I like the character of Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). But I have to say, what has me really excited for Andor, premiering on Disney Plus on September 21, 2022, is the chance to get to know Mon Mothma better. As Genevieve O’Reilly, who portrays Mon in the show, said:
“Previously, she was a bit of a pillar, or maybe a statue. I love that now we get to excavate that a little bit and learn about the human being — the woman behind the gown, if you will.”
I’m here for that! And I think it’s an exploration long overdue.
The quiet elegance and diplomatic dignity with which Mon Mothma comports herself makes it easy to forget sometimes just how pivotal a character she is within Star Wars’ Empire/Rebellion period. In the fight to defeat the Empire, Mon is considerably more important a character than either Han or Lando. And yet Han and Lando have been the recipients of tons of franchise attention, while Mon remains, as O’Reilly put it, “unexcavated.”
Not convinced I’m right? Imagine plucking the character of Han Solo out of the story. You’d miss him, sure. (I love Han! Not dissing him here!) Luke (Mark Hamill) might have had a trickier time destroying the first Death Star without Han’s (Harrison Ford) timely aid. Leia (Carrie Fisher) might have had a more challenging time getting off Hoth without him. Han’s important, don’t get me wrong. But is he vital? Contrast that with what happens when you lift out Mon Mothma.
Still not convinced? Let’s explore some of Mon Mothma’s pivotal moments. (And bear in mind, this is in no way an exhaustive list.)
Mon Mothma Planted the Seeds of Rebellion
Mon Mothma was part of the rebellion from its very earliest days. It was she who, with a handful of fellow Senators, including Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) and Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), brainstormed ways to stand against Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) and his incursions into democracy. George Lucas described this group as something akin to a “loyal opposition.” Mon Mothma spoke to that herself when Bail and Padme expressed discomfort with the path they were embarking upon. Mon was, at that moment, shaping not only the philosophy of the rebellion to come but that of the New Republic that would come later.
Mon Mothma Mentored Princess Leia
Mon Mothma was a friend and mentor to Leia from at least her teen years. Claudia Gray‘s Leia, Princess of Alderaan, describes a dinner party at the Organa’s home on Alderaan, given for sympathizers to the cause of the nascent rebellion. It is unexpectedly crashed by Tarkin, putting everyone in danger. Bail, Breha and Mon Mothma, with some help from the young Leia, improvise a scenario wherein Breha pretends to be suspicious that Bail and Mon are having an affair. The ensuing scene disgusts Tarkin and throws him off his other suspicions about the gathering. And it is an excellent example of the closeness between Mon Mothma and the Organas at that time.
That Mon and Leia remained close friends and allies as time passed is also made clear in Chuck Wendig‘s Aftermath trilogy. Claudia Gray’s Bloodline novel cements it at the moment that Mon reaches out to Leia in friendship after the truth of her biological paternity comes out and destroys her political career.
Mon Mothma Became the Public Face of Rebellion
Remember that it was Mon Mothma, not Bail Organa, who broke publicly with the Imperial Senate. She allowed herself to be the figurehead around which the various rebel cells, like Hera Syndulla’s Ghost crew, could rally – a dangerous and courageous act. Rebels gives us the passionate speech by Mon through which the Rebel Alliance was truly born.
Mon Mothma Held the Rebel Alliance to a Moral Line (or Tried To)
As the head of the Rebel Alliance, Mon Mothma stood her ground regarding the kind of rebellion she was leading. There were lines she refused to cross as a leader, even when challenged publicly by Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), who had no such scruples.
“Some of us… Well, most of us, we’ve all done terrible things on behalf of the Rebellion. Spies, saboteurs, assassins. Everything I did, I did for the Rebellion. And every time I walked away from something I wanted to forget… I told myself it was for a cause that I believed in. A cause that was worth it.”
Cassian’s experience illuminates the fact that rebellion is a sordid and violent business – even Mon Mothma’s rebellion. I’m so interested to learn more, via Andor, about how Mon felt and acted in relation to the kinds of things Cassian was doing and/or dealing with at this time.
Mon Mothma Was Essential to the Formation of the New Republic
Mon Mothma played a pivotal role in establishing the New Republic government, responsible for converting an alliance of rebels to an actual working governing body. The Aftermath trilogy (which provides what might be my favorite Mon Mothma depiction to date) gives us a woman and leader recovering from attempted assassination and still retaining her creativity, commitment and a certain sense of humor. Read Aftermath: Empire’s End for the Mon Mothma fruit gambit alone.
She was so crucial to the efficient functioning of the New Republic that it wasn’t until she retired (due to “illness”) that even foundational figures like Leia realized how much of the government’s success depended upon Mon’s direct involvement. Without her hand on the wheel, the New Republic dissolved into gridlock, becoming prey for the First Order.
I think the reason Mon Mothma hasn’t gotten the franchise attention she deserves as yet is simply that she’s not a flashy character. She’s no Jedi (or former Jedi, or Jedi-in-training) like Ahsoka Tano, Ezra Bridger, or Luke. Nor is she fiery and spunky like Leia. She’s not a cocky smuggler or a friendly Wookiee. She’s not on a ship, fighting exciting space battles.
But that doesn’t mean she’s not a hero – and she’s one I want to know better. Who did she love? What were her personal struggles as she worked so valiantly in the public arena? Who did she lean on? I’m thrilled there are twelve episodes of Andor coming up soon that promise to flesh out her story.
What do you think? Am I overstating Mon Mothma’s heroism? Are you as interested as I am in getting to know her better through Andor? Let me know in the comments below and on social media!
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