After fleeing the First Order’s ambush in “Quick Salvage Run,” the Colossus needs to up its game in defense. Captain Doza (Jason Hightower) brings in the Rebel veteran Jared Yeager (Scott Lawrence) to refine the combat skills of the Aces, the Colossus star racers who doubled as the protectors from pirates.
Due to his past aerial defense of the Colossus and his New Republic military education, Kazuda Xiono (Christopher Sean) is drafted as an Ace and Yeager’s training assistant. Yeager and Kaz take the Aces to a remote ice-pillared moon for training. Meanwhile, aboard a Star Destroyer, Tam Ryvora (Suzie McGrath) receives her respective flight education with the First Order.
The Scrappy Ace Team
For fans who wanted to know more about the Aces, this episode delivers, and Kaz assumes the role of a supporting character rather than a lead. It centers around Hype Fazon (Donald Faison) while giving breathing room for the Aces’s rapport.
Hype treats the training like a race. Like the Aces, Hype has experience in fighting pirates, so why does he seem to not be taking military training seriously? Why does he fly like a racer in a combat training when he knows how to switch gears when required? Why does he competitively obstruct Torra Dorra (Myrna Velasco) from shooting an enemy in a hypothetical situation when his combat professionality seemed to be intact when the Aces faced pirates. His frustration stems from the adjustments: Tam’s departure, the Colossus on the run, his high status competing with Kaz’s induction, and, to rub salt in the wounds, getting dragged into First Order tensions he repeatedly tried to avoid.
Hype feels shanghaied. He is baffled by Kaz’s induction into the Aces, since Kaz, or “Kaztastrophe,” is pretty much a klutz in physical combat despite having a military flight education. He rebuffs Kaz’s attempts to console him simply not just because he barely has personal history with Kaz, but the latter who doesn’t grasp what the role-reversal means to Hype, now that Hype has to take orders from Kaz. It’s a subtle call-out: Hype sensing something about Kaz’s well-intended chipperness had a role in Tam’s resentment-fueled abandonment. But Hype does have an ear for Torra Doza who confides in him about her fears and it’s the empathetic pep-talk he needs. It’s a sweet moment made by their sibling chemistry.
As for the others, we don’t get to know about Freya Fenris (Mary Elizabeth McGlynn) who voices the same level of concern as everyone and throws a quip or two. Bo Keevil (Dave Filoni) is mostly taciturn and ancillary with few lines. But Griff Halloran (Stephen Stanton), an Ace who wears the remnants of his Empire past with his Tie-Defender uniform, spills hints of his Empire history and challenges Hype’s dismissive blitheness about their on-the-run situation. While Griff’s words are sparse, he seems shaped by his Empire past from the way he replies, “Yeah, we weren’t [watching out for each other], that’s why we lost,” foreshadowing how the First Order will treat Tam.
Tam Piloting for The First Order
Tam and her fellow cadet Jace Rucklin (Elijah Wood) are hurled into the Tie-Fighter training grounds. But under the First Order, there are no training guns, live fire is used, and her practice of teamwork is punished instead of rewarded. Tam shows promise with her firing skills, but when Jace’s Tie-Defender spins out of control, she ditches her last shot to help his ship to safety. Rucklin’s cocky veneer humbles into sincere gratitude, to the point he tries to defend her actions before their displeased instructor.
But Tam’s heroism is deemed weak and costly as is Rucklin’s display of inexperience, unlike the Aces’ training leaders who keep safety, collaboration, emotional morale, self-improvement in mind. Tam and Jace are disposable pilots under the First Order’s “survivalist of the fittest” order.
But considering season one’s investment in Tam’s constantly-quashed desire to fly, there’s a glaring missed opportunity: This is the first time Tam has been seen flying on screen. Yet, there isn’t gravitas granted to her first onscreen flight into the stars or how she is adjusting to piloting a Tie-Fighter versus a racing vehicle. Other than some trepidation at the start of training, it overall is a breeze for her to operate a Tie-Defender.
With the script by Mairghread Scott, “Live Fire” is a typical teamwork-rules arc with enough camaraderie charm to go by. Hype’s arc is a highlight because his initial aloofness unravels into layers. Resistance also engages in slice-of-life intimacies, highlighted by the Aces chatting in a luxury lounge that no longer flashes or flairs or Hype cooling down by hitting the arcade in the seedier area of the Colossus. How these characters interact with these locational touches are easy to take for granted.
For an episode about the antithesis of Aces’ and Tam’s emotional support system, the contrasts don’t feel punctuated with the momentum. These missed opportunities could have been remedied with more punchy storyboarding and consciousness in the editing. There’s solid dynamics to how the Aces’s normalcy is upended, but Tam’s inner conflict feels more swept-over since it moves at a speed that there’s barely memorable breathing space to process her new interiors, even if we had two previous episodes about her fraught induction in the First Order. Tam deserves better.
- Christine Dunford has a solid debut as Lt. Galek. It’s always nice to see a new female imperial character.
- Interestingly, Jace’s and Lin’s Sullustan-alien friend is seen in a shot of Aunt Z’s bar at the end. I suppose the First Order didn’t find a non-human worthy of recruiting as a pilot.
- “If we don’t resupply soon, I’m gonna start charging you too!” Aunt Z’s line says plenty about the state of the Colossus’s economy.
- I realized that Tam helping Jace Rucklin’s adjust his out-of-control ship is a subtle callback to Kaz easing Griff Halloran’s water landing on Castilon in season one. This callback could have been denoted if either Kaz or Griff brought that up.
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