I know, we haven’t caught up yet and nevertheless I don’t want to keep you waiting for the spoiler review of Rebel Assault! A great episode! And if you haven’t watched so far … you better start now as ominous foreshadowing happens.
In the Episodes #4.5 through to #4.8, which I will review soon, leading up to this episode, the story drove squarely towards the Rebel Assault on Lothal. Filoni and his team have chosen to mix the mythological story-weaving involving the Lothal-Wolves with that of the Rebels returning to relief their home planet of the Imperial oppression. Of course we all know it won’t be a liberation … it is to early … it is before Rogue One, before A New Hope. So in a sense there can be no hope for our heroes. Is this what Hera meant when she exclaimed in the trailer: we never thought it would end this way?
A Hera Story
This episode is finally a Hera story! Of course we had stories focussing on Hera’s backstory in Seasons 2 and 3, and in Season 1 a bonding story between Sabine and Hera that got a sequel in Season 2. But a story just about Hera, about who and how she is now? A story without a reference to what she is to her father, to Kanan or to Sabine or to Ezra? I can’t seem to recall it … but here it is: a story of what Hera is to herself.
We know that Hera makes it out of this season because we know she, General Syndulla, is flying into the Battle over Scariff in Rogue One. We see the Ghost there but is she piloting it? Well, that might even be more of a question after this episode. Phoenix Squadron equipped with X-Wings attacks a densely packed blockade of imperial cruisers and destroyers around Lothal. Lead by Hera, it takes some awesome flying and manoeuvreing of Hera to punch a hole into Thrawn’s defences. The attack squadron pierces the blockade and prepares to make it’s run on the chosen targets on Lothal. But … Thrawn proves once again why he is a formidable opponent.
In Calamity the Hero rises
One of the most ominous shots from the Season 4 trailer is now revealed. The fiery streaks raining down from the sky on Lothal … they are what is left of Phoenix Squadron after Thrawn’s second layer of defences has been put into action. We don’t see the massacre but the visual story-telling does it all. The Rebel Assault ends in the tragic fireworks of X-Wings and Y-Wings crashing to the planetary surface glowing like embers.
A few pilots survive the crash-landing of their burning machines into the Lothal City suburbs. But one must fear that for most of Phoenix Squadron Lothal is becoming lethal. Hera survives, with Chopper and another pilot. With Thrawn’s assassin Ruckh on their heels they attempt to escape into the Lothal sewer system. Hera’s leadership, but above all her willingness to sacrifice herself for the safety of her crew, enable the pilot and Chopper to get away. She however falls in the hands of the Empire.
Throughout the series it is clear that Chopper and Hera have a special connection. But in an episode like this one, without Chopper being distracted by mischief with Ezra and Zeb, or getting fresh paint-jobs by Sabine, the pairing Chopper and Hera finally feels like that of Luke and R2, Anakin and R2 or Po and BB8. Of course Chopper never loses his streaks entirely, but when he is alone on mission with Hera he is her wing-… well her astromech. You know what I mean.
The Ghost Crew
The Ghost Crew play pretty much the role of audience. The two previous episodes focussed on their mission to Lothal, this episode is Hera’s. However Kanan’s concern over Hera is touching, as is Ezra’s intuitive understanding that he needs to let Kanan search for her by himself. Kanan however doesn’t really get the chance to do so as the Lothal Wolves are in no mind to let him off the hook. The Jedi are here not for the sole purposes of saving their friends. I like this twist. Knowing how much Kanan and Hera care about one another, Kanan’s ‘dereliction of duty’ in sacrificing the search for Hera to pursue the, yet unknown, demands the Wolves place on him raises the stakes for the coming episodes tremendously.
The separation of Hera from the Ghost crew is very ominous. Although it is early in the season, we are already 9 episodes in now. With only 16 episodes in this season, this means we are now almost half-way. As I said above: we know Hera is going to survive. So taking her out of the crew now suddenly turns their story-arc into something where everything is possible. The episode ends on a disturbing note. Not with our Ghost crew optimistically plotting Hera’s liberation, but with Kanan acknowledging that he must now first attend a different matter: the mystery of the Wolves.