Oh hell yes, Star Wars Rebels continued it’s hot streak with the 17th (or apparently 18th, depending on who’s counting…) episode of the third season, entitled Secret Cargo. I’m not going to say this is one of the hands-down best installments of Rebels to date, but I will go on record and say it’s one of the most important so far in the entire series – pretty much a must watch episode. A few of our usual heroes are featured of course, but we get a glimpse of a few familiar faces in Secret Cargo that we haven’t gotten a glimpse of so far in the series. As always, ***SPOILERS*** abound below the image, but since the episode came out over a week ago (yeah, I’m kinda slacking on Rebels since I’ve been all-in on my essential Clone Wars arcs features) I’m not sweating spoilers all too much here….
OK, so I’ll do a very quick recap of the episode, as the story was good but pretty straightforward. Hera and part of the Ghost crew (Ezra, Zeb, and Chopper) are tasked with refueling a Rebel ship that is carrying very sensitive and valuable cargo, but what it is in on a need-to-know basis. After a brush with an Imperial E-XD Infiltrator Droid (previously seen in the Warhead episode) the crew has to work fast to refuel the crew transporting the cargo. Turns out that Gold Squadron is accompanying the cargo, led by none other than Jon ‘Dutch’ Vader (Gold Leader from Rogue One and A New Hope).
The Empire drops out of hyperspace right on top of the Rebels and they are forced to act quickly, with Ezra taking control of Gold Two’s Y-Wing as the pilot was knocked unconscious during the initial blast. When the transport ship is compromised Hera tells them to board the Ghost, and it turns out the cargo is none other than Senator-on-the-run Mon Mothma, who had just given her rebel-rousing (pardon the pun..) speech we’ve heard all about condemning the Emperor.
In other to evade the Imperials Hera decides to lead the crew through the treacherous Archeon Nebula, which Grand Admiral Thrawn predicts the will do. Thawn dispatches an Imperial Capital ship to chase them through the Nebula, and during this we get our first glimpse of the TIE/D Defender (first mentioned in An Inside Man) and it is just as formidable as we would’ve imagined. Hera uses her cunning to evade the Defender (with a sacrifice of a Gold Squadron pilot and a lot of help from Gold Leader and Ezra), but they all sustain a ton of damage. What the Rebels don’t realize is that Thrawn also has Governor Pryce and Admiral Konstantine awaiting them when they exit the Nebula. Caught in the Star Destroyer’s tractor beam, only quick thinking from Hera saves them, as she has Ezra and Vander fire their Proton Torpedoes into the Nebula, resulting in a huge explosion that cripples the entire Imperial force that’s onsite.
Once free, Mon Mothma sends a communication over the Holonet to any and all Rebel cells, asking for their aid in combining forces to fight the Empire. What results is a massive influx of ships, rendezvousing at Dantooine, and the Rebel Alliance is seemingly born!
What I really liked:
- The interconnected story coming together – we are really seeing the fruits of the labor of having a unified story group and vision for the Star Wars canon and story. The timing of having Rebels move ever-closer to the events of Rogue One during the course of this season has been spot-on, and Secret Cargo really moves this story thread along nicely. We see Mon Mothma for the first time, and the inclusion of Dutch Vander and Gold Squadron was a very nice touch. Also catching a glimpse of the different Rebel cells (which included quick shots of Bail Organa, Jan Dodonna, Sato, Rex, Ryder Azadi, (and I’m sure many more I missed) was really rad, as was seeing the Rebel fleet dropping out of hyperspace after Mon’s speech. The visual was very reminiscent of the fleet dropping out of hyperspace at the Battle of Scarif, also, which I”m sure was intentional. So yeah, once again kudos to the Lucasfilm story group.
- Hera – what’s not to love about Hera Syndulla. Her quick thinking and piloting skills saved the day yet again, and doing so in front of the future leader of the Rebel Alliance can’t hurt, either. She is such a rad, well developed character who carries the story most of the time.
