Space Pirate Hondo Ohnaka is One of the Best Characters in Star Wars
I’m not going to mince words. Of all the supporting characters to come out of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Hondo Ohnaka is the greatest. He can’t quite unseat Ahsoka Tano as the best thing from Clone Wars but only because he didn’t get as much screen time.
Hello, my friends!
Who is this swashbuckling weequay pirate? Hondo Ohnaka is a galactic scoundrel of the highest order. He’s the leader of a pirate gang in the Outer Rim that, when we first meet Hondo, is so successful that it controls an entire planet, Florrum.
Hondo is cunning enough to capture Count Dooku and multiple Jedi. Hondo is smooth enough to have charmed Aurra Sing into his chambers. Hondo was friends (of a sort) with both Jango Fett and Obi Wan Kenobi. Hondo earns the admiration of Ezra Bridger and the grudging respect of the Ghost crew. Hondo is vicious enough to torture, but has a soft spot in his heart for children. Hondo cavorts with pirates, bounty hunters and rebels, but will work with the Republic or the Empire if it seems prudent. Hondo has one motivation: profit!
And, just to make things more fun, Hondo is voiced by Jim Cummings, the same actor who performs Winnie the Pooh. With the possible exception of Lando Calrissian, Hondo Ohnaka is the most intriguing rogue in the galaxy.
What happened to Hondo in Star Wars: The Clone Wars?
Hondo Ohnaka first enters the Star Wars galactic canon half way through Season One, in the episode Dooku Captured. As you might guess from the title, Hondo and his weequay pirate gang manage to capture Count Dooku, who’s on the run from Jedi duo Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi, and return him to their base on the planet Florrum. Hondo sees the potential for profit by collecting a hefty ransom for Dooku from either side.
Things get trickier when Skywalker and Kenobi arrive at Hondo’s pirate base on Florrum. Hondo greets them with exquisite hospitality, but then drugs them and chains them up with Count Dooku. The three attempt to escape, but are foiled and earn this reprimand from Ohnaka:
“I don’t want to kill you… per se. In fact, you seem like decent fellows — even you, Count. This is just business, and once I get my money, we can go back to being friends. It’s very simple.“
Hondo is a pirate worthy of the name
As Governor Tarkin might say, Hondo Ohnaka is charming, to the last. But don’t let the smooth talk fool you: Hondo is a hard man. He tortures Anakin Skywalker with electricity, and when Republic forces arrive he orders his pirates to fight ruthlessly. Hondo is no fool, and isn’t easily intimidated or tricked.
And this is what makes Hondo Ohnaka so interesting as a character. He’s charming and seems like a comic foil, but he’s also very dangerous. He outsmarts our heroes multiple times and causes them real setbacks. Watching Hondo, we get the uncomfortable feeling that things may not turn out all right for the good guys.
Pirates versus bounty hunters… and Jedi
We next see Hondo Ohnaka late in Season Two, when Jedi Obi Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano join forces with four bounty hunters to protect a farming village on Felucia. The gang responsible for the attacks is led by none other than Hondo Ohnaka, and in the battle we really see Hondo’s ruthless side. This episode is the closest Hondo gets to being a first-class villain, and although his pirate gang is defeated, Hondo manages to escape.
Hondo’s former relationship to Aurra Sing comes to light when the assassin seeks his help in an increasingly desperate scheme involving her and Boba Fett. Ohnaka’s affection for Aurra is clear, but true to form he puts profit above personal feelings and declines to help her. He does add, though, that he won’t get in her way, no doubt sensing profit in then selling Aurra out to the Republic.
Hondo meets the Sith
Season Five opens with a dramatic episode featuring Darth Maul and his brother Savage Opress, where the two Sith convince some of Hondo’s pirate gang to join them and turn against their weequay boss. The pirates attack Ohnaka’s Florrum base and a battle erupts between pirate factions. Jedi Obi Wan Kenobi and Adi Gallia arrive at the same time, and chaos ensues. But Hondo and Obi Wan realize they have a common enemy, with the Jedi offering to draw Maul and Savage away while Hondo deals with his mutinous pirates. Ohnaka’s response is classic Hondo:
“And leave you alone with the two crazies? Well… okay.“
This episode is a watershed for Hondo Ohnaka. We see him genuinely angry and ready to kill his traitorous pirate crew, and we see his growing respect for Obi Wan. But above all we see his pragmatism, and why he’s managed to stay in command of his gang for so long.
Hondo knows that if his kills the rebellious pirates, it could weaken his gang and make him vulnerable. So instead, once he captures the men, he immediately offers them amnesty and suggests that they all escape in Darth Maul’s ship (which is laden with treasure). A pirate to the core, Ohnaka is a self-serving figure, willing to share success with his men when it’s to his advantage.
What’s war without a little profit?
Later in Season Five the Jedi are supporting a rebellion on Onderon that’s going badly. In a desperate bid to turn the tide, Anakin Skywalker goes to Hondo Ohnaka’s base and asked the weequay to secretly deliver arms to the rebels. Hondo is delighted to oblige, after ensuring that the Jedi can pay in full, and his ship arrives just in time to share out rocket launchers. Hondo wishes the rebels well, then makes a quick escape in his ship.
