Looking for a way to introduce Star Wars Rebels to your friends? Or perhaps you’d like to revisit key moments from the series before it returns? Then look no further than Rebels Revisited.
In this installment…Hera Syndulla. Heir to a legacy of rebellion, it’s easy to believe that leading hopeless causes is something passed on to Hera by her freedom-fighting father Cham. But as anyone who’s watched Rebels can attest, it’s Hera’s heart that makes her a hero to so many and one of the finest leaders in the entire Star Wars saga. These episodes (and many more) prove it.
1. “Out of the Darkness” (Season 1, Episode 7)
You could say that (next to the Force) the Star Wars galaxy runs on faith. Whether it’s in a person, an organization, or an ideal, the power of belief drives the events that unfold in a galaxy far, far away.
Hera understands this. And she has an uncanny ability to help those around her find their own faith in the most hopeless of situations. She demonstrates that in this episode when she and Sabine discuss the rebellion’s secretive nature. Sabine wants to know more about their plans, but Hera knows how dangerous that is to the cause and to Sabine.
There are any number of hierarchical ways Hera could choose to explain this to Sabine. She could pull rank or emphasize that she’s just following the rebellion’s operational procedures. But instead, she speaks from her heart and teaches Sabine a lesson about faith and its power to destroy doubt and strengthen trust. Even more impressively, she follows up with Sabine at the end of the episode to ensure their talk made Sabine feel heard.
Concern for the emotional well-being of others. That’s leadership.
2. “Wings of the Master” (Season 2, Episode 7)
As is often the case with the best leaders, Hera is usually too busy taking care of others…in combat, on the Ghost, and elsewhere…to take time for herself. By extension, we haven’t had many opportunities to see her talk about her innermost thoughts, her driving principles, or the history that informs them.
We get our first real glimpse of the person behind the leader in “Wings of the Master,” when Hera discusses her background with shipbuilder Quarrie. We learn how she followed her dreams and left home to learn how to fly. And more importantly, how she decided to use that ability to help others.
It’s a scene that brings Hera into sharper focus, retroactively characterizing the many times we’ve seen her incredible leadership and coloring our perceptions of everything she goes on to do throughout the series. Hera practices what she preaches, and every time she encourages a member of her crew to grow, to do better, to act, she’s speaking from experience.
Using your talents for a greater good and serving as an example to those around you. That’s leadership.
3. “Hera’s Heroes” (Season 3, Episode 5)
Here, we see how much Hera means to the crew of the Ghost, who risk everything to help her recover a family heirloom — and it leads to some amazing moments. Hera comes face to face with Grand Admiral Thrawn for the first time, we discover Chopper’s origin, and the Empire learns why you don’t bring a rocket launcher to a Kanan fight. But what’s important is that Hera’s adopted family loves her so much that they don’t think twice about helping her to recover a vital piece of her biological family’s history, despite the danger this puts them in.
Your genuine investment in others inspires their genuine investment in you. That’s leadership.
4. “Zero Hour: Parts One and Two” (Season 3, Episodes 21 and 22)
It’s easy to point out fantastic leadership when it results in a victory. Less so when it leads to defeat. But how a leader handles defeat often says more about them than their victories ever could. Hera’s actions when the Empire discovers the rebel base on Atollon is an excellent case in point.
Where others would play the Empire’s game, Hera assesses the situation and makes small countermoves throughout the ensuing battle that (along with some old fashioned Imperial arrogance) prevent the “utter defeat” Grand Admiral Thrawn aims to achieve. Because of Hera’s practical tactics and patience, the Phoenix cell lives to fight another day.
Keeping cool under pressure. Taking calculated risks. That’s leadership.
5. “Rebel Assault” (Season 4, Episode 9)
Here comes the general. Having convinced Rebel Alliance High Command of the importance of shutting down the Empire’s TIE defender production, Hera returns to Lothal at the head of a squadron of X-wings and leads them in a daring, but ultimately unsuccessful attack.
Yet once again, Hera shows that even in failure, her leadership qualities shine. When escaping the Empire becomes unlikely, she lets herself be captured by the Empire to give Chopper and Mart Mattin enough time to escape. Hera’s the more valuable target, it should be Mart sacrificing himself for her, but so instinctual is Hera’s concern for others that she never even gives him that choice.
Putting others first. That’s leadership.
Will Hera’s leadership be enough to drive the Empire off Lothal once and for all? Find out when Star Wars Rebels kicks off its final episodes on Monday, February 19, on Disney XD.
Justin Bolger is Lucasfilm’s Star Wars social media strategist and he doesn’t like the Empire…he loves it. Catch him occasionally on The Star Wars Show and talk Star Wars with him on Twitter @TheApexFan.