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Recap / Star Wars Rebels S3E16 "Secret Cargo"

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"We're building an alliance; this is our rebellion."
Senator-in-exile Mon Mothma

When a routine refueling mission goes wrong, the Ghost crew finds themselves transporting an important rebel leader across the Galaxy, all while being pursued by Imperial warships.

Tropes in this episode include:

  • The Alliance: Mon Mothma formally kickstarts the Rebel Alliance with a rallying cry to oppose the Empire. She's answered by a fleet of ships arriving at Dantooine. This is a huge moment in the canon, and no show about anyone significant to the Rebellion could avoid it.
  • Animal Motif: Erskin has a wolf-like insignia on his helmet, as yet another reference to Dave Filoni's favourite animal.
  • Badass Boast: Subtle, but there. When Ezra offers to lead the TIE Defender into Gold Leader's sights, his response is to worry that he might miss and hit Ezra. Ezra retorts that Skerris can't hit him and Gold Leader won't either.
  • Batman Gambit: Thrawn is now familiar enough with Hera's Crazy Enough to Work plans that he takes it as given that she'll go with what would otherwise be the least likely approach. He's exactly right.
  • Breather Episode: The situation is definitely dire and important, but the Foregone Conclusion that Mothma has to survive eases things a bit even when Thrawn is involved, as the previous episode included the stakes of Kallus' cover and life.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • While his face isn't seen, Captain Skerris returns as the pilot of the TIE Defender.
    • HoloNet reporter Alton Kastle returns after being last seen and heard in "The Siege of Lothal".
    • Old Jho's bar the Pit Stop returns, after having last been seen in "Idiot's Array".
  • Call-Back:
    • As with Saw, the Rogue One: Visual Guide revealed that in 2 BBY, the same year Season 3 of Rebels takes place, Senator Mothma would be exposed as a rebel sympathizer when she publicly calls Palpatine a "lying executioner". We get to see this speech and the events that unfold immediately after it.
    • Gold Two mentions the events of the end of Season 1, specifically Tarkin blowing up the comm tower Ezra was broadcasting from and the crew destroying Tarkin's Star Destroyer, the Sovereign.
    • Remember the Y-Wings back from "Steps Into Shadow" and how they were sent to General Dodonna? Some of them return to help the Ghost transport Senator Mothma, and General Dodonna appears next to Senator Organa as well.
    • Thrawn still has at least one infiltrator droid left from "Warhead" that shows up at the rendezvous point, scanning for activity. It locates and gives away the Ghost's position before being shot down.
    • The TIE Defenders that were under construction in "An Inside Man" now have at least one prototype in service.
  • Call-Forward: Senator Mothma is to be escorted to Dantooine, which is eventually abandoned prior to the Death Star crisis in favor of Yavin IV, as stated in A New Hope.
  • The Cameo: Azadi, Jho, and the Lothal Insurgency make voiceless cameos, sitting in Old Jho's bar while watching Senator Mothma's rallying speech. We also see Senator Organa with General Dodonna and his unit, as well as the rebels including Rex, AP-5, and Sato at Chopper Base.
  • Canon Immigrant: Mothma cites the Ghorman Massacre (and apparently either it was a series of attacks or there was at least one more attack there, since she said it in plural) as one of Palpatine's atrocities, which was also brought back by an All There in the Manual backstory for one of the Partisans in the Rogue One Visual Guide. In Legends, what happened is that Tarkin landed his Star Destroyer on top of a peaceful protest on the planet and a large amount of people died, though this took place about a year or two into the Empire, whereas Mothma implies that it was a recent development and the reason why she finally spoke out. Also, see Mythology Gag below for more information.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Hera warns against using proton torpedoes in the nebula, as they would ignite the gas. This is exploited in the climax to disable the Star Destroyers, which are close enough to the edge for the ignited gas to cause serious damage.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • At the beginning, the Ghost is hiding in the wreck of a Separatist cruiser.
    • Like with the star cluster from "Legends of the Lasat", the Imperials cannot follow pursuit of the rebels when they enter the Archeon Nebula due to harboring special conditions that allow them to pass through it relatively safely. This time, however, it's the cruisers that can't, but the TIEs can. The music also becomes more otherworldly here as well. It's also a reference to "Shadow of Malevolence" from The Clone Wars, where Anakin used a similar shortcut via a dangerous route through a nebula that was an old smugglers' route, that capital ships had to go around. He was even in command of a squadron of Y-Wings at the time.
    • When the TIE Interceptor turns up, just before they enter the nebula, one of the Y-Wing pilots wonders "Since when do TIEs have hyperdrives?" The Ghost crew and Phoenix Squadron have seen TIEs with hyperdrives before, in the hands of Darth Vader and the Inquisitors.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Mon Mothma ends her Senate career by calling Palpatine a "lying executioner". The Ghost crew is appropriately impressed by her courage.
