A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Homecoming is the best episode of Star Wars Rebels. It’s not a flawless episode, as its climactic moments clearly indicate. But it is an episode that combines the past, present, and future seamlessly towards a goal while carrying a plethora of character arcs forward without sacrificing them for plot. It is an episode that, in what is an unfortunate minority at this point, doesn’t center its story around a major Star Wars character to the detriment of the story Rebels is otherwise telling. The introduction episodes of Hondo Ohnaka and Princess Leia, for example, are emblematic of this problem where the guest star of the week takes up all of the space while making everything else seem that much more hollow in comparison. Homecoming brings forth Cham Syndulla, Numa, and Gobi from The Clone Wars and their appearances feed organically into Hera’s character arc versus the other way around. The show made an attempt at digging into Hera’s character in Wings of the Master, which was a good episode but superfluous in ways that make me look upon it with less fondness as time has gone on. Here that character extrapolation is much more nuanced and germane to how much we have seen of Hera on the series and a significant amount of it quietly feeds into her psyche without becoming overtly obvious. It fundamentally changes Hera’s story arc with subtlety and leaves her at a place where she can leave behind a good segment of that guilt and overburdening emotional construction at leaving her home world behind.
Hera had departed Ryloth at an unspecified age, but one she notes as having left the very first opportunity to do so. The episode never gives the exact reasoning that had pushed her towards the greater galaxy, but it tells the audience just enough for them to be able to form the trajectory in their minds. It’s a subtle, layered extrapolation of characterization the show has at times espoused this well and one that would serve the series greatly going forward. Hera always believed in something greater than herself and it’s not difficult to see how she could have garnered that understanding, having grown up in a war environment. That belief was known and understood by the audience, entrenched in the symbolism of being able to fly, made more powerful by the amount of hiding Hera had down underground before the Confederacy of Independent Systems had been eradicated by the Republic. That era of the Clone Wars instilled in Hera a strong belief in fighting for the right cause and especially for those who were oppressed. As the Republic slowly transcended into the Empire, the clone troopers turned into stormtroopers and one type of occupation simply turned into another. Hera’s spirit didn’t damped, however, and she broke through her father’s isolation to pursue that grander ideal of helping those in need, regardless of whatever came after that.
Cham turning inwards is entirely understandable, even if his attitude towards his daughter is far more hostile and cold than necessary. When Mace Windu noted that the Republic would only be on Ryloth temporarily, Cham’s response was a wry worry that one day he might be fighting the Jedi themselves. Cham’s skepticism was duly earned and it became a reality, even if the Jedi Order was largely eradicated from existence. That reality pushed Cham towards a belief that no one could be trusted and that his only true mission in life was to protect the sovereignty of the people of Ryloth no matter what happened. There was no greater goal, no greater good, but just the good that was around what he felt the greatest bond to. That embittered consolidation of his worst fears had the added effect of shielding him emotionally from everyone and the more Hera’s strength of belief in a greater good grew, the more that shield closed off the person who ought to have been his closest confidante. It’s an emotional tragedy entrenched more and more deeply because of time and the moment where Hera’s voice slipped into her natural Twi’lek accent was beautifully executed in what is Vanessa Marshall’s best work on the series to date. All the years of anger, happiness, guilt came pouring out into a single conversation and it was something to behold. In that moment she was home and the persona she had embodied on the Ghost gave way to a strong, independent woman having an emotional catharsis with the one man who ought to have stood by her side and failed to do so.
Ultimately Hera’s perspective is the more righteous one and the episode takes great care not to buoy it at Cham’s expense. She understands her father’s perspective and she knows that deep down it comes from a place of wanting to do good and protect his people from the cyclical nature of oppression they have and are suffereing through. But she’s equally frustrated that her father had closed himself off to such a sharp degree that he couldn’t simply come to terms with the path his daughter had chosen, especially since it so closely mirrored his own. Perhaps Cham was afraid that Hera was going to suffer from the same reality of betrayal that he suffered when the Republic simply changed its name and became more openly oppressive. But the solution to that never was to close himself off, to push away his offspring. That frustration is evident throughout Hera’s voice and perhaps that emotional gap is what led to Hera becoming the emotional core of the Ghost crew. Hera’s final pull to Cham that triggers him towards her side is as much of a practical plea as it was an emotional one. She reasons that the only way the tyranny of the Empire can be overthrown is if all the oppressed people under its thumb band together, for the power belongs to the people. Her working for the Rebels isn’t an act of treason for a group that will turn its cloak again, it’s an act of leadership and freedom. And even if the Rebellion succeeds and then becomes another Empire, then those efforts will still have saved lives and that’s what matters. It’s the most succinct understanding of Hera as a character yet and the power of belief that held such a disparate, fledgling Rebellion together at this trying time. I have (as you’ve read) been frustrated with this season of Rebels and yes, even when they pull an ending that is so neatly tied, that one accent moment alone spoke so much about Hera that even if the rest of the episode had been a letdown, that single sequence would have saved it beyond doubt.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+That Imperial fighter was gorgeous
+“The Republic became the Empire and then refused to leave.”
+Mace Windu mention
+“They’re always on schedule.”
+It was great to see
+“Sorry, my friends.”
+That bridge sequence, tho
+“Kanan, do your thing.”
+Ezra’s struggles with the Force mind trick reminded me of Ahsoka in The Clone Wars in the best of ways
Episode Title: Homecoming
Written by:Steven Melching
Directed by: Bosco Ng
Image Courtesy: Sci Fi Movie Page