With all the new Star Wars content being created by Disney, the fandom is awash with rumors about which beloved character is going to appear in the next video streaming series. The sky’s the limit, as modern technology can digitally de-age our favorite actors (like Mark Hamill reprising his iconic role as Luke Skywalker in The Mandalorian) and the precedent has been set for animated characters to move into live-action (such as Ahsoka Tano and Bo-Katan Kryze).
But who’s next? Ahsoka’s guest appearance on The Mandalorian gave us a big clue about what she’s up to post Empire – hunting Grand Admiral Thrawn – and we all know that she set out on that mission with one of the main characters of Star Wars: Rebels – Sabine Wren.
With the controversial Sequel Trilogy now behind us, Disney has the chance to really amp things up by bringing animated characters to live action, and with Sabine they have a chance to really impress. If they do it right.
Who is Sabine Wren?
If you’re one of those Star Wars fans who sticks with the movies, you won’t know who Sabine Wren is. Fair enough, but I strongly encourage you to dive into the animated series Star Wars: Rebels. Like everything in the franchise it’s kid-friendly, but don’t be fooled by it being a cartoon. Rebels has some of the best characterization and storylines of the entire saga and it serves as a brilliant bridge between the Prequel Trilogy / Clone Wars and the Original Trilogy.
Sabine Wren is one of the main characters and she comes with a heckuva back story. Born two years before the creation of the Empire into one of the Mandalorian noble houses, Sabine grew up as a member of Clan Wren. The Empire’s subjugation of Mandalore was harsh and as a demonstration of her family’s loyalty young Sabine was sent off to the Imperial academy for a career in the Empire.
The Imperial academy was no place for a Mandalorian warrior
But Sabine inherited both the strength of her warrior mother and the independence of her artist father, and ultimately her Imperial career was doomed. She demonstrated great skill with weapons, both using them and designing them, and as a young teen she created a weapon capable of defeating Mandalorian warriors by targeting their fabled beskar armor.
Realizing the horror that she’d created, Sabine destroyed her prototype and all the plans (so she thought) and fled the academy. Unfortunately, word of her weapon had already reached Mandalorian ears and she was branded a traitor to Mandalore.
Sabine Wren exiled… but not alone
Now on the run from both the Empire and the Mandalorians, Sabine demonstrated her strength and resourcefulness by surviving on her own in the galaxy. Still a young girl barely into her teens, she made her way as a small-time bounty hunter, mechanic and weapons technician.
Sabine’s family – old and new
Her skills eventually brought her into the crew of the Ghost, a pocket of rebel fighters trying to organize some way to fight back against the Empire. Sabine joined Hera Syndulla, Kanan Jarrus, Zeb Orellios and the grumpy droid Chopper as galactic events began to unfold. The team was eventually completed with Ezra Bridger, a teen boy a couple of years younger than Sabine but old enough to notice Sabine’s blossoming beauty.
Adventures unfolded, as the rebels of the Ghost tackled many a battle and made many a desperate escape as they caused trouble for the Empire and attracted unwanted attention from agents of the Dark Side. Sabine had the chance to prove herself as a leader on minor missions, but while the Ghost crew became her surrogate family, her real family ties eventually led her back into the politics of Mandalore.
With the Rebellion needing more allies, Sabine reached out to Fenn Rau, a feared Mandalorian warrior who was working with the Empire. Fenn Rau was initially unwilling to cooperate, but as a rebel prisoner he witnessed Sabine’s courage, resourcefulness and loyalty. When Mandalorian warrior Gar Saxon wiped out Rau’s fighting force and then put pressure on Sabine’s family, Clan Wren, Fenn Rau joined the rebels.
Wielder of the Darksaber
In an earlier adventure, Sabine had found the darksaber, a mythical weapon created ages earlier by the only Mandalorian ever to become a Jedi. The darksaber had once belonged to Pre Vizsla but when he was killed in combat by Darth Maul the weapon passed to the rogue Sith Lord. Sabine’s ownership of the darksaber was challenged as she hadn’t won it in combat and Gar Saxon seized the darksaber. He then attempted to wipe out Sabine’s family and she bravely faced him in single combat. Despite his own treachery, Gar Saxon was defeated and killed, giving Sabine the right to claim the darksaber as the victor in combat.
But Sabine, still only a teenager, had no desire to rule Mandalore and she offered the weapon to Bo-Katan Kryze, a powerful warrior with her own following and, unlike Gar Saxon, more than willing to throw the Empire off Mandalore. Sabine returned to the Ghost to join Hera, Kanan, Zeb, Chopper and Ezra for another season of adventure. Although once again welcome in Clan Wren, she now understood that her place was with the Ghost and the wider Rebellion.
