It takes a certain amount of creative daring to switch perspectives drastically this deep into the first season of a series. Credit Dave Filoni for the confidence necessary to shift away from Clone Force 99 for the latest episode of Star Wars: The Bad Batch by focusing on another beloved character from a different Filoni-helmed series Star Wars: Rebels, Hera Syndulla. For this episode, we’re given a look at Hera’s origin story and the tragedy that forms her into the consummate Rebel pilot we later see.
Spoilers ahead, obviously.
The episode begins with a return to Ryloth, the homeworld of the Twi’leks, one of the most easily recognizable aliens created in the Star Wars universe. A good amount of time was spent with the Ryloth story arc in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, introducing us to Cham Syndulla, a resistance leader who was fighting the Separatists without much aid from the Republic. Now, the war is over and the Empire is seeking to exert its control over the citizens of Ryloth. Cham is onboard with the Empire taking over, mainly because he is tired of fighting and wants a better life for his family. This brings him into an uneasy alignment with Senator Taa, the greedy and amoral leader of Ryloth.
Hera as a child is precocious and rebellious, which fits who she becomes much later in life. Here, we see her working for her uncle Gobi, one of Cham’s lieutenants in the resistance against the Separatists. Gobi and Eleni (Cham’s wife and Hera’s mother) do not trust the Empire, particularly when they refuse to grant the Twi’lek access to the refinery the Empire is building on the planet. The push/pull of the episode is Cham’s desire to give peace a chance to flourish while Gobi and Eleni both suspect that they will need to take up arms again sooner rather than later. Hera is caught in the middle of this philosophical difference and we can see the tug of both sides on her personally. She wants to be the good daughter to Cham and follow in his footsteps as a fighter but Cham wants her to never have to live the life he led during The Clone Wars. Sadly, events transpire to cause just that to occur.
The Bad Batch make a small cameo in this episode, assisting in an exchange of weapons that Cid has sent to Gobi. The Empire has demanded the Twi’leks give up their weapons voluntarily, accepting the Clone Army as the planetary security force. Gobi and others find this as an affront, since it would leave them defenseless in the event the Empire turns on them. Hera is convinced to come along by Gobi when he promises her flying lessons, which allows for a cute scene between Omega and Hera as the pair explore the Batch’s attach shuttle. As mentioned above, the Batch having a small role in an episode in their own series is a creative risk, particularly this late into the first season. The risk is mitigated, however, by including Hera’s origin, a story I’ve been wanting to see since her introduction in Rebels. It’s a measure of faith Filoni is asking for from the audience, essentially saying “I know this isn’t a Bad Batch episode but come along with me anyways.”
Hera’s decision to ride along on the weapons’ exchange proves to have dire consequences. Admiral Rampart, an Imperial character we’ve seen before on this series, sets up a series of events that revolve around putting Cham Syndulla into an unwinnable scenario. By capturing Hera along with Gobi, Rampart can charge the young Twi’lek with treason. Eleni and Cham make a daring attack to free their daughter, bringing them into direct conflict with Rampart and Senator Taa. But this is all a trap to ensure that Taa is shot by Crosshair, with Cham, Eleni, and Gobi arrested for the assassination attempt. Hera and Chopper (the family droid and Hera’s constant companion on Rebels) manage to escape but her family is taken by the Empire.
This episode very much felt like the first episode in a two-parter. There was a great deal of setup here, which I enjoyed, even though I know most of the particulars due to having watched Rebels. Where this is going to take the show will most likely involve Hera being rescued by the Batch, leading them into another conflict with Crosshair and the Empire. But the real story will be how this series of events leads to Hera becoming captain of the Ghost and a leading force in the nascent Rebellion in a couple of decades (in story). Tragedy defines a great many characters in the Star Wars universe. This story is Hera’s tragedy, which speaks to the larger forces at work within the galaxy as the Empire’s shadow seeks to control everything it can.
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