– Spoiler Review –
An episode name like “Secret Cargo” is somewhat misleading, as it’s not a really catchy or memorable title and seems to obscure the possibility for such a good Star Wars Rebels episode to be hiding inside of it, but hey, I guess that’s this episode’s secret cargo itself: a damn fine episode of Rebels that some fans have been waiting for since the show first premiered in 2014 and is certainly important to the mythology of the Rebel Alliance, but that is certainly not all it’s good for.
Since the first Aftermath novel released in September 2015, there’s constantly been an uptick of more Mon Mothma in Star Wars fan’s lives (with her last big appearances being in The Clone Wars). She went on to have a much larger and more complex role in both subsequent novels, Life Debt and Empire’s End, which detailed her struggles moving the Alliance from a scrappy band of rebels fighting the government to actually being the government, and her Rogue One appearance gave us the first look at her down in the trenches. Since she’s such an important part of the Rebellion, it is high time she got the exposure she deserves and her role in “Secret Cargo” does just that, as well as be an integral part of what makes this such a great episode. Here we get to see Mon Mothma both as a symbol for the Rebellion, giving two epic speeches within the half-hour, and as a Chandrilan-born human, evidenced by her bringing caf to Hera while having a nice little one on one chat. Mothma is a symbol not only because she is now the most recognizable Senator in the galaxy to have ever publicly spoken ill about the Emperor, but because she’s largely been trying to fight the Empire from within while the little beings fight on the frontlines for the cause. When she takes the step here to join them in the battles, instead of being relatively safe somewhere in the Core Worlds, both those who have been too frightened to fight openly with the Empire and those who already have been take to her side immediately. We know it isn’t as easy as that, as there is still plenty of strife within the groups, but her rallying cry here truly begins to push the rebel cells into an alliance, which is a giant moment in the lore of the Rebel Alliance (something many people have been hoping, myself included, we’d get to see on the show). As great as it was to see such an important moment, it was even more interesting for both me and the crew of the Ghost to see Mon Mothma as just another being of the galaxy like them. This part of her portrayal has been my favorite part of her role in the Aftermath Trilogy, and “Secret Cargo” provides more of it, as Mothma has an excellent chat with Hera on board the Ghost. Mothma opens up about why she finally exposed herself, as she feels her work trying preserve the people’s freedoms has come to no avail while in the Senate, and she now feels the only true way to galvanize change and bring freedom to the masses is on the frontlines, showing how brave of a person she really is, willing to give up her safety to run and hide with the rest of them. We really didn’t need another reason to love Mon Mothma, but I’ll never say no to more and “Secret Cargo” carries it in spades. And as an added bonus, Genevieve O’Reilly reprises her Rogue One (and deleted Revenge of the Sith scenes) role(s) expertly, adding a nice bit of synergy much like Forest Whitaker did for Saw Gerrera a few episodes back.
