Star Wars Rebels heads to Ryloth in the latest episode starring Hera, Cham and Grand Admiral Thrawn. “Hera’s Heroes” was directed by Mel Zwyer and written by Nicole Dubuc. This episode marks Ms. Dubuc’s debut on the series and if it is a promising of things to come I will be watching her Star Wars career with great interest.

Hera is the Den Mother of the rebellion, she puts interests of others always above her own almost all the time. In this episode to reclaim a lost family heirloom (the Kalikori) Hera’s team steps up to help her take on very personal mission which goes sideways when she runs into Grand Admiral Thrawn and is captured.

Long time Star Wars animation fans will see some familiar faces return this week. In addition to Cham we got the return of one of his lieutenants, Gobi a Twi’lek rebel who appeared in The Clone Wars as well as Paul Kemp’s Lords of the Sith novel. But for The Clone Wars fans the big cameo is that of Numa. While her appearance is not the focus of the episode, the little girl saved by clones Waxer and Boil is a character that it was great to see return and one I hope we get to spend more time  with in the future.

The episode featured some very cool design elements such as the Blurggs and the Syndula mansion, some interesting world building in the Imperial occupation of Ryloth and a new Twi’lek curse word based on a nasty critter, the Gutkurr.

Without a doubt the highlight of the episode for me was an expanded role for Grand Admiral Thrawn. His appearance in the season premiere was little more than a tease. In this episode we get a more complete picture of Thrawn, his own personal code of honor, his long game, and what might be his undoing.

It is clear based on his earlier statements that Thrawn is attempting to roll up as much of the Rebellion he can, as a result he allows Hera and her crew to escape. They say a convor in the hand is worth two in the bush, yet Thrawn is allowing the Ghost to fly back home hoping that it will allow him to lay plans to capture and destroy the Rebellion. This reflects on Thrawn’s arrogance, he is very good at warfare and he knows it. He is in danger of both overestimating his own abilities and underestimating his opponents. It seems likely that the season will end with Thrawn’s failing in his goals and the rebellion escaping to fight another day, but at a high cost.

The fascinating part of this was Thrawn’s characterization. We see once again his appreciation for artwork, but we also see his reactions to both Hera and his subordinate Captain Slavin. To Hera he treats her an aristocratic formality. Referring to her as their “host” and later showing respect for her ability to escape, he is a man that respects good manners and presumably the “rules” of gentlemanly warfare. Does a man like Thrawn truly fit into Palpatine’s Empire? He has risen to the pinnacle of achievement but will he eventually chafe under Palpatine’s rule? We see that Thrawn is also a man with a temper, a deep fury that is belied by his calm and controlled exterior. Much discussion has been about Thrawn’s monotone and soft talking, which doesn’t bother me and actually makes sense if you think about a man who is trying to contain a deep internal rage, he is forcing himself through sheer force of will to remain under control and this results in himtamping down his external expression of emotions through his voice. (Think soft spoken Bruce Banner trying to contain the Hulk). While it is interesting that Thrawn lost his temper, the reason why is more interesting. Slavin didn’t violate Imperial regulations, nor was it his failure that angered Thrawn, Slavin’s crime was violating code of honor.

Lars Mikkelsen’s portrayal of Thrawn in this episode reminds me of Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, both villains, both highly intelligent and deductive, both capable of extreme violence, and both with their own unique code of behavior that they obey and expect to hold others too. As someone reminded me, perhaps it is fitting since Lars’ brother and Rogue One actor Mads Mikkelsen portrayed Lecter on the small screen.

Hera’s Heroes was an enjoyable episode that gave us great characterization and much like the Kalikori built upon the legacy of its animation ancestor Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

 

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