Spoiler Warning: The following review contains spoilers for “Rebel Assault” and previous episodes of “Star Wars Rebels.”

Image courtesy of Lucasfilm and Disney XD

It’s hard to believe that we’re already at the halfway mark for the final season of “Star Wars: Rebels,” leaving us with a long wait until its return in early 2018. The season so far has been top-notch and has not wasted any time in progressing the story forward, a problem that some had with prior seasons. “Rebel Assault” finds the Alliance making a strike on the Imperial Factory on Lothal, led by Hera, who is up against great odds going against Grand Admiral Thrawn’s fleet.

While Hera leads her attack above Lothal, the rest of the Ghost Crew on the ground are tasked with disabling some of the turbolaser towers near the factory, making things easier for the squad in the air. The dogfight is one of the best the series has had, as we finally get to see the iconic X-Wings come into play, which look great compared to their film counterparts. After Hera displays some maneuvers furthering the belief that she is one of the best pilots in the galaxy, the squad is able to break into the surface. Unfortunately for the Rebels, they are met with a second wave of multiple TIE Fighters in a trap set by Thrawn, causing what remained of the fighters to crash to the surface. Kanan watches the crash with the rest of the crew on the ground, who then quickly rushes to the aid of Hera. Once Hera is able to recover from the shock of her crash, she sets off with Chopper to find any surviving pilots, unbeknownst to her that Thrawn has already dispatched his assassin Rukh to accomplish this task first.

Image courtesy of Lucasfilm and Disney XD

After dealing with an Imperial search party, Hera is able to locate the pilot Mart Mattin, the nephew of Commander Sato who we last saw early last season. The two make a move for the nearest sewer hatch to escape, only to be confronted by Rukh. Hera holds her own in the brawl with Rukh, something we don’t get to see the pilot do very often, though she quickly succumbs to the assassin. With her as the distraction, Mart and Chopper are able to escape into the sewers and soon find Kanan, who goes with them to return to the hidden base on Lothal. The episode ends with this, leaving Hera captive in the hands of the Empire.

The mysterious loth-wolf also makes an appearance to Kanan on his way to find Hera, and the Jedi seems to finally realize what the wolf wants. While I’m happy to see the plot with the wolf furthered, I’m left with more questions in the end, most specifically why the wolf is targeting Kanan alone. Hera’s fate would also be more of a concern, if it weren’t for the fact that we know she is still around with Chopper by the time of “Return of the Jedi” thanks to her appearance in a “Forces of Destiny” animated short set after the film. That said, I still am interested in how she is going to manage to escape, and more importantly what the fate of her relationship with Kanan will end up being.

As stated before, the dogfight is really the highlight of the episode, as is the action we see from Rukh who had only been teased before. While the Empire is obviously the enemy, it is also hard not to be drawn by Thrawn and his calm demeanor when in battle, which he is able to win this time around as I think most expected. It will be interesting to see how Thrawn and Rukh’s relationship is at this point, and get further knowledge on why the assassin is so loyal to the admiral.

The X-Wings seen in the episode bear green markings, something that makes sense based on their fate as we don’t see any in later films like “Rogue One” or “A New Hope.” Making a return from last season is Vult Skerris, the skilled pilot who ran the Imperial Flight Academy that Wedge Antilles attended, as well as flew the TIE Defender for Thrawn in prior episodes. Sadly for the pilot, he lets his cocky attitude get to him and disobeys Thrawn’s order, getting his TIE’s shields knocked out and shortly after the fighter itself.

Image courtesy of Lucasfilm and Disney XD

While it will be a long wait to 2018, we thankfully have a small independent film from Lucasfilm titled “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which should keep us preoccupied with speculation until the show returns. This episode was the perfect end-cap to a great first-half of the final season, which I hope continues on into the latter portion. My one minor complaint is that we have not seen enough of Captain Rex, Kallus, or even the sad droid AP-5, which is understandable given that we need the main characters arcs wrapped up. “Star Wars Rebels” is set to return to finish its final season (Preferably with double episodes) in early 2018 on Disney XD.

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Noah Howell is the Arts & Entertainment Assistant Editor for Niner Times. He is currently majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Journalism. He is a fan of all things "Star Wars" and "The Muppets," and spends his free-time playing too many video games and watching the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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