(Note: Hey there! This is where we mention the fact that there are spoilers in this here article that could potentially ruin parts of Star Wars: The Force Awakens for you. Read on only if you like to know stuff ahead of time or have already seen the movie.)
If you’re a casual fan of all things Star Wars, you might have two questions when seeing the crawl for Star Wars: The Force Awakens: what happened to the Rebels, and what’s up with these people in the Resistance?
The answers to those questions are related. With the downfall of the Galactic Empire following Return of the Jedi, there simply was no need for the Rebel Alliance to exist. Instead, a new Republic was formed, looking to bring democracy to the galaxy as in the days of old.
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Unfortunately, that process didn’t just magically convert the whole galaxy at once, and evil still exists in the form of the First Order. Because of that, the Resistance was formed under the guidance of General Leia Organa, helping to keep the First Order in check.
As such, the Resistance fighters appear to be more of a guerrilla force than a standing army — think less Redcoats, more Minutemen. Since we don’t know how much of the galaxy is part of the Republic, it’s reasonable to assume that the First Order might still have a decent chunk under its sway, meaning more hit and run and covert strikes and less huge space battles for the Resistance. They obviously don’t have a lot of boots on the ground everywhere, as evidenced by the fact that Rey tells Finn she’s never met a member of the group before (allowing him to act like he’s one of them).
What else did we learn about the Resistance during The Force Awakens? Glad you asked.
Its resources appear to be limited
There’s a time during the final battle with Starkiller Base that someone in the Resistance headquarters mentions that two more X-Wings have been shot down, and that they’ve now lost almost half their fleet. If so, that makes the Resistance a pretty small operation in military terms.
C-3PO mentions a Republic Fleet, but the Resistance might not even have any capital ships. A few squadrons of X-Wing fighters and some transports might be all they’ve got in terms of air power, and the number of ground troops fighting under their banner also appears small. But again, this isn’t a group that plans on slugging it out toe to toe with the First Order anyway.
It’s got the best pilot the forces of good have ever seen
Sorry Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, but you’ve got nothing on Poe Dameron. In one sequence during the battle on Takodana that can’t even be 45 seconds long, Poe shoots down five TIE Fighters and still has time to take out two clusters of Stormtroopers on the ground. It’s no wonder Finn is inspired to yell out, “That’s one hell of a pilot!”
As an encore, he later flies through a tiny hole and detonates Starkiller Base all by himself. What the Resistance lacks in numbers, it makes up in skill, it seems.
The Resistance is using some of the same vehicles, personnel and symbols of the Rebel Alliance
We’ve already discussed the X-Wings and Leia. Admiral Ackbar, seemingly no longer holding that rank but still a strategist (and probably still able to sniff out a trap, naturally) is also involved.
Most notably, while the First Order has its own logo, the Resistance uses the same “starbird” symbol that the Rebels once used. Why? Likely because it’s a recognized symbol of hope, and one that inspires people to fight back against oppressors. No reason to change what’s worked in the past.
What’s Next for the Resistance After The Force Awakens?
Well, still being alive after Poe destroyed Starkiller Base is a good starting point. The fact that they aren’t running a big operation helps too, because it means the losses they suffered in the process of delivering a big setback won’t be the end of the group.
The big question is whether the Resistance has to play a more active and visible role following the annihilation of the Republic Senate. Again, we simply don’t know what the galaxy looks like at the end of The Force Awakens. If the First Order is still fairly strong and can move into the power vacuum created during the film, Leia and company might have to step up their game.
Episode VIII might see the Resistance continue its hit-and-run efforts or evolve into something much larger. If it’s the latter, it can only be because there’s a need for it, and that might mean dark times for many worlds indeed.