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Josh Reviews Star Wars: Resistance Season One

The latest Star Wars animated series, Resistance, is set in the months prior to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Kazuda Xiono is a young pilot in the Resistance, recruited to act as a spy on the Colossus, a refueling platform in the middle of an ocean on the planet Castilon.  General Organa and Poe Dameron suspect that the First Order is up to something on or near the Colossus, and they want Kaz to find the truth.  And so the enthusiastic, bumbling Kaz finds work as a mechanic on the Colossus, in the employ of Jarek Yeager, a grizzled former Rebel pilot.  Kaz befriends fellow mechanics Neeku and Tam, while secretly trying to uncover the details of the First Order’s plot.  Meanwhile, Kaz dreams of being a great pilot, and, like most others on the Colossus, looks up to the “aces,” a squadron of pilots who engage in dangerous races around the Colossus.

Star Wars: Resistance is a very kid-friendly show.  Although stories carry through across this first season, for the most part the show is very episodic, with each new episode giving us a new adventure for Kaz and friends.  Although the First Order is present as a looming threat, the tone of Resistance is, for the most part, light and silly, and things tend to work out for our heroes by the end of each twenty-ish-minute episode.

There is a lot about this first season of Star Wars: Resistance that reminded me of the first season of the previous Star Wars animated TV series, Star Wars: Rebels.  Rebels also started out as a very kid-friendly show, and that’s a main reason why I was quite mixed about Rebels as I watched that first season.  It was enjoyable, but it didn’t feel that interesting to me.  However, by the end of Rebels’ four-year run, that show had deepened into an enormously sophisticated, emotionally rich show.  I have hope that the same transformation will occur for Resistance.  However, while the closing episodes of Rebels’ first season started to demonstrate what the show would eventually become (with a terrific three-episode arc featuring Tarkin), Resistance hasn’t yet made that turn.  (Resistance’s final two-part episode felt like a move in that direction, as those were the most compelling episodes of the season so far, but I’m still not quite hooked.)  But I have hope (rebellions are built on hope), and I am eager to see where the show goes in season two.

Resistance has a very different look than Rebels and The Clone Wars, the two previous Star Wars animated shows, did.  The show has a flatter, 2-D look as opposed to the rounded, computer-generated three-dimensionality of the animation for Rebels and The Clone Wars.  The characters move a lot more smoothly, and the color palette is much brighter.  Resistance feels very inspired by anime.  Actually, what the show really reminds me of is Robotech.  Not just in the look of the animation and the design of the characters and costumes, but also in the show’s emphasis on fighter pilots.  I felt that Resistance was influenced by Robotech since the show’s very beginning — and then when we met Captain Doza (who runs the Colossus), I nearly fell off my couch.  Doza looks and sounds exactly like Captain Gloval, the captain of the SDF-1 on Robotech!!  That can’t be a coincidence.

It took me a little while to get used to this new style of animation for Resistance, but after a few episodes, I was enjoying it and appreciated that Resistance has a look and style all its own, very different from that of Rebels and The Clone Wars.

I enjoyed most of the new characters introduced in this first season of Resistance.  Kaz is a decent lead.  He’s likable and I enjoyed the lightness and humor of this character.  However, there were a number of times when I found him to be impossibly naive and bumbling.  This raised my eyebrows (this doofus is a spy trusted by Leia and Poe?) and it emphasized the kiddy nature of the show.  In these moments, I felt that Kaz was the weakest part of the show.

I’m intrigued by Yeager and enjoyed the hints we got in this first season about his backstory.  That this former ace pilot is named after Chuck Yeager is a little on the nose, but what the heck, this is Star Wars, the names are usually pretty on the nose.  I loved that, in the season finale, we got to see Yeager pushed into some tough places, and forced to take action in a way that he’d avoided doing for much of the season.  I’d love to see this character further developed in season two.

Kaz’s friend Neeku was a great new creation.  I loved his design, and I found Neeku to be consistently funny in a way that Kaz wasn’t.  (He’s perfectly voiced by Josh Brener, who plays Nelson “Big Head” Bighetti in Silicon Valley.)  

I wish the show had been able to develop Tam a little more in season one.  She was frequently kept on the sidelines, which was a shame, though that did pay off in her surprising choice in the season finale.  I like that move by the show, and I hope they take the time in season two to let Tam’s story play out as she’s tempted to the “Dark Side” of the First Order.  It’d be interesting to see how and why people are sucked into the First Order, considering they seemed like such one-dimensional bad guys in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.  Could Tam actually become a major villain on the show?  That’d be very interesting.

