Star Wars Resistance: “The Platform Classic” review

There is a perception out there (typically amongst those who don’t actually watch these types of shows) that animated is a synonym for a kids show, perhaps especially when it comes to Star Wars.  So, once again, as Resistance neared its premiere, people criticized the show without giving it a chance, labeling it as a “kid’s show” that didn’t concern them.

The show has been fantastic so far in its first season, and the latest episode is a stark reminder that Star Wars has this magical way of appealing to and speaking to a wide range of audiences, including both young and old.  The show is undoubtedly geared toward children, but the eighth episode of season one, “The Platform Classic,” has an incredibly dark reveal and deals with some very significant themes that are very relevant to older audiences as well.

It just might be the best episode yet of a show that has been really great so far.  Let’s jump into the review.

SUMMARY:

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Team Fireball is preparing for the biggest race of the year on the Colossus, the Platform Classic, but Captain Doza wants to see Jarek Yeager.  Kaz seems to know what it’s about, so he and the rest of the crew tag along to Doza’s palace.  Yeager thinks it must be about another job, but Doza explains that he wants it to be the biggest race yet and wants Yeager to race.  Yeager declines, but Doza then reveals that there will be a star racer anyway: Marcus Speedstar, a three-time champion of the Five Sabres.  Marcus and Yeager know each other, to the amazement of the rest of Team Fireball (who have heard of Speedstar), and Jarek explains that it’s because they’re brothers.  It is immediately very obvious, however, that Jarek wants nothing to do with Marcus.

It is established that Jarek is the better pilot, but he still refuses to race Marcus and references the fact that they agreed to never race one another again – and it has been almost ten years since they have seen one another.  Marcus heads off to Aunt Z’s, where he is a celebrity amongst the patrons… but soon the Guavian Death Gang shows up.  Marcus owes them 20,000 credits, and while Marcus promises he can pay them back after he wins the race, the Guavians take Oplock – Marcus’s mechanic who we learned is the only one who stuck with him – as hostage until they’re actually paid.  Jarek, meanwhile, tells Tam, Kaz, and Neeku that if he were to race Marcus, his brother would back out.  Wanting to prove it, he marches into Aunt Z’s and publicly enters the next day’s race.  By this time, though, Marcus can’t back out, and Yeager is surprised by that.  Yeager wants to back out instead, but Kaz gleefully reminds him that once you’re in, you can’t back out.  Jarek loans Marcus Kaz, his “best mechanic,” to help prepare.

In the course of this preparation, we learn more about the history between the two.  Jarek was the one who taught Marcus to fly when they were younger.  Jarek fought in the Battle of Jakku but later left the defense fleet, which Marcus explains was because the military downsized after the war with the Empire.  That left both Jarek and Marcus to race for a living; Marcus raced for himself and for the fame and glory that came with it, but Jarek raced for his family.  One day, though, Marcus wanted so desperately to beat Jarek that he laced his ship with hyperfuel to get an edge, but clipped Jarek’s ship and ruined everything.  Marcus is clearly very remorseful about what happened, but Jarek isn’t having it.  As they’re about to race, Marcus explains that, “I didn’t come here just to win,” wanting to also reunite with his brother (there are plenty of races in the galaxy, he had explained, but the Colossus was where Jarek was).  Yeager, however, responds, “Yeah, you came here to lose.  But you lost me a long time ago.”

The race begins, and it includes multiple phases.  The first is a race to the first marker, then the second is a climb into space, at which point the ships are hit with an ion canon as they go through a ring which results in a loss of power.  The third phase, then, is the fall back toward the planet, and the pilots must guide their ships through another ring to restore power.  The fourth phase, finally, is a race to the finish.  Yeager and Marcus are tightly in the front of the race the entire time as a few other racers crash and drop out, but the real tension of the race comes as Jarek and Marcus talk things out.  It is revealed that the crash that Marcus caused with the hyperfuel resulted in the death of Jarek’s wife and kids.  Marcus genuinely apologizes, saying that he loved them too, and pleading with Jarek that he was no longer racing for himself.  Instead, he was racing for someone else – just like his brother used to.  Jarek realizes that Marcus is genuine, and he pulls away to let Marcus win.

Marcus pays off the Guavian Death Gang and gets Oplock back, and he gives Jarek a handshake.  Jarek, however, pulls Marcus in for a hug.  “It’s good to have you back, brother,” Jarek tells him.  “I was just about to say the same thing,” Marcus replies.  “Are we good?”  To that, Jarek responds, “No.  But, we will be one day.”  Marcus says, “Well, it’s better than where we were,” as he then leaves.  Yeager tells Kaz that the kid was right: “It’s important to forgive people.  When you don’t, nobody wins.”  The episode closes with Kaz telling BB-8 that he thinks he’s now friends with Yeager, though not like he and BB-8 are friends… to which BB-8 makes it clear that they’re not friends, which leads to a humorous exchange between the two.

