[WARNING - This article contains SPOILERS for both Rogue One and Star Wars Rebels.]
The Star Wars universe gets a little bigger this weekend with the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, giving fans a vital chapter in the Rebellion's fight against the Empire. Set directly before the events of Episode IV: A New Hope, the film provides the backstory for how the Rebel Alliance pulled off their first major victory - the destruction of the Death Star.
Given that time frame and the strong focus on the inner-workings of the Rebel Alliance, it stands to reason the film would, in some ways, connect to another Star Wars property: the animated TV series, Star Wars Rebels. The first season of Star War Rebels kicks off five years before the Battle of Yavin (during which Luke makes him famous trench run), and each season since has crept closer and closer to that important turning point in the war. Knowing this, fans of Rebels had hoped for at least some hint at the Ghost and her crew in Rogue One - and while it may not be as overt as some would have liked, there do exist a few nods to Phoenix Squadron tucked away in the film.
Here are all the connections we spotted in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that tie nicely back into Star Wars Rebels, beginning with the most explicit references and extending to more subtle nods.
During the Battle of Scariff, almost the entire Rebel fleet arrives in order to provide support for the Rogue One rebels fighting on the surface. Within those scenes, a VCX-100 light freighter - the same make and model as Hera Syndulla's Ghost starship from Star Wars Rebels - can be seen among the ships fighting in orbit. First spotted during a Rogue One TV spot, it was possible that the spotted ship was simply another VCX-100 light freighter. But when combined with the film's other little nods to Star Wars Rebels, we like to imagine this is indeed the Ghost, and that Hera herself is piloting and giving those TIE Fighters hell.
"General Syndulla, please report."
Further evidence that it could actually the Ghost present during the Battle of Scariff is a little audio cue heard over the intercom in the Rebel base on Yavin IV earlier in the film. It's the phrase, "General Syndulla, please report," as heard during the scenes in where Jyn Erso and her crew are preparing to leave for Scariff. Now, Hera is still only a captain during Star Wars Rebels, so if this message is referring to her she's received a well-deserved promotion. However, there's also a chance the phrase is referring to her father, Cham Syndulla, who perhaps by the time of Rogue One has officially joined up with the Rebellion and been given the rank of general. Either way, it's a clear callback to Rebels and a clever one at that.
Chopper at Yavin IV
If you still aren't convinced that at least some part of the Ghost's crew is involved in the big offensive in Rogue One, there's a final 'blink and you'll miss it' clue which is the strongest evidence yet. It's that little cantankerous droid, C1-10p or Chopper, seen only for an instant during the scene at the Rebel base on Yavin IV where a radio controller comes running up to Mon Mothma and tells her rebels have been spotted on Scariff. In that brief moment, if you watch the left side of the screen you can see Chop rolling out through the hanger entrance (it's even been confirmed by Lucasfilm's Pablo Hidalgo). So while none of this has been conclusive evidence that Ezra, Kanan, Hera or anyone else survives the events of Star Wars Rebels, we know that at least Chopper is still wheeling around come Rogue One.
Now we begin delving into the slightly more obscure references to Star Wars Rebels, with this factoring directly into the climax of Rogue One. Upon noticing that one of the Star Destroyers above Scariff has been disabled, Admiral Raddus orders for one of the Rebel fleet's Hammerhead Corvettes to ram the listing ship. That sends the Star Destroyer crashing into another Star Destroyer, and subsequently also careening into the Shield Gate that's prohibiting the Death Star plans from being transmitted off-world. And a ship as unique as the Hammerhead Corvette should be familiar to Star Wars Rebels fans as they've featured prominently in the series ever since being introduced in the season 2 episode, 'A Princess on Lothal'. That episode saw a young Princess Leia bring three Hammerhead Corvettes to Lothal to help expand the Rebel fleet - and wouldn't it be fun to imagine that the one featured in Rogue One is of those original three?
Familiar Names & Faces
Sadly, Rogue One doesn't include any characters directly from Star Wars Rebels in any meaningful sense, but there are plenty of notable Star Wars characters who appear in Rogue One who have also been in Star Wars Rebels. This includes Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin, Leia and Bail Organa, all of whom have played prominent roles in episodes of Rebels. Obi-Wan Kenobi is another major character who, while not actually appearing in either (at least not yet in the case of Rebels, but there's still time), is strongly alluded to by other characters in Rogue One and Star Wars Rebels. (He's one popular hermit, that Kenobi.)
Saw Gerrera, on the other hand, has appeared in both animation and live-action, originating on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and now being a part of Rogue One. Saw
has yet to show up on Rebels [Edit: Actually, he will when the series returns next year.], but he does get mentioned by Agent Kallus in the Rebels season 2 episode, 'The Honorable Ones'. While stranded on the icy moon with Zeb Orrelios, Kallus shares a story about his platoon fighting a Lasat mercenary who had been hired by none other than Saw Gerrera.
Obviously, kyber crystals have a large role to play in all of Star Wars canon, being the source of power for the series' signature weapon - the lightsaber. But in the case of Rogue One and Star Wars Rebels, they are also as an important resource the Empire needs for a very specific purpose - powering the Death Star's superlaser. That's information the Rebellion (and us) only learn in Rogue One, but even years earlier during the Rebels cartoon, the Lothal rebels were aware the Empire was in need of kyber crystals for some sinister purpose. In the episode, 'Breaking Ranks', they intercept a shipment of kyber crystal and destroy it, stopping the Empire from harnessing their power.
Ghosts of Geonosis
The planet of Geonosis has played host to its share of important moments from the Star Wars saga and for that, it paid a terrible price. It was there the Clone Wars officially began and where the Empire began construction of the Death Star, later moving the massive battle station and sterilizing the planet, killing all the Geonosians in order to keep the weapon a secret.
On Star Wars Rebels (again during the season 2 episode, 'The Honorable Ones'), Zeb leads a team of rebels to Geonosis in order to investigate a report about a secret weapon of the Empire's - which unbeknownst to them is the Death Star that is no longer there. An upcoming two-part episode of Rebels, titled 'Ghost of Geonosis', will again bring the Ghost crew to the doomed planet where they'll unearth even more secrets. Chances are something they discover will tie into the Death Star's construction, even if they still won't possess all the information needed to make the connection. We, however, being more than familiar with the Death Star - and just having seen another stage of its development in Rogue One - will be able to recognize the correlation.
The Rebel Alliance
And lastly, we have the Alliance to Restore the Republic itself - which doesn't yet exist during the time of Star Wars Rebels but has certainly become a force to reckon with by the end of Rogue One. On Rebels, the Ghost crew, General Sato and Phoenix Squadon are all a part of a network of rebel groups secretly overseen by Bail Organa and Ahsoka Tano. At some point not long before the events of Rogue One, Organa and Mon Mothma bring an even greater unity to the many rebel cells scattered across the galaxy by forming the Rebel Alliance. And it's this formation of an official rebellion that is the culmination of everything Star Wars Rebels has been building towards (and especially this season). In Rogue One, we get to see that Alliance in full swing at the Battle of Scariff, earning them their first step towards a real victory against the Empire.
So those are all the ways in which Star Wars Rebels ties in with the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Was there anything we missed? Do you expect Star Wars Rebels season 3 to reveal more connections with Rogue One when it returns in January? And what of Rebels' main characters (Ezra, Kanan, Hera, Sabine, and Zeb) - will they still be around by the time Jyn Erso leads her band of rebels to steal the plans to the Death Star?
Star Wars Rebels season 3 will continue January 7th, 2017 on Disney XD.
- Star Wars: Rogue One / Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) release date: Dec 16, 2016
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018