The Disney XD animated Star Wars Resistance requires patience in ways that frustrated while also marveled. Even when it literally launched into the stars in season two, its tests its own range without really transcending it. There are times where Resistance, set before and during The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, takes the path of least resistance. But it is not inherently negative if Resistance had breezier aims than other LucasFilm animated productions than Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Its commitment to the smaller stakes is part of its spark. But the more it moves forward, the more it displays untapped potentials that could have complemented its lighthearted mission.
This article contains spoilers for the entire series.
The Lighthearted Tone
Resistance doesn’t warrant the “this is made for little kids” flack. It is distinguishable enough from its CGI predecessors Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels with a sunny cell-shaded aesthetic that illustrates a post-war era. It also had the sharpest advantage in physical humor than other animated Star Wars, even if one or two kiddish antic could have been shaved off.
But there is plenty that could have been unraveled. The series was often casualty-free conservative in matters of personal losses or sacrifices. One of the first symptoms is how it sidesteps Kaz’s mourning for his home planet then revealing that Kaz’s family survived. The penultimate episode, strong as it was, also has the main cast mourn the loss of unnamed and unseen escapees.
That doesn’t mean personal loss and stakes don’t permeate Resistance. Little moments like when Kaz realizes he could lose Neeku if the Colossus runs out of resources or when Torra Doza makes peace with her mother’s absence do count for something.
What insights does Resistance offer to the wider Star Wars galaxy?
It would be interesting to double-feature this series with The Mandalorian, another onscreen post-war Star Wars where post-Empire peace isn’t so humdrum. The Mandalorian is about cultural survival and Resistance is about getting so lost in an idyllic world that youths like Kaz and Tam don’t notice how a long-gone war snakes their way into their present and future. Season one is a compelling look at how occupational forces weasel their way into peaceful spaces and play the hero and provider to a vulnerable community who might be ingratiated to their seeming “aid.” But most importantly, Resistance illustrated scrappier lives that aren’t quite involved in the fight but are survivors who get by through drinking, gambling, cheering at the races, and making a simple living.
If you’re looking for insight about General Leia Organa’s Resistance itself, you are in for a letdown since explicit Resistance operations comes and goes. However, this is not as important as the true “resistance” that blossoms at the core of Star Wars Resistance: folks not really joining the large Resistance we know but resisting in their own way.
Anything about the Force?
Despite being integral to Star Wars, the Force didn’t have a significant impact in this series, although its presence – and its mentioned believers – are sprinkled in. “Bibo” implies that the two orphans, Kel and Eila, are Force-sensitive, but “Relic Raiders” is the only episode that explicitly engages into the subject matter of the Force. It’s a refreshing route for the Force and Force-practitioners to only be a mere distant curiosity for common folks like Kaz and it emphasizes the remoteness of the Colossus and their non-mystical underdog status. But it does feel disjointed that the Force gets introduced but has no major role in the finale—other than the powers exhibited in Kylo Ren’s fanservice-y displays.
The most satisfying elements are the long-term character’s arcs. The boldest story choice is Tam Ryvora’s integration into the First Order. Youthful integration into an Imperial setting is nothing new in Star Wars onscreen media but it has often been brushed aside (see Sabine’s backstory in Star Wars Rebels). Tam’s (and Jace’s) story comes close to a compelling cautionary tale about embracing higher powers for security and turning a blind eye to questionable order while grappling with how vulnerable mindsets and circumstances drive them into imperial arms. Still, Tam’s cognitive dissonance and hints of indoctrination feel surface-level.
But the most intact long-term character arc is Captain Doza, a former Imperial who tends to withdraw from war, growing into his role as an ally to the Resistance after running for so long. Kaz’s going back to the smaller picture of the Colossus instead of serving the larger Resistance might yield a moving moment or two, but could have benefited from as much fleshing out as Doza’s arc.
There are some one-off growths. The burgeoning friendship between Kaz and Neeku surprisingly plucks some notes. Hype Fazon growing into a role as a protector and Torra Doza’s dealing with her mother’s necessary absence make for compelling one-off lessons. But Synara’s burgeoning loyalty to her found family doesn’t hit as hard as it did in season one. And Yeager, a potentially compelling mentor character who exhibits heartbreaking contradictions over his protégé Tam’s defection, is undeservedly not often in the forefront.
With the vibrant art direction by Amy Beth Christensen, season two upped the visual game. Seeing the Colossus flying from one planetary set-piece to another – space stations, snowy terrains, Flix’s fumigated homeworld, the aquatic lands, the Sith temple – was stunning. The diversity of vistas lend themselves to atmospheric adventures and world-building, which is a letdown when most of the worlds only serviceably exist and the direction don’t quite pay the details their due. Those planet-to-planet set-pieces, detailed as they are, don’t match the lived-in breath of the Colossus and its intimate interiority to the experience.
What Could Have Been Done Better?
The show’s weakest episodes in season one explored off-world missions vaguely related to the development—and later concurrent—Force Awakens events. Season two’s biggest issue came down to consolidating one-off and long-term storylines. Resistance didn’t set a clear destination once the Colossus was up in space and running from the First Order. Early on in season two, there’s no clear dilemma as to whether the Colossus should just keep flying while resources waver, find the Resistance, or settle elsewhere.
Captain Doza’s commitment to running and then his ultimate turnaround to ally with the Resistance ends up as a rewarding development. But Resistance was for want of more linear ruminations. By the penultimate “Rebuilding the Resistance” and finale “Escape” episodes, which I considered last-minute feats that fired on all cylinders and juggled its highs, I also sensed their best qualities could stand to be seeded earlier.
What Did Work?
I defend slice-of-life episodes by the likes of “Bibo” and “Kaz’s Curse,” the latter of which yielded bland moments, but both delve into the charming idyllics glimpsing into civilian interiority, and the subsequent “Station to Station” pays off because the idyllic nature of the world haunts the thriller proceedings by showing how minuscule concerns shape lives for better or worst. Compared to Clone Wars and arguably Rebels, Resistance banked the least on interconnectedness to other Star Wars stories and stood more alone and had its own internal logic and original characters. Familiar movie characters like Poe Dameron, Leia Organa, Captain Phasma and the idea of finding the larger Resistance base would slip away from Resistance, and appropriately so.
What’s the biggest lesson LucasFilm Animation can derive from Resistance?
The civilian consciousness of Resistance lent itself to unique stories. Civilians are always present in Clone Wars and Rebels, but Resistance is the first Star Wars series to plant long-term investments in regular folks. Here, civilians feel involved, both as people just trying to live their lives and becoming ultimate defenders of their home. The animation team deploy a variety of incidental designs so the Colossus civilians never feel like carbon copies. This pays off marvelously because they grow more recognizable even when backgrounded. “Hunt on Celsor 3” rises to emotional registers because it comprehends the blowback on the civilians when their living is upended. Part of contending with the imbalance in the galaxy is making sure these civilians had their needs validated.
Future Star Wars productions would benefit by illuminating the microscopic humanities. I think of the moments when Synara sits tranquilly and pets a bird, the little janitor mopes about his confiscated floor-sweeper, or Neeku builds an entire holo-sky to comfort his compatriots. LucasFilm Animation should look to those micro-moments as exemplars. Because as the final shot encapsulates, cooling down and grabbing a drink with a found family means that you have won.
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