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Star Wars Rebels

Rebel Assault (Star Wars Rebels - S04E09) - Animated Series

Series: Star Wars Rebels

Title: Rebel Assault

Season: Four

Episode: 9

Original Air Date: November 13, 2017

Runtime: 22 minutes

Credits: Review & Text: Mike Taber; Page layout & Design: Chuck Paskovics

"Lock S-foils in attack position." SPOILERS. 

Despite airing two episodes every week this season, Star Wars Rebels’ midseason finale only consists of one episode. Not to worry though, “Rebel Assault” may just be the best episode of the season. Co-written by Dave Filoni and Steven Melching, this episode perfectly demonstrates season four’s renewed focus and why Hera is the show’s best character. While the entire Ghost crew is featured in this episode, this is Hera’s story and I have to commend Filoni and Melching for committing to that idea. In the past, Ezra has been shoehorned into the spotlight even when another character is the focus or he doesn’t have anything to add to that particular story. Thankfully, Ezra barely registers here and Hera is allowed to shine. Kanan, Rukh, and Thrawn play key roles as well, but they all feel essential to the story and bring something unique to the table. “Rebel Assault” illustrates a clear understanding of its central characters and how to tell a compelling and uniquely Star Wars story. This is unmistakably Star Wars and delightfully captures the feeling of the Original Trilogy, which is more difficult than is sounds.

   

One of the things that I love about this episode is that it cuts to the chase and doesn’t waste any time. Last week we learned that the siege of Lothal was finally happening and this episode began with Hera leading a squadron of X-wings against Thrawn’s forces above Lothal. The opening battle above Lothal was simultaneously my favorite portion of the episode and mildly frustrating. We’ve waited a long time to see X-wings in Star Wars Rebels, but it was worth the wait. The siege of Lothal was the perfect moment to introduce them and Hera jumping out of hyperspace with a squadron of X-wings feels like an iconic image for the series. The animation team did a wonderful job with the X-wings and it was a joy to see them in action. The X-wings coupled with the shots of the pilots in their cockpits perfectly captured the look of A New Hope, which is delightful on a nostalgia level but is also important to the series as it visually represents the evolution of both the Rebellion and the series itself. Think back to the days when it was just the Ghost chasing two TIE fighters. Both the Rebellion and the series have evolved and expanded in a natural and rewarding way. We are moving closer to A New Hope, and that is reflected in the visual presentation of the series. I did however find it frustrating that the vast fleet of Imperial Star Destroyers surrounding Lothal didn’t engage the rebels. Maybe Thrawn wanted to test the TIE Defender, but it felt unrealistic that the entire fleet would just sit there. The battle was the best demonstration of the TIE Defender’s power so far though. The way it rapidly cut through Hera’s squadron made it clear why the TIE Defender should be feared. It was a smart decision to have Skerris pilot the TIE Defender. Skerris isn’t much of a character, but he has been one of the show’s most prominent recurring Imperials and demonstrated his skill in the past. Giving a familiar face control of the TIE Defender gave more weight to Hera’s duel with the fighter. Maybe more than any moment in the series, Hera’s destruction of the TIE Defender reinforces her intelligence and skill as a pilot. It’s a great moment and among my favorite in the series. Simple but effective and expertly directed by Steward Lee. Contributing to that moment’s greatness was Thrawn’s decision to fire on both Skerris and Hera (even though it helped Hera in the end). Thrawn’s recognition of Hera’s attempt to bait Skerris and his willingness to kill one of his most prominent allies is a perfect encapsulation of his character. It’s was Thrawn’s best moment in the episode, but I do have some issues with Thrawn in this episode.

