It’s happened at last, the First Order has begun to set up shop on the Colossus and our Resistance spy, Kaz Xiono, is finally up against the neo-Imperialists directly, rather than poking around Captain Doza’s office. This is a good thing. “The First Order Occupation” jumps immediately into this conflict with Kaz bumping into a squad of stormtroopers in a good faith effort to help out a bumbling Rodian on the short train to bad news. He evades their scrutinizing gaze and soon learns the First Order is hard at work hunting down a spy, a pirate spy. At the same time, outside of questioning his presence near Doza’s tower the night of Torra’s kidnapping, they ask about the whereabouts of Synara San. What follows is an entire episode dedicated to Kaz helping his almost love interest escape the platform while evading a tightening First Order grip. Does it work? For the most part.
Whereas a few episodes ago we celebrated Kaz’s freedom from Kaz’ness, “The First Order Occupation” really belongs to our lovable green alien, Neeku. Throughout the episode, the plain language conforming mechanic repeatedly draws the First Order’s attention straight to the Resistance spy who is doing everything he can to stay in the shadows. In the end, Neeku plays a crucial role in helping Kaz and Synara get away from the white helmeted antagonists, and in the process, drops a minor scare for viewers regarding his own safety (thankfully, a certain round astromech saves the day).
The successes and failures of BB-8 aside – he doesn’t quite pull off a breaking and entering, something he must have practiced afterward given his skills in The Last Jedi in Canto Bight – “The First Order Occupation” is focused around small moments, such as our favorite puff ball custodian losing his waxing/cleaning machine to suspicious First Order troopers, or Tam’s own naivete that the First Order aren’t necessarily the bad guys based on the role they played in Torra’s rescue. Additionally, we see Captain Doza fighting to assert his control over the platform, something we already know will quietly slip away in the same manner that the Empire overtook Cloud City decades earlier. Perhaps significant to the relationship between Kaz and Synara, the fleeing pirate forsakes an easy escape to save the former New Republic pilot. These collection of moments pull together to weave the story of not just the inevitable fall of the platform to the First Order, but also the quiet continued build up of the relationship, romantic or not, between two individuals who represent sides that are now unknowingly pitted against the same enemy.
“The First Order Occupation” is a precursor episode of things to come. The use of light remains the animation’s best tool. This episode’s best scene showcases Synara climbing out of her floating escape pod hatch and then sitting in the lonely darkness of the empty sea, waiting for her people to come. Things are slowly coming to a boil and the next few episodes will likely continue to shape our heroes and better define their enemies.