What Star Wars Can Learn From Star Wars: Visions

Since Disney+ launched, one of its biggest selling points has been exclusive Star Wars media released directly to the platform. Starting with The Mandalorian, Star Wars launched its parent companies into the streaming era, and after its wild, runaway success, a green light went up for a number of Star Wars projects that otherwise might never have been given that go-ahead. One of those projects, and perhaps the most unusual and niche of them all, is Star Wars: Visions. A limited series of standalone episodes, each produced by one of seven different Japanese animation studios and telling an all-new story, a project like Visions would not have been possible previously, except maybe as a direct-to-home-video release, but thanks to streaming it was released to a platform that is already the home of major streaming flagship shows like the aforementioned Mandalorian or The Clone Wars.

What this article is going to broach are the elements that Visions brought to the table that would be welcome and wise to take further to the wider universe of Star Wars media at large. There are many different ideas, theories and other factors that could be considered here, but one that we will not get into is how Visions’ existence as media that is foundationally Japanese affects its place within the winding cultural miasma that Star Wars has always been, and how Star Wars can continue to draw from this well in ways that aren’t appropriative. Emma Candon, author of the Visions tie-in novel Ronin, dug into this idea far more thoroughly and with more insight than we would be able to here, so please check out her Twitter thread in the link below for more thoughts on this topic.

Setting that where it is, here are some more ways that Star Wars as a media franchise can learn from what the creators of Visions have produced.

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What Have We Learned? – How Time Has Changed The Clone Wars

I was cautiously excited when it was announced that The Clone Wars would make its triumphant return to the screen by airing three previously-unfinished arcs on Disney+. I’ve been hot and cold on the series in general, because while it does do a great deal to expand and deepen the era between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the actual show itself has a very distinct tone and style that often rubs me the wrong way. It is a show unafraid to bring up big concepts and ideas, ones challenging to the era and the franchise as a whole, but often tosses them aside or bypasses them in favor of more sharply-animated action setpieces or references to other parts of the franchise.

The biggest issue that this raises is with the characters. Giving characters depth or exploring their motivations has simply never been TCW’s strong suit. Arcs like Ahsoka’s trial fall flat for me because the central character — other than Ahsoka — is the true culprit, Barriss Offee, who we hadn’t seen since the second season at that point and had apparently undergone a lot of change and turmoil in that time, all of it offscreen. While I wasn’t personally offended because I wasn’t invested in Barriss as a character, that in itself is damning; this character I didn’t care about because we’d seen so little of her was such a major part of the arc that my absence of feeling toward her motivations and fate felt like a hole in the story.

In the time between the show being cancelled from its original airing on Cartoon Network, the debut of its sixth season on Netflix, and now the seventh and final season on Disney+, the show’s crew has gotten up to plenty of other things. Dave Filoni and his team of animators moved to Star Wars Rebels, and then the animators worked on Star Wars Resistance while Filoni himself assisted with the production and direction of The Mandalorian. Filoni has said that all three of these shows were tremendous learning experiences that he and his team were able to bring back to TCW to make its final three arcs better. I assumed that he meant mainly in terms of direction and animation; I didn’t expect him to have taken some lessons from either of those shows in terms of how to write compelling character moments. And my expectation was borne out in the first four episodes of this new season, known as the Bad Batch arc.

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“I’m Where I Need to Be” – Captain Doza Learns a Hard Lesson

The finale of Star Wars Resistance is going to be upon us shortly. While the middle section of the show’s second season hasn’t been as meaty or meaningful as some of us were perhaps hoping, as we’ve moved toward the end the show has picked up momentum. More than anything, it has given us some memorable new characters, such as Venisa Doza, while still managing to find time to give older, established characters moments of depth and development. An understated but nonetheless important character who has grown quite a bit over the show’s run is who I’ll be highlighting today: Captain Doza himself. But first, let’s circle around on our main character Kaz Xiono for a bit of context.

In the episode “No Place Safe”, Kaz makes the decision to leave the Colossus. The station has found a safe haven on a distant planet, and they have formed an alliance with the local population to allow them to stay out of the First Order’s way, restoring something like their previous status quo on Castilon. With this lull in the fighting, Kaz has a moment to contemplate, and comes to realize that he isn’t content sitting and waiting for the war to end or for the First Order to find them again. With his friends out of danger for the moment, he makes the decision to go back to the fight, to rejoin the Resistance proper. He makes that decision because, in the end, he wants to help people, and now that the Colossus no longer needs his help, he is ready to move on and keep fighting the First Order elsewhere (even if it breaks the hearts of people like Neeku and Torra to see him go).

