Hera Syndulla May Be Star Wars’ Replacement For Cara Dune

I honestly couldn’t have been happier when this story popped up on my timeline last night: not only do I finally get an excuse to rave about Hera Syndulla, one of my favorite characters in the entire Star Wars universe (most of my favorite characters in Star Wars either originate in animation, or made the jump from live-action to animation and were improved in so doing), but I also get to address a deeply hilarious story that broke a few weeks ago, while I was on hiatus thanks to appendix surgery – the story of Gina Carano, and the string of wildly bad decisions that led her from Lucasfilm (and a paycheck of $25,000 to $50,000 per Mandalorian episode) to the Daily Wire, where she can now pursue her true calling as a figurehead for contrived right-wing outrage and an accomplice in Ben Shapiro’s attempt to get back at Hollywood for his own failure to make it big as a screenwriter.

Hera Syndulla
Hera Syndulla | syfy.com

Although Gina Carano long ago blocked me on Twitter, her history of harmful and downright hateful comments is well-documented public record – and in the past, I have tried to draw attention to this history, particularly her comments mocking people in the trans and nonbinary communities. For Disney, however, the final straw was a series of antisemitic images posted by Carano, followed by an Instagram story claiming that being a modern conservative is akin to being Jewish in Nazi Germany. Carano was dropped from her contract with Lucasfilm later that day (too late, in my opinion; though Disney had apparently given up on her back in November), and the atmosphere on Twitter late into the night was celebratory. The joy of watching accountability in action even helped me power through the next morning’s predictable influx of enraged trolls shedding crocodile tears over the same actress they had branded as an “SJW” before they found out she was a bigot like them.

Carano’s future post-Lucasfilm is unimportant, and honestly we’d be wise to pay her no attention. But here’s the thing – for a long time, Carano was set to lead the Rangers Of The New Republic series heading to Disney+ in the near future, reprising her role as Rebel mercenary Cara Dune from The Mandalorian. But by the time Rangers Of The New Republic was officially unveiled at Disney Investors Day in December, Disney had already basically scrapped that plan in light of the controversy surrounding Carano’s social media presence. This has apparently left Lucasfilm in a predicament, as Rangers Of The New Republic is supposed to be an integral element in a multi-series crossover event planned for the streaming service, and Disney doesn’t want to simply recast the character and move on (and honestly, while some fans would prefer that approach, there’s been such a concerted effort by the right-wing to “claim” Cara Dune that I wouldn’t wish that burden on any incoming actress).

Hera Syndulla
Cara Dune | polygon.com

Enter Hera Syndulla. A new rumor from LRM Online claims that Disney is looking at their back-catalog of Star Wars characters for a potential Cara Dune replacement going forward, and is considering picking Hera, the wise-beyond-her-years Twi’lek pilot and military strategist introduced in the animated series Star Wars: Rebels and briefly glimpsed in the Star Wars: Squadrons video game. One reason for this, LRM Online notes, is time constraints: it’s easier to introduce a character with an established backstory and an existing fanbase than it is to write a wholly original protagonist. Hera Syndulla, who was a major character throughout the series’ four extraordinary seasons, certainly fits the bill in that regard.

But there’s another reason: Rebels‘ creator Dave Filoni is one of the key ingredients in Star Wars‘ string of recent successes on Disney+, and he is set to produce and direct many of their upcoming series’. Filoni has already done an admirable job of bringing several beloved animated characters into live-action, including Bo-Katan Kryze and Ahsoka Tano, and The Mandalorian season two revealed that other Rebels-exclusive characters are on their way to live-action too, such as Admiral Thrawn and – presumably – Ezra Bridger. Hera Syndulla was bound to show up at some point, and I’m honestly surprised this wasn’t considered sooner, given that an Andor series is coming up that will intersect with her time as a Rebel.

