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Star Wars Rebels: Season 4 Episode 9: Rebel Assault

What is it ? : In space around Lothal, a massive Imperial fleet guard the planet, they detect vessels coming out of Hyperspace, and Hera leading 24 Rebel Starfighters emerge and attack the fleet.
Meanwhile on the surface, Ezra, Sabine, Zeb and Kanan stealthily attach explosives to the turbolaser turrets, finishing their task and pulling back when Ryder Asadi reports finishing doing the same. Once they are a distancer away, they detonate the explosives and the towers collapse down into themselves.
Governor Pryce reports that the factory is now vulnerable to attack, but Thrawn contradicts her, saying that the Rebel fighters will not get past the blockade.
Hera ends up skirmishing with Vult Skerris in his Tie Defender, eventually leading him into fire from Thrawn's Star Destroyer crippling both fighters shields, then firing on the sensors of a Star Destroyer and ducking her fighter through the vapour released by the explosion, temporarily blinding Skerris to her manuver and ambushing him on the other side, causing his exploding fighter to crash into an Arquitens class cruiser.
The armoury of the cruiser explodes, and in turn it impacts the bridge tower of a nearby Star Destroyer, breaking the tower free of the superstructure, providing the neccessary gap in the blockade for her squadron to slip through to Lothal.
Thrawn, says this is a testament to Hera's skill as a combat pilot and orders the second wave of Tie Fighters waiting below to intercept the Rebels.
As Ryder's and Ezra's groups rendezvous outside the capital city, they await the Rebel fighters breaking cloud cover and attack, but instead witness the damaged and destroyed fighters raining down to the surface. Kanan departs to try to rescue Hera, while the others pull back.
Hera awakens with her fighter crashed in a back alley in Lothal city, and citizens urge her to flee as Imperial forces arrive to investigate. She tries to get Chopper to call for help, but his transmitter is broken, but they encounter and rescue another Rebel Pilot, Mart, using parts from his destroyed Astromech to repair Chopper.
Kanan encounters the Loth Wolves, repeating his real name, Dume, and Kanan seems to understand what he must do.
Searching for an exit from the city through the sewers, they find it blocked by a walker standing on it. Hera steals a nearby speeder, while Mart distracts the Stormtroopers, allowing Chopper to access the controls and open the exit. While the walker attacks Mart, Hera crashes the speeder into it, causing it to collapse.
Rukh arrives and delays Hera getting to the sewer exit, but Chopper and Mart escape, before Pryce arrives stunning her.
At the exit to the sewers, Kanan awaits Mart and Chopper, explaining that he understands there was nothing they could do to help Hera, but there is something he can do. And as the three climb aboard Kanans speeder bike as a Loth Wolf watches them leave.

High Points : As you would expect of any form of Star Wars, the space battle during the early part of this episode is absolutely epic, the Rebel starfighters darting around the multitude of Imperial vessels is visually impressive and gripping throughout.

I must also draw your attention to Heras piloting, we often hear how good she is, but we really witness it here, with her performing maneuvers we've never seen an X-Wing perform before, coming to a halt and turning to bring her weapons to bear on targets in a way more reminiscent to Babylon 5's space combat than the usual Star Wars version where the Starfighters are just treated like aircraft. It's great to see.

As Hera, Chopper and Mart are fleeing through the streets, it really gives you the feeling that they are in occupied territory, that danger lurks around every corner, producing another pulse pounding scene where they could be captured at any moment.

Finally, again Thrawn impresses, he isn't confounded or threatened by Hera's skills in battle, he pays her complements, and produces strategies to beat her. It's obvious he sees her as a skilled and capable opponent, and rather than raging at their victories, he calmly appreciates what they've done and implements his next plan to defeat them. His cold, calm attitude makes him an appealing intellectual villain, and makes him all the more dangerous for it, since here is an opponent they won't be able to bait into mistakes.

Low Points : There's nothing much to criticise in this episode, although I do find that the Rebel attack by only 24 Starfighters should be considered a threat to Lothal, when the Empire is fielding nearly that number of Capital ships. Given how powerful starfighters are compared to Capital ships, I think that the Empire would have found it far more economical to scrap the construction of a few Star Destroyers in exchange for a few more squadrons of Tie Defenders or other powerful fighters.

Also I like to note that this is the first appearance of the X-Wing in Rebels, which goes unremarked upon, which disappoints. We've seen Phoenix Squadron fly A-Wings, and we've seen the Rebels capture their Y-Wings, but even at Yavin IV we've never seen any X-Wings even parked around. I would have much prefered to have had a story about the Rebels acquiring them, perhaps actually showing us the Incom defection we've heard about for decades, or at least been told that another Rebel cells was arriving with their own fighters. Instead the X-Wings just turn up from nowhere, and don't get the same quality of world building that everything else has received from this series.

So what do you really think ? : It was a great episode, but doesn't have too much going on in it, basically amounting to, Hera leads an attack on Lothal, and is captured when it fails. It's action packed, and takes the story to where it needs to be (with Hera captured, and Kanan having discovered what he needs to do next), but there's not a lot of substance to the episode.

Final Words : So Kanan has discovered his destiny from the Loth Wolves, Hera is Thrawn's prisoner, and the great Rebel attack on Lothal has failed, I'm almost scared to watch the next episode knowing how much is in the balance.

Score : 8.5/10

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