For all of its many faults, Rogue One makes some deep cuts when it comes to referencing the original film series – and even the prequels. Even if you didn’t enjoy the film, you can’t say that the writers and director don’t know the Star Wars universe inside and out. Many of the Rogue One easter eggs serve to remind the audience that A New Hope is technically the next film in chronological order, and that while things may look bleak for the heroes of the film, life is about to get much better for the Rebels. Audiences expected a few Rogue One cameos, but some of the characters that actually appear onscreen are mind blowing. After all, most Star Wars fans probably assumed that once Disney bought the rights to the series, the prequels would never be referenced again. If you’ve seen Rogue One, you know that’s definitely not true.
Since the first of many Star Wars Stories takes place in such close chronological proximity to A New Hope, it makes sense that many of the Rogue One references would drop hints at the film to come. But Rogue One doesn’t rest on its reference laurels with one film and, instead, it brings in a litany of references that touch on everything from The Clone Wars series to tossed-off observations made in novelizations. These references and nods to previous Star Wars films get a little spoilery, so if you haven’t seen the film yet, proceed with caution.
Saw Gerrera Makes an Appearance on Jedha
Saw Gerrera is a character from Star Wars: Clone Wars, a show that you don't actually have to watch to understand anything that happens in Rogue One or the main Star Wars canon. Even though he's kind of pointless in the movie it's neat to see a direct link between Rogue One and the chapters of the saga that were relegated to television. In the fifth season of the Cartoon Network series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Gerrera worked with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker to fight the Separatist Army on his home world of Onderon. After his sister was killed in a battle he became a hardened warrior and began wrecking the Empire with his own gang of tough guys. And then he got some robot legs!
If you dum-dums thought you were going to be able to zip off into the new Star Wars universe without ever having to think about pod races or Hayden Christensen again you were wrong. Bail Organa, Princess Leia's adoptive father and First Chairman and Viceroy of Alderaan, is all up in Rogue One to remind you that the prequels happened and there's nothing you can do about it.
Also Rankedsee more on Bail Organa
The Whills Are Briefly Mentioned by Cassian
If you're going to make a reference to the original series, why not swing for the fences and reference an early draft of A New Hope that saw the story being framed in the narrative device of being told by a group of aliens named "The Whills?" The Whills have made it into various forms of Star Wars media, mostly novelizations, that aren't necessary to enjoy the main product. Thanks to Rogue One, we know that Whills are (or were) a mystical order of Force-sensitive mystics who make sure that Kyber crystals aren't being misused - which is an interesting idea that's never spoken about again.