Onyo. Ketsu is immediately identified by Sabine as an old friend, and in turn, Ketsu immediately lets Sabine know she’s there for the gonk droid. The two women slowly pace in a circle, gauging the other carefully as they exchange comments which peel back their pasts and associations. Sabine, too, was once a bounty hunter and dreamed of joining the Black Sun organization, something Ketsu accomplished. There’s also the nagging issue, we learn, Ketsu left Sabine for dead at some point in that bounty hunter past. Everything hints at a duel, with the director lifting from Sergio Leone’s playbook for a gunfighter duel, cuts to the eyes and to the holstered weapons with hands only a few breaths away from drawing. Then the Stormtroopers show up.
In the ensuing blaster fight, Sabine grabs the gong droid and chopper, and escapes in a nearby space bus. Ezra is left behind, out of the reach and eyes of the storm trooper, and out of the remainder of the story. Ketsu, we learn, has her own ship, the Shadow Caster, and hops in fast pursuit. It’s not hard to understand who would win in a fight between vessels, a space bus and a bounty hunter’s vessel armed with a giant cannon, and eventually the space bus finds itself staring down into it. Sabine is momentarily helped by a space borne Chopper who sabotages the weapon, though only to be captured and bartered for Sabine’s surrender. In the process of the ‘exchange’ Sabine refuses to hand over the rebel courier, and in her condemnation of Ketsu, we learn that Sabine once valued only things like money and power. It’s done against a contrast of Sabine’s idealism and belief in the Rebel cause. It’s a much deeper look into a character’s background than the one offered in the previous episode for Hera.
Before the two can finish their standoff, an Imperial cruiser pops out of hyperspace, ruining the conversation if not improving the relationship, and latches on to both vessels with its tractor beam. Quickly, the two women work together to boobytrap the shuttle to explode, dooming the poor droid pilot in the process (a fellow one might recognize if they have ever enjoyed the Star Tours ride at Disneyworld). Their plan works and Ketsu flies Sabine, Chopper and the gonk droid to a rebel outpost. The droid, handed off to none other than R2-D2, in the service of Senator Organa, completes the mission and the episode ends back in the rebels’ hang out. Ketsu has noticeably changed from her introduction and via her confrontation with Sabine, perhaps for the better. The two part as friends or at the least, as two on the way to rebuilding a bond between them. Will we see Ketsu again, Ezra asks on our behalf, and Sabine answers, “I hope so.” Undoubtedly, we will.
“Blood Sisters” lands as a solid episode. It annihilates the Bechdel Test requirements as the conversation between Sabine and Ketsu at no point even discuss a man. In fact, perhaps with the test in mind, the duo inform Ezra at the end, that Sabine had told her all about him. It’s offered like a punchline, almost as if the writers are poking fun at those who fail the test, and perhaps more pointedly, that the discussion of the opposite gender is something that interest the opposite gender the most. Both women are presented as strong, though one reached this conclusion through her ruthless pursuit of joining the Black Sun, a group interested more in slaves and the bottom line, and the other reached it by joining the Rebels. Ketsu’s conciliation toward Sabine’s life choices definitely reveals which path is the best. “Blood Sisters” stands out along with the Hera and Sabine episode, “Out of Darkness,” as an episode which offers a excellent message that women can be both strong and inventive in a genre that for the longest time rested on the trope that the masculine hero must always save the day.