When Hera Calls Kanan 'Love'
I’ve honestly been a little surprised this week by the wide variety of reactions to Hera calling Kanan ‘Love’ in the Rebels season three finale.
This is my take:
Kanan and Hera’s canon relationship status is established from their very first scene together in the pilot, in which Hera calls Kanan—you guessed it, 'Love.’
Hera continues to call Kanan 'Love’ or 'Dear’ repeatedly throughout the first season of the show as our heroes fight the Empire around their home base of Lothal and beyond. But then the season ends and so do the terms of endearment, vanishing entirely from her lips until we reach “Zero Hour.” (And we all collectively groaned “Whhhyyyyyyy????”)
This is where I think it gets interesting and says so much about Hera’s character. The real key, to me, is what happens at the end of season 1: the Ghost crew joins the Phoenix Squadron/greater rebellion—a move which was, first and foremost, Hera’s idea. And she quickly becomes a ranking member of the military group.
Suddenly, they are no longer just the space family roaming about solo anymore, they are part of something larger, and their missions, rather than being personal, are now professional, even when they are not with the rest of the fleet. Since before A New Dawn, Hera has been, is, and always will be devoted to and driven by her larger goals in life, and she quickly embraces the professionalism of her new role.
Thus, because we nearly always see Kanan and Hera in the company of others and on a mission, 'dear’ and 'love’ vanish from her public vocabulary. If you happened to work with your significant other (especially in a highly structured or professional environment), you wouldn’t call them 'babe’, hubby’, 'wifey’, etc. at work either.
Over the course of the next two seasons, Hera’s professionalism continues; she grows as a leader and her sense of command expands, until we reach the crisis of “Zero Hour.” The imperial bombardment rains down on Chopper Base, and we watch Hera’s expression shift from confidence/hope to a visceral fear/terror. Before the bombardment, she tells Kanan “You need to get back to base immediately"—a command, an order, properly phrased and neutral. But afterwards (and in front of General Dodonna, no less) that shifts to: "Now please, come home, Love.”
In the face of their mutual near death experiences, Hera drops her professional guard and for a single moment, they are just them. She’s Hera, and Kanan’s the man she loves, whose safety matters more than anything else in the galaxy. The moment is both minuscule and enormous. It’s just one slip, but it reassures us—it tells us that no matter where they go, what they do, or who they work with, Kanan and Hera are still Kanan and Hera.
Their private life may be private, but they are still as in love and devoted as ever. And this is beautiful to me.
I also want to note that her admission isn’t a weakness, in any way. Just a little while later, when Thrawn threatens Kanan to try to get Hera to surrender (certainly inferring the nature of their relationship himself), she stands as strong as ever.
Tough as durasteel and always in love with her Jedi, that’s my girl.