   

Regarding Thrawn, he has been handled well in the series and Lars Mikkelsen continues to give a brilliant performance. With that being said, when victories for Thrawn are so few and far between you run the risk of turning him into the fist shaking weekly villain. They have largely avoided that so far and Thrawn’s role as a brilliant tactician allows him to play the long game. Thrawn was even victorious in this episode as Hera was captured and the rebel attack was thwarted. Yet, there was a moment that I felt undermined Thrawn’s credibility to a degree. Thrawn told Pryce, “I won’t allow a single rebel ship through my blockade.” Then a minute later several X-wings flew through his blockade. Yes, Hera wasn’t going to die and is a great pilot. Yes, the X-wings were stopped by the next wave. Nonetheless, it represents a slippery slope for a character that has frequently failed to stop the rebels. This isn’t a major issue and was largely redeemed by events later in the episode, but it bothered me in the moment and could develop into an issue later on. Hera’s heroics led the remainder of her squadron through Thrawn’s blockade, but they were immediately met by dozens of TIE Fighters and shot down. The Ghost crew watched as Hera and her squadron were shot down above the Imperial factory in one of the series’ most haunting moments. It’s one of the few moments in the series where you truly felt a devastating loss. Thrawn dispatched Rukh to capture the few pilots who survived the onslaught. Hera found and rescued another survivor, Mart Mattin. Mart, an unfortunate reminder that Iron Squadron exists, was fine in this episode but felt extraneous. It was brave to revisit a character from what is without question the series’ worst episode and they did improve his character even if that isn’t saying much. However, he added very little here and the episode probably would have been more effective if it was just Hera and Chopper. Hera sacrificing herself for Chopper has more emotional resonance than it does for Mart anyway.

   

Rukh continued to impress in his second appearance. Rukh silently hunting Hera and Mart through the streets of Lothal felt like it was ripped out of a horror movie, and I mean that as compliment. Rukh’s duel with Hera was another standout moment that demonstrated how skilled they both are as fighters. In the early years of the show, I frequently complained about Chopper but he has grown on me. Chopper shocking Rukh to save Hera was a nice moment that reinforced their bond. Hera held off Rukh and the Imperials long enough for Chopper and Mart to escape, but was eventually captured and brought before Governor Pryce. It was great to see Hera and Pryce meet for the first time and it was handled perfectly. Hera’s capture signifies something the series has largely avoided in the previous three seasons: consequences. Ahsoka faced the consequences of engaging Darth Vader. Kanan was blinded by Maul. Phoenix squadron was decimated by Thrawn, but past seasons have largely avoided depicting the consequences of engaging in open warfare with the Empire. Even when they face someone like Thrawn, the rebels typically escape unscathed. At times, their escape felt contrived and forced and robbed the series of dramatic weight in key moments. Our heroes can’t be captured every week, but this episode was a necessary one for the series. The failed invasion and Hera’s capture clearly and finally demonstrates that there are consequences for engaging the Empire and it isn’t just made up of bumbling Stormtroopers. Hera’s capture also gives the defeat a personal connection that makes it impactful, something that the season three finale lacked. Speaking of Hera, this was the perfect showcase her character. Once again Vanessa Marshall was excellent, particularly during the opening space battle and the episode’s final moments. Hera is the best character on Star Wars Rebels. Her character is well developed, fully formed, and confident, which is in stark contrast to some other characters. “Rebel Assault” featured plenty of great Hera moments and perfectly encapsulates her character. She’s brave, intelligent, compassionate, selfless, and as tough as anyone. This episode also featured a subplot of Kanan trying to rescue Hera and encountering the Loth-Wolves again. Kanan seems to have a new, or perhaps refocused, purpose after encountering the Loth-Wolves. I’m still not going to go into great detail about the Loth-Wolves, but I like where this is going in relation to Kanan. See you in the New Year for more Star Wars Rebels episodes!

What Worked

  • Hera and Vanessa Marshall’s performance
  • Hera’s capture, a failed invasion, and real consequences
  • Hey, X-wings!
  • Rukh continues to impress

What Didn’t Work

  • Thrawn frustrations
  • Don’t remind me that Iron Squadron exists
External Links:
Added: December 2, 2017
Category: Star Wars Rebels
Reviewer: Mike Taber
Score:
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