'Rogue One' and the Surprising Return of Mon Mothma

Mon Mothma Rogue One - H - 2016
Never mind the Death Star, here is the return some 'Star Wars' fans are most excited about.

If there was an unexpected reaction to the debut of the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story teaser this week, it wasn't the excitement over the series having its second female lead in as many movies, after six movies with male leads — although there was much excitement — or the chance to revisit such nostalgic sights as AT-AT Walkers or the Death Star.

No, it was the glee so many fans had at seeing Mon Mothma again. Others, however, might find themselves asking, "Mon Who?!?"

Mon Mothma is a character that debuted in 1983's Return of the Jedi; she's a leader of the Rebel Alliance, and her entire appearance in the movie lasts about two minutes. She was originally scheduled to reappear in 2005's Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, only for her scene to be cut, but did make it into multiple episodes of the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars television series.

In a nice move, Lucasfilm brought back the actress from the Revenge of the Sith cut scene, Genevieve O'Reilly, to play the role in Rogue One; her similarity to Return of the Jedi's Caroline Blakiston is impressively convincing.

That Mothma gained a fan following shouldn't be a surprise; it's Star Wars, a franchise where almost every character — especially one with a speaking role in the original trilogy — can be guaranteed a devoted fanbase, if not the possibility for multiple spinoff novels and comic book series. (Just look at the fate of Boba Fett for proof.)

But Mothma is important for a reason that goes beyond mere nostalgia.

She is, after all, one of the few female presences in the original Star Wars trilogy; outside of Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia, Mon Mothma is one of only three other women with speaking roles in the entire thing. The other two are Luke's ill-fated Aunt Beru in the original movie and an unnamed Rebel officer in The Empire Strikes Back, which means that, yes, only two women speak in each movie in the original trilogy.

As such, Mothma's existence feels charged in a way that, say, IG-88's never could. After all, each Star Wars movie featured more speaking parts for robots than women, even if at least one of those was just unintelligible whirrs and clicks.

With the revived franchise putting more emphasis on a female presence — something which, sadly, is understandably alien to some older fans, given how absent women were from the original movies — Mothma as a character feels like a trailblazer and an elder statesman of today's Star Wars in a way with which only Leia can compete.

Having a significant part of the first Rogue One teaser given over to Mon Mothma interacting with Felicity Jones' Jyn feels like a "passing of the torch" moment akin to — but, admittedly, different from — watching Finn and Han Solo trade barbs in The Force Awakens. It's a sign of continuity, but with the added benefit of the sense that Mon Mothma is finally getting her due. With that in mind, no wonder some fans are so excited.

Of course, Mon Mothma was the character who uttered the fan-favorite line, "Many Bothans died to bring us this information," a line up there with Admiral Ackbar's "It's a trap!" when it comes to infamy within the larger Star Wars fanbase. Never underestimate the value of a good line.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be released Dec. 16.