Spoilers Star Wars Resistance "Fuel For The Fire" Review
Fuel for the Fire is Resistance’s first real step into “moral of the week” storytelling. Therefore what kids take away from it is the most important facet of the episode. The story sees Kazuda disillusioned with Yeager, and get involved with another young pilot, Ruclin, and his crew. To get right to the point; I think this episode muddies the lesson of the story. It starts off with Kazuda failing to fix the Fireball’s engine, so Yeager berates him and tells him he can’t watch a race with the others. Kaz tries to watch through the hangar door and ends up accidentally causing the engine to fall into the water despite trying to stop it.
Throughout the story we see Kazuda be told by Yeager that he needs to be a mechanic in order for his spy mission to work, as well as for him to stay with the team under Yeager’s protection. Kaz comes across Rucklin (voiced by the always great Elijah Wood) and his crew who invite Kaz to hang out with them. This gets Kaz in more trouble with Yeager and results in them using Kaz in order to steal hyperfuel from Yeager’s office.
This creates a situation in which Kaz is divided between two clear routes, that while opposed, do not really conflict with each other on this issue in any way. There are a few moments that seem to imply Rucklin and his crew’s problem is that they are slackers and try to take the easy way out, but that does not really work cause Kaz did seem to be doing his best to fix the engine, but Yeager and Tam would not help him.
Additionally what made Rucklin mess up was that he went overboard on the hyperfuel and nearly got himself killed. He was not exactly shirking responsibilities, just being foolhardy. This makes the link doubly faulty since Kaz was not exactly shirking his duties either, nor was he being reckless in his work. He should have been watching the engine more closely, but he had no reason to think it would suddenly start up, nor was he told he could not work outside. It seems like a case of just treating him as rash or air-headed for doing things no one advised him about, and for not being good enough at something he has no training in.
Yeager has substantially lost some good will with me after this episode. I get what they where trying to do; show that he can be a bit of a hardassed father figure. However he is only really characterized that way in the last 5 minuets, and his treatment of Kaz felt very unfair. I understand that Kaz is a bad mechanic, but he already decided he would try to get better last episode, and this one shows that he is trying but has not improved. In trying and failing at something he has no training in, Yeager responds by……..treating him like a disappointment and a slacker. Either show us that if that is supposed to be the intent, or make a more clear case for why Yeager was being overly harsh.
Circling back to Rucklin’s plot; this is how a lesson in a half hour cartoon is done. Rucklin does not seem to be an awful person, he lies and sabotages, but even with the speeder trick he did not seem to intend to get anyone else hurt. Rucklin is a glory seeker and puts himself at risk needlessly. That could serve as a great lesson for Kazuda if the episode actually made him come across reckless any more than normal, like Yeager unsubstantiatedly acts like he is.
To be fair though, while it seems at points that the intention was for Kaz to learn a lesson, at other points it seems more like Rucklin was there to showcase how Kaz is not like him. If they picked the latter direction and cut the Yeager plot or rewrote that, I would be much happier. Just looking at how Kaz acts around Rucklin you can see that he is the kind of person who likes being a part of a team, I may be reading to far into this, but I got the sense that Kaz feels ostracized in Team Fireball. No one will help him, and even when he tries his best, unless he succeeds he is treated like he is in the wrong. Kaz is desperate for a peer to reassure him.
The reason I may come across as fixated on my misgivings with Yeager’s plot and how it played into the larger whole is cause I think it being muddied will lead to kids taking away the wrong thing. As it stands the episode does not seem to be able to decide for itself if Kaz is lazy, or if Yeager was pushing him to hard. Rucklin did turn out to be a problem, but not in any way that corroborated what Yeager was saying.
Therefore we end up with kids taking away the message that if people put unfair expectations upon you, you should be grateful otherwise you will be like Rucklin and be self destructive. I know that was not the intent, but when you show two contrasting views and have one end up being the antagonist and the other be played off as being not such a bad guy; you end up making it seem like the latter was in the right, when really all that the story showed was that the former was in the wrong. By the two mindsets having such a disconnect in terms of what they tried to sway Kaz on, the message is lost.
I am of the opinion that the message that - Rucklin is self destructive and Kaz is the better person cause he is always trying to be better, and is willing to risk his life to save someone from their own stupidity, even after they used him - is a superb one. It shows that Kaz is gullible, but his heart is always in the right place and that is what counts.
To be fair Yeager does say at the end that Kaz is a bad mechanic and spy, but he has a good heart, and does throw him a bone by letting him work outside. However that is really where my issue with the message comes in. We get a nod of approval for Kaz, without actually establishing any sense of a conclusion on any of the earlier points. Does this mean Yeager was wrong in how he treated Kaz, or is this just saying that Kaz was wrong but since he showed he has a good heart he is allowed to stick around?
I honestly am not sure what the episode is trying to say, if it intends for Rucklin’s failings to be seen as isolated, as evidence that Yeager was right, or that Kaz was correct and Yeager is admitting that. I know some will say that the show should not hold kids’ hands, but this is not a matter of spelling things out; it is a matter of actually having a discernible message and lesson.
The lack of resolution would not bug me so much if not for the fact that from my own experiences as a kid I know what it is like to be Kaz here and what Yeager does here needs to be outright stated to be the wrong way to handle things. I have a learning disability when it comes to math, I went through several tests and always ended up with seriously different outcomes between my reading which was far above my grade level, and my math which was far below. I see Kaz here trying his hardest at something that he did not chose to do, and being treated like he is the problem for being unskilled. If Kaz was shown to actually be taking the easy way out then Rucklin’s plot and the Yeager plot could fit together, same thing if Yeager was really acknowledged to be treating Kaz unfairly.
I could not help but think of a scene from Kung Fu Panda throughout all of Yeager’s scenes.
This is actually one thing that right off the bat Rebels nailed, Kanan and Ezra’s master and apprentice dynamic was flawed intentionally and I always was able to tell what the writers intended to be the takeaway. Even when Ezra would revert as a character, still understood what the duo’s strengths and weakness where, and what each one of them needed to be better at.
After all of that long winded diatribe it may seem I disliked this episode; despite all that I actually did enjoy this one. I think the fact that even with a muddied lesson, and Yeager hitting a nerve for me; Kazuda was still really likable. In fact the flaws in the episode made me feel closer to Kaz. Rucklin and his crew had great designs as did all the ships and speeders in this episode. I look forward to Rucklin’s return in the episodes to come.
At the end of the day the failings the episode has with its message does none the less hurt it. I don’t normally do number ratings, but this would be 6/10. It is certainly above average, but I found the moral to have an adverse takeaway for kids, which diminishes the overall work.
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