The Mandalorian Season 3 Has Made Star Wars Rebels Essential Viewing

This post contains spoilers for "The Mandalorian" season 3, episode 5.

Jon Favreau gets a lot of credit as the chief voice behind "The Mandalorian." In fairness, he created the show and has written the bulk of the episodes up to this point, so he's probably earned that. But Dave Filoni, the man behind "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," has also been behind him every step of the way, and his influence has been felt on a deep level. From getting Ahsoka Tano in live-action for the first time in season 2 to making Bo-Katan a central character, this show has Filioni's fingerprints all over it. Now, thanks to the series' most recent episode, titled "The Pirate," we're wading even further into Filoni territory with a huge "Star Wars Rebels" cameo.

During a key sequence early in the episode, Carson Teva receives a message from Greef Karga requesting help from the New Republic due to the pirate-led occupation of Nevarro. It's then we see none other than Garazeb Orellios, aka Zeb, joining Teva at the bar. Indeed, the instantly recognizable Lasat has been brought into live-action and, though it was merely a cameo, it was a pretty big deal. Particularly because Steve Blum, who voiced the character in "Rebels," also provided the voice here as well.

What I'm not going to do is provide a big history lesson on Zeb or why his character is important. What I am going to do, however, is suggest that for those who have been holding out, or perhaps just haven't cared to give it a shot, now is the time to finally watch "Rebels." One could easily argue that with all of the pieces now on the board, it's going to become essential viewing for lovers of the so-called Mando-verse shows on Disney+.

It's just a cameo...for now

"Rebels" fans such as myself surely perked up with excitement in seeing Zeb in the flesh for the first time. Those who don't know who Zeb is probably assumed he was just some big purple alien and a member of the New Republic, fitting in right alongside the many other non-humans in a galaxy far, far away. Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau have, for the most part, been good about including deep "Star Wars" lore in this show without alienating those who haven't watched the animated stuff. Be that as it may, it's clear we're about to enter hardcore "Rebels" territory, and those connections are going to become increasingly important.

The Zeb thing is just a cameo, but it's also just the latest in a long line of references to this four-season animated show, which ran from 2014 to 2018 on Disney XD and has since been embraced by its fans as some of the best "Star Wars" storytelling produced during the Disney era of Lucasfilm. Bo-Katan and the Mandalorians were a big part of the show, and we've since seen her character and the Darksaber take center stage in "The Mandalorian." There's also the Ahsoka of it all, and her name-drop of Thrawn in the episode "The Jedi" from season 2. Thrawn was the big bad of the later seasons of "Rebels," and this name provided even more connective tissue.

There's also the matter of Grogu seeing the purrgil, aka the space whales from "Rebels," in hyperspace earlier this season. Again, we don't need to go over every single thing here as I'm mostly preaching to fans who haven't watched the show. Point is, the breadcrumbs that lead back to this particular animated series are becoming too sizable to ignore.

Watch Rebels because it's great

We also know thanks to "The Book of Boba Fett" that all of these shows in the Mando-verse are going to be heavily tied together. To that end, the upcoming "Ahoska" show sounds like it's going to be a straight-up "Rebels" sequel series of sorts. So those who are invested in this universe and plan on watching that show? Your reasons to catch up on some truly excellent "Star Wars" television are mounting. But therein lies the main reason why any fan of this franchise should check out "Rebels."

While an animated show targeted at kids might not seem like essential viewing, I can speak for myself and the many, many fans I know who have embraced "Rebels" and tell you that it is truly what so many of us look for from this franchise. Dave Filoni who, in many ways, was George Lucas' heir apparent, simply understands this universe arguably better than anyone else, and this four-season show proved that like nobody's business. It delivers outstanding characters, thrilling action, tremendous universe building, and applause-worthy moments throughout. It's not just a kids show, that much is certain. Beyond any connections that may exist with respect to the live-action "Star Wars" series, fans should watch "Rebels" because it is, above all else, an excellent show solely on its own terms.

"The Mandalorian" season 3 returns with new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+.