I have made it no secret that I think the work done by Dave Filoni and his Lucasfilm animation team is some of the absolute strongest Star Wars material there is.
First there was The Clone Wars, which ran for six seasons and became so beloved that it has recently been brought back for a seventh season. Then there was Rebels, a show which became beloved in its own right (and for continuing some Clone Wars arcs) and which culminated with a breathtaking final season last year. And then the newest project aired last fall, Resistance, which just concluded its first season and will return with a second season later this year.
Like with the previous two shows, many Star Wars fans almost tried not to give Star Wars storytelling a chance. When the first trailer for Resistance was released, trolls and others flocked to Youtube to downvote the video (it currently has over 13,000 likes and over 154,000 dislikes). That shouldn’t be surprising; Star Wars fans on the internet aren’t exactly known for enjoying new things. The critiques were typical: it was too childish, the animation wasn’t good, it was boring, Disney was ruining Star Wars, etc. On and on it went.
But in a stunning twist of fate that no one could have ever possibly seen coming, it turns out that judging a show by a trailer isn’t the best idea. Who knew? Because here’s the reality: the first season of Star Wars Resistance was absolutely fantastic. And those who haven’t yet given the show a chance should begin to do so, because they’re missing out.
This is nothing new for Star Wars animation, though. Season one of The Clone Wars (and the movie before it) were, in many ways, a bit rough: the animation was still being fleshed out, the storylines and character arcs were all over the place, and the show very much fit in line with the critics who thought it was too childish (never mind the fact that Star Wars has always been for kids). Season one of Rebels was better, but it still fell into many of those same criticisms. Many people who love those shows now weren’t around to watch it weekly from the beginning and only remember it as a whole, which is good – that’s how it should be remembered. But we must recognize that these shows are intent on telling stories, and these stories unfold over the course of episodes and over the course of seasons. Not everything happens right away. And so, as we know, The Clone Wars and Rebels both grew into something amazing.
Comparing the Shows
I’m not suggesting Resistance is at that level yet – heck, I think it’s going to be hard for anything to match the final season of Rebels – but when comparing the first seasons of these shows, I have no hesitation in saying that Resistance is easily the best of the bunch.
As a casual way to illustrate this, I’ve compiled the average score of each of my episode reviews for the first seasons of these three shows. Now, I want to be clear that my reviews are very subjective and range slightly in scale between these shows, so I’m not really keen on using them as ways of comparing the three shows. However, just to give you a general idea, I’ve averaged the scores:
The Clone Wars (22 episode grades) – 7.79 average rating
Rebels (14 episode grades) – 7.80 average rating
Resistance (20 episode grades) – 8.91 average rating
Even though I’m not too high on using these grades to compare across shows, I think the glaring gap between the first two and Resistance suggests that even if we account for some margin of error or adjustment between shows, Resistance is still at the top.
But why is that? I’m not here intending to talk bad about The Clone Wars or Rebels (two shows I love) but am instead wanting to point out why I think Resistance had a much better first season. And that starts with the story they are trying to tell.
Resistance knows what story it’s trying to tell
Any show’s beginning will feel a bit slower to fans because it has to do something very important: character development. This is something, for instance, that the previous two shows have done incredibly well also. Ahsoka Tano started off as a very unpopular character but has grown into a fan-favorite. The Ghost crew started off as brand new faces and grew into characters we dearly loved. This show, then, needed to slow down and introduce us to Kazuda Xiono, to Tam Ryvora, to Neeku Vozo, to Jarek Yeager, to Torra Doza, to Captain Doza, etc. Unless we get to know the characters, we’re not really going to care about any stakes down the road. Hosnian Prime’s destruction won’t have the same impact if we don’t know Kaz, and Tam’s choice won’t have the same gut-punch if we don’t know her.
But while the other two shows did develop characters, one of the biggest strengths of Resistance has been a clear and obvious focus and trajectory. Think about The Clone Wars, for instance. When it comes to telling a story, the first season is quite disjointed. Part of that is the style and nature of the show, but the episodes and arcs are really all over the place, telling a variety of stories. The show isn’t as much a collection of seasons as it is a collection of arcs. And then with Rebels, there were many episodes that fans considered “filler” – basically meaning that it doesn’t have much relevance but is there just to fill an episode time slot. These episodes are typically important for character development, but Rebels did have some episodes early on that could be considered in this category. With Resistance, however, in looking back on season one I think it’s safe to say that pretty much every episode mattered at least on some level. It wasn’t uncommon for an episode to feel like filler… only to find out why it was relevant when a thread or two were followed up on a few episodes later.
From the beginning, the show’s creators – Justin Ridge, Athena Portillo, and Brandon Auman served as executive producers while Dave Filoni helped with the story – knew what they were trying to do. They told a coherent story that kept the focus on our main characters and, for the most part, on the Colossus. And the character development that happened was intentional. Obviously Kaz grew in incredible and obvious ways, but so did Tam and Neeku and Yeager and Doza and Torra and others. This truly felt like one coherent story being told about these characters who we continued to get to know better and better. That’s a huge testament to the showrunners, and it is a large part of what made this season so strong.
You Should Check It Out
So if you have been sleeping on this show, you should stop. Sure, there are moments in the first season that can feel a bit childish, but this is a kid’s show, after all. Considering that, it’s perfectly understandable for that to happen, and if you can get past that the show has plenty of relevance and excitement for fans of all ages – just like all Star Wars does. And the animation? Well, some people just don’t like certain animation, and I guess I can’t do anything about that… but the animation of this show is terrific and looks awesome. I have absolutely zero complaints.
And the show also ventures into some key moments in the Star Wars timeline. We meet Leia Organa and Poe Dameron and Captain Phasma in this show, and the first season takes place during the cold war between the First Order and Resistance. But by the end of the first season, it overlaps with The Force Awakens by showing us General Hux’s speech and the destruction of the Hosnian System (in a far more emotional way this time), meaning that season two will surely take place during open warfare – and will almost certainly continue on past the events of The Last Jedi.
So whether you’re sleeping on this show because you just don’t want to like it, or whether you’re sleeping on this show because you don’t think it’s important or relevant, or whether you’re sleeping on this show simply because you haven’t yet tried it, I urge you to give it a chance. It has exceeded all expectations in season one and is, in my opinion, easily the best debut season of any animated Star Wars show.
The New Challenge: Keep Going!
So now, of course, the challenge is for it to keep going. And the good news is that there’s plenty of room for really intriguing storylines to show up in season two.
First of all, that’s because it will venture past TLJ and give us a look at that era, with the second season presumably coming shortly before Episode IX does. So there are a lot of stories that could be told here, for sure.
But secondly, the first season sets up the show to continue to tell interesting stories. The Clone Wars season one ended with Cad Bane ‘freeing’ Ziro the Hutt after the Senate hostage crisis. Rebels season one ended with the tease of Ahsoka Tano and Darth Vader in the future. And while Resistance can’t really match Ahsoka and Vader, it did end with the tease of Tam joining the First Order and the Colossus crew heading off to who-knows-where to join the Resistance. There’s a lot of storytelling potential there.
I can’t wait to see it, and I’m confident that this show will continue to improve and continue to tell compelling Star Wars stories. Because that’s exactly what it did in its first season.