Spoiler Warning: If you haven't seen the most recent episode of Star Wars Rebels or don't want to know what happened, turn away now. Or, y'know, go watch and come back so we can talk about it.
Hera Syndulla is my personal hero. She comes face to face with one of the most feared characters in the Star Wars universe and not only stands her ground, but earns his respect as an opponent.
That respect comes with a great cost, but it also provides the rebellion, Cham Syndulla, Kanan and the rest of the crew with information that will likely become vital in the coming episodes. Of course, from Thrawn's perspective, Hera Syndulla is a rebel insurgent who blew up an Imperial installation on Ryloth –– but he also considered this a learning experience, so all good, right?
My guess is each side's perspective and interpretation of events is going to come up again as the fight goes on.
Here's what we learned early in the episode. The Empire has captured Tan Province on Ryloth. Tan Province is also the location of the Syndulla ancestral home. Cham Syndulla got away in time, but now the Empire is 100 percent out to get him –– especially Captain Slavin, the head of operations on Ryloth.
Hera and the Ghost arrive in time to help Cham, but the news that her family home has been invaded sends Hera on a personal mission to retrieve her family's Kalikori, a Twi'lek family heirloom. That mission walks her directly into a confrontation with Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Hera and Thrawn's first face-to-face fascinated me. Both Hera and Ezra approach the mission with a certain understanding of the Empire and its level of, shall we say, intelligence. Earlier in the episode, Cham discusses the difference in Slavin's tactics and the increase in the level of sophistication, and Commander Sato mentioned the same thing in "The Antilles Extraction." But Hera and Ezra's plan would have worked perfectly if not for Thrawn. Slavin would have seen Hera as a slave out of place and sent her away with Ezra as escort and Bob's your uncle, right?
Instead, Hera and Ezra get caught. They only escape and keep Cham from being traded in a prisoner exchange because of Hera's ability to think outside the box. Way outside.
However, that's only going to work once. Remember Thrawn's mention of an experiment? I think he knew they'd do something, but he wanted to see what it was, and that's why he's off-planet watching from a distance as events unfold.
"They let us go. It's the only explanation for the ease of our escape." - Leia Organa, A New Hope.
I get the feeling Vader and Tarkin learned a few tricks from Thrawn.
Those scenes also offer a deeper understanding of Thrawn and his particular skill with information. Personally, I wasn't really familiar with Thrawn before his appearance on Rebels (save for the name and what I've heard about the EU), but it certainly feels like they've made him the master tactician I've heard him described as. Lars Mikkelsen's performance is so menacingly ... subdued.
I can't wait to see more of him.
• Whatever anger Ezra may have had with Hera about his demotion and not being chosen for the Skystrike mission seems to have passed.
• "Yep, Blurrgs are welcome, too". My inner Firefly nerd heard "We're gonna try a barn swallow!". Also, the whole thing with the Biker Scout was fantastic. Ezra's wardrobe is expanding nicely.
• The "diversion" created to get Hera and Ezra into Tan Province was full of interesting tidbits. Kanan's gotten much better with his saber and with his overall confidence in his ability to "see". He's turned his back on feeling sorry for himself. Sabine and Numa up top and in charge of the explosives made perfect sense. It also went on longer than I expected, which was nice because it reminds us that the Empire's a formidable opponent.
• Chopper and the crashed Y-wing. My heart, y'all. Poor Chopper! Chopper's story hasn't been told in depth yet, but tidbits like this pop up and remind me that he has a story and it kills me! I also love him in this episode overall. He's a fantastic diversion with the guards and his gleeful beeps when he was setting explosives were adorable.
• Did you catch Hera's little smile when Slavin calls the Kalikori a primitive trinket and then the shock when Thrawn identifies it correctly?
• Thrawn's reaction to Slavin calling the Kalikori a piece of "Twi'lek trash" is so informative! Here's a man who coolly discusses war and death, but call a piece of art trash and he'll practically tear you apart? I hope we see more of that.
Overall, the episode has two missions; to give us a more in-depth look at Thrawn and build more of a story for our Rebels. I think it succeeded on both counts and laid the groundwork for what's coming while keeping us wanting more.
Same time next week?
Until then, may the Force be with you.
Star Wars Rebels airs Saturdays at 8:30 PM ET/PT on Disney XD