SPOILERS Colossus Communiques: Star Wars Resistance Descent review
The stage has been set, the exploration of how fascism seizes control has happened, our characters are in place; now Resistance can move full steam ahead with the main plot. This show has been fantastic at rising action and developing characterization and theme, which makes this shift to high octane plot driven storytelling work very well.
Descent does not particularly have a theme or a specific character trait it wants to explore, which it is able to do because it spent so much time previously setting up where each player stands and what the plot important elements are. The dynamic between Tam and the rest of the team at the start of the episode, or Kaz, Yeager, and Neeku discussing strategy (both of which I will dig into later) are filled with so much depth while ostensibly being laser focused on getting from plot point to plot point.
As the penultimate episode of the season, Descent sees the First Order’s arrest of Team Fireball from last episode lead right into a fight. Bucket finally gets a chance to shine, before being “destroyed”. I am split on that decision as I like that Bucket is gong to be able to actually do something more finally, but I also think Bucket getting wrecked like that really heightened the stakes right off the bat.
However Bucket’s role in this episode, in that very scene CB uses a forklift to flatten some troopers, which gives me the chance to make this joke, so no matter what I am happy.
The brawl in the hangar shows what I was saying earlier, it does not need to do any character work of its own, but just move forward with plot and action and let our well established characterization unfold naturally. Yeager fully taking action and flat out killing some Stormtroopers, finally puts him directly into the action. Much of Yeager’s role in the show has been about Colossus life, so it is very satisfying to see him 100% involved in the Resistance side of things.
The big showcase of the opening scuffle is Tam’s confusion and feeling of being caught in the crossfire. The episode does a good job of balancing her protectiveness of the Fireball and want to trust her friends, with her belief in order and her growing distrust and resentment of her crew. Even though Neeku does not believe Kaz s part of the Resistance, and does not take direct action against the FO, he fully follows Kaz and Yeager; which provides such a good contrast with Tam who surrenders and seems more shaken by Kaz’s seeming betrayal than the FO pointing guns at her.
Tam’s strength of will towards a challenge, even one not actually posed intentionally at her, has been a consistent trend all season. However we have also seen that when it comes to her sense of stability in her world view being challenged by her own empirical observations, she is lost. She saw Kaz as a rival at first cause he seemed to be an external threat to her status quo and self esteem, but she grew to calm down and accept him.
Now with Kaz clearly lying to her about things that are now directly putting her ship and life in danger, she is being challenged by herself. Tam had lamented to Synara that she was always on the move as a kid because of her dad being a racer, and we saw how badly she still takes Hype’s betrayal of their friendship. Tam can and will fight any threat to her stability and friends, but when the question of who are actually her friends comes up - all that outward projection of confidence crumbles.
The First Order brings in a new villain to play off of Tam; First Order Security Bureau Agent Tierny. Tierny’s inclusion gives some much needed diversity to the First Order. We know the First Order’s ranks include people of color and women, it is good to finally have a FO woman of color in the show. That is something that took Rebels, and is still taking the films, far too long.
Tierny is here to be the good cop to Pyre’s bad cop; some of it is the standard run of the mill tactics, but when she pulls back and just gives Tam the evidence of Kaz being rich, a NRDF pilot, and a member of the Resistance has done her job. One of the best parts of this revelation is Tam is not angry or asking a bunch of questions, she is in utter shock. She had begun to piece things together, but now has everything confirmed and then some. She is not yet approving of the First Order’s arrest of her friends, but her objection that this was a misunderstanding has evaporated.
Kaz, Yeager, and Neeku make their way through a maze of vents trying to escape, only to be rescued by the Chelidae, and Eila and Kel. This is when they discovered Bucket is still alive and Kaz comes up with a brilliantly nuts plan: sink the station. They get CB to contact Doza and Torra to get them to close all bulkheads so the station’s inhabitants don’t drown. Leading to a Lassie “what Timmy fell down a well?” gag, as if to prove that CB truly is vying for Neeku’s spot as funniest character.
Many of us had previously speculated that the bulkhead emergency doors had been set up in “Bibo” in order to foreshadow Synara using them to get the doors open for a pirate raid, and when she left that idea sorta just petered out. However Descent has the bulkheads be used for their larger importance, protecting the station when it submerges. Resistance still runs you for a loop, even when they telegraph something.
Once the station is submerged, Kaz, Yeager, and CB swim to the top of Doza Tower, which is the only part above sea-level, in order to drop the communications scrambler and contact the Resistance. The team is successful, but not only do Pyre and Tierny suspect Doza’s involvement, but Yeager chooses to stay behind and get captured so Kaz can make a break for it with a message from the Resistance.
Said message is from Leia herself, stating that the Resistance is occupied elsewhere and that the Colossus, like the rest of the galaxy, has to make do on its own for now. Neeku had continuously doubted Kaz was actually a member of the Resistance throughout the episode, but now finally understands, and with our small group of escaped heroes; Kaz affirms that they are the Resistance and will save their friends.
Something extra sad about that remark from Kaz is that through the episode he has been urging them to go back for Tam, though one can only imagine how that will turn out if she fully sides with the First Order, or at least still feels betrayed. The majority of Descent revolves around the primary plot of getting the signal out, but this background story of Tam losing faith in her friends makes the stakes feel even higher.
Kaz’s message to the Resistance was picked up by Kragan’s crew as well, who likely will join in to fight the First Order, in their case for revenge. Even this shred of hope, that still requires relying on awful murderous people, will no doubt fuel Tam’s sense of betrayal. She still does not seem to know Synara was a pirate spy, and thus will now be finding out that Kaz was lying about even more, including that another one of her friends was not who she thought they were.
As is so often the case in this series, the best our heroes can do is maybe get a slight advancement of their goals, and then backpedal mostly unscathed. This time no one got out unscathed, and there is no place to backpedal to. Given what we know is going to happen in mere hours, any victory is still fleeting at best.
Descent was directed by Bosco Ng who continues his stellar track record, with some amazing direction during the opening brawl and then vent chase. However some of the best shots come from the sequence of the Colossus submerging, the water looks gorgeous, and the overall sense of dread even with the sun out with clear skies. The station is in its zero hour, and yet it looks as beautiful as ever, which feels hauntingly inactive and still. Case in point, there is a scene in which you can hear the screeching of TIEs, but the shot is just of the Colossus completely lifeless.
Paul Giacoppo, who had been paired with Mr. Ng back on Bibo, writing this episode not doubt fueled the visual effects being so good. Giacoppo wrote “The New Trooper” so it should come as no surprise that he excelled at writing Tam here.
Little can be said in conclusion for this episode, it is fantastic, but is very much the first part of something major and thus the inability to give final thoughts on it before the follow up is a testament to its strength. I will note that I have had little to say about the soundtrack throughout the season, it is good but not standout most of the time. However the music during the opening fight was fantastic as was most of the episode. I would love for an official release so I can appreciate the score itself.