The Rebel’s Strike Again in “Hera’s Heroes”. Family dynamics, good writing, and so much abound in this tight and cohesive episode. Let’s dive in!
This is probably going to be one of the season’s best episodes, along with Holocrons of Fate. There are several reasons for this; Hera, an interesting look at Twi’lek family life, some chopper backstory, Cham Syndulla, Ezra not being annoying, and most impressively, everything involving Thrawn.
Man Loves His Art
Thrawn is brilliant. He’s not moustache twirling. He has a sense of honour, and he really loves his art. He is a splendid example of how to do show don’t tell. He’s smart because he articulates how the Kallikori that Hera rescued and the mural of her family showcase how she’s a rebel, how she value’s symbolic items like the Kallikori, and she is Hera. He’s observant, and that can be gathered by how he acts instead of being told directly.
It’s also unique that Thrawn has such a sense of honor. He let’s the rebels leave because to him, they’ve earned a victory. I also think he wants to observe them more, and even use them as tools to topple the rebellion. So what may have been contrived; him letting them go, may actually be part of something more.
This is to say, Thrawn is so admirably written because his scripting follows a very important aspect of art; Show Don’t Tell. So whenever he appears on screen, it’s evident every aspect of him is carefully chosen. It is worth it.
Hera Balancing Her Individuality
Hera is another great thing. Besides Kanan and Zeb, I think she is one of the best written characters in the series. Her best moments tend to be when she’s faced with identity issues. Especially when face by family issues.
The episode’s McGuffin, the Twi’lek kallikori is a showcase for how much Hera still cares about her family and its history. Even though she left Ryloth to follow her own individual dream, and defied the feelings of those around her, she still cares and tries to help them.
In the end, Hera chooses the present, her father and his leadership, over the past, her beautiful family home. Even the kallikori takes backstage. When it’s taken away, Hera decides that her feelings of family are internal, and doesn’t rely on an external symbol, such as the kallikori. So even though it’s hard, she blows up her house to score victory for Ryloth and save her father.
This is why Hera is currently one of my favorite characters. The series examines how she subtly fights and improves herself and others around her. She believes in the republic ideology in part because it matches her father’s and her upbringing. She not a mindless cog in the machine, but someone who believes in the rebellion’s ideals while still maintaining her own.
Cham is Ever Awesome
Something else I loved this episode was Cham development. He’s gone from the never surrender type in his debut to giving himself up for his daughter, his family. He will now let himself be captured so that his daughter can continue on her mission, even knowing what he means to Ryloth.
It’s a reverse of the situation on the previous episode, where Cham was willing to trick Hera and her crew for Ryloth, now he’s willing to let go of everything for Hera. It serves to tie into the family theme and show’s how Cham has changed since he last met Hera.
Ezra Isn’t Annoying
So for the last few episodes, Ezra has not been very fun to watch. He’s been a bit too close to what I feared he would be the moment I saw him, annoying like Anakin. Fortunately seemed to be a return to form. He is still keeping up his Storm Trooper helmet collection, and he’s admirable in helping Hera retrieve the Kallikori.
Unique Plot Structure
Something bold for this script is that Hera fails to get the Kallikori back. Her mission actually insured it fell into the hands of Thrawn. Most plots I’ve seen revolving around getting back items usually succeed, but no. Hera fails in getting it back. She does yet succeed in blowing up the imperial base, even though it’s her home. It was a bit shocking, but in a weird way empowering.
Also great for me is how Cham didn’t die. He would’ve been very easy for him to die for some cheep drama and emotion, but no, instead he lives. He serves as a way to insure the family theme stays strong.
This is one of my favorite episodes of the series. It work well as one off short story. The thematics are on point, the characterization is amazing, the plot is unique and avoids obvious cliches, and there are several small and interesting moments crammed into around 22 minutes. It may be overblown, I don’t even know give out one so early, but for me, this episode is a 10.
Rating: 10, Electrifying: YES,YEESSSS! Too good for the galaxy, too pure. Leaves the viewer with a feeling of deep emotional catharsis and stimulation. Worth infinite rewatches with the volume turned all the way up. This rating truly represents the Light Side of the Force.
Hera: “I am sorry father.”
Cham: “It’s alright Hera. Even I have been captured before.”
Hera: “No, I’m sorry about the house.”
Rebels seems to be upping its game with each episode, and this week’s addition is another solid contribution to a season that started off a little bit rocky. While the writing is strong and this saves the episode the art style is beginning to get on my nerves.
We return to Ryloth in this episode, and I amazed at the difference the art style makes. I know, I try not to be salty about the design of Rebels. Since I liked The Clone Wars’ style so much, I thought any lingering distaste for Rebels was just some leftover fan-boy prejudice. Now, however, I can see that the style is just cheaper and lazier than TCW was.
Zach’s Disney Issues
Something I have noticed more and more is the stiffness of the clothing; nothing ever bends or creases, and this is especially noticeable on Thrawn’s stark white clothes. Sure, not every cloth can be rendered on a TV budget. TCW had an animator employed whose only job was to render loose fabric, but even the unrendered fabrics seen in TCW are given some kind of wrinkle to sell the illusion of cloth. Rebels does not even try, and it looks like the characters are wearing plastic shells, not cloth.
The surface details too are beginning to get annoyingly simplistic. The most egregious offender this episode was the ARF trooper helmet. TCW put loving detail into every prop, especially into the clones’ helmets. A quick look shows that the mouth-pieces on clone armor have texture, as if they were speaker systems. The ARF trooper’s helmet has a surface detail over the mouth, but instead of actually making a 3D prop it is just a flat plane with crudely drawn marks to remind us of what corners the prop department was willing to cut.