  • Elite Mook: Thrawn places Ace Pilot Captain Vult Skerris as a pilot for a prototype TIE Defender and figured chasing the Ghost in the nebula would be a perfect opportunity to test its capabilities. The Defender's effectiveness was noteworthy in that not only does it take out three Y-Wings, but its shielding allows it to tank the incinerating surface of a birthing star long enough to escape, while the TIE Interceptors weren't so lucky.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The events of this episode are pivotal to the Star Wars timeline. As high as the stakes are this episode, Mon Mothma has to survive for the Rebel Alliance to take root, and not even Thrawn can prevent that.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Gold Five gives her life to keep the TIE Defender from disabling the Ghost.
  • Hero of Another Story: Dantooine was already settled as a rebel base prior to this episode by the other side of the Rebellion.
  • Holding the Floor: When they're cornered by Pryce, Mon Mothma buys time for the hyperdrive to charge by making a very long list of demands in the event of her surrender. It doesn't work, since Pryce is able to snag them with a tractor beam beforehand. Ezra and Gold Leader show up in time to save the day.
  • I Want Them Alive!: Thrawn orders Pryce to bring him Mon Mothma alive, because he knows there is a bigger rebel fleet than the one he's been spending the whole season chasing.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Skerris has the good sense to break off when he's outmatched, such as avoiding a closely forming star and disappearing into the nebula when his shields are disabled.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The TIE Defender is this by fighter standards. It's both faster and better shielded than a Y-Wing, and comparably armed.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The Ghorman Massacre is presumably the reason why Mothma finally spoke out against the Empire, leading to this episode and ending with the formation of the Rebel Alliance. In Legends, since the Ghorman Massacre happened about a year after the Empire was established, it instead finally convinced Mothma, Organa, and some others to start organizing a rebellion.
    • Thrawn guesses what the Rebels will do based purely on what seems least likely, having noted Hera's preference for Crazy Enough to Work plans. He used a similar trick on a larger scale in The Thrawn Trilogy to counter a Kansas City Shuffle, nearly winning the war with the New Republic in the process.
  • Oh, Crap!: Ezra when he sees the TIE Defender, warning the two pilots sent to engage with it to get back. They don't listen and are shot down.
  • One-Woman Wail: Heard during the nebula dogfight.
  • Out of the Frying Pan: Hera makes it through the nebula by flying close to the surface of a newborn star, causing significant damage to the Ghost, only to get ambushed by Konstantine's Star Destroyers. As they still need time to charge the hyperdrive, it's easy prey for the Star Destroyers and is caught in a tractor beam.
  • Red Shirt: The Y-wing pilots shot down by the TIE Defender. Their blasts don't make a dent in the Defender's shields.
  • Saved by Canon:
    • Mon Mothma, of course, given that she appears in Rogue One and Return of the Jedi as the leader of the Rebellion and survives even into the Sequel Trilogy era.
    • Gold Leader is Jon "Dutch" Vander from A New Hope, who gets shot down by Darth Vader while attempting a trench run. So he can't die in this episode.
  • Slow Clap: There's no actual clapping involved, but the response to Mon Mothma's speech is similar in execution. For a moment, it seems as though nobody is going to respond to Mothma's call to join her newly-founded rebellion.... then a single ship emerges from hyperspace, and then another, and then another, and then soon there are dozens.
  • Space Clouds: The Archeon Nebula is a newborn star with a large cloud of hydrogen gas surrounding it. It's a favorite of smugglers since smaller ships can brave the heat and combustible gases, while the Empire's larger cruisers and Star Destroyers can't. However, the TIE Defender and TIE Interceptors are small enough to make it through, and the heavy shielding on the Defender allows it to scrape the surface of the star almost as effectively as the Ghost.
  • Suicide Mission: Hera decides to bring Mothma to her desired location through the Archeon Nebula, a route that is very treacherous with its newborn stars and combustible gases. Even the Empire knows sending their capital ships to chase them would be suicide. Thrawn rectifies this by sending a TIE Defender piloted by Captain Skerris, which can survive in the nebula, and then having two Star Destroyers emerge from hyperspace on the other side of the nebula to cut off the Ghost's escape.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: Gold Two tells off the crew for making the Rebellion harder to maintain thanks to blowing up the communications tower on Lothal and then blowing up the Sovereign — the former was Tarkin's doing and the latter was an accident, caused by the Grand Inquisitor's broken lightsaber falling into the power grid. Zeb admits Tarkin's role in the former incident, but gleefully brags about the latter as if they did it on purpose.
  • Taking the Bullet: Gold Five moves between the Ghost and the TIE Defender to block the latter's blaster fire.
  • Title Drop: Erskin and Gold Squadron say that they're carrying secret cargo, this secret cargo being the wanted Senator Mon Mothma.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Skerris is last seen tumbling into the nebula after taking a hit from Gold Leader's ion cannons. His fate after the detonation of the gas is left unrevealed, though since only one part of the nebula was ignited, it's possible he survived, because he's that good a pilot. (Later episodes confirm that he does survive to continue fighting the rebels.)
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Gold Two chews out the Ghost crew for making trouble, specifically citing the comm tower on Lothal and Tarkin's Star Destroyer, and now gaining more unwanted attention to the mission by fighting an infiltrator droid that likely alerted its superiors on the current location of the mission. Zeb, Ezra, and Chopper are unapologetic, and Hera ends the argument there.