Billed as a tie-in to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the two-part mid-season premiere of Star Wars Rebels season 3 brings in Saw Gerrera. An "extreme" Rebel who was trained by Jedi and Clones in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Gerrera is on a mission to Geonosis, where his whole team has died, trying to find any clues to an Imperial superweapon - sound familiar?
With links to The Clone Wars and Rogue One, there was potential for a ton of Star Wars Easter eggs and references, and the episode did not disappoint there. Heck, there's even a Prequels reference that should make fans have a nice laugh. Read on (SPOILERS obviously) for the ones we spotted.
We fought together in the Clone War
Before we first offically meet Saw Gerrera on the show, Rex gives us a little bit of his background - including noting that they fought together in the Clone Wars, and his sister was killed. That's directly referencing Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 5 episodes 2-5, which take place on Onderon, Saw's homeworld, and introduce him (and his sister Steela). The Clone Wars is available for streaming on Netflix if you'd like to watch the episodes yourself!
Saw's Rebels (the Partisans)
Not only does Rex reminisce about his time with Saw, but he also officially notes that Saw "started his own Rebel cell after the Empire took over." That's the first time we've officially heard in a story that Saw started his own group, and didn't just break away from a larger Rebel group or the Alliance. We know through peripheral material he calls this group the Partisans, and he's not afraid to sacrifice them for the greater good.
It's interesting to note: at this point in Saw's story, he has saved Jyn Erso, raised her, and parted ways with her. He probably hasn't seen Jyn in about 5-6 years when these episodes take place.
Yup, those are B-1 battle droids and Droideka destroyer droids that the Rebels have to face in this episode. They're left over from the Clone Wars, and so their programming is to take on these enemies, especially after seeing two Jedi and a clone trooper. Like they did in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, they mostly pose an annoyance more than a real threat.
Saw on his Way to Crazy Town
Saw is obviously not right in the head when we see him in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, quick to distrust and as mentally damaged as he is physically (which is to say extensively, as between this and Rogue he loses his legs and his ability to breathe for extended periods without oxygen assistance). Well, that degeneration has already started, as more than once in the episode, Saw laughs a little too long, and a little too hard, at basically nothing. Rex is the first to notice this, and as a fellow life-long soldier, he probably recognizes the signs of massive PTSD better than anyone else in their group could.
One of the reasons Saw is damaged is still the loss of his sister, Steela, about 15 years prior to these events. He still carries around a holo of Steela (looking, incidentally, very close to her Clone Wars model). Sure, outside the story it was just a nice nod to The Clone Wars, but inside the story, it helps to demonstrate why he's still fighting so hard.
The Tandem Force-Throw
This continues to be a recurring move on Star Wars Rebels, where Kanan uses the Force to help augment a jump by Ezra, tossing him along. Kanan's doing it blind here, though, and the last time Ezra was tandem thrown it was Maul doing the throwing.
Incidentally Kanan's Force abilities seem to be growing exponentially. He's able to sense the Geonosian ahead of anyone seeing him, sensed the stone bridges, and held one for an extended period without all that much effort, all before just jumping the gap himself with ease.
He's no Skywalker
After Kanan jumped that gap with ease, Saw remarked that he forgot Jedi can do things like that. "Yeah, but he's no Skywalker," Rex deadpans. Rex, of course, was a Captain in Anakin Skywalker's 501st Clone division in the Army of the Republic during the Clone Wars. The young Jedi constantly impressed the old soldier, and he still looks back at his time with him, Ahsoka, and Kenobi (who's showing up later this season) fondly.
And yeah, Rex has no idea Anakin became Darth Vader.
Shout-Out to the Best/Worst Line Ever
When dealing with the swirling sands of Geonosis, and trying to fly with sand damage to the Ghost's weapons systems, Sabine remarks, "Stupid sand! It gets everywhere!"
This laugh-out-loud moment is a shout-out to the best/worst line in Star Wars history, when Anakin remarked in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, "I hate sand. It's coarse and it gets everywhere." Outstanding nod, there.
Saw the Extremist
When Saw says what an honor it is to meet Hera, aka Phoenix Leader and how her "actions have not gone without the notice of other Rebels," she rather coldly replies, "Neither have yours."
She then takes Kanan aside and says Saw has a "reputation" and his methods are sometimes "extreme." That's how Saw has been described in every other interview and piece of canon material, and his extreme methods are why the larger Rebel Alliance eventually cuts ties with the Partisans.
The jumptrooper or Rocket Trooper is a popular stormtrooper variant from the Star Wars legends universe that makes its first fully canon appearance (they are in Star Wars Battlefront, which technically brought them into canon, but this is the first in an actual canon story) here. With a limited propulsion jet pack strapped to their backs, these aren't fully flying troopers like the Mandalorians, but rather use their packs in short bursts to gain a tactical advantage.
Of course, that tactical advantage, and their debut, was blown away when Sabine exited the Ghost with her repaired (and custom-painted) jetpack strapped to her back, flying circles around them and basically making everyone else (espcially Ezra) stand and stare in awe.
Death Star References galore!
In an episode billed as a Rogue One tie-in, you didn't think we'd not see Death Star references, did you? Of course, Klik-Klak draws the Death Star on the cave floor more than once, which the Rebels later mis-identify as him drawing the Geonosian Queen egg. For those not in the know, the Geonosians helped design the Death Star (as well as many other Separatist weapons, as noted in the episode); as detailed in the Rogue One prequel novel Catalyst, they were then enslaved by the Empire to begin building it, until their queen betrayed the Imperials.
In the end, the Rebels don't actually learn anything about the Death Star, but that doesn't stop a little foreshadowing in the dialogue.
"We still don't know what the Empire was building," Saw says. "They can't keep it hidden forever. We'll deal with it," Kanan replies. Yes, the Rebel Alliance will deal with it, though Kanan probably won't be involved, sorry.