The Triumph of Star Wars: Rebels
Star Wars: Rebels has the advantage over any of the feature films in its ability to develop characters over a multiple-season arc. Sabine Wren starts out as an interesting character, with her Mandalorian armor, her sassy attitude laced with dark undertones and her kick-ass fighting ability. Honestly, that would have been enough for a blockbuster film, but Star Wars: Rebels has the luxury of taking Sabine much further as a character.
Yes, she was a Mandalorian, but she was a disgraced one unable to set foot on her own planet. That takes something we’d seen several times in Clone Wars and makes it even cooler as her backstory slowly revealed itself.
Yes, she was sassy and independent, but there was something much darker swirling beneath that was far greater than just her wanting to keep Ezra on his toes. We learn that Sabine struggles with anger, with guilt, with sadness – a whirlwind of emotions usually hidden under her tough-chick facade as she tries to mask her own vulnerability.
And yes, she was great with weapons and explosives. But beneath that lies her greatest shame in that she created a weapon designed specifically to hurt her own people. Her early questionable decisions lead to banishment and a long search for redemption.
Some of the best characters and storylines in Star Wars
Sabine Wren is far from the only complex, well-developed and ultimately heroic character in Star Wars: Rebels. Hera Syndulla, Kanan Jarrus, Zeb Orellios and Ezra Bridger all undertake multi-season journeys that build them out into believable, imperfect yet sympathetic people who we want to watch. Even Chopper has an interesting backstory as the first droid who we actually think of as a war veteran, with all the psychological issues that can come from that.
The characters we first meet in Season 1 of Star Wars: Rebels are for the most part quite different people by the end of Season 4, a sign of excellent writing that can often be overlooked.
Who says a Star Wars animated series can’t be better than live action?
Star Wars: The Clone Wars is widely applauded for building out the last days of the Republic and bringing to life all the drama and characterization that could have happened in Attack of the Clones or Revenge of the Sith, and rightly so. I’m the last person to criticize a series, animated or not, that brought us Ahsoka Tano and transformed Anakin Skywalker from a whiny adolescent into a sympathetic, believable hero whose fall to the Dark Side was far from inevitable and therefore even more tragic.
But Star Wars: Rebels did something even better. Operating without any existing main characters to prop it up, Rebels took viewers into a part of Star Wars history they’d never seen before and gave us bold, new stories that were certainly related to existing canon but were free to explore the Jedi, the Sith, the Empire, the legacy of the Clone Wars and yes, Mandalore, in ways we’d never seen.
In only four seasons, Star Wars: Rebels accomplished more than all of the movies (bar the original, of course) in bringing the Star Wars galaxy to life. Star Wars: Clone Wars also did an admirable job, but it did so with a feature-length film and seven seasons, and had the pre-existing support of two live-action movies to frame it.
The Hunt for Ezra Bridger
So, with all this material to work with, where is Disney going next with Star Wars? Star Wars: Rebels ended (spoiler alert) with the Empire’s greatest admiral, Thrawn, defeated at the planet Lothal by Ezra and his band of rebels. Both Thrawn and Ezra are swept away into hyperspace by the mysterious purrgil and no-one has seen them since.
But before the battle, Ezra spoke quietly to Sabine and told her, “I’m counting on you” – a phrase he’d repeat to her again in a pre-recorded holo-video the Ghost crew see after the battle is over. In the epilog of Star Wars: Rebels, the final scene centers on Sabine as she contemplates what Ezra meant and decides that maybe it’s time to go and search for him. Ahsoka Tano arrives and together they set out.
What exactly is Ezra and Sabine’s relationship?
Since the completion of Rebels there’s been plenty of speculation about the exact nature of Ezra and Sabine’s relationship by the end of the series. Star Wars usually doesn’t play up the romance too much in the animated series, but couples getting together has been a staple of the saga. It’s true that Sabine considered Ezra kind of a punk when they first met, but it’s conceivable that two good-looking teens, enduring four years of adventure together, might develop some sort of romantic attraction. Search for any fan art depicting Ezra and Sabine and you’ll find plenty of desire from the fandom for these two kids to link up.
To date, however, there’s no canon evidence that Ezra and Sabine were romantically involved. There’s a delightful moment in the Season 3 episode “Imperial Supercommandos” when Sabine suddenly grabs Ezra by the waist with both hands and pulls him right up against her body, to which he can only shout, “Whoa!” Of course, she then uses her jetpack to get them both out of there, but the ensuing chase sees them clinging to each other and in the very last moment of the battle scene they put their arms around each others’ shoulders in a surprisingly affectionate gesture.
