Note: This review contains SPOILERS
This week Star Wars Rebels finally gave us the Hera/Sabine-centric episode I’ve been clamoring for and the end result is the feeling that I still don’t know as much as I’d like to about these characters. It’s a shame because this week’s gimmick is an episode focussed almost exclusively on the women of Star Wars Rebels, but we don’t get character development as much as a few bits of exposition bookended by modest action sequences.
The story this time around reveals that Hera has been getting intel for many of the team’s missions from a mysterious source called “Fulcrum.” Unlike the work we’ve seen in previous episodes, where sticking it to the Empire was a secondary perk to the primary concern of making money, Fulcrum’s jobs seem to be more explicitly focussed on hitting the Empire where it hurts. After one of these jobs runs into unexpectedly heavy Imperial resistance, Sabine demands to know more about who they’re dealing with and insists on joining Hera on her next assignment: a supply pick-up left by Fulcrum at an outpost destroyed during the Clone Wars.
The most interesting here is that the show is making more obvious an element that has quietly underlined previous episodes. Kanan is the self-appointed leader of the group, but in many ways it seems like Hera is quietly running the show just as much, if not more so than Kanan is. Here we learn that she’s receiving intel from a secret source that even Kanan isn’t privy to. From the beginning, Hera has been established as a maternal figure, and I like that the show is choosing to explore the nature of maternity in interesting ways. Hera is smart and competent and can hold her own in traditionally masculine pursuits like piloting and gunplay, but none of this comes at the expense of her femininity and maternity. She’s a legitimately strong female character who avoids all the awful tropes we tend to associate with “strong female characters” (namely that despite being women, their strength is still found in traditionally masculine pursuits while feminine qualities are made to seem weak and undesirable). Later in the episode, it’s revealed (albeit in a somewhat clunky manner) that Hera is perhaps the member of the Ghost crew who is most invested in the Rebel cause, with the others being onboard primarily for personal vendettas, meaning that Hera is potentially the most important member of the Ghost crew in relation to the larger Star Wars universe, at least at the moment.
Sabine, on the other hand, is not nearly as well developed in this episode. The central theme of this episode is establishing trust, and the most significant thing we learn about Sabine on a character level is that she has trust issues. When Hera and Sabine arrive at the drop site, they get into an argument about this very issue, and during the conversation it’s revealed that Sabine was previously enrolled in the Imperial Academy and that some still undisclosed “nightmare” led her to flee the Academy and join up with the crew of the Ghost. This is an interesting bit of backstory and likely foreshadows future instances of Sabine questioning her allegiance to the Rebel cause, but the way it’s delivered here is fairly unsatisfying. The middle part of this episode is just a whole lot of expository dialogue. Sabine talks about her past with the Empire, Hera talks about her dedication to the Rebel cause, how it’s bigger than the crew of the Ghost, and why she needs to play some of the finer details close to the vest, but none of this comes out in compelling ways. The decision to make this a routine pick-up that goes wrong is part of the problem here; because Sabine and Hera are on a fairly boring mission means that it doesn’t give them any interesting context for discussing this information. They’re literally just monologuing as they carry crates back and forth. Having them infiltrate an imperial base or some other more dynamic setting could have made these trust issues play out in interesting ways that give us real insight into these characters, but instead, this is a walking and talking episode. We do get some action in the last part of the episode when Hera and Sabine discover some Pitch Black-style monsters that are hurt by sunlight, but by that point the episode has moved past giving us character insight, and has shifted to action mode. It would have been much better if this episode had been able to blend the two elements rather than keeping them separate.
While the Hera and Sabine A-plot of the episode takes up the vast majority of the half-hour, there is a small B-plot involving Ezra, Zeb, and Chopper botching a repair job they were supposed to perform on the Phantom (the Ghost’s shuttle). The dynamic of these three as bickering siblings who mess things up due to their incompetence is becoming really tiresome and the show needs to move past this. I had hoped that after spending a whole episode resolving this conflict in “Fighter Flight” we wouldn’t have to deal with this anymore, but clearly I was wrong.
This isn’t a bad episode exactly, and it does give us interesting insight into characters and future story beats, but it does so in an extremely inelegant way that wastes a lot of potential for strong storytelling. It’s still early enough in the season for a week episode like this to be excusable, but hopefully the show runners find more interesting ways to blend character development with narrative action in future episodes.