“Kindred” and “Crawler Commandeers” were the last two paired episodes to air this fall before a short break until the new year. The reason given for pairing up episodes this season has been to keep storylines intact for a better narrative flow, and this has definitely been true for our visit to Mandalore and Ezra’s return to Lothal. Only one thing truly connects “Kindred” and “Crawler Commandeers,” however: Hera Syndulla, and what definitely is emerging as the story of how Hera will become General Syndulla by the time of Rogue One. That’s not to say the other stories are inconsequential, but they are compartmentalized within their respective episodes. Choosing a female character to be that connecting thread is definitely a good thing.
“Kindred” has two big moments worth discussing. One undoubtedly launched a number of excited tweets and blog postings: the kiss between Hera and Kanan Jarrus. Since the season premiere the relationship, which has been hinted at with glances and things said with explicit meaning and implicit meaning, came roaring to the forefront. First with Kanan appearing to push Hera to acknowledge their relationship via hologram on Mandalore. The approach Kanan has taken in the past few episodes has been very forthright, delicately balanced between a sincerity to address a relationship and not going so far as the Jedi Knight trying to force Hera into something she’s not comfortable doing. As we learn, it’s not a matter of Hera being comfortable with the idea of being in a romantic relationship with Kanan; it’s a matter of priorities, with the Rebellion coming first. It all boils up to Hera being allowed to choose to kiss Kanan, versus what has generally been the norm in media for decades. It was a refreshing moment to see Hera allowed this independence of choice when it came to romance. Romance has genuinely been fleeting on Rebels, but not necessarily as fleeting as spotting Loth-wolves on Lothal.
The other major development is the reveal of the Loth-wolves’ ability to travel through a Force wormhole. The Loth-wolves were introduced in the previous episode with an exciting recipe of one part mystical and one part reference to Kanan’s past as a Jedi Padawan. Both elements continued when the rebels found themselves pinned down by Imperial forces after Rukh, an assassin sent by Grand Admiral Thrawn to help Governor Pryce, locates their hidden base. An added delight was Star Wars alum Warwick Davis providing the voice of the character reintroduced into the universe from the Thrawn Trilogy. The rebels escape certain doom only after following three Loth-wolves to a cave, and within that cave into some kind of weird, seemingly Force-based, wormhole that deposited them on the opposite hemisphere of the planet. Wrapped up in this event is evidence the Jedi came to Lothal and interacted with the wolves in some way, and obviously built a temple on the planet. The connection the wolves have to the Force has not yet been explained, a mystery that the writers have chosen to let linger still. Of note, however, the wolves appeared as three, a white wolf along with two dark wolves. This could be an allusion to the Mortis arc from The Clone Wars, a series of episodes which delved deeply into the Force, which was embodied by three individuals. Needless to say, we were all better prepared this time when the Loth-wolf growled the name “Dume” for the second time.
Kanan’s connection to Lothal, or at least it’s hairy denizens, was expanded to include the crew of the Ghost in a conversation between Kanan and Hera. In that conversation, Kanan noted how they were repeatedly drawn to Lothal as if they were meant to be on the high grass prairie planet. Syndulla, meanwhile, had other things to do and other planetoids to visit. After successfully breaking through the Imperial blockade in typical Hera derring-do, our favorite rebel Twi’lek arrived at Yavin IV with the information on the TIE Defender Elite.
It is Yavin 4 which ups the entertainment and importance of “Crawler Commandeers,” which was beset with slightly problematic writing when it came to the story revolving around a giant mining crawler. The titled commandeering of the machine occurs at the expense of a diminutive Trandoshan, whose continual presence does little to help the story, save the off-the-cuff remark, “Do I really sound like that?” Almost everything else which involves the crawler requires a certain level of disbelief, be it Kanan’s quick defeat at the hands of a much bigger Trandoshan to the rebels inexplicably allowing the captain of the crawler to remain conscious and unrestrained for most of the episode – purely to allow plot beats to happen later. Only Hera on Yavin raises the episode to something more interesting.
Back at the rebel base, we are gifted with Hera being involved, excluded, and involved again with the deliberations of the rebel High Command, which included Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, and General Jan Dodonna. This is the B-story of the episode, so less time is dedicated to it than Zeb wrestling with one mouthy humanoid lizard after another, but it allows us to see Hera not only taking her place as an equal at the table of the High Command but also convincing them to a plan of action – an attack on Lothal’s TIE Defender factory. It paired up Mothma and Hera for the second time since last season’s episode featuring the Ghost aiding Mothma’s flight from the Empire, and offered another glimpse of two women in leadership positions discussing something of vital importance. It is Hera’s continual development as a leader and as a rebel which made “Crawler Commandeers” a better episode than the crawler escapades alone would have left it.