Those suffering from Star Wars withdrawal after The Force Awakens premiered last week need not pine until Episode VIII releases in 2017. Set approximately a hundred years earlier in Galactic history, this week’s episode of Star Wars Rebels similarly follows the swashbuckling exploits of a daring female protagonist. “Blood Sisters” lends us a rare and honest glimpse into Sabine Wren’s enigmatic persona and her dark days with the Empire before joining the Rebels.
This episode welcomes us back aboard the Ghost. Hera, a natural in her new position as Phantom Leader, has a special assignment for Sabine: to escort a courier with top secret intel to the Havok outpost. Elias and Chopper, who obviously haven’t had their fill of misadventure since “Brothers of the Broken Horn,” tag along.
Just as the ship’s hangers are closing, Ezra discovers that the steel box he’s been sitting on along is the courier, in the guise of a nondescript droid called EG-26. Before the team can celebrate, however, they discover that they are not the only ones with plans for the box.
Their competitor is Ketsu Onyo, bounty hunter for the notorious crime cartel, the Black Sands, and an “old friend” of Sabine. Ketsu would be an intimidating figure but it’s also hard to take her threats seriously since her gas mask lends a distinctly nasal quality to voice actress Gina Torres’ voice.
It turns out that Ketsu and Sabine used to work for the Imperial Academy before they escaped and became cohorts in crime. After Ketsu got greedy and left Sabine for dead, Sabine joined the Ghost crew. The two “blood sisters” are not exactly ecstatic to meet again.
Before any shots can be fired, however, the group is interrupted by a squad of Stormtroopers. In the ensuing gunfight, during which Ketsu single-handedly takes out seven clones, Chopper gets “Boxy” on a shuttle, Sabine hijacks the ship, and the Rebels escape into space with Ketsu trailing close behind in her own ship.
Here, the plot takes an awkward turn when Ezra just happens to fall out of the shuttle by accident and Sabine doesn’t seem to mind leaving him stranded at all. Whatever happened to teamwork?
Out in open space with a sluggish and gun-less shuttle, Sabine finds the odds stacked against her. She manages to reseal the hatch when Ketsu blasts a hole in the ship, but not before Chopper falls out. Fortunately, this works to the Rebels’ advantage. While Sabine stalls for time, he stealthily lands on Ketsu’s ship and dismantles her blaster just before the bounty hunter fires. For once, Chopper’s capacity to cause chaos actually saves the day.
Unfortunately, his trademark blundering is also what causes him to be captured by Ketsu, who wants to trade “droid for droid.” Chopper attempts to fight his way out but quickly realizes that spindly robot arms doing kung fu are no match for Ketsu’s deadly blades.
In a second showdown, Ketsu and Sabine meet in a makeshift hatch that links the two ships. Ketsu removes her helmet and instantly becomes more human—and threatening: a red sun tattooed on the back of her shaved head testifies to some extreme level of pain tolerance. Ketsu recalls with nostalgia and bitterness how the two of them used to be blood sisters while Sabine tries to win Ketsu over to the Rebel cause with a heartfelt speech, but before we can gauge whether either bounty hunter is actually moved, the Stormtroopers interrupt again.
Having caught up with the stolen shuttle, the clones threaten to blow up both ships. Forced together again, the pair works with surprising efficiency to load the old shuttle with explosives. There are some hair-raising moments when Ketsu could have flown away solo, but all in all, the seasoned killer proves herself trustworthy, even redeeming herself by rescuing an unconscious Sabine from the escape hatch.
At the end of the day, EG-26 is delivered safely to Senator Organa and the blood sisters return reconciled and triumphant to home base, where Hera and Ezra—awkward as ever—await. While Ketsu misses the camaraderie and warmth of friendship, she is not yet ready to join Rebels permanently. Still, Sabine seems confident that her partner will return.
Ezra: “Think that’s the last we’ve seen of her?”
Sabine: “No, and I’m glad.”
“Blood Sisters” seems like an combination of the previous two episodes: In “Brothers of the Broken Horn,” Ezra too is almost persuaded to leave the Ghost crew, while Hera’s own back-story is offered in “Wings of the Master.” Vying with Sabine for star of the week is Chopper, whose endearing combination of confidence and clumsiness manages to win even Ketsu’s heart. Ezra, on the other hand, had only half-humorous remarks and major awkwardness to offer; his presence seems pretty necessary in this episode. Minor glitches aside, “Blood Sisters” is a satisfying contribution to Sabine’s backstory in the Star Wars saga.