Star Wars: Rebels – The Protector of the Concord Dawn

“The Protector of Concord Dawn,” introduces more background information to our favorite artistically inclined Mandalorian, Sabine Wren, but also re-introduces us to Fenn Rau, also a Mandalorian, and one who played a minor role in the past of Kanan Jarrus.  As noted here previously, Kanan’s connection to Rau was established in the Marvel comic Kanan, a book released on the same day that “The Protector of Concord Dawn” first aired.  Thus, while outwardly appearing to be an episode that was Sabine-centric, it really was one balanced between her and Kanan.  It also served as a universe expanding vehicle, updating our own knowledge of the Mandalorian people initially made famous by the fan favorite Boba Fett and explored in some detail in The Clone Wars television show. The result is something of a mixture between very entertaining, but also, a bit disappointing.

The episode opens with a discussion among the rebels of the need for new space routes, safe space routes, through the Outer Rim for the purpose of avoiding Imperial might.  One potential area of space happens to be the Concord Dawn system, which we is referred to as a colony of Mandalorians.  This isn’t the first time we have heard about the system, but previously, it has only been a place of referenced, never visited.  More interestingly is the further news that it’s been inhabited by various warring groups of Mandalorians.  This immediately raises questions for any fans of The Clone Wars, which had a number of episodes and story arcs set on Mandalore.

In The Clone Wars, Mandalore is established as a neutral / borderline separatist planet, generally overseen by the Duchess Satine Kryze.  After generations of war, and under the guiding leadership of Duchess Satine, Mandalore is introduced as a planet dedicated to pacifism.  At the time, this was incredibly surprising, given all the previous Expanded Universe lore developed, including a series of novels, had indicated the Mandalorians were and continued to be a fierce war-like people.  Though, in The Clone Wars universe, this decision was not wholly appreciated by the Mandalorians themselves, as a faction of the losers of the war which established the pacifist society, declared themselves true to the original Mandalorian ways and vowed to do what it took to restore the entire planet to this martial path.  That group’s name was Death Watch.

Through the course of the number of episodes in which Death Watch appeared, approximately two separate story arcs, they were revealed as villainous and in the final one, played a hand in helping Darth Maul and his brother, take over the government (under the belief that they could restore Mandalorian culture via that path – after being beaten by the Jedi in the past).  The existence of the Death Watch is somewhat important concerning “The Protector of Concord Dawn,” but only from a tangible informative way.  Prior to this episode, drawing upon everything in the presently established Expanded Universe, we were generally left to believe that Death Watch was really the only group of Mandalorians who opposed Duchess Satine’s pacifist beliefs.  On the very same day, “The Protector of the Concord Dawn” and Marvel’s Kanan comic modified this information.

First, let’s go back in time, in universe time that is, to the first modification of the absoluteness of Death Watch.  This happens in Marvel’s Kanan, in which we early pointed out, Fenn Rau is first introduced.  His appearance is in the form of a captain of a Mandalorian starfighter group known as Skull Squadron.  He and his fellow Mandalorians answer the call of Kanan’s Jedi Master for help, when she, Kanan, and two clone troopers find themselves surrounded and at the point of being overwhelmed by Separatist battle droids.  Rau has only a couple lines and they are, “Name’s Fenn Rau, General.  And Skull Squadron is happy to demonstrate…that not all Mandalorians have forgotten their honor and obligations.”  This reads like a rebuke to the Mandalore of Duchess Satine (where the pacifism leads to an intention to stay out of the Clone Wars), and as an additional point, Rau’s group is not shown to be part of Death Watch.  Incidentally, there’s no implication with Kanan or his master’s response that Mandalorians fighting in the Clone Wars is something that amazing, either.

Second, within the first few minutes of “The Protector of the Concord Dawn,” we learn from Sabine that the Concord Dawn system has been a place of many wars between various Mandalorian groups, but also from the general consensus of the characters, including Commander Sato, that Mandalorians have a solid reputation as war-like.  The first major dilemma of the episode, is in fact, whether to resort to a show of strength to either intimidate or gain respect from the warriors or to try simple diplomacy.  The latter position is championed by Kanan and is the one which the characters ultimately decide to apply to the situation.  As if confirming this new reality of multiple groups of still quite martial Mandalorians, the rebels attempt at diplomacy goes badly, very, very badly.

