Resistance’s “The High Tower” brings forward two of its women characters, but unfortunately, ties their stories to the men around them in an otherwise entertaining episode. “The High Tower” begins with our protagonist, Kaz, literally being left in the dark as the power flickers on and off aboard the Colossus. The lack of dependable power allows the Resistance spy to join Tam Ryvora and Neeku at Aunt Z’s bar for some down time and, at least initially, the prospect for Tam to be allowed to say lines not related to maintaining aircraft or complaining about Kaz (which she has been relegated to so far in the show). The visit to the bar, as it turns out, isn’t designed for us to really get to know Tam, so much as frame the episode with the prospect that Captain Imanuel Doza is working with the First Order. The power outages, we learn from Aunt Z, always coincide when the First Order visits the platform. Everything that follows, even when we do get to learn more about Tam, is designed to lead to Kaz putting his inexperienced spying skills to the test to learn more about the First Order’s presence on Colossus.
Kaz realizes his dream of getting inside the tower of the Colossus due to Tam’s past friendship with Hype Fazon, the ace Rodian pilot (voiced by Donald Faison). Squeezed into Tam and Hype’s history are Tam’s own dreams of being a top racer, but how he succeeded and she failed is left ambiguous. We do learn that the Fireball, the fighter Kaz crashed in the premiere episode, is a project Tam has been working on as the means to break into the ace pilot ranks – which must have made Yeager’s decision to let Kaz fly it rather frustrating, if not humiliating. All of it is packaged as a means for Hype to invite Tam, potentially under the intention of renewing their friendship, but really, for story purposes, to get Kaz where he needs to be to spy upon the First Order’s meeting with Captain Doza.
Setup by a flippant remark by Aunt Z that those in the tower are the haves, while those who live and work on the platform below are the have-nots, the tower is a luxurious experience compared to the grime below. Clean, well lit, and serviced by droids providing snacks and refreshments, there’s little to imply that Aunt Z’s observation isn’t correct. Other than another blush at the history between Tam and Hype, Tam’s story effectively ends halfway into the episode as Kaz slips away to eavesdrop on a meeting between the red armored Major Vonreg and Captain Doza, whom we meet for the very first time. The exchange is brief, but insightful. The First Order is using the pressure of the pirate attacks to receive an invitation to take up permanent residence on the platform. Doza turns down the offer, while still accepting a shipment of fuel from the rising threat to the galaxy. In the same conversation, Major Vonreg implies that Doza additionally deals with those in less than legal business ventures. Kaz listens to all of this, finally learning something about the First Order’s intentions on the platform. Kaz being Kaz, he can’t slip quietly away, but is soon discovered and pursued by stormtroopers and accidentally ends up in Torra Doza’s room.
The racing prodigy is present and, in our first interaction with her since the first episode the season, the character who could be interesting is left to appear to believe that Kaz is infatuated with her (based on his surprise appearance in her room). If only Torra’s chance to speak here could have been as interesting as the objects in the room – go back and check out all the little easter eggs, it’s worth it – but instead, she’s left talking to a boy about romance (well, the lack thereof). It’s a wasted opportunity. Placing a character in such a private setting as their bedroom opens up the opportunity for learning more about their private lives, i.e., is she more than just a young woman passionate about racing? As is, Kaz ducks out Torra’s window and engages in something of an homage to Buster Keaton, flailing and stumbling along the tower’s ledges high above the rest of the platform. Tam is quietly brought back into the episode with little to do other than comment on Kaz’s desperate escape along with other patrons of Aunt Z’s, who find themselves with a front window view of the antics. Unsurprisingly, Kaz does escape, in part with the help of Captain Doza who supports his daughter’s lie that Kaz had been invited to the tower. While the episode concludes with Kaz feeling as if he’s finally living up to the promise of a Resistance spy, it also ends with Captain Doza pulling up Kaz’s face on his surveillance monitors and pondering one of the newest residents of his platform.
“The High Tower” introduced Resistance’s first woman writer on the show, Stephany Folsom. This is great news, and we hope to see Folsom return with more episodes. Perhaps her presence helped flesh out what was feasible for Tam Ryvora in the episode, but overall the women characters in the episode were largely and unfortunately wasted. “The High Tower” remained enjoyable, besides this problem, but the potential for better was lurking somewhere in the background. The production values remained generally at that high level that Lucasfilm has established for itself, with uses of shadows and light that frankly put other similarly animated shows to shame. The same can be said for the other production values, like sound and direction. In an episode mainly restrained to the interior of the platform and at night, “The High Tower” didn’t quite benefit from the beautiful bright colors that provide a comfortable warmth to the eye that sometimes eludes even the best of CGI animation. Perhaps next time on all these issues.
For more on “The High Tower,” check out the episode guide at StarWars.com!