Star Wars Rebels – Hera’s Heroes Review
“War, it’s all you’ve ever known, isn’t it? You were so young when you survived the Clone War. No wonder you’re as equipped in spirit to fight as well as you do. War is in your blood. I studied the art of war, work to perfect it, but you- you were forged by it.”
Hera’s Heroes offers me a peculiar dilemma. Due to restraints imposed by its run time, the episode is forced to rush through its first-act which throws off the pacing for much of the episode. However, there is a counterpoint that can be raised regarding the solid character work performed by this episode, and given that one of the individuals that this episode takes the time to explore is my favorite Star Wars character, it should come as no surprise that I feel a bit biased in favor of this episode. As suggested by the title, the episode also takes the time to examine Hera’s motivations and character, though the execution is heavily undercut by the aforementioned pacing issues, and the title, Hera’s Heroes, never makes sense outside of the fact that the creators thought it would be cute to make a Hogan’s Heroes reference. Still, I find many of these problems are overshadowed by how much I loved Thrawn in this episode. Episodes that have excellent moments, but don’t fully come together to form a cohesive whole, are something of a staple of this series. Ultimately, I feel there are moments in Hera’s Heroes that are strong enough to elevate it, even if the narrative can’t keep up.
The crux of this episode is that, during a supply run to Ryloth, Hera learns from her father that the Imperial forces have seized her family home and, with it, a prized family heirloom called a Kalikori. It is a piece of art handed down through generations in a Twi’lek family with each set of parents adding to it. Hera announces that she is going to recover it, because it was prized by her mother. This first act is where the pacing takes its toll. In order for everything to fit within this episode, Hera needs to essentially rush in to recover this artifact without taking the time to ensure there is the necessary emotional groundwork to make her motivations feel believable. The episode corrects for this later, to some extent, by linking Hera’s single mindedness in holding on to the peaceful elements of her past to the fact that her life has never been truly free of conflict. However, that doesn’t cover up the fact that the Kalikori is really just a blatant McGuffin to get her and Ezra to break into the Imperial base that was once her home.
This venture is, of course, what leads them to encounter Thrawn, who has been advising the local Imperial leader, Captain Slavin. Slavin is a useful character in that he provides the perfect counterpoint to Thrawn. He’s shortsighted, he lacks respect or understanding for those he is in conflict with, and he is completely without tact. During Thrawn’s first appearance, I did have a slight concern that this portrayal of the character may prove to be too cold and unemotional. However, while Lars Mikkelsen’s voice remains measured and calm, the dialogue between him and Hera is actually quite respectful and he even comes off as slightly affable at points. Furthermore, his disdain for Slavin, while usually veiled, clearly mirrors that of the audience. It is an interesting balance that allows viewers to relate to Thrawn’s character without sacrificing any of his mysterious qualities. At this point, I think it is fair to say Grand Admiral Thrawn’s interrogation of Hera is my favorite scene from this season. He expresses not only an understanding of the Twi’lek culture and mindset, but a clear sense of respect for it.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- I was surprised by the fact that Thrawn didn’t kill Slavin at the end of the episode. The scene even seemed to be setting up the opportunity for him to order Slavin’s death, but it doesn’t happen. Given Slavin’s incompetence and inability to adapt to his environment, it would be keeping with Thrawn’s character for him to have him killed.
- The second act is definitely the portion where this episode is at its strongest. As mentioned before, the first act suffers because it rushes to lay out character motivations without actually giving viewers a chance to understand them. The third act isn’t exactly weak, but it also can’t afford to take its time either. Consequently, some of Thrawn’s actions in that act feel slightly odd, once again because we don’t know or understand the motivation behind them. This would have largely been fixed if he had killed Slavin, since that would establish he wasn’t studying the Rebels in this instance, but was actually testing the captain’s capabilities.
- Fun fact, I think Thrawn stunning Ezra with a blaster bolt is the first instance that I’ve encountered where Thrawn has technically been in combat himself (If you consider a single shot from a blaster to be combat). I could be mistaken, since it has been nearly a decade since I read Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, but I don’t think he was ever involved in a direct confrontation like that. I have no issue with it. It’s just something that popped into my head.
- Okay, yes, technically the titular heroes could be Hera’s family aboard the Ghost as well as her father, but that isn’t really made clear. The only thing that is clear is the allusion to an old television program.
Normally when a bias comes up as part of a review, it is a bias against the subject matter. My review of Bull certainly involved some bias, and, while it wasn't the primary reason I gave it such a terrible rating, it was definitely a component. So, seeing as I have watched this episode about five times, I think turnabout is fair play. Hera's Heroes isn't perfect, but I love the scenes with Thrawn, and they go a long way in terms of allowing me to ignore its flaws.