Now, that was an episode. Star Wars Rebels, while fun, suffers from the dual punch of being a kids’ show where characters seldom die. Moreover, it suffers from from predeterminism. We know where this show is supposed to end up, being a prelude to A New Hope and its successive films. We know where characters are supposed to end up, and who’s clearly still alive at certain points in the timeline, and that certain events are set to happen. So there’s a lot at stake when Rebels fulfills its destiny–it has to be tense even when we know the outcome.
“Secret Cargo” delivers. This episode marks the show’s debut of Mon Mothma (played by Genevive O’Reilly, reprising the role from Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One). Still a Senator, Mothma makes the bold move of publicly calling out Palpatine’s tyranny. Not coincidentally, the Lothal Rebels end up on a mission aid a different Rebel cell in delivering some classified cargo which turns out to be Mothma herself. She’s on her way to a hidden location to call all the various Rebel cells together into a larger alliance.
“Secret Cargo” becomes a monumental enough episode from there that it’s surprising that it wasn’t scheduled as the finale and stretched into a double episode. We’ve seen early formations of the Rebel Alliance in Star Wars before, including a deleted scene with O’Reilly in Revenge of the Sith and earlier episodes of this show. None of them have been this “official,” though, and I suppose now they can be marked as proto-formations. The episode’s climax with Mothma’s call to assembly, however, is a very clear demarcation that this is it, and we get a great montage of the various factions who’ve shown up on Rebels, including Ryder Azadi on Lothal, Captain Rex, Commander Sato, and Bail Organa. The stunning final shot of the Rebel fleet forming over Dantooine (another name drop) is a big, big moment.
Now, getting to that moment is a little bit rougher, but forgiveable. One thing this episode doesn’t do much with is the tension between the Lothal Rebels and the members of the Phoenix Squad they meet, including Jon “Dutch” Vander (who’s going to go on to have a small-large part at both Scarif and Yavin). It’s stressed when they meet early on–Phoenix thinks the Lothal crew is too reckless, the Lothalites think Phoenix is too conservative. Not much happens past that–they mutually team up during the Mothma smuggling operation, and the episode ends with one of those “You’re not such a bad pilot, kid” moments. The differences between the various Rebel cells is worth exploring, but “Secret Cargo” is too short an episode to really explore it.
Second, we get some Thrawn in this episode, but he doesn’t do much to impress this time. He finally unleashes one–one–TIE Defender to go after the Rebels through a nebula, a move which leads to a very impressive risky maneuver by Hera, but once again ends in utter incompetence for the Empire. The episode isn’t clear, but it almost looks like Governor Pryce and two Star Destroyers just bought it. At best, they’ve been badly smacked.
That aside, the episode’s flaws can be forgiven against the monumental ending. This is an extremely Star Warsy episode and is a big payoff for viewers who’ve been watching all season.
Rating: Five Rebels out of five.
- Our speculation was wrong last week; Rebels is renewed for a fourth season. Given the accelerating timeline, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last season. This show is notorious for time jumps between seasons and we’re getting remarkably close to Rogue One and A New Hope.
- Next week is some episode about a droid, followed by the big Maul-Kenobi fight. And then the hour-long season finale, where hopefully we finally see Thrawn do something impressive.