Rangers Of The New Republic, however, would deal with events after the original Star Wars trilogy – and by that point in the timeline, we know surprisingly little about Hera Syndulla’s whereabouts. She served in the New Republic as a general and earned her own flagship, hunting down ex-Imperial terrorists all while raising her son Jacen Syndulla on her own (because it’s not Star Wars unless there’s a single parent somewhere: not that I have any complaints about that). That’s pretty much the extent of our knowledge, leaving plenty of gaps for the Rangers Of The New Republic screenwriters to fill in with original content. As long as her character’s quiet nobility and fierce compassion remain intact, I would be hyped for this. Voice actress Vanessa Marshall could easily reprise the role in live-action, being the right age and already bearing some physical similarities to the character (minus the lekku and green skin).

Hera Syndulla
Hera Syndulla | starwars.com

As a big fan of Rebels, there’s nothing about this news that doesn’t excite me – Hera Syndulla is always a win, especially when her inclusion would make Rangers Of The New Republic my most-anticipated Star Wars series at the moment. For comparison, when Carano was supposedly attached to star, this series rested at the very bottom of my tier-ranking, and I was perfectly prepared to leave it there.

But what do you think? Would Hera Syndulla make a perfect protagonist? Is that even a question that needs to be asked? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Ahsoka Among 9 New Star Wars Series Titles Revealed!

Lucasfilm had plenty of new Star Wars content to offer fans at the Disney Investors Meeting on Thursday evening, including multiple series heading straight to the Disney+ streaming service: one returning favorite (the third season of The Mandalorian, which will drop near the end of 2021), and nine new titles. As has long been reported, characters like Ahsoka Tano, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Lando Calrissian will each be getting their own spinoffs, although there were several big surprises among the new reveals – and a few notable absences. Star Wars also seems to be setting up a mysterious (but presumably massive) crossover event between some of these upcoming series.

Star Wars
YouTube | @NewBite

First up we have Kenobi, which will follow the titular Jedi Master during his time in exile on Tatooine. A beautiful new, desert-inspired logo for the series was unveiled, and a sizzle reel was played for Disney investors but hidden from general audiences. But what captured the internet’s attention was the reveal that prequel trilogy star Hayden Christensen will be reprising the role of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in the series. How this will work is currently unclear: between Revenge Of The Sith and A New Hope, Kenobi and Vader never had any interaction with each other – but Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy promised fans that the Jedi and Sith will take another crack at each other, in the “rematch of the century”. My theory is that some sort of Force projection or vision will make this possible, but who knows? This is Star Wars: canon has been rewritten countless times before.

Ahsoka, based on the adventures of former Jedi Knight Ahsoka Tano, will presumably follow Rosario Dawson’s version of the fan-favorite character after her brief appearance in The Mandalorian‘s second season. The title logo, which features a star-chart similar to the map of the World Between Worlds, seems to indicate a connection to the Star Wars: Rebels animated series, where the World Between Worlds first debuted. This probably means that Ahsoka will travel through the World Between Worlds on her journey, and she’ll likely team up with Rebels heroine Sabine Wren on her quest to locate the long-lost Jedi Ezra Bridger (fingers crossed Rahul Kohli plays him in live-action) and Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Rangers Of The New Republic is a bit more vague. Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, the creatives behind The Mandalorian and Ahsoka, will work on this series too – its existence probably explains the reason why New Republic characters have been popping up frequently throughout The Mandalorian: particularly X-Wing pilot Carson Teva, played by Kim’s Convenience‘s Paul Sun-Hyung Lee. Unfortunately, New Republic marshal Cara Dune will likely also return, putting bigot and anti-masker Gina Carano in a lead role in Star Wars. This is among the series’ I’m least excited for (partially because of Carano, partially because the New Republic is pretty uninteresting to me; especially without Carrie Fisher around to reprise the role of Leia Organa), but it’s apparently one of three that will lead into a massive crossover event including characters from The Mandalorian and Ahsoka. I expect this crossover to focus on the return of Grand Admiral Thrawn and Ezra Bridger; the final showdown between Din Djarin and Moff Gideon; and the rise of the First Order. Strangely, a Boba Fett series rumored to be in the works was not included among the new title reveals.

