Hera’s Heroes is the title of the fifth episode of season three of Rebels and as was to be expected, it brings back the focus on the Rebels’ battle against the Empire. More specifically, it brought back admiral Thrawn, who, despite being the “advertised star” of this season, did not yet get very much space to introduce himself to us. In the pilot episode, we got to know him as a high-ranking Imperial officer who seems to be a long-term strategist and who commands respect from fellow officers. In this episode, we learn more about his interest in art and see firsthand how much he knows and is willing to learn about his adversaries.
Hera’s Heroes takes us back to Ryloth, to the Syndulla family estate. That has been now occupied by the Empire, as well as the whole surrounding province. It is there where Hera decides to return in order to retrieve a family heirloom which is very important for her, being the only memory of her mother. We meet old friends like Hera’s father and his resistance fighters, and we are also introduced to a new local Imperial officer, commander Slavin. But it is Hera, Hera’s family and Thrawn who are at the center of things this time.
Because we are on Ryloth, there is a lot to see for those interested in twi’lek culture. A brief view of the landscape, a more detailed view of the architecture of the Syndulla family residence and its strikingly culturally specific design, different from the Imperial design, Lothal’s architecture or other planets we have seen so far. Cham and Numa are riding the blurrg, a two-legged fat dinosaur-like species used by the twi’lek as beasts of burden and by the rebels as fast transport. And then literally the centerpiece of the story: Hera’s family kalikori, an heirloom passed on from mother to daughter, to which each next generation adds its own piece.
It is important to understand the significance of the kalikori, otherwise we might wonder why Hera is willing to risk so much by going into an Empire-occupied house just to retrieve a piece of wood. Not only is this the only memory of her mother, it is literally the one item preserving the memories of generations and generations before her. This is, incidentally, why I believe we have not seen the last of this kalikori.
However important family is to Hera, however, the episode shows us (and more importantly, to Thrawn) that Hera is willing to make sacrifices for the cause, and also that the Rebel crew is Hera’s family as well (but we know this, right?). Hera’s decisions also made me think back to second season, when Hera and her father had a bitter exchange about his devotion to the resistance movement at the expense of everything else. There is actually not that much difference between him and Hera, if we think about it. I am personally very curious how this is going to play out in the future, especially now that Thrawn knows how “Captain Syndulla” might act in certain situations.
Speaking of acting in certain situations, however, I cannot help but to point out one intriguing moment in the episode: when Thrawn almost explodes in anger as commander Slavin refuses to understand the value of art. It is so striking because we have seen Thrawn being super-calm all the time, even when the Empire messed up, even when the Rebels have achieved a victory, yet in this particular moment, he cannot hold his temper. Very interesting touch to his personality.
Hera’s Heroes, the way I see it, was the kind of episode that served two purposes: first, it once again expanded on one character’s past; second, it served to further set up some grand scheme of the Grand Admiral. It was delightful to see much more of Hera and to revisit her past, to hear about her growing up in the war and also a brief mention of how she found Chopper (we have heard about this before, now we have seen a bit more with some hints about the Y-wing Hera found Chopper in. Maybe this, too, will be revisited? In any case, it also means the episode wasn’t completely only about Hera). As for Thrawn, he certainly is the first Imperial who actually manages to learn how the Rebels work. I only hope that whatever he has up his sleeve is going to feel satisfactory once his full plans have unfolded.