In “The Core Problem,” Yeager finds Kaz trying to build a transmitter to send messages to the Resistance. He fails just as Poe shows up to collect BB-8 for his mission to Jakku. Kaz fills Poe in on all the intel he’s gathered. Intrigued, Poe decides to investigate with Kaz before his trip. The two head to what Poe says should be a system, but there’s evidently no star. However, they find a planet that has had its core hollowed out. After maneuvering through the debris in the core, they stumble upon a settlement with an ancient temple. Soon, a squadron of droids starts chasing them, and one sends a distress signal to the First Order. Tie fighters swarm the area, forcing Poe and Kaz back to the skies. Before heading home, the two men exchange droids, with BB-8 going back to Poe. Back at the Colossus, Tam questions CB-23’s taking BB8’s place, as well as Kaz’s day-long absence. Yeager remarks that Tam wouldn’t understand, to her response that he won’t let her.
It’s interesting that this episode is titled “The Core Problem,” as it brings back some of Resistance’s core problems that have been absent, or less egregious, in the past three episodes. The first half of “The Core Problem” is pretty dull, for the most part. It starts out okay, with Kaz trying to construct the transmitter, though I think they should start showing his growth soon. He’s been working as a mechanic all this time; has he not gained any technical ability or knowledge? The second Poe steps into Yeager’s shop, things get really boring. They try to create an emotional moment when Kaz finds out that BB-8 is leaving to be with Poe, but I don’t feel like the relationship between these two has been developed enough for this to work. Every time Kaz has said something nice or tried to connect with BB-8, it’s implied that the droid says something about missing Poe or not liking Kaz that much. How are they going to constantly use this dynamic to put Kaz down and set up jokes and then suddenly expect us to take it seriously and feel sad about their impending separation? This actually reminds me of how Solo handled its main droid character, L3-37. They made jokes about her and her perception of Lando being into her through the entire movie, and then at the end, you’re supposed to be invested in them as a serious couple. I wonder if the apparent desire to gender the droids is what has led to this lack of decisiveness on what to do with them narratively. Throughout “The Core Problem,” and in previous appearances, CB-23 is constantly referred to as a she, despite just being a little round bot like BB-8. Honestly, I’m not sure how they are determining that one is a boy and the other a girl, but it seems strange to me. They’re robots and shouldn’t have biological gender.
That being said, things do pick up a bit once the guys and droids make it to the mysterious, hollow planet. The music shifts to a creepy, slow lull in this scene, and I love the cryptic buildings and objects they find there. Resistance shows some much-appreciated restraint when Kaz finds a doll and remarks that whoever was living there, the First Order wiped them out. This could have been played sappy or over-explained, but they make it just creepy and unsettling enough to get the point across and then back off. I almost wish more time could have been spent here, as it’s the highlight of “The Core Problem,” but then I wonder if the setting and tone could have been overdone and lost its intrigue. Seeing this destroyed settlement and hearing Poe’s remark that this happens a lot in the Outer Rim tells and shows the audience just enough.
“The Core Problem” again tries to play it sincerely when Kaz and BB-8 finally part ways, but in addition to the lack of development to their relationship, this scene is also hampered by ridiculous visuals. BB-8 and CB-23 are ejected from Kaz and Poe’s ships, literally float beside each other in space, and finally get sucked into the ship they’ll stay with. This looks stupid, especially in space, and one wonders how it’s even happening without them flying away. I don’t normally care about whether things are physically possible, and this is Star Wars; that kind of logic is never at the forefront anyway. But this scene looks terrible, and they take it so seriously that it just makes it that much worse. Even with its limited budget, Rebels managed some gorgeous and interesting visuals, as did The Clone Wars. Even as the overall quality of Resistance goes up, I can’t help but wonder what they’re going for visually. Something came out when the show was announced about how they were inspired by anime, but I really, really don’t see that reflected in the show’s visual style. This is a short little scene, and it probably wouldn’t bother me as much if it didn’t come on the heels of such a good sequence. It would also make a world of difference if either the emotions felt genuine or the visuals looked good, but both of them are poorly executed and taken completely seriously by the narrative.
Things continue to get interesting with Tam in “The Core Problem.” She doesn’t appear until the final scene and only has some pretty basic dialogue with Yeager, but it’s interesting in the context of where they’ve been taking her character lately. Although she seems a little conflicted, at the end of the day, Yeager and Kaz can’t trust Tam with any information about the Resistance. It feels a little unfair for Tam to demand this information in the first place; she and Kaz are both employees of Yeager’s, and this doesn’t entitle her to know what Kaz is doing and why. This reminds me of earlier in the season when Tam and Neeku acted like Yeager owed it to them to let Neeku keep a pet in the shop. It feels like the people making this show have no concept of how employment works and how workers act at work, but in this case, I guess it gets a slight pass because Tam is an emotional, unreasonable person in general. It’s ridiculous to be mad at your boss for not releasing personal information about another employee, but she’s been shown having ridiculous mood swings before. I sort of wish they would handle Tam with a little more subtlety at times, but overall I do appreciate what they’re going for here, and it could end up being interesting.
I feel ambivalent about “The Core Problem.” The first half or so is boring and feels inconsequential, but once Kaz and Poe arrive at the mysterious planet, things get better fast. This is a great setting, and while I have mixed feelings about the scene at the end with Tam, I think I know where they’re going, and I’m interested. “The Core Problem” is neither as bad as Resistance’s worst episodes nor as good as its best, which basically just means it’s forgettable and very mediocre. I hope that, over time, they’ll start focusing more on the potentially interesting characters and situations instead of unfunny jokes and forced tearjerker attempts involving the droids.