“Hera’s Heroes” could also be called “Better Than Last Week’s Star Wars Rebels Filler in Every Way.” Where last week’s Sabine-centric episode did nothing to further develop the Mandalorian, “Hera’s Heroes” built on storylines already introduced, and ones that are both important to the overarching story (oh hey there, Thrawn) and to the Hera personally as we see the return of her father. The episode is well-paced and plotted overall, with Hera’s story about remembering family is more than an heirloom interweaving and pushing forward the audience’s understanding of Admiral Thrawn, the season’s big bad.
It all starts when the Ghost crew saves Hera’s father and another Rebel from Imperial troops. Safe on the Ghost, Hera’s dad tells them the Empire is now occupying Hera’s childhood home, and has in possession an ancestral Twilek totem. It’s important to Hera because it reminds her of her deceased mother, and she decides she has to steal it back—she’s not ready to give her heritage up to the Empire just yet. Despite her objections, the rest of the crew insists on helping. After all, they reason, she would do it for them.
And that idea, the constant presence of family, is what “Hera’s Heroes” hinges on. Without her crew supporting her, Hera wouldn’t have made it into her Empire-occupied home. When she comes face-to-face with Admiral Thrawn during the mission and he imprisons both her and Ezra, neither of them would have made it out without her father’s readiness for self sacrifice or her crew mates’ commitment.
Speaking of Thrawn, he gets the family vibes too. When he first calls out Hera on her intruding the house-turned-military base, he recognizes her by her depiction in a family portrait on the wall. When he imprisons her, he knows that wherever there’s a Rebel, she has friends not too far off, just itching to help. Hera may have needed to remind herself that her Ghost family is always with her, but Thrawn is counting on it, learning how they operate as unit so—presumably—he can tear their family apart one by one.
Finally, we may have also learned something important about Thrawn as well this weekend. Thrawn is cold and calculating, taking no action without learning from it, seeing every loss as a victory (as when, at the end of this episode, he lets the Rebels escape with the condescending statement, “They earned this victory”). However, he also appears to have an extremely short fuse. When Captain Slavin can’t grasp why Thrawn would hold on to Hera’s heirloom, Thrawn snaps, and it seriously looks for a second like stuff is going to get real. Lars Mikkelsen plays Thrawn with a sense of cold and unforgiving genius, but there’s an angry streak there too. Other people’s stupidity definitely seems to trigger it, but what else? And what is the source of that deep anger? No guesses on my part for now, but I do expect it will take center stage later in the season.
What did you think of “Hera’s Heroes”? Did you prefer last week’s more? What are your theories about Thrawn (or insights if you’ve read his stories in the Star Wars Legends/Expanded Universe)? Discuss in the comments, and tweet me!