On Rebels, Hera Gets the Episode She Deserves, and the One We Need

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Hera Syndulla takes flight in the lesser known but beautiful B-Wing in this week’s episode of Star Wars Rebels, Wings of the Master, and I seriously do not know which of those things I’m more excited about.

Pictured: my brain

The winner, of course, has to be Hera – star of, if I’m not mistaken or currently having an aneurysm, the first episode centred around one of the female Spectres. But before I discuss the leader of the crew (don’t let that numbering of Spectre-2 deceive you), I’d like to discuss the second in command, Spectre-1. I think I may be having an aneurysm, after all.

Kanan

In the beginning of the second season, Kanan very vocally resisted playing an active role in the larger rebellion, preferring to just help people here and there. This, for me, is the most memorable moment in his characterisation, and as such it bears repeating, because it encapsulates so much of what makes him tick.  A former Jedi who’s still Jedi-ing, who fought in a galaxy-spanning war but doesn’t want to do so again – yet, you know, still totally does. And in this episode he’s at it again, helping people, the hypocrite.

Sort of, anyway. In this episode, all he has to do is deliver some much needed supplies to a near-annihilated rebel group (why this would help when they’re nearly wiped out is beyond me), and to do that he has to run the blockade – of a few Imperial ships covering perhaps 1% of the total planet surface. All of which feels very rebellious and grand-plan to me. And, if the writing was consistent, it would be apparent to Kanan, too.

That last sentance is what I should write, and I did (yay for me being professy-nal!), but I can’t help but wonder if there’s more to the story. On the face of it, it’s the sort of mission that the reticent Kanan would prefer, to simply go around the galaxy, lending aid to people in need. That is to say, what he believes a Jedi should be doing. I could very well be reading him wrong, but it seems to me that he doesn’t want to participate in the larger war because that’s what did it for the Jedi, the last time around. He lost his master, his friends, literally the only support network he ever knew during the Clone Wars. For a young man, that could leave quite the negative impression. But also as a young man, still idealistic and not quite savvy to reality, even amidst a war, he would feel the need to emphasise that charity, that urge to help, for others (and not the dwelling on the grander mysteries of the Force, that made the Jedi Order aloof from ordinary people, and aided in their downfall). But even with all that, he’s still a Jedi of the Old Republic, somewhere in that deeply scarred mind of his. He still wants to take on the galaxy and make it better, all of it, not just a few people here and there. And so he says – lies – to himself, saying that it’s just one mission, that he’s just happening to be helping the rebellion. It’s not for him, really. It’s for those who need help. And it’ll carry on being just one mission, right up until it’s not.

Well, that’s what I read into it, at any rate.

Hera

First, it must be said: I can’t tell you how good it feels to be writing this, and not griping about the lack of Hera or Sabine centric episodes.

Hera is, and always will be, the heart of the Spectres. She is the driving force of the team, and is herself driven to make the galaxy a better place, and wishes to instil that fervent belief in others, one fight at a time, one city, one planet at a time. She is the true revolutionary. Granted, they, the Spectres, all are, but to different degrees: Sabine, it’s been slightly touched upon, was a cog in the Imperial machine, and wants none of that, and consequently has some of that revolutionary spirit. Zeb simply enjoys being a part of a unit, something he hasn’t truly had since before his people were wiped out. Ezra’s desire to make his world a better place is, of course, well documented, and Kanan I’ve already touched upon. But it is Hera that is the true rebel. Which is why it’s great, for me, that we barely touch upon that in this episode.

In past episodes, Hera doesn’t feature all that much, but what we do see is someone who is sympathetic to the plight of others, and helped others. And did stuff for other people. It was always about the other people, is what I’m getting at. As strong a character as she was, as likeable and sympathetic as she was (and full credit to the writers and Vanessa Marshell, who plays her), she was always in service to everyone else. Here we finally see her as a fully fledged character in her own right, with all the passions and desires and loves of her own (and it only took about twenty episodes).

And what is that love? Why, flying, of course. As Marshall notes in Rebels Recon, this aspect of Hera’s characterisation resonated with her, on a personal level, because she flies – or at least has flown in the past – and it resonated for me, too, even though I’ve never even been in a plane!

It's nice and all, but how do you open the window?
It’s nice and all, but how do you open the window?

We get this deepening of her character in just(!) one small, backstory-filled conversation between Hera and Quarrie, a Mon Calamari shipbuilder who designed the B-Wing, and who, at first, refuses to let Hera have the starfighter. She talks about her childhood on Ryloth, during the Clone Wars. She talks of how she would watch the Republic ships flying, and fighting, up above in the sky so high, and I promise this isn’t going to turn into a weird Star Wars version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Anyway: she goes on to say how she left her family – not to fight, but just to fly. The choice to then apply those skills to better the lives of others came later.