Star Wars
Rangers Of The New Republic and Ahsoka | theverge.com

Lando has the potential to be a great series, thanks to the involvement of Dear White People‘s Justin Simien. Little else is known, and the sizzle reel played for investors was hidden from general audiences: but there’s a possibility that both Billy Dee Williams and Donald Glover will reprise the role. The colorful logo for the series and the party music played during the sizzle reel interval hopefully reflects the show’s playful, groovy bent – I’d gladly take a break from Star Wars‘ doom, gloom, and darkness, if it means exploring the glittery upper echelon of galactic society. Explicit confirmation of Lando’s pansexuality (teased by the Solo writers prior to the film’s release, without payoff) would also be nice.

One of the few Star Wars series’ to reveal new footage at the presentation, Andor will explore the backstory of Rogue One antihero Cassian Andor, as a fighter and secret agent for the young Rebellion. Spanning twelve episodes and featuring a cast of over two-hundred named characters (!), the series also stars Adria Arjona, Stellan Skarsgård, Fiona Shaw, Denise Gough, Kyle Soller, and Genevieve O’Reilly, who will reprise her role as Rebel leader Mon Mothma. For Star Wars: Rebels fans who were let down by the lack of a Rebels animated sequel series announcement, Andor is a must-watch: I thoroughly expect some characters from the animated series to pop up in live-action, with General Hera Syndulla being the most likely candidate in my opinion. This series will drop in 2022.

An animated series titled The Bad Batch will premiere next year – a trailer dropped, which I reviewed yesterday. The only other animated series revealed was one simply titled Visions, which will explore new corners of the Star Wars galaxy through the perspective of anime – and produced with the help of some of Japan’s leading anime studios. This seems likely to be an anthology of standalone episodes, much like another newly revealed Disney+ project which is being called an animated series by most outlets: A Droid Story, which will star C-3PO, R2-D2, and a new droid character.

Star Wars
The Acolyte | comicbook.com

Finally (and most excitingly, to my mind), we have The Acolyte, an original series from Leslye Headland, one of the visionaries behind Netflix’s brilliant dark psychological comedy, Russian Doll. The Acolyte is set further back in Star Wars‘ timeline than any existing live-action property, during the mysterious era known as the High Republic: which will be further explored in a series of novels and comic books set to release next year. Said to be female-led and featuring martial arts elements, The Acolyte focuses on the Dark Side of the Force, and sounds like it might be our most in-depth look yet at the hierarchy of the Sith, and their heyday. The logo – with a prominent lightsaber gouge slashing the title – also hints at something very new, unique, and cool.

So what are you most excited for? The Acolyte is my most-anticipated Star Wars series, but maybe you’re more interested in Ahsoka, or Lando…or A Droid Story? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“The Bad Batch” 1st Trailer!

Lucasfilm’s animation department had only a little to offer longtime fans last night during Disney’s crowded Investors Meeting – and unfortunately, what we did get wasn’t an announcement of the Star Wars: Rebels sequel that many of us have been hoping for. But The Bad Batch, currently the studio’s only major upcoming animated series, will surely unite fans of Rebels, The Clone Wars, and even The Mandalorian, as it explores a unique time period at the intersection of all three series.

Bad Batch
The Bad Batch | syfy.com

The Bad Batch might sound familiar to you, and that’s because they’ve been around for a while: even before they officially showed up in the final season of The Clone Wars on Disney+, earlier this year. The small, loyal team of defective clones (each of whom has heightened abilities thanks to individual genetic mutations) first appeared in drafts for the final season that were revealed to fans back when The Clone Wars was off the air and a revival seemed impossible. Everything turned out well in the end, though: showrunner Dave Filoni was able to complete the story he had planned, and the Bad Batch did appear as expected. But when their season arc was completed, fans wanted more – and so, early next year, we’ll be treated to a new series following the Bad Batch as they navigate the rapidly changing political scene in the aftermath of the Jedi Purge and the rise of the Galactic Empire. This is a time of upheaval across the galaxy: and so far we haven’t seen it properly fleshed out in the new, Disney-approved canon.