Hondo’s final appearance in Star Wars: The Clone Wars is perhaps his most controversial. He and his pirates attempt to kidnap a group of Jedi younglings, only to be thwarted by Ahsoka Tano. But in the battle Ahsoka is captured by Ohnaka and his crew, then tortured while in captivity on Florrum. Hondo intends to sell Ahsoka to someone who pays well for female Jedi.
Seriously. Never forget that Hondo Ohnaka is a bad dude.
The Jedi younglings eventually mount an escape attempt, but Hondo and his pirates fight viciously and all the Jedi are captured. Things take a sudden turn, though, when Hondo learns that Separatist droid forces have seized his base and Count Dooku wishes to speak with him. Dooku demands Hondo’s immediate surrender.
Ohnaka assesses the situation and realizes that the Jedi are now his best chance to escape, shamelessly switching sides and working with them to reach his hidden ship. Escaping in none other than Slave I, the iconic vessel Boba Fett will later make famous, Hondo delivers Ahsoka and the Jedi younglings to Master Kenobi aboard a Republic cruiser. Obi Wan is less than impressed, but he has a war to fight and lets Hondo depart.
Hondo’s character is on full display in this trio of episodes. Some have tried to whitewash Hondo’s actions and focus on how he did the right thing eventually. I’ll agree that several decisions he makes are noble, but let’s not forget that he set out to capture Jedi younglings for ransom, and intended to sell Ahsoka into slavery.
I suspect that both the Republic and the Separatists have a file entitled “Ohnaka, Hondo” in their security databases, with more than a few colorful reports therein.
But Hondo Ohnaka is, by the end of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, one of the most likeable and complex characters in the series.
Is Hondo in Star Wars: Rebels?
What joy in the galaxy, then, when Hondo Ohnaka rejoins canon in Season Two of Star Wars: Rebels. Hondo’s still a space pirate in the Outer Rim, meeting Ezra Bridger and the Ghost crew in several entertaining episodes, and his charm is undiminished.
But Hondo Ohnaka is something less than what he was in The Clone Wars. He’s no longer the leader of a pirate crew and is usually either on the run, about to be captured or needing a ship. It seems life under Imperial rule hasn’t been been kind to Hondo. It also appears to have softened him a bit.
No doubt Hondo tried to rebuild his pirate ship fleet after the Separatists destroyed his planet base on Florrum, and perhaps he even managed to rebuild his weequay pirate band. But Hondo’s share of success under Imperial rule pales in comparison to his glory days of capturing Count Dooku, extorting Anakin Skywalker and defeating Ahsoka Tano in battle. In his later years, Hondo’s ability to lead men and command a pirate empire has vanished.
An older, wiser Hondo Ohnaka
The Hondo we see in Star Wars: Rebels has lost his darkest qualities. His schemes focus on smuggling more than bounty hunting, and while he still calls himself a pirate he’s really more of a rogue. Oh, if the share was big enough I think Hondo could be convinced to do something truly devious, but he seems more interested in just not getting captured and, if anything, his talent for abandoning his friends has increased.
Ezra Bridger and the Ghost crew seem to have a genuine effect on Hondo in later seasons of Star Wars: Rebels. Perhaps he realizes how much this plucky band and their ship have managed to disrupt Imperial efforts, or perhaps he genuinely admires Ezra. This young Force wielder might be no Obi Wan or Anakin, but maybe Hondo can see something that he likes.
A noble Hondo Ohnaka?
For whatever reason, when the final battle for the planet Lothal erupts, Hondo Ohnaka is there at the front, risking himself in a way we’ve rarely seen, for a planet he cares nothing about. It’s Ezra he cares about, and like all the others it’s Ezra he follows. Ezra Bridger, by the end of Rebels, managed to accomplish something that no-one else could: make Hondo Ohnaka into a good man.
Hey, What About Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge?
Hondo hasn’t been seen on screen since Rebels, but the popularity of this character remains so high that Disney features him in the new Star Wars Land. An animatronic version of everyone’s favorite weequay scoundrel has managed to get front and center, in typical Hondo Ohnaka fashion, to guide visitors on their way to flying the Millennium Falcon in Smuggler’s Run.
What’s Next for Hondo Ohnaka?
With both Clone Wars and Rebels officially concluded, there are currently no obvious venues for Hondo Ohnaka to reappear in Star Wars. But this is the franchise that chopped a Sith lord in half and then brought him back for an epic run in two animated series, so don’t tell me we’re done with Hondo.
Is Hondo still alive?
Any rumors of the death of Hondo Ohnaka are greatly exaggerated. We last saw him on the planet Lothal but I doubt he stayed there. He was often quoted as merely needing a ship, and I hope that Hondo was able to secure himself a fine vessel, and perhaps even a loyal crew. The galaxy is a big place, and while the New Republic probably inherited the “Ohnaka, Hondo” file, I suspect Hondo has managed to keep himself and his ship clear.
Is Hondo in The Mandalorian?
One exciting possibility is the live action debut of Hondo Ohnaka. The Mandalorian hasn’t shied away from bringing to life heroes from Clone Wars, and who’s to say Mando hasn’t already crossed paths with Hondo?
But the greatest potential may lie in the upcoming Star Wars: Kenobi. Obi Wan and Hondo did, by the end, share a genuine respect and I can see Hondo and his ship bringing secret supplies to our hermit Force wielder in his lonely vigil on Tatooine.
However it comes, we can only hope that we haven’t seen the last of Hondo Ohnaka.
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