It’s a minor scene, perhaps just a minute long, and though there were more flashy and dazzling scenes in there – like taking the B-Wing for one fantastic test flight – for my money this had to be the most moving and touching scene. It was understated, superbly acted and animated, and an incredibly down-to-earth desire for her. Which was no mean feat, considering it was two aliens talking about a galactic war, on a planet that looked to have been physically built by a bored 5 year old playing with rocks. I liked Hera before, but I must admit to have been more than a little bit uninterested in her. Not so anymore. And not for nothing does this soliloquy change Quarrie’s mind about giving her the starfighter.

It was perfect, utterly perfect, Filoni. Now I want five more Hera episodes like that.

Shantipole

… has to be the most literal name in existence. There simply has to be more to the naming of that planet than some writer or designer on the Rebels team going, ‘erm, well, he lives in a shanty, on some sort of rock pole. *writes shantipole on the script* Eh, I’ll think of something better later.’ There must be, but I don’t know what, and to be honest, I don’t particularly care. It’s an almost deserted and barren planet where any ship that goes there doesn’t come back (so quite why anyone goes there in the first place is beyond me). And yet? I liked it.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still weird as anything. Why would a shipbuilder go to a planet where ships -including his own – get struck down by lightning? And how did Hera fly the B-wing in the first place, let alone actually leave? It has to be the weirdest conceit to design yet in this series, and yet I loved every part of that design. From the rickety, too short landing platform and attendant living quarters, to the eerie gravesites of crashed ships (which is where, I’m pretty sure, Quarrie gets his tech supplies from), to the beautiful, Wild-West-esque towering poles that dot the landscape, and even the translucent dome of Quarrie’s R2 unit. It all felt so real that I could happily – gleefully – wander around, say, a replica set. Too bad there’s no such – oh hey Disneyland’s getting a giant Star Wars area. Fancy that.

Michael Dare

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  • Zarm

    Hera is my favorite character in Rebels, and darn-near my favorite character in the Star Wars franchise… so this episode was kind of a disappointment. because while it was Hera’s episode- it wasn’t a particularly deep or well-written one, and her ‘deep character motivation’ speech comes so out of nowhere that it’s jarring.

    In short, this is what I wanted, and want more of… only I want it to be better-written enough to do the character justice. This one didn’t. Hera got more screen time- always a plus- but she didn’t get a good story. (“Now I want five more Hera episodes like that,” indeed- only better.) :-)

    What DID get a great showcase was the always-under-served B-wing; glimpses in Return of the Jedi and Rebel Assault II just weren’t enough. This episode *gets* the B-wing; a lithe heavy-weapons platform and convoy breaker. The flying showcase was a rare moment of tranquil beauty in Rebels, and while the nerd in me has its nitpicks (would it have killed them to include a Verpine? Couldn’t they have used classic X-wing or other OT blaster sounds instead of something that sounds like Slave-1, which doesn’t really fit with this aesthetic?), the spirit of the B-wing was so perfectly captured in its first real showcase that I couldn’t be anything other than thrilled. And the little reference to Strike Force: Shantipole seem like the antidote to TCW’s middle-finger to the EU. Here, the references tell me that while the Legends debacle happened, and so that story isn’t going to be retold in this canon, it hasn’t been forgotten and it isn’t being disrespected. While TCW flew in the face of canon it was *supposed* to align with, this set of callbacks and references WASN’T necessary with the new canon split- and having them included anyway feels like a real act of goodwill from Filoni and crew… and a reminder that they are truly just like us.

    All in all, wish the Hera scripting had been much better, but thrilled to death with the B-wing parts. It may not sound like it, but I really liked the episodes- I just felt like everything plotted around that speech didn’t work so well, and Hera deserves better.

    And now, for the nerd-correcting parts:

    FYI #1, the people on the planet were enslaved natives, with their rations cut back by the Empire, starving- that’s why they had to get the supplies through.

    FYI #2: Strike Force: Shantipole is the 1988 West End Games RPG which tells about the prototype of the B-wing being created in Legends- by Ackbar, and a team of Verpine in Roche asteroid field. The name didn’t come from rebels- it was a tribute to the original (and yeah, kinda better- at least in terms of the B-wing’s backstory) origin story for the ship.

    And FYI #3: Sorry, it was an aneurysm- Hera and Sabine had a focus episode last season; Out of the Darkness, I think it was called? The one on the asteroid with the Fyrnoks.