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‘Star Wars: Resistance’ season 1, episodes 1 and 2: ‘The Recruit’ review

This doesn’t exactly feel like Star Wars. And that might be okay.

The build-up for Star Wars: Resistance has been interesting to follow. When the series was first announced and tied to Dave Filoni, Star Wars animation legend, just a few months after the conclusion of the generally well-liked Star Wars: Rebels, the reaction was quite positive. However, when the trailer came out, the reaction was extremely mixed, with the primary bone of contention being that this felt too much like a kid’s show. This was mostly coming off the heels of the news that Star Wars: The Clone Wars was going to be revived in 2019. It was also clarified around the same time that Filoni would not be playing much of a role in the series at all on an ongoing basis.

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With this rollercoaster of a buildup, the moment has finally arrived and the show is here. The show begins with a classic Star Wars dogfight. X-Wings vs. TIE Fighters, out in space. This is what Star Wars is all about. Yet that is about as Star Wars as the show will get; from that point onwards, we are taken to the planet Castilon and the Colossus fueling station specifically, where it seems the show will operate from. The gist of the plot is that New Republic fighter pilot Kazuda Xiono, who appears to be the main protagonist of the series, has been offered by Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Isaac himself) to serve the up-and-coming Resistance as a spy on the base. Apparently a First Order operative has infiltrated the station. Poe then leaves and the show from there centers around Kazuda’s efforts to fit in, with part of his effort including participating in a sky race.

As noted from the summary above, the plot is kept incredibly light. It should be made clear out of the gate, that this is not a show about Jedi, Sith or the Force. In fact, the words “Force” or “Jedi” are not used once, which may be a first for Star Wars. There’s a surprising amount of focus on character development, and not just on Kazuda. The show manages to keep a nice mixture of familiar elements, aliens, visuals and ships but then also throws in enough new things to keep your interest. I wouldn’t exactly call this “world-building,” but a groundwork is definitely laid in the first episode. The characters that are going to be important are established as Kazuda (obviously), Poe (from a distance), Neeku Vozo (his eager new friend on the base) and Jarek Yeager, the repair shop owner who also happens to be the only person who is let in on Kazuda’s true purpose (being an original EU fan, for some reason I immediately got vibes of Talon Karrde when I saw and heard him). There are a bunch of other characters and aliens and droids that we are introduced to, and most of them add to the general colorful nature of this show, with nothing ever being presented to be taken too seriously.

Speaking of color, the haranguing and worry that seemed to exist about the cel-shaded approach seems to have been a bit for naught. The art style was very easy to get used to and in fact seemed to make sense with the mood that was being portrayed. It didn’t actually feel like I was watching an anime (most commonly associated with this style). It just felt normal and was not distracting at all. One of the things that the art style allowed more of was an incredible focus on color itself, in a way that felt different from the art styles of the predecessor animated shows. The Clone Wars felt very premium in its presentation and was reflective of the prequel trilogy’s focus on gaudy art styles, elegance, and larger-than-life presentation. Rebels had a more understated, “lived-in” feel reflective of the original trilogy. Resistance seems to take the colorful elements of the prequel trilogy and the grittiness of the original trilogy and slap them together to create a very colorful yet very simple art style. A great example is in the introductory battle, where the Republic X-Wings are turquoise and yellow and the TIE Fighter is completely blood red.

Some things that didn’t work for me were the fact that the point of view generally remained the same. This felt a bit different from any of the other shows that have come before, in that we really only saw everything from the eyes of Kazuda. Only at the end did we get a five second look at the TIE pilot’s perspective. I also felt that the show has the potential to be too light and happy-go-lucky — Rebels and The Clone Wars in particular were very dark and did away with characters quickly when needed. This show, by contrast, seemed to feature some sort of a joke or humor every minute. These light moments could be fine for an introduction, but if they continue every show it will get tiring quickly. After all, no one died or even really seemed to get hurt (not that I’m asking for blood, mind you!) Also, while I know this isn’t the show for politics, just a bit more of a “from a distance” perspective and exposition on what the Republic’s current views are would have added a lot of context around the state of the galaxy that has been woefully absent from the new movies. Finally, my biggest pet peeve is that Leia looks like she is in her mid-30s, not her late 50s or early 60s, in her brief appearance.

This show allows you to really settle in when you forget that it’s Star Wars. And that might be okay. In fact, this is probably the first Star Wars venture of its size to almost completely shake off the Star Wars elements and just focus on what it is: a spy story that uses the backdrop of racing, father-son relationships, and a character’s journey of fitting in. Although there is a lot that needs to be worked out, many people will readily acknowledge that the now-legendary Clone Wars took three seasons to get things right, and Rebels did not really start revving until its second season. This show seems to be following that tradition, but I look forward to when things start to ramp up.

Stray observations:

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  • Standard TIEs (not just TIE Advanced versions) can go to hyperspace as a standard now?
  • What happened to Kazuda’s astromech, and why did BB-8 stay behind?
  • Nice try, but we know that isn’t the Tantive IV, guys. Sadly, the Tantive was destroyed by the Empire shortly after they got ahold of it in Episode IV.
  • The racing track kind of reminds me of a stage in Mario Kart.
  • Is that the podracing announcer from Episode I?
  • Are we sort of repeating the Aladdin meme with Kazuda here? His smile alone screams Prince Ali more than Ezra ever did.
  • Does Kazuda just get to walk off the job? Isn’t that desertion?
  • What is with the trend of at least one character with a British accent in every Star Wars visual story?
Star Wars: Resistance Season 1, Episode 1 and 2: 'The Recruit'
Is it good?
This is probably the first Star Wars venture of its size to almost completely shake off the Star Wars elements and just focus on what it is: a spy story that uses the backdrop of racing, father-son relationships, and a character’s journey of fitting in. There is a lot that needs to be worked out in the episodes to come, but that is keeping in the tradition of its predecessors. I look forward to when things start to ramp up.
The colorful nature of things permeates the visuals and the overall mood.
A good chunk of time is spent on character development and introduction.
The show takes a great risk of being quite disconnected from traditional Star Wars.
What's up with Leia's appearance?
The humor feels a bit overdone.
The show could use some more points of view.

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