– Spoiler Review –
Hera Syndulla comes face-to-face with Grand Admiral Thrawn after she takes on a personal mission to recover a family heirloom in Star Wars Rebels latest, “Hera’s Heroes.” While a fun and revealing episode in regards to Hera, especially what and who family really are to her, the chills come on strong when Thrawn makes his presence, albeit briefly, known.
While making a supply run, Hera and the crew have to swing in to assist Numa and her father Cham escape an Imperial patrol. Once on board, Hera learns some terrible news from Cham: the Empire has taken over their home province and he was unable to secure their family’s Kalikori, a heirloom passed from parents to their children in Twi’lek families. Hera doesn’t want the memory of her mother to die by leaving such a priceless item behind, but doesn’t want to risk the crew for a personal mission. Of course everyone, including the Ghost crew, Cham, Numa, and Gobi, volunteer to help and a plan is quickly drawn up. Hera and Ezra, the latter adorned in a stolen speeder bike trooper uniform, sneak into Hera’s home to grab the Kalikori, while everyone else acts as a distraction. Things take a turn for the worse when Grand Admiral Thrawn appears and quickly identifies Hera, capturing her and Ezra, while also taking the Kalikori for his personal collection. Captain Slavin (just as subtle a name as Skerris last week) uses the captured Hera and Ezra as a bargaining chip for Cham’s surrender. The exchange is almost made…up until Chopper’s mission of planting explosives all over the Syndulla’s home and blowing it up is completed. Thrawn lets them escape, using the moment as chance to learn more about his opponents, making their win feel more ominous than triumphant (at least for viewers). Along the way, we learn a lot about Hera’s priorities and what’s truly important to her, making her an even stronger and nuanced character than before.
Last season, the Hera-centric episodes focused on her love of flying (“Wings of the Master”) and her strained relationship with her father (“Homecoming”), where as “Hera’s Heroes” dived into who exactly can be considered family for Hera and just how much they mean to her. Seeing Hera even consider such a personal mission is quite the big step, considering how far she’s come in the Rebellion ranks, as well as her knowing what personal missions did for Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka last year when they journeyed out to Malachor. I totally believe had her dad still been a jerk and the crew wasn’t one big giant family, the mission never would’ve taken place. Luckily, Hera and Cham hammered out their issues last season, while her crew is quick to support her because of all the support she has given them as their space mom, making the mission a go. While it’s no secret the crew of the Ghost is her family, fans have been calling her space mom for a reason since early on, it was intriguing to hear her say they’re even more important than actual family. Found family has always been a big part of Star Wars (like Han, Luke, and Leia, even if Luke and Leia ended up being family, or more recently Rey, Finn, and Poe), as it’s frequently those ties which end up seeming stronger for most characters because everyone just so happens to have (mainly) father and mom issues. But Hera’s past, and Twi’lek culture, is soaked into her more than any other crew member’s history, besides maybe Sabine’s Mando background, as Kanan lost his support group in Order 66 early on, Ezra’s parents were taken from him at a young age, and Zeb’s entire culture was devastated (or so he thought until recently). So for Hera to openly reveal to the others how the family she’s made on her ship is so important, even over her strong past, is a big moment for her and the crew, as it only ends up solidifying the space family feeling they already know they share with each other deep down in their hearts. Likewise, how she was willing to let her house be destroyed or her mother’s heirloom sacrificed instead of Thrawn getting his blue hands on it means Hera realizes a family’s legacy is more than the things they accumulate, but rather how they uphold the family image through actions. This is a great life lesson to take for both characters on the show and for those watching at home, as trinkets might hold sentimental value, but honoring someone’s ideals is the most important way to keep their memory strong for years to come. At the end of the episode, Hera reveals she has everything she needs with her to honor her mom’s memory: Kanan, interestingly (and most pointedly for space-married fans) the first person she points out helps her do so, then her father, and then the fact that she’s surrounded by her family every day. I didn’t think it would be possible to love Hera anymore as a character, but this episode proved me wrong. Doubly goes to Vanessa Marshall, who’s performance continues to be as nuanced as a role like Hera demands (she got me a bit again with the Twi’lek accent!).
