How Mon Mothma Became a Star Wars Icon

StarWars.com explores how a now-classic Star Wars Rebels episode reinforced and expanded the rebel leader's impact.

Hand to her heart in the landmark Star Wars Rebels episode “Secret Cargo,” Mon Mothma declared war on the Empire from her place on the front lines of the rebellion. It was then and there that she solidified her role as a Star Wars icon.

For two decades, the ginger-haired senator from Chandrila had exhausted political tactics while secretly assembling the disparate cells that would one day form the Rebel Alliance.

With the Empire’s attack on the people of Ghorman, the time for her declaration had come. What followed would either go down in history as the birth of a movement or Mon’s almost certain death at the hands of the government that had publicly denounced her as a traitor.

To see her go underground after publicly condemning the Emperor as a tyrant suggested she was leveling her accusation then fleeing to hide.

Instead, using the HoloNet to boost the signal, Mon shouted into the abyss a call to arms, a rallying cry to anyone who was listening and willing to fight.

There were no guarantees. Her speech, broadcast from the cockpit of the Ghost, could have been ignored. For a moment, perhaps she believed that it was or, worse, that those listening were too tired, weak, or terrorized to fight the oppression outright.

But Mon had long believed in the power of hope.

She stood there, unapologetic and unwavering, hoping she was right.

And they came. One by one, ships appeared out of hyperspace, a whole fleet of like-minded rebels willing to lay down their own lives for freedom.

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As a political leader, Mon had long served righteously and with dignity. She was a staunch critic of the Clone Wars, using her position in the senate and the allies she found there in Bail Organa and Padmé Amidala to wage a different kind of battle — persuasive speeches intended to help end the conflict. Mon was outspoken for the people of her planet and the galaxy at large, a naïve young diplomat who still believed in a peaceful resolution to the Emperor’s warmongering ways.

But Palpatine only grew stronger, and the senate deteriorated until it became little more than a theatrical show.

Still, Mon forged ahead. She waited. She took calculated risks, and even after Padmé’s death, worked closely with Bail to align everything they would need on the day the Emperor and his warmongering went too far.

The attack on the people of Ghorman ignited the spark that set the loyalist plan into motion, for the group swore no loyalty to the reigning leader, but instead loved, above all else, the ideal Republic.

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Prior to Mon’s stirring speech in “Secret Cargo” there was little to connect that idealistic young senator meeting secretively to discuss sacrifice and democracy and the stern woman who later emerged as the leader of the Rebel Alliance. At the end of the war, speaking to her brave volunteers as they prepared to put a stop to the second Death Star in the Battle of Endor, her remarks were succinct if not clipped. By then, she was a leader who still took a moment to weigh the cost of war, remembering the brave Bothans and others who gave their lives to restore freedom for the rest of the galaxy, but preferred to sit back while others held the floor.

From the rebel base on Yavin 4, Rogue One showed the same stoic and wise leader calmly orchestrating the mission for the Death Star plans, albeit a slightly younger version. And although she seemed almost pleased when Jyn’s final mission ensnared the rest of the rebel fleet in the battle of Scarif, she refused to sanction the action without the full support the council. Mon knew that shared governance was worthless if she went against the majority’s rule, and to do so would have made her no better than the Emperor himself.

The Mon of Rebels encompasses all of these qualities and so much more.

Surely, she has that same stoic temperament and measured tone as she regretfully informs Ezra there will be no one from the Alliance coming to his aid while the Atollon base is under attack. To do so would jeopardize everything they have accomplished, potentially destroying all for which they have fought, and suffered.

She takes time to be kind, sharing a drink with Hera in a simple gesture that shows her compassion, gratitude, and parity with the other rebel fighters.

When the Ghost comes under attack during its refueling rendezvous with Mon’s ship, she shows no hesitation in getting her hands dirty helping Chopper. She isn’t too dainty for the task nor does she seemingly give a thought to the loss of her own craft; she does what is needed in the moment and leads by example.

She is a powerhouse with clear blue eyes and a courageous heart.

This is a leader simultaneously on the cusp of greatness and the precipice of utter annihilation. At her wits end, she has just openly accused Sheev Palpatine of atrocities against the people and essentially called him a murderer. “This massacre is proof that our self-appointed Emperor is little more than a lying executioner, imposing his tyranny under the pretense of security. We cannot allow this evil to stand,” she intones.

There will be no escape this time.

A refugee and an enemy of the Empire, her only choice is to forge ahead, risking everything including her life, and birth the movement she believes in.

Floating just above Dantooine, Mon’s rousing condemnation of Imperial corruption and her declaration of war on the Empire is a defining moment for the cause, Rebels, and her character.

“For too long I have watched the heavy hand of the Empire strangle our liberties, stifling our freedoms in the name of ensuring our safety. No longer!”

This is the Mon that, as architect of the (capital-R) Rebellion, set the tone for other brave leaders who would later emerge among the ranks, Leia Organa and Hera Syndulla among them.

There is a sadness about her, but she cannot be dissuaded from her belief in democracy. This is the woman who would become the first Chancellor of the New Republic and begin to set things right.

It would have been easy for her to have grown bitter after years of futile efforts on the senate floor, pushing back subtly and carefully against a supreme leader with emergency powers and a murderous legion of mercenaries at his disposal. She has certainly questioned if her efforts produced any results.

But here we see Mon in all her glory, soldiering on, leading the charge and cementing her status as a Star Wars icon.

“Are you with me?” she asks.

Yes, we are.

Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Follow her on Twitter @KristinBaver.

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