“Rebel Assault” is the last episode before the winter break. This season, if not the entire show, has been leading up to this episode and the battle for Lothal. The Rebellion’s first real attack against the Empire. How will it fare for both sides?
On the surface the plot of this episode is simple. There’s a battle and then there’s the escape from it. That isn’t a bad thing. It felt very action-packed and manages to keep the tension up throughout the entire episode. We jump straight into the battle without any preamble. The episode opens on the massive Imperial blockade outside of Lothal. Suddenly Hera’s Phoenix Squadron appears out of hyperspace. “Lock S-foils in attack position,” she tells her pilots. Thrawn, whose path also keeps being drawn back to Lothal, orders the Imperial fighters to be launched. A mixed group of Rebel fighters and bombers against Thrawn’s blockade. The battle begins.
The animation of the battle shows how far they have come with it on this show. Fighters on both sides try to gain the upper hand around the looming figures of the Star Destroyers and Imperial Cruisers. I always look forward to seeing Hera’s piloting skills and this was a great showcase for it. The battle also didn’t shy away from showing the destruction of Rebel fighters.
On Lothal, alarms sound. Zeb, Kanan, Ezra and Sabine rig the gun towers to explode. With the chaos outside and the gun towers now destroyed, Governor Pryce tells Thrawn that her forces are comprised and the TIE factory is in danger. Thrawn assures her that he won’t let one ship through the blockade.
Captain Vult Skerris enters the fray in his TIE Defender, immediately taking out two X-Wings before focusing on Hera. Thrawn might be a tactical genius but he’s coming up against two things that will hinder his plans. The hubris of his fighters, namely Skerris, who refused to pull back when told, and the piloting of Hera. Thrawn figured out Hera is leading Skerris into a trap and disabled her shields. Fortunately for Hera, he also disabled Skerris’. Hera takes out Skerris, sending his ship careening into an Imperial Cruiser that then crashes into a Star Destroyer. The rebels break through the blockade and fly towards the planet.
The Rebels have succeeded in breaking through the seemly unbreakable blockade. With the gun towers destroyed on the ground, it looks like they will make it to the TIE factory. Unfortunately they don’t know about the second wave of fighters Thrawn ordered into the fight, and are immediately overwhelmed. On the surface, the rest of the Ghost crew can only watch in horror as shot-down Rebel fighters fall from the sky over Lothal City. Kanan desperately tries to contact Hera but gets no response. Ezra tries to comfort him, saying that she survived. Either way, they can’t stay there, they have to leave before Imperial forces find them.
Thrawn is notified that some of the Rebel pilots have crash landed, and immediately sends out Rukh to locate and bring them in, especially Hera Syndulla.
Hera’s fighter crashed in an alley of Lothal City. Her fighter is on fire but she’s more or less okay, especially after Chopper helps her out of it. A few citizens point her to an escape route. She tries to contact Kanan and company but Chopper’s communication array is broken.
Meanwhile, they are speeding away from the city when Kanan stops. He announces that he’s going back for Hera. The stakes are intensely personal for him and no amount of Jedi training is going to be enough to control his emotions. It’s Ezra who defends his choice when Sabine protests. It shows a growth in their relationship. Ezra trusts in Kanan and that the force will lead him.
Hera and Chopper maneuver through the city. They hear a rebel distress call and follow it to where Mart Mattin, one of the pilots, is surrounded by stormtroopers. Showing that she’s just as skilled on the ground as she is in the air, Hera sneaks aboard a transport, knocks out the pilot and uses it to ram the stormtroopers. Mart and Chopper dispatch the rest. Here’s where we find an interesting tidbit, Mart calls Hera “General.” It looks like she’s been promoted shortly before this mission. Part of me felt like they were handing out general rankings like candy in the original movies. Hera definitely deserves this though. I just wish they had shown her receiving it.
Hera and Mart try to use the transmitter from his droid to fix Chopper but he still can’t get through the Imperial jamming. Suddenly, a blaster bolt hits near them. This was one of the things I wondered about in this episode: why did Rukh shoot at them? He was hidden with them out in the open. He could have easily stunned them both or at least Hera. It was a dramatic entrance but poorly thought out, strategically.
They take off running with Rukh following them over the roofs. He overtakes them and drops down in front of them, easily taking out Mart. His fight with Hera takes a little longer but eventually he knocks her to the ground. Thankfully Chopper is there to save her by stunning him.
Meanwhile, Kanan is speeding back towards the city. A loth-wolf appears in his path causing him to crash. “Dume,” it says. Is this the only word this wolf knows or is he just that to-the-point? Kanan, who was so desperate to get to Hera now realizes that he has to surrender himself to the force and through that save her. He removes his mask and says “I understand. What must I do?”
Hera, Chopper and Mart find a way out – a sewage hatch. The only problem is it’s guarded by a couple of stormtroopers and an an AT-PT. Hera orders Mart to make a distraction to get them away from the hatch. Mart’s distraction: shooting a stormtrooper and running away. Simple but it worked. The other trooper and AT-PT follow him. Unfortunately, they called for reinforcements first.
Chopper immediately gets to work on opening the hatch. Mart takes out the other stormtrooper and Hera drives a stolen speeder into the AT-PT’s legs. Once again, things are going great for the Rebels. It looks like they might actually get away. She orders Mart to the hatch while she stuns the AT-PT’s pilot. That turned out to be the wrong move. It gives Rukh time to catch up with her. Mart, who is already in the hatch tries to leave to help her but is cut off by combat assault tanks. She orders both Mart and Chopper to leave. Speaking to the strength of their relationship and of Chopper’s personality, he refuses. “I said ‘Go,’ Chop!” She orders again, shooting the hatch control so he’s forced to leave.
Hera is left with Rukh just in time for Governor Pryce to arrive. After all this time of chasing them, Pryce finally has Hera within her clutches. She smugly looks on as Hera is stunned unconscious.
Mart and Chopper reach the hatch at the exit of the city. They open it to reveal Kanan. Mart tries to apologize to him for Hera but Kanan tells him that there was nothing he could have done. “But there is something I can do,” Kanan says. Cryptic much Kanan?
They take Kanan’s speeder outside of the city. Watching them is the loth-wolf. Of course this episode ends on this cliffhanger. What did the wolf show/tell Kanan? How will this help Hera? We know that Hera makes it to Rogue One so this can’t be her end. That knowledge only makes it a little less nerve-wracking that she is now within the grasp of the Empire.
The Rebels took a chance, pitting their forces against the Empire’s at Lothal. It was a chance that didn’t pan out, instead costing them dearly. Mon Mothma told Ezra they weren’t ready for open war and she was proven right. This sets up nicely for Rogue One. After failing so spectacularly in their first big foray against the Empire, of course they would be wary of attacking another Imperial facility. Especially one as guarded as Scarif.
The first part of this season has been amazing. The storytelling has been a lot more focused, the characterizations sharper. “Rebel Assault” was an engaging and tension filled cap to the first half. Can’t wait for what the rest of the season brings.