One of the things I have never expected to do was to watch the birth of the Rebellion on-screen as part of animated series. Yet this week, I did.
I am exaggerating a bit, of course. The Rebellion wasn’t born in one day, but what happened in Secret Cargo came pretty close. It was at least one of the formative moments of the Alliance – alongside the events in Rogue One, for example. I am not sure whether leaving such important moments for anything less than actual films is a good move, however, for the audience of Rebels, it certainly must feel rewarding. But let’s leave that aside: how does Secret Cargo stand as an episode?
Yet Another Story
Secret Cargo is a well-built episode, especially if you haven’t watched the trailer, just as I for some reason this time didn’t. It starts like one of the classic, hundred-times-repeated supply run missions Season 1 was full of. A brief encounter with an Imperial probe droid (like the one Zeb met in Warhead) sets up the scene, but isn’t very remarkable by itself. It lets us know, however, that something important is going on in this remote part of Lothal sector.
Then, a Rebel transport carrying “mysterious cargo” arrives and from that moment on, the episode just keeps moving forward and any resemblances to “dry supply runs” have been forgotten. There is action, more action and the plot literally blooms as it becomes clearer and clearer how significant this particular event is. The build-up is gradual, from first learning that there is a secret cargo through learning what it is up to the episode’s finale. It feels smooth and natural.
Lately, Rebels episodes seem to be literally packed with recurring minor characters. Even brief appearances by governor Pryce, Thrawn and the Imperial ace pilot, commander Skerris, take care of this in Secret Cargo. More significant, however, are some new characters on Rebel side. There are the members of the Gold Squadron (including Gold Leader from the original A New Hope, who has recently appeared also in Rogue One) and, of course first and foremost, the future Rebel Alliance leader Mon Mothma (voiced by Genevieve O’Reilly who also played her in Rogue One). She is introduced as a senator and her diplomatic skills are apparent in every scene she appears in. Perhaps with one notable exception: in a scene where she helps Chopper to manually detach the ship’s hatch. I am not entirely sure it was necessary to show Mon Mothma being capable of “manual labour”, if that was the intention. It stood out, in any case.
Secret Cargo, despite its absolutely bland name, is epic, both as a whole and in particularities. The Rebels’ flight through the Archeon Nebula is a visually captivating experience and indeed the view of the, after all, merely crudely animated ships on the background of the nebula made me wish this was a movie. Thrawn hasn’t dropped the ball and continues to show his cunning, which I am grateful for (and hope he doesn’t stop until the end of the series). All in all, Secret Cargo keeps holding the standard high for the third season.
That said, Disney has just announced that Rebels won’t end with third season as many had thought, but that we can look forward to seeing more of it also during the next year, starting again in autumn. I hope Dave Filoni’s team has enough material to use in the future and that the fourth season is something we can look forward to. First details, or so the fan-base would hope, should be disclosed in April at the Star Wars Celebration in Orlando.