In the middle of a raucous adventure film centered on hope and the good guys winning the day stands a singular line that breaks through the smiles to remind the audience that a war, even a just one with a clear delineation between good and evil, has a cost.
“Many Bothans died to bring us this information.”
With the context of Return of the Jedi alone, the stricken face and haunted tone of Mon Mothma tells a story. It is a story of pain, loss, and ghosts. But it is not a story about Mon Mothma as much as it is a story about the Rebellion. The audience does not really know who she is, only that she is one of the leaders of the Rebel Alliance. Her “story” in the film is to tell the story of others.
Thankfully, her story did not end there. Mon Mothma’s character and heart have been explored and expanded upon across all of the mediums available to Star Wars. But it is the most recent entry into that pantheon that changed the Mon Mothma game.
Andor takes us into Mon Mothma’s personal life and allows the audience to see that the cost of the Rebellion. It is the individual who must bear that burden. It is no coincidence that her story centers around finances. Her pocketbook stands in as a metaphor for her heart and soul.
Prior to Andor, be it Rebels, Rogue One, or her appearance in various novels, Mothma has been the altruistic do-gooder. The one of quiet strength. The one of moral quality. The voice of the voiceless. In Andor, however, her voice is being choked away by the cost of her convictions.
“I feel under siege,” she tells Luthen. She continues, “Don’t lecture me on vulnerability. No one is more at risk than I am… I’d be the first one to fall.” She is a duck on the pond. On the outside everything seems calm, but under the water she is kicking and kicking to make sure she doesn’t drown.
This agony goes beyond just the financial situation she has found herself in; Mon Mothma is trapped in her own life. Her home is a gilded cage. Her marriage loveless. Her daughter considers her a fraud at best. “It’s all about you, isn’t it?” Leida scolds. “It’s always about you.” The tragedy is… she’s not wrong.
Eventually she realizes that her family might have to be the cost paid for, in the words of Davao Sculdon, “Doing business.” In the twelfth episode of the season, Rix Road, Mothma bows to the pressure, introducing her daughter to Sculdon’s son. This will, in all likelihood, lead to a betrothal much like that which lead to Perrin and Mon’s loveless marriage. But for Leida, who clings to the old ways in a way her mother never did, things might be different…
Perrin is not to be forgotten, though. Mothma also throws him under the bus when she intentionally misrepresents his relapse into a gambling addiction in order to provide a reason for the missing 400,000 credits that has beseeched her throughout the whole season. Much like with Leida, she allows their vices to serve her needs.
Is she to be demonized for this? Do such actions negate all the good Mothma does and will do? Not necessarily. The white lie she tells about Perrin will cause little to no harm to him personally. Leida willingly chooses to embrace the old ways; her story across the whole season is designed to show us she is strong-willed and speaks her mind. If she did not want to, she wouldn’t. Nonetheless, she is a teen and will change in ways neither she nor her parent can predict. Putting her in a marriage based on business and not love is not a way to set her up for success.
Mon Mothma is now a tragic character. The Rebellion cost her everything. As Luthen would say, “Calm. Kindness. Kinship. Love. I’ve given up all chance at inner peace. I’ve made my mind a sunless space. I share my dreams with ghosts. I wake up every day to an equation I wrote15 years ago from which there’s only one conclusion, I’m damned for what I do.”