This week’s episode of Star Wars Rebels fulfilled a lot of fan wishes while marking the end of the first half of the fourth and last season of the show. It seems odd that we’re already at the mid-season hiatus when the show has only been back for four weeks and seven episodes total. While it’s nice to have episodes air back to back, it feels like this season is barreling to a close and I’m not sure how exactly everything is going to be able to tie up by the end of the season. Regardless of those concerns, this episode of Rebels did a lot of things well and only missed the mark for me a few times. It’s without a doubt my favorite episode of the season so far, and one of my top favorites overall. More spoilery thoughts after the cut!
“Rebel Assault” starts off where the last episode left off, with Hera leading Phoenix Squadron to Lothal to help the Ghost crew stuck on the ground. Not only has Phoenix Squadron been upgraded to shiny X-wing starfighters, but Hera has received her promotion to General Syndulla. I’m a bit sad we didn’t get an explanation as to how the Rebellion acquired the X-wings, not to mention actually seeing Hera get her promotion, but I can understand why those scenes didn’t fit in the scope of the show. I do hope those moments get chronicled in some other facet of canon, however.
Hera is a BAMF in the Ghost cockpit and she continues to be a BAMF in the X-wing. While several members of her squadron are killed in space, goes head-to-head with Skerris in the TIE Defender and takes out a capital ship with a super awesome maneuver involving firing her lasers with closed S-foils. Phoenix Squadron has a clear path to Lothal’s surface just as the Specters on the ground take out the heavy guns. But of course, Thrawn can’t make anything easy for our Rebels. Kanan and the rest of the Ghost crew watch helplessly as Phoenix Squadron is decimated over the capital.
The first half of the episode has so many great moments. I’ve been waiting with bated breath for Rebels to show X-wings and the starfighter combat did not disappoint. Hera vs. Skerris was the dogfight I didn’t know I wanted. I love how Thrawn continues to respect Hera as an opponent, more than he respects a lot of his colleagues.
The second half of the episode goes to ground as we follow Hera trying to get to safety after she’s crash landed her X-wing. She’s not alone, however; we see an alien pilot get captured by stormtroopers and turned over to Governor Pryce, who ruthlessly stuns him. Mart Mattin, the pilot from last season’s “Iron Squadron,” returns again as another one of Hera’s pilots who also survived a crash landing. I liked Mart a lot more in this episode and wonder how much hands-on training and mentoring Hera goes through with her pilots. She definitely brings out the best in people.
Meanwhile, the ground crew is flying away from the capital to avoid Imperial pursuit and capture. To no surprise, Kanan turns around mid-flight, wanting to help rescue Hera in the capital. Kanan might as well have a flashing sign over his head that says “I DON’T SURVIVE THIS SHOW.” Because why would he after he and Hera have finally kissed onscreen? (Please refer to the rant from the previous week’s Rebels review.)
Hera does well for herself in the capital, winning hand-to-hand combat with Rukh, getting Mart to safety, and taking down a walker by herself. Chopper also has some great moments, and we get to see his devotion to Hera, which is much more of a soft side than we get to see of him. However, Rukh is not Thrawn’s assassin for nothing. Not easily dissuaded, he returns and captures Hera. We get a great moment with Hera exchanging quippy remarks with Governor Pryce which made me super excited to possibly see Thrawn and Hera interact in the next episode. “Hera’s Heroes” is one of my favorite episodes and I love to see that antagonistic relationship develop.
I wasn’t surprised when the episode ended with Hera being captured. Nor was I surprised that Kanan went back to help her. And I definitely wasn’t surprised when Kanan was stopped on the way to the capital by the Loth-wolves, who apparently want something from him. What do they want? Hell if I know, because Dave Filoni likes to keep a mystery going. Remember my comment about Kanan not surviving this show? I stand by that, but I don’t know if he’s going to “die” in the normal sense. Which makes me side-eye kind of hard. I love the idea of Kanan having some sort of destiny with the Force that takes him away from the Ghost crew and the rest of the Rebellion. But I’m not sure I like the idea of him becoming one with the Force or something similar. It will all depend on execution.
The cliffhanger ending wasn’t really for us, because we know that Hera survives, but for the rest of the Specters. And while we don’t have to fear for Hera’s life, we do have to fear for her safety–or rather, her sanity. Thrawn is a formidable foe, and him killing someone she loves would do a number on her. Him killing her entire crew could ruin her, at least for a while. The Season Four trailer, narrated by Vanessa Marshall, certainly made it seem like Hera is the only member of the crew to survive the show. Will that come to pass? Only time will tell when the show returns next year. Waaaaah, I don’t want to wait.
(I also have a lot of thoughts involving Ezra’s fate being with the Rebellion while Kanan’s is with the Force, and what that means for Ezra’s fate, and why it feels like Kanan’s worldly demise is being telegraphed a little bit too hard, but I’ll save those for the next episode of Tosche Station Radio.)
Even though only one episode aired this week, I feel like the 22 minutes of “Rebel Assault” packed more of a bunch than any of this season’s previous back-to-back episodes. It felt like what I expect a show called Star Wars Rebels to be like. It also solidified my wish that Hera was the main character of the show. She’s the captain of the ship, and when the episode revolves around her it brings a gravity to the conflict while grounding the rest of the characters. I really hope that, eventually, we get a book about what Hera was doing during the Original Trilogy.
While there were a few missteps for me in this episode (loth-wolves, skipping over events I hoped would be depicted), this first half of Season Four ended on a super strong note and I can’t wait to see what happens with the rest of the season.