Star Wars Rebels continued this weekend with a compelling episode about family, cultural preservation, and sacrifice. Hera Syndulla earned the spotlight as she tries to recover a precious family heirloom. Her personal mission brings her face-to-face with season three’s main villain: Grand Admiral Thrawn. Join us as we delve into the intricacies of “Hera’s Heroes.”
Hera Syndulla’s Birthright
In “Hera’s Heroes,” Hera Syndulla learns of a setback on Ryloth from her father, Cham. Imperial Captain Slavin has driven Cham out of his and Hera’s home in the Tann province. Cham escaped, but he was unable to bring their family’s Kalikori. The Kalikori is a revered Twi’lek heirloom, for it is a family tree and a heritage quilt — in this case, for Hera and Cham’s lineage within the Syndulla clan.
Twi’leks pass down Kalikori from generation to generation, and Hera would have inherited it next. She thus decides to infiltrate Slavin’s headquarters and recover her family’s heirloom. Even though it is a personal mission, Hera’s friends — Sabine Wren, Kanan Jarrus, Zeb Orrelios, and Ezra Bridger — decide to help her. It’s a touching moment that shows how Hera’s loyalty and integrity have affected her friends.
Sadly, the Empire’s grip on the Tann province is too tight. Grand Admiral Thrawn has arrived to help Slavin preserve Imperial control of the region. After Slavin captures Hera and Ezra, Cham agrees to trade himself for them. Rather than go through with the prisoner exchange, Hera has Chopper blow up her family home. It’s a powerful decision that speaks to Hera’s inner strength and her willingness to sacrifice her needs for others.
Later, Hera tells Cham and Kanan that she thought she needed her Kalikori “to keep my mother’s memory alive, but I have you. I have my father, and I’m surrounded by my family every day. As long as we hold onto that, she’ll live on.” By letting go of her Kalikori, Hera realizes that her mother’s memory lives on in her friends, who have become her family.
Hera Syndulla never ceases to surprise me, and her voice actress, Vanessa Marshall, deserves credit for imbuing her with such grace.
The Atrocities of the Empire
Hera Syndulla makes the difficult choice to destroy both her home and her Kalikori, but the Empire is responsible for putting her in that position. Like many real-world colonial powers, the Empire has no regard for other cultures or their valuables. Captain Slavin’s self-defined superiority over the Twi’leks evokes the way that Western countries have nearly wiped out other cultures in their zeal to colonize them. Slavin thus serves as a haunting reminder of the atrocities of colonialism.
Moreover, “Hera’s Heroes” shows that the rebellion’s campaign against the Empire isn’t simply a war to preserve lives. It’s also a war to preserve freedom and culture, for the Empire has no respect for the societies that it tramples over. Only Grand Admiral Thrawn respects Hera’s Kalikori. But he seeks to purloin the Kalikori for his own collection, instead of honoring Hera’s rightful claim to it. Hera defiantly tells Thrawn, “My family legacy belongs to us alone. It is not for some collector’s curiosity.”
Voice actor Lars Mikkelsen and screenwriter Nicole Dubuc bring Thrawn to life with spot-on accuracy. True to his origins in Heir to the Empire, Thrawn is a connoisseur of art from an array of cultures. His demeanor is suitably chilling, but his manners are a poignant contrast to Slavin’s. Nevertheless, Thrawn has raw fury beneath his civil demeanor. When Slavin denounces Hera’s Kalikori as “Twi’lek trash,” Thrawn’s compose breaks, and he nearly throttles Slavin.
As he did in Steps Into Shadow, Thrawn allows Hera and the rebels to escape. His decision indicates that he has other plans for the rebels. For now, he is content to collect information on his adversaries, even when they aren’t aware he is doing so. Evidently, he seeks a different victory over the rebels besides their deaths. What’s behind those red Chiss eyes is anyone’s guess, but we’ll find out in due time.
As always, Fan Contributor Robert Mitchell is here to help with my weekly column of stray observations:
- During the Battle of Ryloth of the Clone Wars, Chopper crashed on Ryloth in a Y-wing starfighter. He visits it in “Hera’s Heroes,” since Cham Syndulla left it standing as a memorial.
- Some of the episode’s scenes had rather odd blocking. Several times, Hera Syndulla and Ezra Bridger seemed to be in full view of the Imperial guards as they were sneaking around. Stormtroopers might have poor blaster precision, but they can’t be that bad as lookouts.
- We still don’t really know why Thrawn became a Grand Admiral, other than an offhand reference to one of his victories. Why did Emperor Palpatine believe he deserved that rank? Hopefully, Timothy Zahn’s upcoming Thrawn novel will answer that question, just like how James Luceno’s Tarkin explained why Wilhuff Tarkin became a Grand Moff.
- Once again, several veteran actors of Star Wars: The Clone Wars return to voice classic characters:
- Where’s Moff Delian Mors? She oversaw Imperial control of Ryloth back in the novel Lords of the Sith, which took place 12 years prior to “Hera’s Heroes.” Yet, she’s nowhere to be seen in Rebels. Moreover, the series still hasn’t acknowledged that Lords of the Sith even happened. So far, Rebels hasn’t felt connected to other Star Wars material besides the Saga films and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. It’s been over two years since the Lucasfilm Story Group overhauled Star Wars canon, so there needs to be more payoff for having better-connected stories.
In next Saturday’s episode, “The Last Battle,” Captain Rex will be providing a history lesson of sorts to the rebels, as they scavenge an old Clone Wars battlefield. What secrets will they find there? Come back for our next Recap and Reaction to find out!