*Spoiler warning: This review contains spoilers for the Star Wars Rebels episode “Out of Darkness.”
Even though “Spark of Rebellion” premiered just a little over a month ago, it seems like we’ve been waiting for much longer to see an episode of Star Wars Rebels focused on its female protagonists, Hera Syndulla and Sabine Wren. Throughout the show’s run to this point, viewers have been treated to stories that featured solid character development for Kanan, Zeb, and especially Ezra. But up until now, the women of Rebels have–more often than not–been relegated to the background of episodes that focused on the other crew members. “Out of the Darkness” obliterates that trend with an explosive episode that thrusts Hera and Sabine into the forefront.
Although we still don’t know much about Hera, Rebels has always been consistent in portraying her as an expert pilot, and the last episode, “Breaking Ranks,” hammered this point home through her brilliant assault on the Imperial convoy. “Out of Darkness” takes the legend of Hera one step further and infuses it with an extra portion of Han Solo. Like the Correllian former smuggler, Hera is a fearless pilot and a crack shot with a blaster. And like the aforementioned swashbuckling rogue of the Original Trilogy, Hera will occasionally overestimate her own abilities (even if she does destroy a TIE fighter by squeezing the Ghost sideways through two hills à la Han Solo’s asteroid maneuver in The Empire Strikes Back).
It has been discussed ad infinitum that Hera fulfills a motherly archetype on Rebels, and now “Out of Darkness” establishes that Sabine Wren is the (occasionally rebellious) teenage daughter of the group. By pairing the two, the producers of “Out of Darkness” throws the two characters into stark relief while also bringing their similarities to light. Both are strong women and both hate the Empire, but their philosophies on faith and trust divide them.
For Hera, trust is something she enjoys with her crewmates–especially Kanan who has complete confidence in her. But it is also something she gives willingly, if slowly, to outsiders like the mysterious “Fulcrum” if it means disrupting Imperial operations. Hera is loyal to a fault, and it will be interesting to monitor that attribute moving forward.
But with Sabine, trust is not so easily dispensed and “Out of Darkness” begins to reveal a bit of the Mandalorian’s origins and reasons for this hesitancy. It is suggested that most of Sabine’s trust issues stem from her experiences as a cadet at the Imperial Academy on Mandalore–experiences that apparently ended quite badly. Sabine relates to Hera that during her time at the Academy, she served under superiors who wanted compliance without question, and even though leaving that situation led to her joining the crew of the Ghost, she is beginning to feel that dynamic repeating itself. But she is determined not to let that happen, and therefore Sabine pushes the issue and demands that Hera allow her to accompany the Twi’lek pilot to her impending rendezvous with Fulcrum.
Hera acquiesces to Sabine’s demands and the two make their way in the Phantom to an abandoned military base on a desolate asteroid. On the way to their destination, Hera makes contact with Fulcrum to finalize their plans, and through the use of their “Spectre” codenames, reveals to the audience how far she really trusts her contact. Fulcrum is seemingly helping Hera wreak havoc on the Empire, but it’s evident that her faith in him is no deeper than absolutely necessary.
Once down on the asteroid, Hera and Sabine discover that Fulcrum will not be joining them after all and that the cargo they are after has simply been left for them. The two women adjust to the change in plans easily enough and beginning loading several crates into the Phantom. And that’s when they discover they are not alone after all.
After noticing a wicked-looking scratch on the ground where several of their crates had been only moments earlier, Hera and Sabine cautiously follow the trail into a nearby hangar to investigate and soon discover the most likely reason the base was abandoned. Pulling a page from the Vin Diesel film Pitch Black, “Out of Darkness” introduces us to the denizens of the hangar–a horrific, darkness-dwelling species of creature whose biggest weakness seems to be sunlight. And much like the bioraptors of planet M6-117 in Pitch Black, these creatures are soon afforded the opportunity to attack our heroes through a fluke celestial occurrence. In this case, the massive asteroid Hera and Sabine have landed on is surrounded by smaller atmospheric asteroids that frequently cause mini solar eclipses, the shadows of which exponentially increase the range of the vampiric creatures.
Making matters worse, the Phantom has been steadily leaking fuel since setting down on the asteroid thanks to an incomplete diagnostic scan by Zeb, Ezra, and Chopper that missed the flaw in the Ghost’s landing craft. As soon as Hera discovers the leak, she immediately contacts Zeb on the Ghost and explains the dire circumstances. Soon after, Kanan, Zeb, Ezra, and Chopper head to the asteroid to rescue their friends.
But the rescue attempt might be moot as an extraordinarily large asteroid has steadily began moving into position and is threatening to block out the sun far longer than our heroes can safely hold out. In order to buy time for the Ghost to come rescue them, Hera and Sabine must engage in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse by using themselves as bait in order to lure the creatures in range of several canisters that contain a volatile explosive called rhydonium.
“Out of Darkness” takes on a buddy picture vibe at this stage, and Hera and Sabine call to mind not only the protagonists of films like Thelma and Louise but also that of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.** Both women acquit themselves nicely as action-heroes and the witty banter between the two almost feels like it could’ve been lifted from a Shane Black movie.
Finally, the Ghost arrives on the asteroid, and after a brief skirmish with the creatures, the crew is reunited with everyone safe on board. With their tails figuratively between their legs, Zeb and Ezra apologize to Hera about their carelessness regarding their maintenance of the Phantom. The captain’s response is fittingly sarcastic considering the youthfulness of her recent traveling companion, and Zeb and Ezra are appropriately chagrined over their carelessness.
Like “Fighter Flight” was for Zeb and Ezra, “Out of Darkness” is an episode that enhances the friendship between Hera and Sabine and solidifies the family dynamic Rebels is built on. With a newfound mutual respect borne out of depending on each other to survive, Hera and Sabine are closer than ever. The young Mandalorian experiences real growth as a character due to the dangers faced in this episode, and though she still doesn’t have the answers to all her questions, she seems much more willing to trust Hera who does.
As for Hera, she remains constant in her seemingly unwavering faith in her cause and those who have joined with her. Her unshakeable belief is admirable, but I’m not sure it rings completely true. And considering how events unfolded at the base Fulcrum chose as a place to meet, it would have made a great deal of sense for Hera to show even a modicum of anger toward her mysterious contact. Perhaps we will see fallout from this possible betrayal in future episodes, but it would have been nice if it was addressed in “Out of Darkness.” In any case, we are sure to learn more about the enigmatic Fulcrum in future episodes of Rebels. Hopefully soon, we’ll also start to dig deeper into the inscrutable Hera Syndulla.
Thank you for reading! If you have feedback or just want to say hello, you can leave a comment on this page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact me on Twitter @influxman or check out my Rogue page on “Star Wars in the Classroom.”
And don’t forget to check out Rebels Reactions for even more insight, discussion, and analysis of this episode.
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**I alluded to Butch and Sundance dialogue in my first Rebels Reconnaissance which you can read here:
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