If you’ve been fanboying/fangirling over Grand Admiral Thrawn since his announcement, then “Hera’s Heroes” was finally the episode where those flailings over the character were validated. Chills ran down my spine as he slowly revealed how he was able to deduce Hera’s identity simply from having knowledge about the culture and art of the Twi’leks. It wasn’t his smarts alone that brought the chills though, it was also his eerie and haunting theme (more great Kevin Kiner work) and Lars Mikkelsen’s understated, calm, and measured delivery. His politeness is the most unnerving aspect of his personality and he has real confidence in his abilities and deductions, which shows in both his words and actions, like how an educated guess allows him get the drop on Ezra when he tries to free Hera from the whole situation. Thrawn also doesn’t suffer Imperial incompetence as easily as he does the biting tongue of his enemy, in this case Hera’s defiant words, and it was interesting to see Slavin’s ignorance of art set him off so quickly; If there’s any weakness to this Thrawn yet, I’d say that would be it. Just like in the premiere, Thrawn doesn’t bring his full might against the rebels, instead deferring to their victory as a way to allow them to build up overconfidence while learning a bit about their tactics and mindsets. Thrawn is definitely soaking up every interaction with the rebels, and I’m sure he was appraised of Pryce’s interactions with Sabine from last week, making any win in a clash against him right now less a moment of triumph than I’d like. His patience will pay off…and not in a good way for anyone we care about. Prepare yourself fellow fans.
Last week I commented on how “The Antilles Extraction” didn’t have much in the way of character growth for Sabine, though it was still a fine episode for her and showcasing her talents. That lack of characterization mainly stems from how the plot moved the story along, where as Hera is what moved the plot in this episode, therefore giving us a better look into how she thinks, works, and reacts to situations. It’s the preferred way to learn more about any character and it shows how much more powerful the approach can be once you compare to last week’s episode. Now should be a good time to mention that Lucasfilm Story Group member Pablo Hidalgo introduced “Hera’s Heroes” writer ahead of the episode: Nicole Dubuc. This was her first episode and it’s definitely the strongest of the season at this point (even if we are still very early), mainly because so much of the plot was character driven, something we don’t always get to see on Rebels. Likewise, if this is the quality of work she can bring to the table for characterization for the crew, as well as dialogue for characters including Thrawn, then please bring her back to do more episodes.
Here are a few other things:
- After everything Cham and Hera went through in “Homecoming,” I appreciated how that wasn’t reset to zero for this episode but rather showed how strongly they bonded again. Cham, important resistance leader for Ryloth, is willing to sacrifice himself for his daughter, something which catches even Hera by surprise, because family is even more important to him than leading the rebellion on Ryloth…though how quickly he points out she’d be a fine leader in his absence does make me wonder if he’d sacrifice himself had she not proven to be such a fantastic leader.
- So does everyone get as big a home as the Syndulla’s have or were they pretty important back in the day? The answer comes in this week’s Rebels Recon, as they dissect Hera’s childhood a bit, as well as cover the organic way the series’ reliance on art helps bring art aficionado Thrawn into it.
- I really like what Thrawn said about Hera, especially that she was forged by war, which hits her enough to speak up to him, in doing so saying one of my favorite lines from the episode, “It doesn’t matter where we come from, Admiral, our will to be free is what’s going to beat you.”
- We first learned Chopper was shot down in a Y-wing during the Clone Wars on Ryloth, and rescued by Hera, back in “The Forgotten Droid.” It was really neat to have that paid off here, including his solemness regarding the husk of the ship, and they had a decent enough reason for the ship to still be around all these years later. I’m sure Chopper was not only happy to get to blow things up because he’s a menace, but also as a way to say goodbye to that past as well. I laughed quite a bit over his gleefulness and laughter while setting up explosives all over the Syndulla homestead.
- Since Thrawn’s name is never spoken in this episode, and Ezra asks who the blue guy was and Hera doesn’t have an answer, it’ll be interesting to learn how the crew comes to know who they are up against, and if there’s any stories they’ve heard about him.