Hera, Sabine, and two other nameless rebel pilots, jump into the Concord Dawn system in A-wings and immediately make contact with Mandalorian star fighters similar to those depicted in Marvel’s Kanan.  Hera’s immediate attempt to discuss the situation and find a diplomatic solution are responded to by deadly force from the Mandalorians, who shoot down the two unfortunate rebel pilots, and end up seriously damaging Hera’s own A-wing, as well severely injuring our favorite Twi’lek.  Her injuries spur Sabine into action with what appears to be a desire for revenge.  In order to achieve this goal, she stows away on the Phantom, which Kanan takes for the purpose to drive home that diplomacy is still the best answer.

It doesn’t take very long for Kanan, the now revealed Sabine, and Chopper to locate the Mandalorian base.  Kanan reluctantly agrees to let Sabine plant bombs on the assembled star fighters as a backup, if diplomacy go nearly as well as he hopes.  Their paths diverge, Kanan spots Rau entering a building which serves as something of a saloon, and Sabine heads for the fighters with her trademark explosives in hand.  In the trivia provided by the episode guide on StarWars.com, we are informed that a certain level of Western aesthetic was brought to it.  This really begins the moment we cut to the interior of Rau’s building and find him with his helmet off, a small glass of something in hand. Kanan appears in the doorway in the background, as if preparing to walk through a pair of swinging saloon doors.

Kanan sits down with Rau, who eyes him and was alert enough to have a blaster trained on the Jedi from his first appearance.  Kanan joins the Protector, as he’s titled, revealing that he’s a Jedi and to thank him for saving his life so many years ago at the Battle of Mygeeto. In that instant, the bridge between Marvel’s Kanan and Rebels is built, and the two have a brief conversation recalling the moment.  The conversation, itself, doesn’t build bridges, as Rau makes it clear that it’s economically and pragmatically better for his group to work for the Empire and not help the rebels.  Outside, Sabine’s efforts start going south as well, as she is caught by three of Rau’s Mandalorians, who accuse her of having stolen her Mandalorian armor.

Sabine’s answer is defiant, as she states she forged her armor, and when questioned as to her house she proudly states, “House Wren of the Clan Vizsla.”  Just as quickly as Rebels connected to Kanan, now the show connects back to the events of The Clone Wars.  The leader of the Death Watch was a Mandalorian named Pre Vizsla, which means that Sabine’s clan, notably her mother as Sabine clarifies, were part of the infamous group.  This information results in one of the Mandalorians immediately shouting, “Traitor!” and at the same time, making the history of Mandalore even more confusing.

As already established above, Death Watch rebelled against Duchess Satine’s pacifistic plans for Mandalore.  So we should then believe that any group of Mandalorians who chose not to follow this new future would be traitors of that government.  Yet, here we have quite a non-pacifistic group of Mandalorians, connected to a man who a couple decades earlier during the Clone Wars appeared to object to Duchess Satine’s dream, and they refer to members of Death Watch as a traitor.  Unfortunately, any further information by which to untangle this discrepancy isn’t offered, as Sabine announces to her fellow Mandalorians that she wants the ancient right to single combat with the commander of the group.

This draws out Rau who concedes to her demands, resulting in another nod to Westerns with holster level camera shots interspersed with narrow frames on the eyes of Rau and Sabine.  The quick draw comes and we learn to our relief that Sabine is the faster shot. Almost immediately thereafter, now that we have established that Sabine has elected not to kill those responsible for hurting Hera, she activates the explosives and the air field boils over in beautifully animated explosions.  Only one star fighter survives, Fenn Rau’s.

Kanan and Sabine pursue the Protector with Kanan pulling off an attack to disable Rau’s fighter that only a Jedi could muster up.  Rau is captured, not killed, and treated almost as a hostage, taken into rebel custody as insurance against Mandalorian resistance to rebel excursions through the Concord Dawn system.  Rau’s capture is treated as almost an aggressive recruiting effort, something of a tough love call to arms.  The success of that plan is left to the future, where we can expect to see more of the Mandalorian leader.

“The Protector of Concord Dawn,” continues the show’s record of constantly improving its animation, direction, and even music.  It provided some background to Sabine Wren, though in the same effort, muddied the waters around the Mandalorian people, during the Clone Wars and in the present time of the show.  It provided the extremely satisfying connection between two mediums on a single day in the form of Fenn Rau, and arguably, sustained Kanan’s growing commitment to the ways of the Jedi and offers more of his own background to those who are not familiar with his comic adventures.  If one thing can be agreed upon, Rebels is now demonstrating how connected the Star Wars franchise is among Disney’s acquisitions.  At glance, this may not be a bad thing, especially in the service of entertaining episodes like “The Protector of Concord Dawn.”

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