The latest episode of Disney XD's Star Wars Rebels was less about the Ghost and her crew and more about the buildup to director Gareth Edwards' 2016 film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The cartoon has been slowly but surely leading up to the events of George Lucas' Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, particularly the Battle of Yavin. While that's still the plan, so to speak, the series has taken a slightly different turn as of late.
Rather than lead directly into A New Hope, it seems that the animated series may be leading directly into Rogue One instead. That might be the better plan of action considering that the Ghost and her crew have had actual involvement with the characters (and the Rebellion as a whole) from Rogue One more than they do with the characters from A New Hope (aside from Wedge Antilles) - and the latest episodes, "In the Name of the Rebellion Part 1" and "Part 2" (which we'll refer to as "Part 1" and "Part 2" throughout this article), exhibit those connections in great detail.
The Little Connections
A great portion of "Part 1" takes place on Yavin IV, the iconic location of the Rebel base from Rogue One and A New Hope. Aside from the jungle moon's indirect mention in season 2, tonight's episode marks the first time in Star Wars chronology Yavin IV makes an appearance and it means the Rebel base on Dantooine - the location that Princess Leia gives to Grand Moff Tarkin on the Death Star - has already been abandoned.
Furthermore, the Rebels meet Mon Mothma and General Dodonna in the base's control room - the same room Mon Mothma (along with Bail Organa) questions Jyn Erso in Rogue One and where the Rebels coordinate the Death Star attack in A New Hope. It's there that Mon Mothma elaborates on Saw Gerrera's extremism and militancy (mimicking her comments from Rogue One). She specifically emphasizes that the Rebellion doesn't mistreat prisoners, unlike Saw Gerrera, hinting that perhaps the Senator is aware of Gerrera's use of the Bor Gullet - the creature that Gerrera unleashed on Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) in Rogue One to interrogate him.
Episode 3 of Star Wars Rebels season 4 also introduces UT-60D U-wings (the little transport with foldable wings). The starfighter-transport hybrid appears for the first time here, piloted by Benthic "Two Tubes" and Gerrera during a rescue and bombing mission at an Imperial communications relay, before its used again during Rogue One by Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and the Rebel forces of Yavin IV during the Battle of Scarif. It, like the Imperial TIE Stryker, didn't appear in the original trilogy and seem to have been introduced for the merchandising effots of Disney's consumer products division.
The BIG Connections
"Part 2" is where the vast majority of the episode's big connections occur, beginning with Saw Gerrera reminding Ezra and Sabine of the Empire's (then-Separatists) massacre of the Geonosians during the Clone Wars. For those who may not remember, the Death Star was originally being constructed above the planet of Geonosis before the project had to be moved following the Republic's invasion during Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones. Gerrera has been obsessed with finding the Empire's secret superweapon ever since, which he believes was the reason the Empire had committed genocide on Geonosis in the first place (he's not wrong). And so, he tasks Ezra and Sabine with helping him locate it.
Following Saw's intel, Saw, Ezra, and Sabine board a civilian cargo freighter heading towards an unknown - and uninhabited - system and disover a large Kyber crystal. The Force-attuned Kyber crystals have been staple pieces within the Star Wars mythos for years, making their first appearance in A New Hope's novelization (though they weren't yet named back then). While devout Star Wars fans are well-versed with Kyber crystals, the crystals themselves didn't make it into the mainstream until Rogue One last year and its prequel novel, Catalyst, when it was revealed that the Empire had been mining the crystals from Jedha and weaponizing them for the Death Star. This was what Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) spend his life's work on, attempting to draw energy from these force-sensitive objects and what Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) wears on her neck in Rogue One.
The rebels remain unaware of what the Empire has really been building, but the new information they obtained during this episode - particularly with regard to the Empire's interest in obtaining Kyber crystals and weaponizing them on a large scale - may become the impetus for Mon Mothma and the Rebel Alliance's interest in sending spies like the one Cassian killed on the Ring of Kafrene to discover more information on the superweapon. No matter how much information the Rebels uncover on Star Wars Rebels, it will not be enough until Bodhi Rook defects from the Empire in Rogue One.
In addition to one Stormtrooper name-dropping Director Orson Krennic (played by Ben Mendelsohn in Rogue One), the episode's use of Death Troopers (a squad of Death Troopers served under Krennic) and the Empire's kidnapping of reactor mechanics and power specialists - who might have gone to work under Galen Erso on Eadu if they hadn't been rescued - could mean that this season of Star Wars Rebels is much closer to the events of Rogue One than audiences might have initially anticipated. The two-part story ends on a grim note with the Ghost's crew pondering if the Empire has already won a war the Rebellion doesn't think has actually started yet.
Star Wars Rebels airs Mondays on Disney XD.
- Star Wars: Rogue One / Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) release date: Dec 16, 2016