Another chat I absolutely enjoyed this episode was the one between select members of Gold Squadron (yes, that Y-wing Gold Squadron, with Jon “Dutch” Vander as their leader) and select Phoenix Squad members. In it, Gold Five starts off like she’s complementing Zeb, Ezra, and Hera for their work making big hits against the Empire, but it quickly turns into anger as their actions has caused the Empire’s grip to get tighter and give the other cells a much harder time to do their work. It’s something we don’t always think about when the Ghost‘s Space Family is kicking butt and destroying say, Tarkin’s Star Destroyer over Mustafar, as we’re usually just seeing and reveling in their excitement over sticking it to the Empire, but the repercussions of their actions is very real and it’s great to hear it from others throughout the Rebellion. Such a conversation speaks to the strength of the cell-lead approach of rebelling, as even a small cell can strike a big blow, but it also makes the point for banding the cells together into an Alliance, so that they can make coordinated attacks that don’t hinder the effectiveness of the other parts of the warfront. As the Alliance begins to form here, and the show moving ever so closer to Rogue One/A New Hope, it’s important we get to see these interactions as a way to help put our heroes’ actions in perspective, something I believe we’ll get even more in the upcoming fourth season.*
We haven’t had Hera Syndulla in an episode since January and it is absolutely fantastic to have her back. With Sabine gone for the time being, fighting the good fight alongside her Mandalorian family, the show has shrunk its already small female cast even smaller so more time spent with Hera as the show continues is important because, while it helped this episode featured Mon Mothma so prominently, and even had Governor Pryce in parts, Hera is still an essential part of the show/crew and she’s been sidelined far too long (now even more apparent with Sabine gone). Her leadership abilities, and how important she’s been to the development to her crew, take front and center this episode, as she’s frequently complemented by other characters (like Ezra and Dutch) and it’s a good case for why she might be called General by the time of Rogue One since her fantastic efforts are seen and experienced first-hand by Mon Mothma herself; I wouldn’t be surprised that’s who gives Hera the nice little promotion! While Zeb doesn’t get much to do here than his usual complaining or excited chats about blowing things up, Ezra takes quite the lead in the Nebula-set space battle with the prototype TIE Defender, showing a real maturity and helpfulness his sometimes more annoying antics overshadow.
There were several Imperials prominently featured this episode, which is nice to have instead of the nameless/faceless ones we typically deal with in an episode, and it’s a blessing this can happen outside of an episode like last week’s Kallus-centric “Through Imperial Eyes.” Grand Admiral Thrawn of course is the main event, as he once again showcases his deductive abilities in figuring out how Hera plans on slipping Mon Mothma through his grip of the sector. Governor Pryce also gets a bit part, where her intense ambition to prove herself and be promoted causes her to ask to be the one who brings Mothma in, but obviously we know that won’t go they way she expects it to as typical Imperial arrogance gets the better of her. Likewise, Thrawn decides it is time to give his prototype TIE Defender a field test, and as I imagined when we first met Vult Skerris way back in “Antilles Extraction” we’d likely see him again, he returns this episode as the pilot handpicked by Thrawn to take the TIE Defender into action. It was really cool to see the TIE/D on screen and it mostly lives up to its reputation, as Skerris takes out most of Gold Squad while it requires plans by both Ezra and Hera to finally decommission the deadly TIE long enough for the crew to make their escape. This feels like the first real win by the rebels against Thrawn, as it doesn’t seem like he was expecting the outcome, but technically it’s not really against him because it was really Pryce and Konstantine who make the blunder in the field and I doubt Thrawn would’ve had his Star Destroyers so close to the nebula anyways. Either way, will we ever see the TIE/D again, in this season or the next, after its ‘failure’ here?
Speaking of the nebula action sequence, this was one of the series’ best space scenes and included some impressively staged shots and animation. The entire ending was tense and exciting in the nebula, with the TIE Defender really showing off its skills while both Hera and Ezra showed off theirs. The animation kept up with it all, whether it was how the ships took on heat damage getting closer to the birthing star or how the nebula beautifully exploded outward and consumed the Star Destroyers, there was plenty to gawk at. Likewise the direction provided some choice visual shots, like the Ghost hanging dead in space with the Star Destroyers ominously approaching behind it or how the new rebels appeared after Mothma’s final moving speech, making this episode just as memorable for its visuals and action as its various important events.
Here are a few other things:
- As much as I thoroughly enjoyed “Secret Cargo” and would put it high on my list of overall Rebels episodes, I still feel like Sabine’s two-parter this season is better. But this totally gets 5 out of 5 Billy Dee Williams gif claps (see below)
- Gold Squadron? More like Diversity Squadron, amiright?! Loved the variety in the squad!
