Vive la Ryloth! Now THIS… this is Rebels at its finest.
The moment I (Okay, and everyone else) heard Hera Syndulla’s name I knew there had to be some family connection to Clone Wars hero Cham Syndulla, and introducing him as a rebel freedom fighter in this era makes complete sense without a trace of shoehorning. With them being family however, I knew if this episode was going to have any drawbacks it would be the lazy family tropes that Rebels occasionally leans a little too heavily on. In this case the familial elements are in fact very strong, and the focus is where it should be, on the moral question of what the rebels are truly fighting for.
The rebels team up with freedom fighter Cham Syndulla to steal an imperial ship, but Cham’s team plans to destroy the ship over Ryloth as a symbol of resistance to their people. Explosive action and heavy drama ensue on easily the best episode of season 2 (if not the whole series) thus far.
Rebels has consistently proven it handles action and drama better than lighthearted comedy, and this episode takes full advantage of the weight of the situation. Hera is easily the strongest character on Rebels so it was a little disappointing that the previous episode that centered on her was just decent and nothing stellar. Strangely, one of the biggest questions I’ve had throughout Rebels is why Hera doesn’t have the French accent like all the other Twi’leks. I once made the fan rationalization that she, like some of my friends from the American south, consciously chose to speak in a US central accent. And I was completely right! Amazingly her American accent became a major plot point as her own little form of rebellion against her father. I let out a schoolgirlish giggle of joy when she suddenly broke into her natural dialect this week, which Vanessa Marshall delivered so naturally and convincingly it spoke volumes of Hera’s character and what motivates her without any exposition.
While Cham’s eventual betrayal may have been obvious it was incredibly effective and made perfect sense. His portrayal as an emotionally distant jaded warrior (I feel like I’ve described Zeb like that before…) gave his treatment of Hera and the other rebels a lot of dramatic weight. Furthermore, he isn’t despicable either given what he’s been through and what the Empire has done to his people, which adds a level of tragedy to his character as the freedom fighter turned zealot. Hera contrasts him nicely as the big picture minded freedom fighter with not just Ryloth’s interests in mind, and in the end she reconnects to him by reminding him of what he once was in the Clone Wars.
Hera’s family issues all stem from her father’s lack of faith in her, so she truly comes into her own by the end, taking charge of the situation and not only salvaging the mission but inspiring the other twi’leks to join her cause and proving herself to be as strong a leader as her father, evening winning him over. Best of all she gives them one hell of a demonstration in what the real fight is about. She not only saves the ship but gives her father what he wanted with the destruction of the imperial reinforcements over Ryloth providing him the symbol he wanted, thus proving her rebellion will benefit everyone, especially we the viewers.
This episode should be a standard the rest of the series should strive for, it’s exciting, dramatic, poignant, and yes, even funny when it needs to be.
-Like I said, the family tropes are kept to a minimum, but some of the ones that do creep in are actually quite entertaining. Kanan being so nervous to meet his girlfriend’s dad was appropriately funny but thankfully not over the top.
-Stealing a Tie Bomber and landing in an imperial hangar to sabotage the ship from within was always my favorite Battlefront II strategy.
-Okay, seeing Numa as an antagonist even briefly might have killed something deep inside me.
-Cham left Hera handcuffed inside a burning tie fighter. No wonder she left home.