'Star Wars Resistance' Season 1 Was An Exercise In Watching A Slow Burn Achieve An Exhilarating Payoff

(This post contains spoilers for season 1 of Star Wars Resistance.)Like its spiritual animated predecessors, Star Wars Rebels and The Clone Wars, Star Wars Resistance complements the Star Wars movie trilogies. In this case, it's the Sequel Trilogy, with a tale of underdogs fighting their battles in other corners of the galaxy. This time, creator Dave Filoni and his team tells this story in a lighter cell-shaded palette than other Lucasfilm Animation productions.Resistance begins with Poe Dameron, a star of the Sequel Trilogy, installing the hotshot pilot Kazuda Xiono (Christopher Sean) into a Resistance spying mission on the Colossus, a fueling and racing station located on an isolated ocean planet. As a blundering young adult from a privileged background, Kaz has trouble acclimating into his blue-collar mechanic employment as he keeps an eye on the First Order's takeover of the platform.Resistance takes its time to gain altitude. After lagging with low-impact episodes focused on Kaz, "The High Tower" finally anchors Resistance to a consistent tone of levity mixed in with comedy. From then on, even stand-alone lighthearted episodes like "Bibo" and "Platform Classic," where the events don't have much long-term impact, tended to stick the landing. Resistance's strongest episodes lets its ensemble cast interact, harkening to the found family themes that made Rebels strong.Some arcs played a little too safe and certain characters were worth more investment for the first season. Kaz had to grow on me, with the character's comedic clunky charms kicking in later, though his maturation is as standard as expected. Synara (Nazneen Contractor), the pirate spy with a burgeoning affection for the home she is assigned to betray, has an enjoyable but otherwise conservative arc. Considering Lucasfilm Animation solid track record on compelling mentors, the war-worn Jared Yeager (Scott Lawrence) has plenty of history and personality, and some coyishness with how he navigates Kaz's presence, yet he feels too downplayed in the main narrative.To me, the biggest star of Resistance is the Colossus, deep with untold history and foreground and background characters with a diversity of design, people with ordinary occupations, from the goofy merchant duo Flix and Orka (Jim Rash and Bobby Moynihan with pitch-perfect bantering), the stocky and snarky barmaid Aunt Z (Tovah Feldshuh), and even the puffball-headed alien janitor who becomes the subject of a running gag. The Colossus stands out against the likes of other animated home bases, the Ghost in Rebels and the Jedi Temple in Clone Wars, by offering windows into small livelihoods beyond its main cast.Like many Star Wars fans, I watched the initial backlash at the assumed lightheartedness of Resistance. And yes, the show's beginnings are lighter than many Star Wars stories. But these knee-jerk criticisms missed that its lightheartedness fueled the strength of the series as an illustration of post-war life, where actual conflict is a mere shadow of concern to its cast—until it becomes serious. Though I wished for more impact from the start, its slow burn had purpose in its idyllic intent, punctuating the ensuing consequences as fascist-inspired stormtroopers exploit the complacency of its inhabitants.Tales of occupation are inherent in Star Wars narratives, as also seen in Rebels and Clone Wars, but what makes Resistance refreshingly distinctive is its investment in an intimate location where the nooks and crannies matter. We familiarize with the Office of Acquisition shop, marketplaces, the engineering chambers where quiet tortoise-like mechanics get to be supporting heroes, a culture of racing, and the class stratifications. Self-containing the narrative to the Colossus pays off marvelously by teaching its child viewers how totalitarian presence incrementally grinds its way into peaceful but vulnerable spaces and how war-forged ideologies can shape individuals in a galaxy even long after a war has faded. In a turn both tragic and thematic, after getting caught in the crossfires of Kaz's spy career, the young mechanic Tam (Suzie McGrath) falls into the First Order's grip. While we disagree with her Imperial sympathizing views, we understand her circumstances, her socioeconomic background, her disgruntlement toward the secrets held from her, all playing a part to shape her perception and ultimate defection from the Colossus life.There are thrilling turns with the nature of the Colossus as it is sunk and hurtled into hyperspace. Resistance executes ingenuity with location never done before in Clone Wars or Rebels. Some viewers are tuning in for the Force Awakens tie-ins, as Poe Dameron and Kaz examine the galaxy and see the hints of the massive atrocity of Starkiller Base. Those episodes serve their dual-purpose in reminding audience of the stakes in the movie canon and internally foreshadow the destruction of Kaz's homeworld, but for me I never wanted to leave the Colossus.Resistance feels well packaged as a gateway for young Star Wars viewers before they are introduced to the films. Refreshingly, no mystic Jedi comes to the rescue and no followers of the Dark Side, aside from a mention of Kylo Ren, are counted among the main villains. The mystic aura known as the Force does not play a pivotal role. When the Force (sorta) seeps into a slice-of-life episode "Bibo," it is a supporting player in the form of the runaway orphans who have mysterious dreams. Resistance keeps its focus on ordinary beings using meager resources and abilities to survive.The season finale, titled "No Escape", is satisfying, suspenseful, and a literal lift-off as the Colossus soars off toward The Last Jedi era. How will the Colossus residents react to their home, their economy, and their livelihoods being shot through hyperspace to an unknown location? After losing his home planet, how will Kaz continue his life aboard the Colossus? How might we get to know more about the colorful Ace pilots with their distinct designs and personalities? Still, none of these questions burn as much as this: how will Tam survive and process her new Imperial environment as a confused but decent young woman who was deceived into turning her back from her home?