Tam’s choice in Star Wars Resistance was absolutely perfectly done

There were many things to love about Star Wars Resistance in season one, but one of the most compelling storylines was what happened with Tam Ryvora.

It’s not often that we get to see characters in this state of mind in Star Wars; Tam isn’t necessarily aligned with the First Order throughout the season, but she clearly thinks they’re not bad guys and are just doing their job.  Her perspective throughout the show is quite interesting, and the showrunners should be applauded for the way they wove together such an interesting and compelling character arc – all the while setting up for some really interesting stuff to happen in season two.

Meeting Tam

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When we first meet Tam, she’s a mechanic at Yeager’s shop on the Colossus with aspirations to fly.  She wants to repair the Fireball so that she can fly in the races, and her goal is to become one of the Aces.  We later learn that her father was a racer and that is what inspired her to get into racing, but she eventually wound up on the Colossus looking for a second chance to jump-start her racing career.  She once borrowed credits to race but lost, which meant that she lost her ship and was now stuck trying to fix up the Fireball to get it flying.

So it’s clear from the beginning that Tam’s goals and desires are to be a racer.  She wants to fly.  She doesn’t come from a wealthy background and has had to work her way to where she is, and now she’s working with whatever time and parts she can to repair the Fireball.

But then this kid comes in, and he’s supposedly poor and has supposedly had to work his way here as well, and he too is a flier.  Kazuda Xiono works on Yeager’s crew as a mechanic, but Tam quickly realizes that he’s not exactly skilled in that area.  But Kaz flies the Fireball in a race, and from there on Yeager seems to trust Kaz to take the ship out on some missions (which can tend to be mysterious to the rest of the crew).  It seems like Yeager is promoting and encouraging Kaz’s promising racing career, while Tam can’t seem to get hers off the ground.

The First Order

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As the first season goes on, the First Order’s presence on the Colossus becomes more and more obvious.  This bothers Kaz, and we know why, but Tam sees the First Order as simply doing their job.  For example, in the episode “The First Order Occupation,” Kaz exclaims, “What’s wrong with people?  Can’t they see the First Order are the bad guys?”  But Tam responds, “Bad guys?  They saved Torra from pirate kidnappers.  We need better security here.”  Later, she explains that, “they’re just doing their job.  This is what Captain Doza wants.”  And still later in the episode, Tam says, “Uncomfortable with the First Order?  They’re just protecting the platform.”

The episode “The New Trooper” there’s an important conversation between the members of Team Fireball over dinner:

TAM: “Like I said before, I feel a lot safer with them than without them.”

KAZ: “Safer?  How could you feel safer?”

NEEKU: “I too feel far safer… in a threatened-by-the-military kind of way.”

KAZ: “Uh huh.  Well, what do you think Yeager?”

YEAGER: “Well, this is nothing new.  Just like the Empire they add more security, then they take away your freedom – all under the guise of their protection.  You grew up in an age of peace.  You have no idea what the Empire was like.”

TAM: “I know the stories.  My grandfather worked at an imperial factory.  Put food on the table when he couldn’t find work anywhere else.  Did that make him evil?”

YEAGER: “You’re just too young to understand, Tam.  The Empire exploited the vulnerable.”

TAM: “Oh, I understand.  I understand that you’re taking Kaz’s side.  Again.  Big surprise there.  Excuse me, some of us have actual work to do.”

That conversation is important for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, it gives us a further look at Tam’s reasoning for not distrusting the First Order.  The stories she has heard about the Empire actually aren’t that bad, because they helped her grandfather put food on the table.  So she finds this loss of freedom totally fine since they’re safer now.  But secondly, it allows Yeager the chance to explain things.  Yeager is old enough to remember the Empire – in fact, he fought against them as a part of the Rebellion – and he can credibly explain that the Empire too took away freedom under the guise of security.  That’s the same thing the First Order is doing.

History repeats itself both in our world and in the galaxy far, far away, and that’s what is happening with the First Order: they’re just repeating what the Empire did.  They promise security, and people are glad to give up some freedoms to get it.  That’s actually not an unfamiliar concept in our world’s history, either.

