[WARNING - This review contains SPOILERS for Star Wars Rebels season 3, episode 18.]
Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels has begun picking up speed. With only a handful of episodes left to go, the Empire is closing in and the stakes have never been higher for Phoenix Squadron, the Rebel cell of which the Ghost and her crew are a part. And it's important to remember that Phoenix Squadron is just a small band of Rebels, with little to no communication with other groups rebelling against the Empire - at least not yet.
Tonight's episode, 'Secret Cargo' - written by Matt Michnovetz and directed by Bosco Ng - is very much aware that in order to pose any actual threat to the Empire, the Rebels need a coalition, they need to be unified. Making that happen is none other than Mon Mothma, Galactic Senator and (very soon to be) leader of the Rebel Alliance. After delivering a speech in the senate in which she condemns the Emperor, Mothma is branded a traitor. Now on the run and in need of an escort to reach a critical meeting concerning the future of the Rebellion, it's the Ghost crew who are selected for this most important mission. But with Grand Admiral Thrawn seemingly always one step ahead, can they deliver the senator to Dantooine safely and in one piece?
"Lady's Got Guts"
Roles for women in the Star Wars universe have grown greatly since those original films. In just the past decade, a whole new sisterhood of female characters have been added to canon - Ahsoka, Ventress, Rey, Sabine, Hera, Jyn Erso and more, while others have had their roles greatly expanded, like Padme, Shaak Ti, and Aayla Secura. Most recently, it's been Mon Mothma who has enjoyed a renewed interest, having her story expanded on with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as well as the Star Wars Aftermath book series.
In 'Secret Cargo', Mothma is allowed to shine even more, demonstrating just why the determined senator will eventually become chancellor of the New Republic. But that is still years away, and Mothma must first unite the many Rebel cells under one banner, creating a coalition capable of destroying the Empire and freeing the galaxy of its tyrannical rule. Coming aboard the Ghost while under Imperial fire, Mothma remains cool under pressure, detaching the Ghost from the damaged transport in the nick of time. And later, when hailed by Governor Pryce demanding they surrender, Mothma cleverly stalls, displaying all the negotiating skill of a seasoned and sly politician. As Zeb remarks at the top of the episode while watching Mothma addresses the Senate: "Lady's got guts."
Thrawn Closing In
While the Rebellion is becoming a force to be reckoned with, adding more allies to their cause, the Empire isn't just twiddling their thumbs and doing nothing. In fact, with each passing episode, Thrawn is getting closer to finding the location of Phoenix Squadron's base. And in 'Secret Cargo', Thrawn knows precisely where the Ghost is taking Mothma and how they intend to get there, devising an (almost) foolproof plan to apprehend the rogue senator.
It's only thanks to the indomitable spirit of the Rebels and some sheer luck that they manage to escape, and it isn't without causalities. Were it Thrawn himself and not his underlings, Mothma may very well have not made it to Dantooine. That doesn't really bode well for the Rebellion, and especially the Ghost and her crew, hinting that season 3 could end on a low note for our heroes.
An Alliance Is Born
Though it was a close call, the Ghost does manage to deliver Mothma to Dantooine where she sends out her message of hope to the galaxy, asking for those who wish to challenge the Empire to join them. The moment is a pivotal one for not only Star Wars Rebels, but the entirety of the Star Wars saga. When those ships begin arriving, dropping out of hyperspace one after the other, it is the very beginning of the Rebel Alliance.
All season long, Rebels has been building toward this, closing the gap between where the series is now and the major events yet to come. With Mothma assembling the brand new Alliance, they will likely soon establish a base on the planet below. Thrawn, however, is aware they were on their way to Dantooine, implying it'll be because of him that they will be forced to abandon the base, fleeing to Yavin 4. It's from there that the Rebellion launches their attack on Scariff and later the Death Star, meaning there can't be much of the timeline left for Rebels to fill in. Will the just announced season 4 be their last?
Perhaps more than any other episode of Star Wars Rebels, 'Secret Cargo' had a real original trilogy feel, hinting that those events are not far off. From the inclusion of Mothma to Ezra's fancy flying in that Y-wing, this episode is akin to what we saw during Rogue One - that is, the Rebellion risking it all, narrowly managing to come out on top. Next week it's a covert mission for AP-5 and Chopper as they infiltrate an Imperial base in order to steal some desperately needed codes; just another day in the life of the Rebel Alliance.
Star Wars Rebels season 3 continues next week with 'Double Agent Droid' @8pm on Disney XD.