On the fifth and final day of Star Wars Celebration Chicago, a convention like no other hosted by Lucasfilm and dedicated to all things Star Wars, following a fantastic Star Wars Resistance panel featuring showrunners and the cast, fans of the hit Disney Channel animated series were treated to a surprise screening of the second season’s premiere, not slated to air until this fall.
The episode, entitled Into the Unknown, picked up where Season 1’s two-part finale, No Escape” left off, with Tam newly recruited into the military of the First Order with much of the rest of the core cast hurtling through hyperspace toward an uncertain destination in the Colossus, now revealed to be a massive starship. It marks episodic director and Star Wars Rebels and Forces of Destiny veteran Brad Rau’s return to Star Wars, but is a departure from the usual tone of Star Wars Resistance, at least at first.
Let’s talk about Tam Ryvora’s B-plot first, which only links up with Kaz’s briefly. Tam might be my favorite character in this series. Her radicalization to the First Order’s ideals is one that is all too real and timely, and it’s heartbreaking to watch her good intentions twisted by the likes of Commander Pyre and Captain Phasma, the latter of whom reappears briefly, which sets this episode sometime between the destruction of Hosnian Prime and the destruction of Starkiller Base within the latter half of the plot time of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We don’t spend enough time with Tam (or TIE pilot cadet DT-533, as she is now called) in this episode, but she promises to be a major player in the rest of the season, featured alongside Kaz on the teaser poster, and the final shot of the episode is a chilling omen for her future and possibly the most intense ending of any episode of this series to date.
Kazuda Xiono and Torra Doza share the main plot of the episode, which involves investigating the myriad mechanical difficulties of the Colossus, causing everything from power failures to lapses in artificial gravity (the latter of which leads to amusing slapstick involving matronly barkeep Aunt Z trying to pour drinks for the pirates that now call the Colossus home). These sequences are a clear homage to sci-fi suspense films such as Alien, with someone (or something) lurking in the bowels of the Colossus, terrifying the Shellfolk and abducting crew members who venture off alone.
My main issue with the episode involves this mysterious intruder. It would seem that the episode was shot in a way where the element of suspense is integral to the story’s progression. The trouble is that within the first minute of introducing the problem, iconic visual cues remove all doubt as to who or what is orchestrating the disappearances. Had the episode held back any clues as to the culprit until perhaps the second abduction and not revealed the identity in full until Kaz learns it for himself, perhaps through use of first-person shots, this might be my favorite episode yet. It evokes some of the greatest suspense cinema of all time while lacking any true suspense of its own.
What the episode lacks in suspense, though, is made up in terms of adventure and character. It is a nonstop linear mission to fix the Colossus that feeds into a second goal more connected to Tam’s sistuation. This is a simple but effective reintroduction to the core cast we got to know throughout Season One that establishes this season’s running conflicts, from the mundane like the state of the Colossus to heavier issues like Tam’s loyalty. The episode does not introduce any new characters and only one new location, an oddity for a season premiere of a Star Wars series, but it works just fine relying on those we already know, providing a launchpad for their growth. Kaz, Torra, Neeku, and even little CB-23 (especially CB-23, really) each have their own moment of heroism here.
The Siege of Lothal from Star Wars Rebels’ second season still stands as my favorite season premiere of a Lucasfilm Animation show, but Into the Unknown serves its purpose well and kicks off a second season that promises to be quite different from the first. The airdate is still unannounced beyond confirmation of a fall 2019 release.