- On Twitter, Pablo dropped the inspiration behind Thrawn’s theme: Koyannisqatsi‘s soundtrack. It was s film from 1984 which, according to Wikipedia, was about human’s relationship with nature. The entire film has no words, but rather a soundtrack by composer Philip Glass and the moment you give the first three minutes of the music a listen, you’ll definitely hear the resemblance Thrawn’s theme has to it.
- I know this episode was all about Hera, but I’m still a bit bummed there hasn’t been any mention of Kallus’ help from last week by anyone. Looks like they’ll cover that topic only once we go back down that road again.
- No mention of Moff Mors (first introduced in Lords of the Sith and also the first canon LGBT character). Wonder if she’s still overseeing Ryloth or something happened to her.
Family is what you make it and no-one seems to know that better than Hera Syndulla, rebel leader and mom to a dysfunctional space family. “Hera’s Heroes” does wonders for Hera’s character growth, as well as begins to paint a threatening picture regarding what someone like Grand Admiral Thrawn might just be capable of.
+ Hera’s love for her found family and understanding legacy
+ Thrawn’s chilling conversation and patience
+ The Crew and Cham’s support of Hera
STAR WARS REBELS REVIEWS:
Season One: Spark of Rebellion | Ep. 2: “Droids In Distress” | Ep.3: “Fighter Flight” | Ep.4: “Rise of the Old Masters” | Ep.5: “Breaking Ranks” | Ep.6: “Out of Darkness” | Ep.7: “Empire Day” | Ep.8: “Gathering Forces” | Ep.9: “Path of the Jedi” | Ep.10: “Idiot’s Array” | Ep.11: “Vision of Hope” | Ep.12: “Call to Action” | Ep.13: “Rebel Resolve” | Ep.14: “Fire Across the Galaxy“
Season Two: The Siege of Lothal | Ep. 2: “The Lost Commanders” | Ep. 3: “Relics of the Old Republic” | Ep. 4: “Always Two There Are” | Ep. 5: “Brothers of the Broken Horn” | Ep. 6: “Wings of the Master” | Ep. 7: “Blood Sisters” | Ep. 8: “Stealth Strike” | Ep. 9: “The Future of the Force” | Ep. 10: “Legacy” | Ep. 11: “A Princess on Lothal” | Ep. 12: “The Protector of Concord Dawn” | Ep. 13: “Legends of the Lasat” | Ep. 14: “The Call” | Ep. 15: “Homecoming” | Ep. 16: “The Honorable Ones” | Ep. 17: “Shroud of Darkness” | Ep. 18: “The Forgotten Droid” | Ep. 19: “The Mystery of Chopper Base” | Ep. 20: “Twilight of the Apprentice“
Season Three: Steps into Shadow | Ep. 2: “Holocrons of Fate” | Ep. 3: “The Antilles Extraction” | Ep. 5: “The Last Battle” | Ep. 6: “Imperial Supercommandos” | Ep. 7: “Iron Squadron” | Ep. 8: “The Wynkahthu Job” | Ep. 9: “An Inside Man” | Ep. 10: “Visions and Voices” | Ep. 11: “Ghosts of Geonosis” | Ep. 12: “Warhead” | Ep. 13: “Trials of the Darksaber” | Ep. 14: “Legacy of Mandalore” | Ep. 15: “Through Imperial Eyes” | Ep. 16: “Secret Cargo” | Ep. 17: “Double Agent Droid” | Ep. 18: “Twin Suns” | Ep. 19: “Zero Hour“
Season Four: Ep.1/2: “Heroes of Mandalore” Part One / Part Two | Ep. 3/4: “In the Name of the Rebellion” | Ep. 5: “The Occupation” | Ep. 6: “Flight of the Defender” | Ep. 7/8: “Kindred” and “Crawler Commandeers” | Ep. 9: “Rebel Assault” | Ep. 10/11 “Jedi Night” and “Dume” | Ep. 12/13: “Wolves and a Door” & “A World Between Worlds” | Ep. 14/15: Series Finale “A Fool’s Hope” & “Family Reunion – And Farewell”