So at no point in the series do we see Sabine and Ezra get together, but there’s nothing to say something didn’t happen later, offscreen. Star Wars is never afraid to go back in time to reveal hidden secrets from a character’s past, so… who knows?
Sabine and Ahsoka versus the galaxy
But what we do know is that Rebels ended with Sabine Wren and Ahsoka Tano joining forces to search for Ezra and the lost Imperial commander Thrawn. That scene, based sometime after the events of Return of the Jedi, is the natural launching point for Sabine to make her live-action debut.
Jedi and Mandalorians working together
The Mandalorian is the hottest Star Wars property right now and Season 2 blew the minds of fans by bringing both Mandalorian Bo-Katan Kryze and former Jedi Ahsoka Tano into live-action (and Boba Fett – let’s not forget that!). Sabine knows these women well and is related to them both in different ways, but it was Ahsoka’s single question to her vanquished foe that got Sabine fans most excited: “Where,” Ahsoka asked, “is Grand Admiral Thrawn?”
As I mentioned, the last time we saw Sabine and Ahsoka was at the end of Rebels as they set out to find Ezra. The young Jedi was with Thrawn when they disappeared, so Ahsoka’s question strongly suggests that she’s still on her quest. But where’s Sabine? Are they still looking for both lost characters, or have they found Ezra and are still searching for Thrawn?
So many questions. If only Disney was planning something where they could be answered… Oh, wait! A new show called Star Wars: Ahsoka is in the works! And The Mandalorian is running at least one more season, if not two. Both these shows are based in the same time period and either of them could pick up the story of Sabine.
We want Sabine! Star Wars is poised to deliver…
But as The Rise of Skywalker proved, bringing back a favorite character doesn’t always play the way one hopes. Don’t get me started, but Emperor Palpatine was thoroughly unnecessary for that movie to succeed – or if they really wanted to bring him back, it could have been done way better.
If Disney wants to bring our favorite daughter of Mandalore back into the story, I hope they look upon the pile of poodoo that was Rise of Skywalker and consider carefully how to do it.
A weapon to rule a world
One path for Sabine to return would be in The Mandalorian, via the darksaber. Bo-Katan sought this weapon to earn the right to rule Mandalore, but in the last episode our hero Din Djarin accidentally won the saber by defeating Moff Gideon in single combat. The season ended with that plotline wide open.
Sabine gave the darksaber to Bo-Katan in Rebels. At the time it seemed a sensible thing to do but The Mandalorian is strongly suggesting that Bo-Katan wasn’t recognized as the ruler by her fellow Mandalorians because she didn’t win the saber in combat. Perhaps Sabine is once again seen as the villain by her fellow Mandalorians because she broke tradition, and her path might cross that of Din Djarin. Din and Sabine would make an explosive combination, especially if they’re suddenly in opposition to Bo-Katan, and if done right this storyline would make fans lose their minds.
A mission to find a friend
But a more likely scenario would be Sabine and Ahsoka picking up the thread left dangling at the end of Rebels when they set out to find Ezra and Thrawn. The Star Wars rumor mill is already spinning about the actors being cast as both Ezra and Thrawn in Star Wars: Ahsoka.
This should be a great story. Ahsoka and Sabine are beloved characters who interacted only minimally during Rebels but who have both suffered loss and who have a common purpose. An older, more seasoned Sabine would be a fantastic person to watch on screen and a strong counterpoint to Ahsoka’s presence. It would also, if Dave Filoni and team decide to go this way, give Star Wars a chance to have its first romance on screen in twenty years. Sparks between Ezra and Sabine could fly, depending on the circumstances of their reunion and what each of them has been up to since Rebels ended.
Sabine Wren, in person
Rosario Dawson brought Ahsoka to life brilliantly and clearly has the chops to lead a live-action series – I’ve yet to hear anyone question why she assumed the role instead of Ahsoka voice actress Ashley Eckstein. Sabine Wren was voiced in Rebels by Tiya Sircar who is herself an accomplished live-action performer (check out The Good Place). She would probably have delivered a brilliant performance, but Disney recently announced that Sabine will be played in live action by Natasha Liu Bordizzo.
While I’m personally a big fan of Ms. Sircar, I look forward to seeing Ms. Bordizzo bring Sabine Wren to life. Here’s hoping that the writing matches the acting talent and that Disney give this character the epic story she deserves.