REVIEW:

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Since the show began, Jarek Yeager has been the most interesting of the new characters in my opinion, and that hasn’t wavered whatsoever even as the show has begun to explore Yeager’s backstory a bit more.  This episode was driven by Yeager’s past, present, and future, all tied up in his relationship with his brother, Marcus.  I loved getting to know some of Yeager’s backstory, and it tied into what was hinted at earlier in the episode “Fuel For the Fire”: in that episode, we learn that Yeager was a great racer who doesn’t race anymore, we learn that Yeager fought with the Rebellion and was at the Battle of Jakku, we learn that Yeager had a family, and we learn that too much hyperfuel is extremely dangerous in a ship.   I appreciate the fact that previous episodes laid the foundation for this one, and in doing so made this one so much richer.  Those threads are all picked up on in this episode.  Yeager fought at the Battle of Jakku and apparently served with the New Republic Defense Fleet, but the reason he left service was the military disarmament of the New Republic that has been expanded upon in other material.  This left him to race for a living to provide for his wife and daughter, but Marcus’s cheating resulted in a crash that killed Jarek’s family.  So he left racing, left his brother, and became a mechanic on the Colossus.

I’ll be honest: the reveal of what happened to Yeager’s family was far darker and sadder than I was expecting.  I assumed that they were killed by the Empire and/or First Order, which obviously would have been tragic… but having them die in an accident like that is a gut-punch, because it’s something that we could see happening in our world too.  And it explains why Yeager would just live as a mechanic on a remote planet near the edge of the known galaxy; had his family been killed by the Empire/First Order, he likely would have been far more sympathetic to the cause of the Resistance, but given the fact that he’s just seemingly run away to a new life, it makes sense.  The episode really revolved around that reveal, as pretty much the entire episode was leading the viewer to wonder what happened between Jarek and Marcus, giving hints along the way before it was fully made clear near the end.  It’s a very dark and depressing story, and it’s one that Resistance doesn’t shy away from.

I really appreciated how the conflict between Jarek and Marcus was ‘resolved,’ too.  Two things were very clear in the episode: Marcus was truly, sincerely sorry, and Jarek didn’t want anything to do with his brother or forgive him.  This wasn’t just glossed over or immediately resolved; the tension was real, and it was developed.  But as they’re flying, Marcus apologizes for what happened and admits that he loved and misses Jarek’s family too.  Marcus has changed, and he’s no longer racing for himself – he’s following the example of his brother, racing for others (Oplock).  Having been prompted earlier to forgive, and now realizing that Marcus was truly repentant and was sincere in his motivations, Jarek pulls away from the race to let his brother win.  It’s an incredibly honorable act, as this skilled pilot lets his brother win.  And when they talk afterward, saying goodbye, Jarek pulls Marcus in for a hug when the latter goes for a handshake.  Jarek admits to his brother that it’s good to have him back.  Yeager has forgiven his brother, and Marcus is apparently truly sorry and has changed (at least in this instance).  But the episode was wise enough and mature enough to recognize that reconciliation won’t happen overnight.  Yeager’s final line to Marcus was incredibly perfect; Marcus asks him if they’re good, to which Yeager responds, “No.  But, we will be one day.”  Yeager makes it clear that he’s forgiven Marcus, and the two of them are on speaking terms again, but full reconciliation will take time.  Both brothers now realize, though, that reconciliation is possible and may happen one day.

This episode deals with some very significant themes of forgiveness, sending a good message to kids (as Yeager says, forgiveness is important because when it doesn’t happen, no one wins) while also dealing with ideas that adults wrestle with often – and not just ignoring or trivializing them by an easy solution.  This is an episode that handles dark and depressing content with aplomb, proving once again that Star Wars can be and is immensely relevant for all ages.

I love Jarek Yeager’s character, and it was awesome to see him race for the first time in the series.  We knew he was a great racer, but this is the first time we see him fly.  He’s very skilled at it, and the racing sequence of the episode is so incredibly well done.  The fall toward the planet with no power is a particular highlight, in my opinion.  The animation of this show has been good throughout, but I think it really shines in these races.  I’m a bit surprised we haven’t seen more of it so far, but when we have seen it, it’s been great.  And of course, an episode that focuses on Yeager and shows him flying in this important race is going to be awesome, and it makes me wonder whether we’ll get to see more of him flying soon (perhaps finally as a part of the Resistance?  One can hope, right?).

On one last note, I liked seeing the Guavian Death Gang show up, as that was a nice nod to The Force Awakens.  I appreciate things like that; the show could have created new thugs to whom Marcus owed money, but they used the Guavians, whom we already know.  I think that’s pretty cool, and it was a nice touch to see them show up.

Overall, I think this is the strongest episode of Star Wars: Resistance, and that’s saying a lot.  The racing action, animation, and plot was absolutely awesome, but in true Star Wars fashion the episode was driven by the characters.  Jarek Yeager took center stage in this episode, as we see his relationship with his brother, learn about his backstory, and see him fly for the first time.  The episode handles difficult material with such care, and the result is a very moving, emotional, and tremendously well-done episode of a show that has been great in its first season.

My grade: 9.7/10

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