Spoiler Warning: If you haven't seen the most recent episode of Star Wars Rebels or don't want to know what happened, turn away now. Or, y'know, go watch and come back so we can talk about it.
"Secret Cargo" isn't the first Star Wars Rebels episode to use elements from both Rogue One and A New Hope, but it's definitely the most intricately woven episode to date and gives us our first look at how Rebels will deal with getting closer and closer to the events of those movies.
For fans of a certain age, the Rebel Alliance started as, well, an alliance. When Star Wars came out in 1977, we didn't know about the before times in the long long ago when the Rebellion was pockets of insurgents fighting small battles here and there. For us, the Rebels already had a framework and a working base of operations. By the same token, in the Prequel Trilogy, the Separatist and Republic armies both had weapons, ships and soldiers at the ready. While there may have been information about the Rebellion before it formed out there somewhere, mainstream Star Wars fans only experienced an organized and well-run Rebellion.
Star Wars Rebels changed that paradigm in a big way.
Rebels started with one small crew on the Outer Rim planet of Lothal. We didn't know there were other cells for a while and, even then, we didn't know who the other Rebels were. Small pockets of resistance from all over the galaxy have been forming over the course of the show, and there's even a base of operations, but it wasn't until the 18th episode of the third season of Rebels that the Rebel Alliance was born.
When you look at it from that perspective, this meeting between Hera Syndulla and Mon Mothma becomes a pretty big deal.
"Dantooine. They're on Dantooine."
Dude, I got chills.
Of course, what really made this episode so good was the journey to Dantooine. It's not like Mon Mothma came aboard the Ghost like a typical passenger heading to a new planet. Where would the fun be in that? Nope, this episode was a mini-heist movie with the future leader of the Rebel Alliance as the treasure and it would include all sorts of thrilling heroics and fancy flying along the way.
How cool was it getting to see more of Gold Squadron and Gold Leader Dutch Vander? Talk about a connection to the original trilogy. The A-Wings stolen at the beginning of Season 3 are back and it's nice to see them in action. I was especially fond of how much tension there was between the more disciplined Gold Squadron pilots and Phoenix Squadron. We're used to our Ghost crew getting out of scrapes in their own signature style, but it's interesting to see how their tactics might affect others within the Rebellion.
For his part, Grand Admiral Thrawn is proving over and over that he's unlike anyone the Rebels have faced to date, this time being a step ahead of Hera as she takes a route through a nebula. I'll be interested to see how our crew takes that development. The idea that someone's got enough of a feel for your tactics to think two steps ahead of you is freaky, to say the least. The season finale is set to be a major confrontation between Thrawn and the Rebellion –– and all signs point to him doing some serious damage.
Of course, the major highlights of this episode are visual and that's not something I can really tell you about save to go on and on about how gorgeous the animation is. I mean, if you have an episode where people fly into a nebula and use the heat of forming suns to knock out other ships, it's all about the visuals. Especially when you set off explosions that rock a couple of Star Destroyers to offer your heroes a means of escape. Seriously, how gorgeous was that?
I made a joke about how much damage a couple of well-placed proton torpedoes can cause and I'm not above repeating it because I've never been cool and I think I'm funny. (Of course, I seriously want to ask if anyone in the Story Group made that parallel.)
You have to figure that Thrawn's going to be pissed when he finds out that he's been thwarted again. He's kept his cool so far, but we're talking about the same man who took out a couple of super battle droids when they were trying to kill him. It's not that he can't get angry. He just hasn't. He's already dangerous, but to dive into a different universe entirely, I don't think we're going to like him when he's angry.
Ultimately, however, this episode isn't about Thrawn or Hera or even Mon Mothma. It's about the birth of the Rebellion we've known for so many years. We were there for its first steps. I don't doubt we'll see stumbles before a certain team of soldiers steals a certain set of plans, but watching the Rebellion be born is pretty darn neat.
Next week's episode looks like it'll be a little on the lighter side. How about we meet back next week?
Star Wars Rebels airs Saturdays at 8:30PM on Disney XD.