"Wings of the Master" is an episode of "Star Wars Rebels" that focuses on Hera Syndulla, and is the first of the season to do so. Agent Kallus has blockaded a planet in desperate need of supplies and the only way to break the blockade is with a new experimental new fighter called a B-Wing.
For many, B-Wings are a favorite ship and their introduction to the "Star Wars" universe was as important as anything. Seeing where they came from and how important they were to the rebellion is something a lot of fans are going to have a lot of fun with. But more than that, this episode has so much heart and optimism that it's hard to dislike. In fact, this might be my favorite episode since the premiere film.
Part of the reason is Vanessa Marshall's arresting performance as Hera. She offers a beautiful monologue about her yearning to fly, hearkening back to images of the Clone Wars that we've already seen on another show. But there's a sadness to her as well. She had to leave her family in order to make her dreams come true and somehow it comes across in the music of Kevin Kiner.
For those paying attention, the music was a bit of an overt homage to the late James Horner. When Hera finally takes to the skies, in her natural element, we get musical cues that feel just like music from "The Rocketeer." Although the music was designed to hearken back to moments in the Joe Johnston film, it felt to me more like the scenes in Superman films where he flies for the first time. They so capably built that need in Hera that they made her feel like a superhero when she's in the air and it was one of the most magical things I've seen on the show.
Corey Burton's gruff Mon Calamari ship designer named Quarrie (in a nod to Ralph McQuarrie) was a highlight of the episode as well, funny and charming. And introducing him as the creator of the B-wing and giving us more concrete evidence of what the B-wing is and does was thrilling for me as an RPG nerd.
And speaking of the RPG, this episode was a fairly direct nod to the old West End "Star Wars" game.
Aside from name dropping Shantipole directly, the plot of the adventure and this episode are largely the same. The rebels need to get plans for a brand new starfighter from a remote asteroid outpost. The plans are in the hands of a Mon Calamari as well, but in the case of the game it's from Ackbar before his promotion to Admiral. This was one of my favorite supplements of the game, and hearing Shantipole spoken in the canon and getting a story that felt like one of those old adventures definitely put a smile on my face.
Overall, this episode was place setting though. It's difficult to judge this as anything but a one off in service to a larger story because it had to perform a number of things to advance the state of the world. B-wings needed introducing, Hera needed a chunk of her character developed, and she needed to be promoted to the leader of Phoenix squadron. It accomplishes all of these things and gets us to where we're going next capably, so I'm happy to forgive it any other minor problems. And I think this episode needs to be taken in concert with the others surrounding it. From the first episode of the season we've been given a peek into the inner-life of each character (next week we're getting a look into Sabine's back story!) and that all of these episodes that help us better establish the characters will be taken together as something greater than the sum of their parts.
And for that, I can be patient.
Because of the strength of Hera's character, the nods to the RPG, and how much I love B-wings, I'm giving this episode an 8.5 out of 10. A solid entry and very entertaining.