- In Mon Mothma’s speech to the Senate played via HoloNet in the opening of the episode, she references the Ghorman Massacre, and unlike certain high profile people in real life, this name wasn’t just pulled out of the nothing of space; it was in fact part of a 1990’s Rebel Alliance sourcebook, as revealed by Pablo Hidalgo on Twitter (Pablo has decided to delete old tweets, so sorry the link is dead now!). Likewise, Mothma’s actions this episode were already foreshadowed in the Rogue One Visual Guide!
- *Have you heard the good word? Star Wars Rebels is back for a season 4 later this year (gotta love Dave Filoni’s lothcat drawing about the announcement)! And has been the case for the last two years, expect more details about the upcoming season at Celebration Orlando next month in April!
- Incubus has always been one of my favorite bands so during the episode when Ezra and Dutch were shooting into the nebula and it was blasting the Star Destroyers, I couldn’t help but think of the line “…newborn nebulas in bloom…” from their song “Nice to Know You.”
- There’s only three episodes left this season! Next week is “Double Agent Droid,” where AP-5 and Chopper go deep undercover, the following week is “Twin Suns,” the big Obi-Wan v Maul showdown on Tatooine, and finally “Zero Hour,” where Thrawn makes his move against Phoenix Squad. The Rebel Alliance’s first big steps to come together were pretty big this week, but there’s still more ahead!
“Secret Cargo” shows the beginnings of the Alliance, Mon Mothma in various, interesting lights, brings back Hera, and gives the TIE Defender a chance to shine in a memorable, busy, and exciting Star Wars Rebels episode.
+ Mon Mothma as both symbol and human being
+ Conversations impress…
+ …and so too do space battle/visuals
+ Welcome back, Hera!!!
STAR WARS REBELS REVIEWS:
Season One: Spark of Rebellion | Ep. 2: “Droids In Distress” | Ep.3: “Fighter Flight” | Ep.4: “Rise of the Old Masters” | Ep.5: “Breaking Ranks” | Ep.6: “Out of Darkness” | Ep.7: “Empire Day” | Ep.8: “Gathering Forces” | Ep.9: “Path of the Jedi” | Ep.10: “Idiot’s Array” | Ep.11: “Vision of Hope” | Ep.12: “Call to Action” | Ep.13: “Rebel Resolve” | Ep.14: “Fire Across the Galaxy“
Season Two: The Siege of Lothal | Ep. 2: “The Lost Commanders” | Ep. 3: “Relics of the Old Republic” | Ep. 4: “Always Two There Are” | Ep. 5: “Brothers of the Broken Horn” | Ep. 6: “Wings of the Master” | Ep. 7: “Blood Sisters” | Ep. 8: “Stealth Strike” | Ep. 9: “The Future of the Force” | Ep. 10: “Legacy” | Ep. 11: “A Princess on Lothal” | Ep. 12: “The Protector of Concord Dawn” | Ep. 13: “Legends of the Lasat” | Ep. 14: “The Call” | Ep. 15: “Homecoming” | Ep. 16: “The Honorable Ones” | Ep. 17: “Shroud of Darkness” | Ep. 18: “The Forgotten Droid” | Ep. 19: “The Mystery of Chopper Base” | Ep. 20: “Twilight of the Apprentice“
Season Three: Steps into Shadow | Ep. 2: “Holocrons of Fate” | Ep. 3: “The Antilles Extraction” | Ep. 4: “Hera’s Heroes” | Ep. 5: “The Last Battle” | Ep. 6: “Imperial Supercommandos” | Ep. 7: “Iron Squadron” | Ep. 8: “The Wynkahthu Job” | Ep. 9: “An Inside Man” | Ep. 10: “Visions and Voices” | Ep. 11: “Ghosts of Geonosis” | Ep. 12: “Warhead” | Ep. 13: “Trials of the Darksaber” | Ep. 14: “Legacy of Mandalore” | Ep. 15: “Through Imperial Eyes” | Ep. 17: “Double Agent Droid” | Ep. 18: “Twin Suns” | Ep. 19: “Zero Hour“
Season Four: Heroes of Mandalore Part 1
A New Dawn (Novel)