Bad Batch
The Bad Batch | starwars.fandom.com

One of the most fascinating events during this dark age is the seemingly abrupt shift from well-trained, skilled clone armies to fallible, clearly inferior, stormtroopers. In Rebels, we learned a little bit about this: how it was Emperor Palpatine that gave the order to disband the clones and abandon them. Real shocker there. By the time that Rebels rolled around, about a decade after the fact, almost all the clones had disappeared – and the few stragglers that were left (like Rex) were homeless and destitute, just barely getting by. Needless to say, it doesn’t seem that the Empire had any plan to compensate veterans for their sacrifice. The Bad Batch seems to be focused primarily on this event, and hopefully it will clear up the question of why stormtroopers (whose universally faulty aim is a running gag in Star Wars at this point) were viewed as more practical to the Empire than clones. Was it out of fear of betrayal? Or simply for cost-effective purposes, since the cloning facilities on Kamino can’t have been cheap to operate? Whatever the case, it looks like the Bad Batch will pull a classic “you can’t fire me! I quit!” move on the Empire, because we can see them fighting stormtroopers at several points during the trailer.

The scarred and weather-worn faces of clone troopers Echo, Hunter, Tech, Wrecker and Crosshair won’t be the only ones familiar to Star Wars fans. A shocking reveal was that Fennec Shand, the ex-Imperial sniper played by Ming-Na Wen on The Mandalorian will be returning (voiced, I presume, by Wen, a longtime Disney favorite and the voice of Princess Mulan), although here she’s not a scrappy, desert-dwelling rogue with a bounty on her head: she’s new on the scene and backed by the full might of the Empire. I assume she’ll be one of the series’ villains – though we already know she outlasts the Empire’s fall and eventually softens up a little, becoming Boba Fett’s partner in crime on Tatooine.

Bad Batch
Fennec Shand | comicbook.com

Presumably, the show will include cameos from many other Clone Wars characters (Grand Admiral Tarkin, who appears in the trailer, is obviously a lock; and wherever he goes, Wullf Yularen can’t be far behind), and even some from Rebels – though it’s still too early for the Rebellion itself to exist, except as a far off hope. Appearances from either a young Hera Syndulla or Kanan Jarrus (or both!) would blow my mind. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll even witness some of Grand Admiral Thrawn’s secretive backstory, as he rises to power in the ranks of the Imperial Navy.

Trailer Rating: 6/10

Who Is Thrawn? The Star Wars Villain, Explained.

As I mentioned while reviewing yesterday’s episode of The Mandalorian, I am a huge fan of the Star Wars: Rebels animated series. I love the entire crew of the Ghost; I get a kick out of seeing Rebels references and Easter eggs pop up anywhere from Rogue One to The Rise Of Skywalker; and today, when it was teased that a major cliffhanger from the Rebels series finale will finally be resolved, I nearly screamed out loud because it’s about time. Whether it happens in future seasons of The Mandalorian or an entirely new spinoff series starring Ahsoka Tano (and Sabine Wren?), we are going to learn the whereabouts of one of Star Wars‘ most enduring antagonists, Grand Admiral Thrawn. And, probably, the lost Jedi Ezra Bridger. This could not get any better.

Thrawn
Grand Admiral Thrawn | barnesandnoble.com

(No wait, actually it could. Please, Disney: cast Rahul Kohli as live-action Ezra Bridger. It’s the fan-cast that dreams are made of, and I will accept nothing less).

So let’s break it down. Even though we went over the basics in my review, I still feel like I have more to say (I always have more to say about Rebels), and anyway, it seems like fans of The Mandalorian are going to need more than a passing knowledge of Thrawn in order to fully understand what he could be up to, so many years after his initial disappearance at the end of Rebels.

Grand Admiral Thrawn, born Mitth’raw’nuruodo, was one of the Empire’s most terrifyingly efficient military leaders and strategists during the fight to suppress the rebellion. He’s been around in Star Wars canon for a long time, first appearing in the 1991 novel, Heir To The Empire. When Disney bought Lucasfilm and erased much of the old canon (now called “Legends”), Thrawn was nearly lost forever – but Dave Filoni swooped in and rescued the fan-favorite character from oblivion, giving him a key role in Star Wars: Rebels as the series’ main antagonist, and ultimate big bad. With his innate ability to strategize several steps ahead, and foresee every plausible outcome, the red-eyed Chiss alien commander is more like a super-computer than a living creature; his most “relatable” quality is his affection for art, which he steals from the worlds he plunders and assembles into a massive private collection.