In a later episode, “The Disappeared,” Tam suggests that the grounding of the Aces is because the First Order is doing such an effective job guarding the platform.  While that is true, Kaz counters with the reality that they’re essentially trapped on their own platform.  “Well sometimes there have to be sacrifices to maintain order and safety,” Tam responds.  That’s precisely what Tam’s entire line of thinking is with regard to the First Order: she doesn’t see them as the bad guys but simply sees them as doing their job of bringing security to the Colossus – and she’s ok to make sacrifices in the way of freedom in order to get it.

In the episode “Descent,” First Order Agent Tierny plays into those feelings by telling Tam, “This is not what you expected, is it?  I’m not a monster, Tamara.  Our goal is galactic peace through absolute order, nothing more.”  Based on her comments throughout the season, that’s a trade that Tam seems absolutely willing to make.

Betrayal

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While Tam is sympathetic to the First Order, she’s also sympathetic to her friends.  She’s a normal person with a kind nature who is just looking to revive her racing career and make some friends.  She’s clearly hurt when Synara San leaves the station, and it reveals to us that Tam truly does want to make friends.  And in many ways, she views Team Fireball as her family (and she admits as much in the season finale when she tells Yeager that he was like a father to her).  But all of that also plants the seeds for later in the season when she finds out that her friends aren’t actually who they said they were.  And unfortunately for Kaz and Yeager, it’s the First Order who takes the initiative in sharing this information.

When the First Order shows up to arrest Team Fireball, Tam assumes that it must be a mistake.  Agent Tierny treats her very nicely and feeds her well, and she kindly explains the truth about Tam’s friends.  Kaz isn’t a poor kid working as a mechanic; he’s a wealthy kid hailing from Hosnian Prime who previously served in the New Republic navy and now is with the Resistance as a spy.  This shocks Tam, though she at least knew that there was something odd about him.  But she’s even more floored by the First Order’s insistence that Yeager is also a part of the Resistance.  Tierny frames the picture to Tam as her friends not trusting her and keeping secrets from her, and this causes Tam not to trust them.

Yeager desperately tries to get through to Tam while he’s being taken to prison, but Tam doesn’t listen.  She’s upset with him.  Then in the season finale, both Yeager and Kaz try to convince Tam that the First Order isn’t all they claim to be.  Kaz tells Tam the truth, but the damage has been done.  Tam’s trust in both Kaz and Yeager has been broken, and therefore she’s not in any mood or position to take their side on this.  She doesn’t trust them anymore because they didn’t trust her and betrayed her, so at this point she may just as well listen to the First Order rather than them.

Tam’s Decision

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And that’s exactly what winds up happening.  With both Tierny and Yeager pleading with Tam to come with them, Tam ultimately chooses to go with Tierny, joining the First Order.  Her decision, as Yeager says, has been made.

But the decision was so fantastic because the seeds of it have been there pretty much all season.  Tam has always been sympathetic to the First Order and she is totally willing to trade some freedom in exchange for security.  She doesn’t view the First Order as evil whatsoever; if anything, she actually has a favorable view of them.  But she’s also loyal to her friends, until she finds out that her friends actually didn’t trust her and lied to her.  Since it is the First Order who tells her this – they’re the ones actually telling her the truth – it just adds to her perception that the First Order is good.  See, the show set it all up perfectly: the First Order treats Tam – an obvious First Order sympathizer – very well and is the most truthful with her.  Her decision makes absolutely perfect logical sense.

In a testament to how these storytellers told this story, though, viewers are still left with an emotional punch when Tam finally grabs Tierny’s hand and joins the First Order.  We feel the pain as she chooses the bad guys, knowing things that she doesn’t, yet we totally understand her decision.  I’m being serious when I say that the storytelling surrounding Tam’s decision is absolutely brilliant and has been built up in the long game.

Season Two

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And from a storytelling perspective, Tam’s decision sets up some really interesting potential aspects for season two.  Firstly, it can show us the First Order from the inside with a more personal focus.  We know Tam, and we hopefully will get a chance to see the First Order from the inside from Tam’s perspective (and hopefully of the First Order under the leadership of Supreme Leader Kylo Ren!).  Secondly, it can give an emotional rivalry to the two sides.  I’m confident that Kaz and Yeager won’t just give up on wanting Tam back, and hopefully season two will give the two sides a more personal focus.  And thirdly, I think it’s really cool for a Star Wars story to focus on a character going from the good to the bad rather than the more common alternative.

So all things considered, I think this decision was fantastic, and the way it played out was so perfectly done.  I can’t wait to see where Tam’s story goes from here.

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