Lord knows we needed an episode that focused on Sabine, the least interesting character of the cast. She exudes a spunkiness that could be appealing if we knew something about her, or understood her, outside of the fact that she knows explosives, electronics, and crappy graffiti art. Clone Wars viewers will know that Mandalorians are a truly interesting group to pull stories from, but Sabine seems to have little connected to them outside of the soldier uniform. “Blood Sisters” attempts to finally provide the Sabine-centric episode that we desperately need, but, somehow, by revealing a big piece of her past, the show manages to make her even more of a cypher. It also doesn’t help that newcomer Ketsu is herself a underwhelming character, which doesn’t really give Sabine much to play off of, nor is the episode interesting, or even logical, in the narrative sense.
Sabine, Ezra, and Chopper are sent to retrieve some secret information to find with the code phrase, “It’s a long way from Alderaan.” First off: standing in the middle of spaceport yelling out this phrase to random people is ridiculously suspicious. Secondly: the episode tries to suggest that Sabine has been a loner all this time, with Ezra goofy harangue about her aloofness ringing false, since we’ve yet to see Sabine actually being a loner. Being “mysterious” doesn’t equate to being alone. But that mystery almost comes undone when the seemingly-dangerous Ketsu Onyo arrives. She and Sabine have themselves a stand-off over the droid housing the secret information, but what we get is some of the worst exposition in the show thus far.
Cartoons, generally speaking, have to struggle with exposition, partly because their target audience is mostly children, and partly because the world of cartoons are so vast and outlandish that doling out a lot of information is necessary just for the sake of clarity. Here, however, a good sixty percent of it is unnecessary (mainly because that information is reiterated later on in the episode), and biggest reveal–Sabine was once a mercenary!–is never expounded upon. Their entire conversation is amounts to this: Sabine apparently escaped the Mandalorian academy with Ketsu, they became mercenaries, stuff happened, Ketsu left Sabine to die, and she, uh, didn’t. It feel like there’s a lot of information that’s missing here, (not to mention the emotional/psychological toil of this revealed history), but this method of exposition didn’t exactly make me pin for more.
Mercenaries in the Star Wars universe are an riveting bunch, with various levels and ideas of codes, ethics, skills, styles and relationships that makes them ripe for potential. Here, Ketsu and Sabine’s past is just narrative table-setting. Revealing their mercenary past is just a way to create a conflict between the two. They could’ve been former soldiers, or classmates, or bleached-hair bondmates, and we could’ve gotten the same story. It does allow for a small bit of interplay, in which Sabine and Ketsu try to second-guess each other as they escape the port and fly out into space. And the few conversations they do have as they duel spaceships, while still filled with exposition, contain a sense of sentiment, of a real history and friendship between them. The discussion that takes place on the docking bridge between the two, at the very least, is nicely framed, with some nice, tight intercuts between the two, undercutting their past relationship.
And then a random Empire ship arrives, which somehow forces Sabine and Ketsu to completely drop their hostilities and work together, and it’s hundred percent disingenuous. I mean, sure, in the face of an even bigger threat, having the two temporary team up would be one thing (and it would’ve been impressive to watch the two former bounty hunters clicking, as a reflection of what they used to be like), but Ketsu’s complete worldview change and Sabine’s forgiveness of Ketsu’s betrayal arrives so suddenly, and it’s completely unearned. Also, the characters don’t really click so much as Sabine comes up with the ideas as Ketsu just follows along. The final sequence isn’t even fun, or clever, or particularly adventurous; it’s just on par for the course, where the two easily fool the Empire and manages to escape in the nick of time.
“Blood Sisters” had the opportunity to really push Sabine as a character, to take her mercenary roots and her previous partnership with Ketsu and provide a much needed boost in characterization and perspective. Instead, we’re provided a by-the-numbers “work together” lesson, with yet another thematic emphasis on the importance of fighting for someone and with others. That’s a great theme to work with for sure, but without the Sabine narrative working to back up that theme up, it’s just data. That may work for old droids but human audiences are going to want more.
- Ketsu Onyo was voiced by Gina Torres, who is an amazing actress but doesn’t fair as well in the VO department.
- Ketsu’s beatdown of the various Stormtroopers was cool but it didn’t lead anywhere.
- Ketsu is a member of the Black Sun, an group of super bounty hunters that also have political/entrepreneurial muscle. There’s some arc in The Clone Wars that involves them but it’s mostly forgettable.
- In a way, Sabine has had more to do this season than last. She’s been a lot more part of the action, getting her hands dirty while taking up the role as the nerd/mechanic character. So it’s even more of a disappointment that she’s still so underdeveloped.
- So is Zeb, to be honest.