In the waning years of the Galactic Empire, Thrawn’s attention was turned towards the remote planet Lothal, home to some of the Empire’s most valuable industrial centers. There, shortly before the battle in which the Death Star plans were stolen, setting off the events of A New Hope, Thrawn clashed with the Rebel forces led by Lothal native Ezra Bridger, a young Jedi with a deep connection to animals. All of Thrawn’s intricate plans were foiled by Bridger saving the day in a heroic, and completely unpredictable, act of self-sacrifice – by summoning an entire army of purrgil space whales from the other side of the galaxy. The purrgil grabbed both Thrawn and Ezra Bridger in their tentacles before shooting off into hyperspace at lightspeed, to a destination unknown. The moment leaves everyone – including the audience – in stunned silence, but Bridger’s actions end up saving Lothal: reeling from the loss of Thrawn, the Empire gives up on the backwater planet and turns its focus towards other, more urgent targets, while the core team of Rebels are free to go their separate ways, starting new lives.

Thrawn
Ahsoka Tano and Sabine Wren | starwars.fandom.com

And as for Bridger and Thrawn…well, nobody knows. But Dave Filoni has confirmed that both characters survived the space-crossing. Most likely, they exited hyperspace somewhere in the outermost regions of the galaxy (or perhaps even further afield?), and have now spent the last decade or so trying to find their way back. The final scene of Rebels picks up with one of Ezra Bridger’s former crewmates on the Ghost, Mandalorian graffiti-artist Sabine Wren, some years after the fall of the Empire; as she embarks on her own journey to locate Bridger and finally bring him home to Lothal. We know she has help from Ahsoka Tano, who made a promise to Bridger before his disappearance that she would find him. And now, thanks to The Mandalorian, we know a little bit more about Tano’s involvement in this very personal quest.

The general consensus amongst fans is that The Mandalorian‘s latest episode takes place just before Ahsoka and Sabine team up in that final scene of Rebels. It makes sense: the episode ends with Ahsoka learning the new whereabouts of Grand Admiral Thrawn from one of his acolytes, which could give her some hint of where to find Ezra Bridger as well, or at least where to start looking. But if Thrawn is back (and apparently already conspiring with his old allies), that means the New Republic has more pressing concerns than finding Bridger – the Grand Admiral could very well be the mastermind behind other Mandalorian villains like Moff Gideon, and the driving force behind the plan to rebuild the Empire, making him the biggest threat in the galaxy. As I said in my review, I wouldn’t be surprised if we find out that The Mandalorian is all leading up to the story of how Thrawn created the First Order from the remnants of the Empire. This would even line up with Thrawn’s original story arc in the “Legends”, where he set up his own secret empire, united the remaining Imperials in the wake of the Empire’s fall, and battled the New Republic. Much like Palpatine in The Rise Of Skywalker, he cloned himself and became something of a recurring threat long after his actual death.

Thrawn
Grand Admiral Thrawn | usatoday.com

Ezra, meanwhile, can’t be too far off. In fact, The Mandalorian dropped a subtle reference to him in this latest episode, with the sudden (and suspiciously random) appearance of a loth-cat in the streets of Calodan. Loth-cats are native to Lothal, and act as Bridger’s spirit guides throughout Star Wars: Rebels, communicating the will of his planet’s thriving ecosystem. They’re cute and all, but their semi-mystical powers and connections to the Force make them even more fascinating. Interestingly, this is the second loth-cat to show up in The Mandalorian: the first having almost eaten Baby Yoda (back when he was still Baby Yoda) in season one. Is a pattern emerging?

So what do you think? Are you excited to see Thrawn return to Star Wars, and make his live-action debut? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!