It seems that Hera Syndulla always wanted to fly. Piloting a craft is “about a feeling,” as she tells her newfound friend Omega in a recent episode of Star Wars: The Bad Batch. Hera’s teenage experiences as revealed in The Bad Batch help illuminate her journey from aspiring flyer to a General in the Rebel Alliance.
Set more than a decade after Hera and Omega’s adventure together, Star Wars Rebels depicts the Twi’lek’s maturation as de facto leader of a small rebel cell and pilot of the starship known as the Ghost. Hera’s perseverance under adversity helps the Ghost crew not only survive, but grow in influence with the burgeoning Rebel Alliance. Leading from her pilot’s seat, Hera becomes an important voice within the Rebellion.
“I think [Hera’s] just talented,” supervising director Dave Filoni explained at the time. “She works hard, of course, and trains, but she loves flying. It’s when she feels the most like herself. In life, one of the goals is you have to figure out what you love to do and go after that. She did. She would love flying whether she was a fighter pilot or just flying. That’s kind of the core of who she is.”
Hera’s leadership is put to the test when Phoenix Squadron makes a climactic assault on the Imperial fleet surrounding Lothal in hopes of destroying the enemy’s starfighter factory on the planet surface. She’d convinced the Rebel leadership to support the attack, arguing that “it’s a risk worth taking. Whether we fail or succeed, at least our actions will show the Empire and the galaxy that we will not stand down; that we will not be broken by fear; that we are strong, united by our courage.”
Not unlike Luke Skywalker in battles to come, Hera is a Rebel who leads by example from the seat of her own X-wing starfighter. In the midst of the fray, she plays the Imperials against each other, flying head on towards the leading Star Destroyer and forcing Grand Admiral Thrawn to open fire on his own fighter ace Vult Skerris. The enemy pilot is at last defeated, and General Syndulla manages to lead her squadron past the blockade towards the planet surface.
But Hera’s courage alone cannot outgun Thrawn’s second wave of TIE fighters, and Phoenix Squadron is all but destroyed as they make their attack on the planet surface. A handful of pilots, including Hera, survive their crash landing. Captured, she will refuse to bend under torture. Though she has failed at her military objective, she has succeeded in standing up to the Empire’s oppression, an act with greater range than any weapon.