– Spoiler Review –
The first Hera-centric episode of the season, “Wings of the Master” is among the earliest standouts, giving fans a look into her skills and desire for being a pilot. In “Homecoming,” Star Wars Rebels makes things way more personal for Captain Syndulla, as she faces the past she has so carefully stayed away from: her father, Cham Syndulla. In doing so, it becomes one of the show’s best and certainly among the season’s best.
Hera has been the rock for the entire crew of the Ghost, the mother in the Space Family dynamic they have, and she’s largely been in that solid, comforting state since the show’s beginning. There’s been cracks here and there, like how losing members of Phoenix Squad has distressed her or how she breaks protocol to risk it all to save Kanan back in the S1 finale, but it’s not until she must deal with her own father that we see she can be just as vulnerable as the rest of the crew. Because while Hera’s leadership capabilities and willingness to help deal with the crew’s emotions has made her a good and important character, she becomes something greater once we get to see the relationship she has with the crew works both ways and that she even has vulnerabilities, adding new depths to her character.
Cham Syndulla, a character who appeared in The Clone Wars show and Lords of the Sith novel, can be added to the list of fathers in the Star Wars saga who make for a bad parent. There’s no arguing he’s a decorated warrior, as he helped to unite his people to liberate themselves from the Separatists and enacted a devastating plan against Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine during their visit to Ryloth (which is used in the Imperial Academy as a training lesson), but one can’t be such a fierce warrior without a passionate zeal for the fight and willingness to make personal sacrifices. And since being at war doesn’t ever really seem to stop for Cham, having to go from one enemy to the next without much of a break between, he concentrates too much on the conflict at hand instead of facing the reality of how limited the repercussions of his actions are. While LotS does an excellent job setting the stage for his zealous liberator mindset and war-hungry heart, Rebels manages to fit his whole characterization in during one of the show’s deepest and most heartfelt conversations to date.
It’s abundantly clear how different Hera and Cham operate once they discuss their respective plans for the Imperial Light Cruiser they been tasked to deal with over Ryloth: Cham, unwilling to fight the real fight still, wants the ship taken down in a show of force for his people, even if it invites more Imperials; Hera, knowing the war can’t be won until a fire ignites across the galaxy, simply wants to take the ship for Phoenix Squadron’s benefit so they can fight the real fight. They have a confrontation shortly afterwards, even though Kanan has mediated the plans to taking the carrier, and the conversation which follows is one that I’ve watched several times simply because of how emotionally charged and nuanced it is. Cham accuses his daughter of all his own shortcomings, without even realizing it, as he thinks she’s forgotten what’s really at stake in the war against the Empire. He’s so focused on liberating his people on Ryloth because he’s doesn’t want what happened to his wife or Isval (from LotS) to happen to more people and continuously inflicting pain on the Empire has become the easiest way for him to hide from the truth: how his own need for vengeance has cost him those dearest to him, not the Empire’s actions. He wants to bring the ship down because he knows the Empire will only come back harder, feeding his anger and desire for vengeance. Hera tries to reach out to him, even going full-on Twi’lek accent, to make him realize how foolishly he wastes his skills on a fight without end when he could be using them to help save more than just one planet.
Cham, Numa, and Gobi turn on the rebels to enact their own plan in the middle of the mission, causing the Imperials plenty of time to call in for backup and make a counter attack. But Hera manages to turn them around to her way of thinking, just before the battle gets underway, with a rousing speech. In the end, both Cham and Hera end up getting what they wanted from the mission, in more ways than one: Cham gives the people of Ryloth a symbol to look up to, as he helps tear a different cruiser out of the sky (thanks to a brilliant plan by Ezra, with Sabine’s help), while Hera gets the carrier cruiser their squadron so desperately needs. But more importantly, Cham’s acceptance of his daughter’s skills and the righteousness of her cause over his allows him to begin mending the bridge that he broke between them. Telling Hera how proud he is of her also gives Hera some peace of mind in regards to her father, allowing her to focus again on being the mother to her Space Family and the leader in her position with Phoenix Squad.
Kanan and Ezra’s trust in one another is impressive, as they work in a near effortless tandem to make their way down the corridor to take the bridge (just imagine if Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan had done something similar in the battle with Maul). It’s my favorite action piece in the episode, as it worked just as well visually as it does to reaffirm the bond between this unique Padawan and Master combination. It almost felt like they practiced it a few times, which gives me the funny image of them throwing each other around the Ghost, much to everyone’s chagrin. Then when they’re on the bridge, Kanan allows Ezra to try his hand at a Jedi Mind Trick and the look of surprise on Ezra and Hera’s faces is priceless (as PEP-No! on Tumblr points out hilariously). From his purrgil connection, to his Mind Trick skills, to his tandem fighting with Kanan, Ezra has certainly grown more and more as a young Jedi and it’s certainly thanks to the supportive Master (and family) around him. Lastly, Kanan’s behavior around Cham was entertaining to watch mainly for how it speaks to his feelings for Hera. There’s nothing more intimidating than meeting the potential in-laws for the first time, especially depending on the importance one places on their impressions towards the relationship one has with their daughter or son, and Kanan’s special brand of Jedi upbringing allows us to see him wear his nervousness on his sleeves (considering we know he’s been with women before meeting Hera, I wonder how many times he’s met in-laws in the past or if this was his first time overall). But it’s Freddie Prinze Jr.’s explanation for Kanan’s behavior about Cham, as seen in the Rebels Recon over at the official site’s episode guide, which takes the cake.
Here are a few other things:
- Hera busting out the accent took me by complete surprise and gets me emotional every time I hear it. Vanessa Marshall’s performance throughout the show, where she’s given Hera’s voice an irresistible muskiness (which is what helped John Jackson Miller write the character in A New Dawn) and world-weary edge, has been a blessing and it only gets better now we know the Twi’lek (i.e. French-like) accent, so effortlessly brought out here, has been hiding somewhere underneath. She has an interview over at Hypable where they discuss the accent (like how it was originally something they wanted Hera to have from the start) and so much more about “Homecoming.”
- Having Numa back, and in such a mature and battle-ready form, is a joy to see. It’s crazy to think the little girl who tagged along with Waxer and Boil back in the Clone Wars, making her way into their and our hearts, is a rough freedom fighter now. They even had Catherine Taber, best known as Padme in TCW, back to voice her! Too bad she didn’t say “Nera” again, but there are a few references to her past hiding on her garments. I didn’t recall Gobi so much though, but this handy screenshot refreshed my memory (and it should yours as well).
- The naval battle nature of the space battle made the sequence enjoyable to watch and gave it an epic scope, despite the small nature of the battle.
- The scene of the Squadron ships, with the newly acquire carrier cruiser among them, certainly had a Battlestar Galactica feel to it.
- I laughed out loud when that stormtrooper went running by, while the others stood around confused, the moment the Captain issued the abandon ship order.
- And lastly, this wonderful gif and hilarious caption, which captures the whole Kanan-is-nervous(for several reasons)-to-meet-Cham moment:
Star Wars Rebels second season has benefited greatly from focusing on characters who were somewhat neglected in the first season and Hera’s “Homecoming” joins the ranks of Sabine’s “Blood Sisters,” thanks to its deep dive down Hera’s past in a very personal manner.
+ Cham and Hera coming to terms
+ Vanessa Marshall and Robin Atkin Downes performances
+ Kanan’s behavior and teamwork with Ezra
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. 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: Step Into Shadows