- Ezra – hell yes, Ezra, you can pilot a fighter! At first when he volunteered to take over for Gold Two I was like ‘what? Ezra can’t fly a fighter’.. But then I thought about Luke piloting an X-Wing at the battle of Yavin, having never done it before, and this is way less of a reach than that. Beyond that, he did a great job, earning the respect and trust of Gold Squadron in the process, and saving them from the TIE D/Defender with the Force and his quick thinking. I’ll be the first to admit Ezra’s character is very up and down, but maybe (just maybe..) this is the point. Maybe the writers are trying hard to sell him as a teenager who happens to be a prodigy, but is still very much going through the same things a normal teenager goes through. Maybe. It’s also worth noting that Mon Mothma has heard of him, adding credence to the fact that Jedi are still very important to the leaders of the Rebellion. It also lends credence to my suspicions that he and Kanan will not make it to the Battle of Scarif, else she would’ve mentioned him to Bail, right? Can’t wait to see where this all goes.
- Thrawn and the Imperials – hey, they didn’t completely botch this up. They almost had the Ghost, and without some very quick thinking (and luck) from Hera they would have. As great an idea it was for them to enter into and navigate the Archeon Nebula, Thrawn was one step ahead of them, anticipating Hera would do just that. His patience is paying off, finally, as we head towards the two-part season finale in the coming weeks. It was also funny to see him let Pryce step up and try and catch them, knowing that she would probably fail. He’s so calculating, it’s vicious.
- The introduction of the TIE D/Defender – now that’s a TIE Fighter. Damn, that thing is as badass as we’ve always heard it would be, and it nearly took out the Ghost and Gold Squadron, and quite frankly had Ezra not taken over Gold Two’s Y-Wing it probably would have.
- Beautiful animation – I’ve been critical of the animation in Rebels many times in the past, as it quite simply doesn’t measure up to what we saw in The Clone Wars. I understand that Disney keeps Rebels on a strict budget and TCW was George’s baby, so he would spend money when needed to get the vision he wanted properly executed, and I have no issues with that. Having said that, the animation in season three continues to impress all-around, and the trip through the Archeon Nebula was a great example of this. Everything about it was beautiful, and the explosions at the end were very detailed and strong.
- The E-XD Infiltrator Droid – much, much better execution of this Imperial droid this go-round, he was threatening and creepy. And his communication with the Imperials felt very authentic as well. Good work!
- The formation of the Rebel Alliance – in this twenty-two minute episode we see the beginning of the united Rebel Alliance it seems. Many cells heed the call of the the former Senator from Chandrilla, and it is so cool to see that all coming together. Rebels is getting more and more ‘grown up’, as did The Clone Wars around this point. The story group’s long-game is coming together, as I mentioned above, and I’m so stoked for the fourth (and final?!?!) season of the show. One thing that’s worth noting is that although the Rebel cells are coming together, there is still distrust and infighting going on, as evidenced by Gold Squadron’s critical opinion of Phoenix Squadron, to which Zeb and Chopper seem to take quite a bit of offense to.
What could’ve been better:
- Secret Cargo was a great, straightforward addition to the Rebels season, and one that was very important. Having said that, I can nitpick a few things…..
- Dumb names – come on writers, Erskin Semaj?? Guess someone owes a debt to a dude named James Erskine, huh?
- Where was Saw?? – maybe there’s a plan in place here, but it seemed like a huge missed opportunity when they were quickly scanning through the various Rebels cells listening to Mon’s broadcast and there was no glimpse of Saw and his group. I kept waiting and nada. Minor nitpick, but I don’t really understand why they didn’t show him.
Season three has been great so far, the best and most consistent season of the show to date in my opinion. We are really ramping up to a huge finale, with the Maul/Kenobi showdown coming and what has to be Thrawn’s endgame for Phoenix Squadron. I. Can’t. Wait!!! In the meantime, enjoy the Rebels Recon from the official site for Secret Cargo: