Family and legacy take center stage as we travel back to Ryloth, the Twi’lek homeworld, in the latest episode of Star Wars Rebels. The planet continues to suffer at the hands of the Empire, but Cham Syndulla and his Freedom Fighters keep the Imperials busy, as seen with the start of the episode, where it has you jumping right into the middle of the action. For a few seconds, you’re wondering what Cham and Numa were doing to catch the Empire’s attention before the focus shifts over to Hera and how she embarks on a personal mission. Hera, taking a personal mission? Right away, you’re given the impression that her family’s past and future in the form of a kalikori is more important than the needs of the Rebellion, but given that other members of the Ghost crew have faced personal issues before (Ezra and his parents, Kanan and his past/blindness, Zeb finding other Lasats), it was about time that Hera was given the same treatment—and it worked out beautifully.
Hera’s backstory comes into play again, but this time, we get more details regarding the Twi’lek culture. Star Wars: The Clone Wars was really good at providing those kinds of details, and even though Rebels has been doing a great job at making connections to the overall saga, it was great to see this episode take on a different approach and provide more information pertaining to such an iconic species of Star Wars. The item that Hera so desperately wanted to get her hands on, the kalikori, was a family heirloom that was cherished by her deceased mother. While I’m very tired of the “dead mother” trope and I’ve talked about the lack of mother-daughter relationships in Star Wars, I am thankful that Hera’s focus was on her mother this time around. I also like the fact that the real world influence behind the kalikori is the traditional family quilt. It’s something most of us can identify with, since family heirlooms are prevalent in most societies. In the end, she realizes that her mother’s memory will continue to live on through her current family and the episode wraps up with a nice bow on top.
As someone who is quite interested in her own family’s past, it was disappointing to see the item fall into Thrawn’s hands, even though I understand it’s an added piece of information for Thrawn to process and use against the Ghost crew. Since it eventually ends up on his desk, I wonder if we’ll see Hera being reunited with it down the line. As beautiful as that message was in the end, it’s a shame Hera possesses nothing that previously belonged to her mother. Perhaps, I’m too attached to my own material objects, but for me, it felt wrong for Hera to just give it up. Then again, it would have been selfish and reckless to go after it again. I know Hera pulled a Jedi, since she “let go” of her worldly possessions, but part of me still felt like the mother was being swept under the rug, even though Hera stated that her mother’s memory will continue to live on. Objectively, however, the focus on Hera and her progression from “I must have it” to “I should let it go and find other ways to honor her memory” was beautifully written, and I’m so happy that this episode was written by a woman, Nicole Dubuc! I know there’s an amazing group of women working behind the scenes, but finally, it’s wonderful to see a woman under the “written by” credit.
Chopper’s backstory also made an appearance in this episode, and I love that it’s very much intertwined with Hera’s story. It was surprising to find out that Chopper had literally crashed right at their doorstep during the Clone War. When he was staring at the Y-wing, you couldn’t help but feel for him because even if we don’t really know what’s going through his circuits, he seemed sad and lost in the moment. I wonder if he blames himself for the crash? Chopper is very much someone who’s in control and it bothers him when things don’t go his way, so I could see him feeling guilt over what happened. I also wonder whether he was attached to the clone trooper pilot. R2-D2 and Anakin, for example, shared a strong bond, so I can see Chopper having had a similar relationship with his previous owner. Regardless, the crash was a big turning point for him, so to go back to the start of it all, it would surely rattle anyone.
What I love most about the episode is the bonding that transpired between Hera and Ezra. When the series first started, Hera was the one to inspire Ezra to do better and to think of others instead of himself. We also saw them share a sweet moment about hope after they discovered that Gall Trayvis was a traitor. There was also Ezra’s gratitude towards her and Kanan for having placed so much effort in trying to find his parents. Since then, we haven’t really seen Hera and Ezra share scenes together or go through some ordeal where they had to rely on each other. In this episode, we find that there’s love and respect between the two (and the same can also be said about the other relationships within the crew). He supported her in her personal mission, the same she had supported him. I also like that the bonding came across as two friends helping out each other and not as a mother-son relationship. Hera, although possessing motherly and nurturing qualities, is not Ezra’s mother. They are comrades that belong to a strong unit—a family, but not in the traditional sense.
This episode also featured the return of Grand Admiral Thrawn, his deductive reasoning, and his appreciation of art. It’s great to see that he’s not being overused and that he pops in here and there. Additionally, while some Imperial officers seem really thick-headed, it benefits Thrawn, in a way, since that helps highlight the fact that he’s exceptional at what he does. That said, it really makes other Imperial officers appear highly incompetent. I know Slavin was clumsy with his tactics, but him seeing Hera as a servant, even though she’s wearing a pilot suit? Again, I know the guy isn’t all that bright, but it would have been more believable had Hera also gone in with a disguise. I understand there are budgetary restrictions with that, especially with Ezra wearing Scout Trooper armor in this episode, but it would have helped sell the idea more.
Finally, I enjoyed seeing elements of the earlier seasons popping back into this episode: Chopper running into Ezra’s face, Zeb and Ezra being playful, and Kanan sounding like his old cowboy self once they caught the Empire’s attention. Things have gotten so serious with the introduction of Thrawn, Ezra’s tiptoeing balance between the light and the dark, and the stakes getting higher as the Rebellion continues to grow that some of these things fell off to the side.
“Hera’s Heroes” is a fun, intense, and insightful episode, and it’s definitely a stepping stone that will lead to a bigger confrontation between Thrawn and the rebels. Some people were quick to call it a filler, but I don’t think episodes that involve the exploration of a character and her relationships a filler. In many ways, this episode reminded of the comics from the Star Wars Rebels Magazine, where the story features great characterization and a heartwarming lesson in the end.
Make sure to tune into the next all-new episode on Saturday, October 22, 2016, at 8:30PM EST on Disney XD.