How Star Wars Resistance Tells Unique Star Wars Stories

In Star Wars Resistance, galactic battles aren't the focus, and that's a good thing.

This Star Wars article contains spoilers.

Star Wars Resistance starts with a battle, but the first half of the season shows that the team running the series has an eye for small-scale stories, too. With its focus on the miniature island that is the Colossus ship platform, the series really gets into the details of its world and makes background characters a force of their own. This is a common thread throughout the season thus far, sometimes to the show’s benefit, other times to its detriment. That said, Kazuda “Kaz” Xiono’s story works in part because it doesn’t carry the weight of every galactic conflict that came before. We know Starkiller Base is on the horizon, but Resistance really shines when it stays away from galactic war and focuses on personal stories.

In the pilot episode of the previous animated show, Star Wars Rebels, Ezra Bridger is on the run from the Empire as well as the Rebellion after stealing from the show’s heroes. He isn’t part of the war to begin with, but becomes so as the inciting incident in his story. Resistance does it the other way around. Kaz starts out as a young pilot in the New Republic who is recruited by Poe Dameron to spy for the Resistance, but the inciting incident when he arrives on the Colossus is the spreading of a rumor. Kaz lies that he’s the best pilot in the galaxy, which leads not to a world-shaking problem but to his friend Neeku misunderstanding and starting a rumor that gets the green Resistance spy into some trouble.

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While the overarching plot does concern a potential attack by the First Order, the opening episodes opt to show Kaz getting into trouble at a cantina, bargaining for parts, and buying someone lunch. Details like this show his actions have an impact even while he isn’t going up against Starkiller Base. This sort of world-building through daily minutiae is often left out of Star Wars‘ more epic storytelling, which is what makes Resistance so unique.

With its placement in the era leading up to The Force Awakens, Resistance doesn’t have to lean on the Original Trilogy, either. So far, the show has pretty much kept Original Trilogy references to hints regarding the battle against the Empire. It happened, but it isn’t the main point.

Instead, we see how the Colossus’ mechanics work, from where they buy their ship parts to where they purchase snacks. In the pilot, Kaz gets himself in too deep when he agrees to trade a shopkeeper’s favorite food for secondhand parts. The sequence where they keep digging themselves deeper into a hole of increasingly elaborate trades is very funny, has nothing to do with the First Order, and shows how the miniature economy of the Colossus will provide stakes as the story goes on. People there value trade and favors as much as they value credits. Meanwhile, credits is a currency in flux, since most people bet on the outcome of the ship races held on the platform. Later in the show, Kaz meets the alien engineers who, with a slow and steady pace, keep the ship running.

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At the Colossus’ bar, the patrons quickly establish the kind of place it is: full of scoundrels and bullies, like a cross between the Mos Eisley Cantina and Beckett’s band of smugglers. Kaz is tricked into trying to hit a bull’s eye with a trick dart, which needles a nearby heavyweight alien. The resulting bar fight sends a diverse cast of characters sprawling across the area. The colorful, toothy animation makes each character have weight, while also evoking the abstract chaos of a rolling dust ball of a fight on a classic cartoon. It’s fun and raucous, even if not the most original, and feels like it has a lot more life than the Lothal bar occasionally featured on Rebels. (It also quickly widens the pool of suspects for characters who might be the First Order mole Kaz is seeking.)

Like Ezra, Kaz also has a deeply personal motivation. In Kaz’s case, he wants to achieve something on his own, not with the help of his generous but perhaps overbearing father, who is a New Republic senator on the doomed Hosnian Prime (the show’s midseason trailer alludes to the Starkiller’s deciding blow on the galactic government). Family has always been a strong part of Star Wars’ politics, with Leia Organa being the primary example. In Kaz’s case, his father doesn’t seem to have a problem with him working with the Resistance: instead, he offers help which Kaz refuses. Their bond, Kaz’s pride, and his father’s overprotectiveness provide many different emotional aspects the show could explore.

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It also gets to the core of Kaz’s personality when he declares, “Even when I do something right, I do it wrong!” He is trying to be the best he can be, and has some of the elements of a typical cartoon protagonist who is trying to find himself and needs to learn not to be so headstrong. Kaz’s successes and failures are put in the context of luck, not the Force—and the show would do well to keep the two separate. Ezra’s story involved the Force, and so far, Kaz’s more mundane one makes him distinct.

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Later episodes keep tugging Kaz’s goal further away from him, which is where this strength becomes a weakness. He wants to find the First Order spy, but doesn’t make progress. He wants to join elite starfighter squad The Aces, but has hardly even met them—and are they really a team worth trying to join or just stuck-up pilots? These various small questions keep the early episodes from gaining momentum…which might be exactly what this show is aiming to do.

Fortunately, the supporting cast helps carry the show when Kaz’s story is moving at a snail’s pace. Neeku’s motivation, for example, emphasizes the way the show pulls heartfelt and funny moments out of a low-stakes story. He wants to be on the team with the best pilot. He isn’t concerned about being the best himself. And even his motivation is less glamorous than it could be. He wants to live in the tower where the elite pilots live because it’s clean and has the best food. The fussy, unintentionally funny Neeku doesn’t want glory for himself.

Meanwhile, former Rebel pilot Jarek Yeager’s past drives his character. Yeager, now living on the Colossus as a mechanic, is Kaz’s mentor figure, ready to be placed in the Obi-Wan Kenobi role, complete with a tragic backstory. His wife and daughter were killed (an unfortunate trope), but not at the hands of the First Order. Instead, it was a consequence of his younger brother cheating during a race. This tragedy makes Yeager hesitant to help Kaz at first, but he eventually begins to guide the young pilot — perhaps in the way he should have guided his own brother. Resistance allows itself space and time to explore Yeager’s feelings towards Kaz and his own past, which make the subtle changes in his character throughout the first half of the season feel more important than whether he’s blasting Stormtroopers or not.

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Luck, chance, and the lives and quirks of ordinary people are driving forces so far in Resistance. It does look like the bigger picture will come into play as the war between the Resistance and the First Order begins, but for now, the show gets a lot of charm from its down-to-earth conflicts and detailed sets. (The droids in Resistance look cobbled together from scrap, the rooms look small and crowded.) Most importantly, Kaz’s journey thus far captures the family drama and aspirational characters of classic Star Wars without having to involve the full-scale war that will come later in The Force Awakens.

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Megan Crouse writes about Star Wars and pop culture for StarWars.com, Star Wars Insider, and Den of Geek. Read more of her work here. Find her on Twitter @blogfullofwords.