Star Wars Rebels: “Rebel Assault” Season 4 Episode 7 Review

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If this mid-season finale proves anything, it’s that the Rebellion’s eyes in these early stages are far bigger than its stomach, and that also may have been true for Star Wars Rebels from the start. Over these three and a half seasons, we’ve watched the Ghost family grow together, but along the way, their paths and overall purposes have grown a lot murkier. What does Kanan’s survival mean for Luke? What happened to Ezra’s struggle with the Dark Side? Sabine both is and then isn’t the leader Mandalore needs depending on the episode. These characters are compelling, but their arcs are messy and disjointed. That is, except for Hera’s.

From the beginning, taking missions from Fulcrum, Ahsoka then, Hera’s singular mission has been to overthrow the Empire. Season four, however, has successfully shown thus far that Hera is struggling to balance her “family life” with the cause. That’s never been more true than in “Rebel Assault.” After convincing Mon Mothma and the other Rebel leaders, she leads a coordinated strike on the Empire’s blockade over Lothal. Here she has a chance to marry her care for Ezra with the Rebellion’s larger goals, but it’s clear right from the onset that they have once again underestimated the power of the Empire.

These failures for the Rebellion are important leading into Rogue One, but they also apparently speak to Rebels’ larger goals for its final season. Starting with a truly epic space battle, which also happens to include the show’s introduction to X-Wings, Thrawn quickly proves to have out-planned Hera here. She and a few other lucky surviving Rebel pilots, most notably Mart from last season’s extraneous “Iron Squadron,” have to navigate the Stormtrooper infested capitol city.

The episode’s tension elsewhere deals with the finality this show has suddenly found itself in. Watching their fighters fall from the sky, Kanan refuses to return to the Rebel camp without finding Hera first. Is he to die here? Rebels hasn’t been shy about alluding to his death so far this season, especially since the wolves showed up. And they show up again here, though injecting more frustrating mystery into a season way too closed off from its audience.

As Hera is surrounded, though following the best display of her skills on the ground yet on the series, handling herself in hand-to-hand combat against Ruhk not once but twice, she allows Mart to escape, who winds up in Kanan’s hands on the other side of the sewer. He knows Hera is captured, but he’s calm because of something the wolves told him. That mystery is jarringly cut off until 2018.

There are a lot of things frustrating about the ending of the mid-season finale of a season now more than halfway done that still hasn’t clued us into its secrets. “Rebel Assault” feels like the first half of an episode, which may or may not prove true when the show returns next year. But this isn’t just a full episode with a maddening cliffhanger, it genuinely feels like half of the material we’re supposed to be getting for the complete story. Dave Filoni loves his mysteries, but they’re starting to come at the cost of the show’s emotional journey. It’s not as if great character work is being done with the time not talking about where the season is going. Even this episode is more a display of Hera’s strengths rather than an arc for the future general. Part of me thinks the series’ final mystery is shrouded in such secrecy because it somehow directly ties to The Last Jedi (one month, folks!). If that’s the case, why not write a more forward season and hold the premiere until January? If that isn’t the case, why all these closed doors so far into the final season? Whatever it is, as it stands, Rebels is really starting to betray its characters, it’s larger purpose, and, consequently, its audience. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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