The early promotion for Resistance emphasized the “Aces,” the hot-dog pilots who race on and around the Colossus.  I was surprised that those characters remained very peripheral throughout season one.  I really loved Donald Faison (Scrubs) as the Rodian pilot Hype Fazon.  I wish he’d been in the show more!  I hope he has more to do in season two, and I’d love to get to better know all the other Aces.  They all seem like they have the potential to be interesting characters.

It was fun to see a number of characters from The Force Awakens appear on Resistance, voiced by the actors who played them in the film!  Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) appeared in a number of episodes, and I felt the show really came alive whenever he appeared.  We also got to see Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), and, of course, BB-8 was almost a main character for most of the season!  I’m not sure I really buy that Poe allowed his favorite companion, BB-8, to leave his side to hang out with some young kid for months on end, but it was fun to see BB-8 on the show.  We also got to see, briefly, Leia Organa, voiced by Carolyn Hennesy, who sounded terrific.

I was not expecting Resistance to catch up to the events of The Force Awakens as quickly as it did.  I was pleasantly surprised that the two-part season finale took place concurrently with The Force Awakens, allowing us to see Hux’s speech to the assembled First Order troops and Starkiller Base’s destruction of the core Republic planets.  Since The Last Jedi took place immediately after The Force Awakens and depicted what felt like just a day or two in the lives of the characters, does that mean that season two of Resistance will take place AFTER The Last Jedi?  Will it be set between The Last Jedi and Episode XI?  I am very intrigued!

I’m also incredibly curious as to what season two will look like.  I loved the revelation at the end of season one that the Colossus was, in fact, an enormous space-ship, and I was not expecting the entire Colossus and all of our characters to leave the water-planet of Castilon altogether at the end!  What does that mean for season two?  Where will this show take place?  What events will it depict?  I feel like we still don’t know exactly what sort of show Resistance is going to be.  This is exciting on the one hand, but also a little disappointing on the other, as I feel like I’ve watched an entire season but the show hasn’t yet defined itself.  But for now, I’m focusing on the positive and eager to see where this show goes in season two.

I enjoyed the drama and intensity in the season one finale.  I liked seeing our characters pushed more than they had been, and I liked the sense that actions were starting to have consequences.  I hope this style of story-telling continues in season two.  (Though sometimes these consequences didn’t quite materialize the way I’d hoped.  I gasped when the Star Destroyer appeared just as the Colossus was getting airborne — I thought for sure our heroes were in trouble.  But somehow, the Star Destroyer blasted away at the Colossus without the ship getting even a teensy bit damaged, which made me roll my eyes.)

Star Wars: Rebels was named after the major group of heroes in the Original Trilogy, and over the course of the series we got to learn a lot more about how the Rebel Alliance was formed and how they operated.  I was very excited when the title of Star Wars: Resistance was announced, because I was hoping for a similar approach in this new show.  As I have written about before, one of my major criticisms of The Force Awakens was that it didn’t properly explain the new status quo in the Star Wars galaxy at the start of that film.  What exactly is the First Order?  Where did they come from, what parts of the galaxy do they control, what do the average people in the galaxy think of them?  What is the status of the Republic?  Why is there a Resistance if the Republic resists?  What is the Resistance resisting?  Why doesn’t the Republic seem to think the First Order is a threat, when they have Storm Troopers and Tie Fighters and all the other gear of the evil Empire?

I was very much hoping that Resistance would flesh out the Resistance the way that Rebels fleshed out the Rebellion, and that in so doing the show would answer some of those questions.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen at all.  I don’t know anything more about the Resistance now than I did before watching this show.  For me, this was my biggest disappointment with the show.  Now, I know that I can’t fault the show for not being what I wanted it to be.  Resistance turns out to be a show concerned about other things.  But for me, it’s still a bummer.

I enjoyed watching the first season of Star Wars: Resistance.  It’s not a great show yet.  It’s a bit too silly and kiddy to suit my tastes.  But I enjoyed it, and I’m interested to see where the show goes from here.  Will this show grow and develop into something far more interesting, as both The Clone Wars and Rebels did?  I look forward to finding out…

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