You know what Star Wars has in spades? Good villains. You know what Rebels has really struggled to accomplish in my mind? Make its villains seem even remotely competent. Which is an impressive, making Darth Vader look like a fool on multiple occasions. Even more so when Kanan and Ezra hardly seem to have a brain cell between them most days.
Rebels has really missed an actually dangerous and threatening villain. It feels like season three is the one season that is trying to rectify that.
Season 3, Episode 05: Hera’s Heroes
Despite the title, this episode has very little to do with the Television show Hogan’s heroes, from which the episode’s title is referencing. Because while Captain Slavin might be as incompetent as Colonel Klink was, Grand Admiral Thrawn is certainly no fool and show’s everyone in grand fashion why he’s such a legendary character in Star Wars lore.
In this episode, we’re on Ryloth and Hera undergoes a personal mission to retrieve a personal family heirloom, important to Twi’lek culture. The crew volunteer to help her retrieve it, half accompanying her to the palace she grew up in and the rest acting as a distraction.
As per usual, things seem to go swimmingly for the Rebels, dumbfounding the massively incompetent Empire at every turn. That is until they turn a corner and literally bump right into the fine white uniform of Grand Admiral Thrawn.
So, Rebels has cycled quite a few villains in and our over the course of its meagre two seasons; Kallus, The Grand Inquisitor, Tarkin, Vader, The Seventh Sister and Fifth Brother, all of which have fallen laughably easily to the rag tag bunch of Rebels that seem to fumble their way through their missions. Given, they’d had some help from the likes of Ahsoka Tano and former Sith Lord Maul, all the same it kind of makes your villains seem ineffective when they dip in and out of the series while hardly leaving a mark on the good guys.
Thrawn needed to be something different for this season, especially with this being his reintroduction into the new canon. He needed to be intelligent and dangerous. So many times, the Rebels seem to outwit the incredibly dimwitted Empire throughout this series. Given how popular the character was amongst the old EU crowd, the creators of Rebels simply could not allow him be another of these comedically incompetent villains that just act as a road bump along the way.
And given that he survives the fall of the Empire given Ahsoka’s wanting to know his location during the events of the Mandalorian’s second season, my hopes for the character are looking bright.
Once again, using a suspiciously Sherlock Holmes-like act of deduction, he figures out the Twi’lek in front of him is Hera Syndulla and the diminutive Stormtrooper alongside her must be Ezra Bridger. Dispatching them incredibly easily, but not executing them there and then on the spot. Which would seem like the most prudent act, but this is Fantasy after all.
As an aside, I found myself wondering about the matter of Thrawn’s race being a sore spot in the empire amongst his peers, the inherent racisim within the Empire, which is almost exclusively human doesn’t seem to be something this children’s show would want to touch upon, but when Thrawn grabs his subordinate in rage when he badmouths Twi’lek history it seems like the xenophobia might be getting to him.
Then again, given what I know about Chiss and their own pretty inclusive, xenophobic culture, maybe Thrawn is just frustrated at being surrounded by so many fools. Either way, the writer’s ensure Thrawn seems like the master manipulator by standing by and watching everything go tits up for the incompetent Empire arching his fingertips and calling it enlightening.
So things can continue to go like normal and our new villain looks like he has some grand scheme on the go without looking an idiot like his comrades.
This episode pretty exclusively seemed like a Thrawn vehicle; an episode to make him seem cool and make him seem like some master tactician, several steps ahead of pretty much everyone else in the Empire, so much so that he decides against executing Rebel prisoners that have proven a major thorn in the side of his compatriots and also purposely allows the Ghost to escape at the end. Truely, he is a tactical genius.
I guess it is pretty hard to ensure the heroes still get away and still make your new big bad villain seem like he’s in total control. Just have him smile and act like it was all a part of his plan. It’s just too bad this all really came at the expense of Hera in another episode that seemed like it might be focused on her given the title. But nope, big blue boy was the star of this one.
Not that I’m complaining.