YES, I AM STILL SALTY AT YOU DISNEY. YOU HAVE MORE MONEY THAN GOD, INVEST SOME OF IT INTO REBELS BECAUSE I AM GETTING TIRED OF THIS BULLSH*T.
I’m getting off topic. This episode is another where Hera really gets to shine. I have praised Hera’s devotion to the big picture before, and I will continue to do so, but we finally get to see a more vulnerable, sentimental side to her in this episode. Every part of her past has been taken from her by the Empire, her homeworld, her mother, to some extent her father.
Now the Empire has completely taken over her childhood home and filled it to bursting with everything that she hates. With all this, it is no wonder that Hera is willing to risk her life for the Kallikori; that small token is almost all she has left of her mother. On a side note, we should point out that based on the house the Syndullas are loaded. Hera probably bought the Ghost with cash only.
In-Universe Treatment of Twi’leks
Speaking of the Kallikori, this episode was loaded with in-universe cultural appropriation. When Thrawn promises to keep the kallikori safe, in good condition, and in an “honorable place,” Hera responds that she would rather have it destroyed than to have Thrawn have it. “My family legacy belongs to us alone. It is not for some collector’s curiosity.” It is beautifully poignant, especially when one visits art museums and sees artifacts from distant cultures deprived of their context and kept for public viewing.
This is also tied in with some PoC coded aspects. The twi’leks have always been the go-to “sexy dancers” in the Star Wars franchise. The first twi’lek was Oola, the dancer at Jabba’s palace who got fed to the rancor. This continued into the prequels, usually in the background, such as senators parading trophy-twi’leks or Aayla Secura’s whole “leather bikini” outfit, and it became par for the course in TCW.
Any episode that needed a seedy-underworld vibe with show-girls or G-rated strippers, the role was filled by Twi’leks (until the generic Togruta characters appeared in season 3 but that is a whole other issue). Male Twi’leks do not have this problem. Instead they appear to be quite monstrous, with pointed ears, sharp teeth, and lumpy foreheads. Ryloth itself is a wild, remote world that has been colonized by the Empire.
So here we have a people whose women are exoctized and sold like cattle while the men are undesirable, ugly monsters, all born from a colonized but remote locale. This sounds an awful lot like the treatment of Africans and Native Americans in America, and yet good ol’ George Lucas thought that they should have French accents. (They also cast the white english woman Olivia D’Abo to voice Luminara Unduli in TCW when she was played by Kenyan Mary Oyaya in AotC and RotS but that is a whole other issue).
For all my saltiness, I still have to say that this is a pretty good episode. Hera’s struggle with cultural appropriation was harrowing, and her relationship with her father has come to full healing. Although I am sad to see my heacanon that Hera came from a large family surrounded by siblings dashed, it is good to see Cham and his daughter so reconciled. Hera and Ezra also have a chance to deepen their relationship; found family is always a favourite trope of mine, and seeing Space-Mom interact with her Space-Son was very heartwarming.
On the opposite end of the scale was one of the other highlights of this episode: THRAWN.
In the old EU, now rebranded as Legends, Thrawn is an avid art collector, as through the art of a culture Thrawn can have a better understanding of who they are and thus how to beat them. He is always terrifyingly cool, supremely confident in his ability to ensnare the rebels that he is pursuing. Even when he knows (or is at least very suspicious) that they are in the mansion with him, Thrawn allows them to continue their incursions so that he can learn more about them.
Compare this methodology to Grand Moff Tarkin. Tarkin is a hammer: any obstacle in his way must not merely be crushed but obliterated. His single-minded focus on completing the Death Star demonstrates this to a T: even though Alderaan is full of people who might be turned to the Empire or at least used for hard labor, the resistance that it shows makes it suitable only for complete and utter destruction.
Thrawn is a knife: it slips through the ribs with a whisper and strikes for the heart. While there may be collateral damage, the damage is controllable and leaves plenty of leftovers to be used for later purposes. Even better, while a hammer can only be blunt a knife can be sharpened into an even more potent weapon.
Thrawn does have one moment of unbridled emotion, though, and that is when Captain Slavin suggests destroying the Kallikori, calling it “Twi’lek trash.” Thrawn comes unglued and for a moment we see his full fury, but as soon as it comes it is gone. It is interesting to speculate that perhaps Thrawn’s connection to the art of others comes from a history of cultural appropriation of his own people, but at this point it is pure speculation.
Now, however, Thrawn has a better understanding of his enemy, especially of the high-ranking Captain Syndulla. As shown in his first appearance, Thrawn does not pursue petty victories; he strikes only when complete victory is assured. To defeat the rebels, Thrawn is first studying everything he can about them, and this makes him even more dangerous. Sabine has been leaving calling cards at every site she ravages, and each one will reveal something else about the Lothal cell. She has been leaving evidence everywhere she goes, and be assured that Thrawn will use it to his advantage. When he does decide to strike, it will be lethal, perhaps with no chance of escape.
Rating: 9. Yes, the art is pretty mediocre, but the story makes up for it. So it’s Squee-Worthy. When you are excited about everything here and what it could be and can’t wait to see more. Leaves the viewer with a spring in their step and a song in their heart.
Thrawn: “My apologies, Captain Slavin. I’ve forgotten that not everyone is able to appreciate art as I do.”
A Clone Wars Throwback episode.