This week’s episode of Star Wars Rebels saw the return of Cham Syndulla, Twi’lek freedom fighter and liberator of Ryloth. His debut on Star Wars: The Clone Wars made him a symbol of rebellion. Though he only made two appearances throughout the entire series, his impact among fans was strong. After learning that Hera Syndulla was Cham’s daughter, it was no surprise to fans when Lucasfilm announced that he would be appearing in Rebels.
Needless to say, Cham has changed since we last saw him on screen. Though he successfully freed Ryloth from the Separatists during the Clone Wars, further struggles were to follow. In the novel Lords of the Sith, we find Cham still valiantly leading his people now against the Galactic Empire. The Twi’leks fight a losing battle and suffer heavy losses, driving Cham to his limits. By the time we see him in Rebels, his desire for a free Ryloth is greater than ever. But his reappearance speaks to a story much larger than Ryloth.
The most recent episode, Homecoming, sees the Ghost crew enlist Cham Syndulla’s help to commandeer an Imperial carrier positioned over Ryloth. The rebels need the carrier to house their starfighters, but the veteran freedom fighter has other plans. Cham wants to destroy the carrier as a symbol for his besieged people to rally behind. Hera is appalled by her father’s lack of concern for the wider rebellion, but with Cham’s history, it’s hard to blame him.
According to series producers Dave Filoni and Pablo Hidalgo, Cham has led a difficult life. As a freedom fighter, he continually finds new enemies to protect his people from. “He’s definitely become more of a zealot,” Hidalgo said. “It’s the conditions of the Clone Wars followed by the Imperial occupation followed by everything that’s happened since [that] have pushed him beyond the brink of being a wise noble leader.”
Cham developed a tunnel vision of freeing Ryloth that rescinds all other priorities, including family. This much shows in his interaction with his estranged daughter. Cham is disappointed in Hera for abandoning Ryloth in its hour of need. At the same time, Hera urges him to fight the Empire on a larger scale. “[Hera]’s looking at a vaster horizon,” Filoni said. “And saying, ‘Well, if these things are good for Ryloth, aren’t they good for the whole galaxy?'”
It’s been clear since Rebels began that Hera is the true leader of the crew. She’s the one who organizes their missions, communicates with Fulcrum and keeps the crew together. Now, we find her in a new position: recruiting others to their cause. Cham puts Ryloth ahead of everything else until Hera convinces him to see the larger picture. The way she does so hits on a key aspect of her character.
What’s significant about Hera is driven home in Homecoming. Hera is the one who not only holds the Ghost crew together; she’s the one who will tie the rebellion together. Towards the end of the episode, Cham says to her, “We were always stronger together.” The lesson Cham learns is the same as Ezra’s message in Season One. “Stand up together, because that’s when we’re strongest. As one.”
Unity has been a major theme throughout the show, and now it’s clear that Hera is the keystone. Ryloth has a long way to go before it’s freed, as does the rest of the galaxy, but it’s a vital step in the rebellion’s journey to the end of the Empire.