How Did Sabine Survive? The Complicated Canon Around Lightsaber Wounds, Explained
The cliffhanger of Ahsoka episode 1 was resolved quickly. But why?
Everyone knows that when you get stabbed with a lightsaber in Star Wars canon, you will almost certainly no longer be alive. But, what Ahsoka presupposes is, that perhaps, lightsaber wounds aren’t as deadly as they used to be. At the end of the first episode of Ahsoka, one shocking battle wound is quickly repaired in the second episode. Does this make sense? And have lightsabers changed? Here’s the slippery, nitty-gritty of the relative deadliness of lightsabers in Star Wars canon.
Spoilers ahead for Ahsoka episodes 1 and 2.
At the end of the first Ahsoka episode, Sabine Wren squares off with Shin Hati in an intense lightsaber duel. Sabine is rocking the green-bladed lightsaber she inherited from Ezra Bridger, while Shin has one of these new slightly orange-hued villain blades. And, in the end, Sabine loses! Shin lands a classic Darth Maul stab on Sabine, and the beloved Rebel and Mandalorian falls to the ground, seemingly a goner.
But then, in the next episode, Sabine is in a hospital bed, very much alive. Why is she okay? Didn’t similar lightsaber hits mortally wound Qui-Gon Jinn and Han Solo? Are lightsabers less powerful than they used to be?
How people survive lightsaber wounds
Unlike Anakin Skywalker, Sabine’s recovery from a lightsaber wound did not require her to be augmented with any mechanical parts. Although it's not mentioned outright in dialogue, it seems that Sabine’s recovery is likely aided by Bacta and the presence of a 2-1B medical droid.
Notably, the first time we saw this kind of medical droid in Star Wars was when Luke Skywalker was seriously hurt in The Empire Strikes Back. Although never mentioned in the dialogue of that film, the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back (written by Donald F. Glut) is the first time Bacta was described in a Star Wars story, ever. Although Luke isn’t recovering from a lightsaber wound, we enter Han’s point-of-view and learn that this “gelatinous red fluid” can “work miracles, even with patients in such dire shape as Luke.” Technically speaking, the classic novelizations aren’t considered true canon, meaning it wasn’t until The Clone Wars TV series that current canon mentions Bacta outright. But still: The fact that this super-healing substance has been floating around in Star Wars since 1980 means, we shouldn’t be too shocked by Sabine’s somewhat rapid recovery.
Could Han Solo and Qui-Gon have been saved?
If we assume that the medical droid used some Bacta to seal Sabine’s wound in the Ahsoka episode, this opens up a slightly bigger can of Star Wars canon worms. While it's been fairly well established that lightsaber wounds tend to cauterize the wounds they create, we’ve certainly seen many instances where stabs like the one Sabine got, have proven fatal. Qui-Gon Jinn was stabbed by Darth Maul just like this, as was Han Solo, when he got it in the gut from another Kylo Ren.
So, could Qui-Gon Jinn and Han Solo have survived their lightsaber wounds in The Phantom Menace and The Force Awakens, respectively? The answer here is a cautious yes. Obi-Wan clearly didn’t have access to a medical droid or Bacta in The Phantom Menace, and Han Solo was dropped into a giant chasm after Kylo got him. Presumably, one can survive a massive lightsaber stab, and in the case of Darth Maul, you can even drag yourself around even if your legs have been cut off. The timing seems to be key here. This could also explain why the Grand Inquisitor survived getting lightsabered by Reva in Obi-Wan Kenobi; somebody found him soon enough.
Or, perhaps it's a question of proficiency. Perhaps Maul knew where to hit Qui-Gon, and delivered that fatal blow on purpose.
Did Shin mean to slay Sabine?
The fact that you can’t really bleed out from a lightsaber wound is super interesting when you stop to reflect on it. Leaving aside the bloody arm in the Cantina, Obi-Wan always claimed that lightsabers were weapons from a “more civilized age,” and perhaps this clinical element of these swords is (retroactively) part of why they’re so compelling. Current Star Wars TV certainly makes it seem like lightsaber wounds simply aren’t as deadly as they used to be. But, if we dig into the canon of people surviving lightsaber wounds — from Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker — it’s possible we’re dealing with a feature and not a bug.
So, the wound Shin inflicted on Sabine wasn’t deadly. But, if we couple that thought with the theory that there are specifically deadly lightsaber stabs, what if Shin’s stab was on purpose? Assuming that people who handle lightsabers regularly know the difference between a fatal stab and a non-fatal one, then suddenly we have a new question on our hands. Did Shin intentionally not fatally wound Sabine? And if so, why? In Episode 2, Baylan Skoll seems hesitant to destroy Ahsoka outright. Meaning, perhaps, there’s more to these two lightsaber-wielding baddies than meets the eye.