SPOILERS Colossus Communiques: Star Wars Resistance: The Disappeared Review
It never ceases to amaze me that this show has perhaps the best evaluation of fascism and authoritarianism of any of the animated and live action Star Wars media thus far. The Disappeared is laser focused on forced disappearances and the non-violent ways police states deal with dissenters.
The plot revolves around the First Order canceling the Ace’s races with leads to Hype running off angry and ending up arrested secretly, followed soon after with Aunt Z taken away secretly after speaking out about the First Order. One of the scariest parts of this is the fact that the First Order makes sure to not do this openly, they play along in front of our heroes when Torra is questioning Hype’s disappearance. Tam thanks them for their “assistance” when they are bold-face lying about Hype.
The First Order has a secondary goal beyond removing dissenters, that being to get recruits. They force Aunt Z to display a propaganda add for the First Order, and when she can tell they are covering up political kidnappings she throws it back at them. After they pause and then politely leave, but not before suggesting the young adults join their ranks; they come back when no one is around and arrest Aunt Z.
The bar covered in First Order propaganda while the patrons seem to only be disturbed by the poor service of the one droid left to run the place is very telling. The First Order does not need to seize control directly and overtly, they can just supplant opposition and then make things appear to be running normally. No one bats an eye at propaganda and armed troops, cause the First Order has made those unwilling to stand up accustom to it.
Prior to this episode Aunt Z has been a fun, but underused character; however here she really becomes this show’s equivalent of DS9’s Quark. Z being unafraid of speaking out against the First Order right to their faces, and still doing so even when they have arrested her and are shipping her off world shows just how strong she is.
As for what Kaz is up to, he and Torra figure out for sure that the First Order’s story about Hype leaving is false, and go to see Yeager. Only to find that Yeager and Doza are working together. Doza wont speak out against the First Order so he and Yeager are planning to disable the station’s jamming and get a signal to the Resistance.
This directly plays into Tam’s role in the episode. Earlier at Aunt Z’s, Tam and Kaz had a debate about the First Order presence, with Neeku sorta moderating. While the show has a moderator and lets Tam speak, it does a good job of showing that - no there is not middle ground to seek when it comes to authoritarians and fascists.
Tam is willing to sell her freedoms to the First Order openly, for the sake of her own security. Captain Doza is willing to sell the freedoms of those unwilling to give them up, all for the protection of his daughter and his seat of power. He is even now wanting to oppose from the shadows and let others get taken to an unknown location (possibly executed) and just ask the Resistance to fight and die in his stead.
Kaz firmly states that he is going to fight here and now. This is what really makes Kaz member of the Resistance, and a solider of the New Republic; reminds me of Jess Pava refusing to let the First Order kill civilians in the Poe comic even though standing by made sense as it would let them gain evidence of FO atrocities.
Kaz, Torra, and CB manage to get passed the First Order guards and free their friends who have been locked up awaiting transport offworld. Kaz shows his growth even more here, previously he had been terrible with Gorgs, then he was able to finally use Bitey to his advantage mostly just by seizing the moment, and now he plans ahead and has CB adorably push a cart to the door; only for Gorgs to be inside and jump at the troopers inspecting it.
This is not the end of Kaz’s cleverness, he figures that simply freeing the escapees like he did with Synara will just bring the First Order down on everyone even more. So they let them get brought to the transport before sparking a trap and attacking.. Even Hype, who has been selfish in his own way throughout the episode, having given up because standing up got him arrested, is willing to fight and saves Kaz.
Aunt Z and the others drag the Stormtroopers into the transport and head to meet a friend of Aunt Z’s on Takodana. Who wants to bet that we see Maz next season when we meet up with these characters? Despite Kaz and Torra managing to help everyone get away, Kaz is not off scot free as he comes back to find Pyre is arresting Team Fireball and him.
The Disappeared was directed by Saul Ruiz who I have praised in the past, but was written by a newcomer to Resistance; the much acclaimed Steven Melching. Melching’s bibliography is far too long for me to even do justice to, but I will note that aside from immense work on TCW and being story editor and writer on many amazing Rebels episodes, Steven also wrote many great episodes of The Batman and Brave and the Bold. I did not know the specific episodes of previous shows he had done, but now that I am aware and can say that he is the Resistance writer who I have been the biggest fan of in the past.
I have heard some lament that this episode seemed out of order with the Aces being grounded now when last episode was partly predicated on ships being grounded, however I want to note that while I think that we needed a bit more explicit confirmation of the state of the Colossus; things like not having a full lockdown on the Aces, or not hearing about disappearances till now actually better this story. Those rioters in The New Trooper don’t need to be confirmed to have been forcibly disappeared previously, by having this issue come to a head for our heroes now plays into the foreboding dread of the First Order. We are always a step behind.
As I said at the start, this episode is incredibly mature with its take on the First Order. When in Rebels we came back to Lothal to find Jho’s bar taken over and him having been executed it is startling, but the change is off screen and like a switch being flipped with the Empire assuming direct control. The way the First Order non-lethally takes over and spreads their influence without disrupting things overtly, is uncomfortably realistic. That is what Resistance is masterful at.