To buy into “Hera’s Heroes,” you have to accept a fairly difficult concept. Namely, that Hera would be willing to risk her life and her crew’s lives to retrieve a family heirloom. Everything that we know about Hera up to this point has portrayed her as a dedicated believer in the rebel cause, a single-minded general who always kept her mind on the bigger picture. So to see Hera just jump into a mission to retrieve the Kalikori (I think this is how it’s spelled, based on its connection to this Wookiepedia entry) feels somewhat out-of-character. On paper, Hera going after an important item from her childhood and her identity is merely symbolic and foolish, but potentially character-defining. In execution, “Hera’s Heroes” never quite hit the resonant emotional beats needed to justify to the audience why she’s making this decision. I love Hera, but her behavior just feels more perfunctory here. She approaches retrieving the Kalikori with the same stoic resolve as she would with a rebel-important mission, but they aren’t in the same league–and she knows it. This means it would require an emotional drive, but the episode never hits it.
In a way, it’s done on purpose. Nicole Dudac pens this episode (and it’s looking increasingly like this season will be sourcing outside writers) in an attempt to parallel Hera’s perspective with General Thrawn’s, who gets a quiet, but distinctive, opportunity to showcase his cleverness. Similar to how the Inquisitor “broke down” Kanan back in season one, Thrawn proceeds to analyze Hera during her interrogation. His breakdown is cold and accurate, and presents a different shade to Hera. It’s hard to see her as a product of war and violence–characters of that type are often portrayed as grizzled and angry and disturbed. Hera’s cool, calculated demeanor is wholly different, but it still fits that upbringing, which adds some welcome nuances to her. It also quietly justifies her actions in this episode. For someone who knows nothing but struggle and bloodshed, retrieving an icon of her legacy is an attempt to tie some meaning to it all. Her home, her house, is occupied by monstrous outsiders–for the second time. Having that Kalikori represents the very reason she’s fighting.
“Hera’s Heroes” doesn’t get into that, though. Even the title sounds off–who are these heroes supposed to be? (I mean that in the rhetorical, figurative sense.) There are the requisite dramatic beats–Hera’s talks with her father, Cham Syndulla; blowing up Cham’s and Hera’s own home; her acknowledgement of her new ”family” among the Ghost crew. Yet nothing really sticks. Hera knows that she’s being selfish (her words) in taking on such a personal mission, but the sentiment that drives her gets lost in the noise. I commend them for trying to connect it all to Hera’s deceased mother, but since we don’t know or learn anything about her, it lacks urgency–we don’t even get her name. (The fact that the crew is down with helping Hera is endearing, but the fact that there’s no argument among anyone about the pointlessness of the mission doesn’t do this episode any favors.)
As been on par for this season so far, the two more interesting things happen in the background. For one, we continue to learn that the Empire is growing way more adapt at handling the rebels. Taking the Tan (Tam?) territory implies that the Empire is causing significant more damage than before, which hints at some serious circumstances down the line. Secondly, those Empire wins seem to be thanks to Thrawn. We’ve seen the calm-but-brutal villain trope time and time again, but Thrawn does hint at a darker, deeper viciousness that’s waiting to be unleashed. He barely tolerates Slavin’s interruptions, and when he grabs the captain by his scruff, there’s an anger there that’s intimidating. He even allows the rebels to escape at the end, noting that he found the whole thing enlightening. What did he learn? And how will he use that knowledge to further crush the rebels? That’s where the intrigue of this season truly lies.
- So I’ve watched this episode twice, and… I’m unclear how Chopper got to Hera’s house before she and Ezra did. They don’t even lampshade it. I guess you can infer that Chopper, disguised as an Imperial droid, was snuck in through some back channel or whatever, but this still strikes me as a bit lazy.
- It becomes lazier when you realize that Chopper’s appearance is the reason why everyone even escapes from Thrawn in the first place. So far, this season has pulled back from Chopper’s more “aggressive” behavior, but he sort of just feels like a convenient plot device now.
- I always enjoy it when Hera’s natural accent comes out. It’s not as significant as it was when it debuted in “Homecoming” but it’s still cool to hear.