The episode winds up putting him back where he started when their haven is discovered and the Colossus is forced once again to flee, but the important thought that Kaz has of going where people need him and seeking only to help seems to resonate within Captain Doza. In the very next episode, “Rebuilding the Resistance”, Doza makes the unilateral call to not only allow the Resistance to bring its new recruits to his station, but even decides that they can stay permanently, making the Colossus into a mobile base for the Resistance and its pilots and officially abandoning his neutrality. Inspired by Kaz, and also by the examples of his wife and daughter, Doza is making a decision that he probably should have made long ago.

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Re: Resistance – The Draw of the Mundane

What makes Star Wars feel like Star Wars? This is a question that’s becoming increasingly important with The Rise of Skywalker looming on the horizon, where some of the most fundamental elements of the franchise that we’re familiar with are going away along with the numbered titles. There’s been a lot of talk about what the X-factor is that makes a story with Star Wars on the label actually “feel” like Star Wars in practice, whether it’s a matter of aesthetics or characters or ideas or something else entirely. Certain stories have been playing with removing some elements, shaving the formula down to see what can go and what needs to stay, but no media in the franchise has gone as far down this road as Star Wars Resistance.

Resistance has taken away things like the Force, lightsabers, and ninety percent of the movie characters, leaving us with a mostly new cast in a new setting that has some shared aesthetics as the films but with a unique art style to change it up in a major way. So what does Resistance have that makes it still feel fitting within the wider universe? Themes. What makes a Star Wars story really feel like Star Wars are its themes; themes of love, friendship, and hope. Resistance carries those themes not only in its heart but on its sleeve, as befitting its nature as a show aimed toward a younger audience. Thus, even with a limited scope and even more limited budget, Resistance is still Star Wars, and probably the best Star Wars of its scale that’s ever been done.

When Resistance ended its first season right smack dab in the middle of the sequel trilogy timeline, with the destruction of Hosnian Prime on one side and the flight from D’Qar on the other, there was a common assumption (including on my part) that this was the show casting itself off into the wider universe and leveling up its sense of scope, similar to how Rebels did at the end of its first season. However, five episodes into its second and final season, Resistance is, well, resisting this assumption. Following the major events of the season premiere, each episode since has been far less concerned with major events and more focused on the characters and their dynamics, showing how well each character knows the others and the blossoming friendships between those now living together aboard the Colossus.

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The Seduction of Tam Ryvora

Hey everyone, Star Wars Resistance is back, and you can watch the premiere of season two right here on their official YouTube page. Please go and do so before reading on, there’s some in-depth discussion (and spoilers) below that require the full context of the episode. Watching the second episode is also recommended, but not essential. With the show’s return it is bringing some big changes and issues for all of the characters under its umbrella, but no one character has been affected more than Tam Ryvora, our favorite mechanic and frustrated pilot who worked hard and still felt slighted by and detached from those around her, so it’s worth doing a bit of a dive into her big decision and the factors surrounding it.

Throughout the first season of the show we saw her grow, softening her tough exterior thanks to blossoming friendships with people like Kazuda Xiono, Neeku and Synara San, ingratiating herself into the main cast of the show. And then at the end of the first season Tam makes an extremely difficult and fateful choice. Rather than escape from the First Order aboard the Colossus with Kaz and Yeager, she instead chooses to go with the First Order, the same people Kaz and Yeager have been working actively against for all this time, leaving both of them dumbfounded.

Tam makes this decision for a variety of reasons, some of which are her own, some of which are more external factors. The most foundational element is her love or at least appreciation for the First Order’s primary influence: the Empire. Tam’s family both lived and thrived under the Empire, and she herself was born after the Empire had fallen, so unlike Kazuda, who likely heard horror stories about the Empire through his childhood on Hosnian Prime and through schooling and training in the New Republic, Tam sees the Republic as an aberration rather than the norm, whereas the Empire was a good, solid government for those it ruled over. Thus, when she sees the First Order wearing the aesthetic of the Empire, she’s less inclined to recoil, and instead admires them for seeking to pick up where the Empire left off. When the First Order took over the Colossus, she didn’t feel oppressed; she felt safe. Even when informed of the actions the First Order took against Tehar, she assumes that there must have been a reason for it, that someone on Tehar must have been doing something wrong.

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