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Star Wars: Visions: Season 1: Episode 8: Lop & Ocho

What is it ? : A Star Destroyer arrives at the world of Tao, plunging into the oceans of the world, while a voiceover tells us how the planet welcomed the Empire to modernise and advance the world. But the Empire is exploiting the planet and where the inhabitants lived in balance with nature, the Empire is proving detrimental to the environment and the the people of Tao are becoming increasingly frustrated with the Imperial oppression.
The camera zooms down through a slightly grungy industrialised city, to a Lepi girl, Lop, running through the streets away from others of her species enslaved by the Empire, she is accompanied by a droid, TD-4, and parkours up onto a rooftop before arriving at a marketplace, she spots some fruit on one of the stalls and reaches out to steal a piece but is stopped by a large human man dressed in traditional Japanese garb.
He has a scar where he has lost one eye, and others on his face and chest and is accompanied by a young human girl, Ocho. Ocho comments on how starved Lop looks and asks her father, Yasaburo, to help the girl, to take her in and make her part of the family. But he is resistant to the idea, commenting that isn't from Tao, and that Ocho shouldn't speak about family matters in front of "it".
Ocho is insistent though and they head down to the beach, asking Lop about her family, and Lop tells her that her family is gone, and splashes the smaller girl with sea water. Yasaburo tells her that this offense to Lop puts him in debt to the girl so agrees to take her into his family and raise her as his daughter. TD-4 cuts the Imperial slave collar that Lop was still wearing, and takes a picture of the new family.
Seven years later, there has been an explosion in the Imperial compound, and Lop awakens from the blast calling out for TD-4 who is lay nearby projecting the image he took on the beach, he springs back to his feet and she activates a vision enhancement monocle and spots her father and Ocho arguing nearby. A number of members of the Yasaburo clan stand around as Ocho blames her father for the explosion, and he responds that they must fight the Empire to preserve the traditions of their world as they managed without the Empire for a long time before they arrived. Ocho argues that Tao needs the Empire for growth and prosperity.
As the two continue to argue, and Lop tries to stop them, a number of Stormtrooper Patrol arrive on Speeder bikes and everyone scatters.
Later Lop and Ocho are in a Landspeeder, and Ocho is still complaining about her fathers actions, while Lop says she loves their father, which Ocho reluctantly agrees she does too, but as the future head of the family, she must think of the future. They arrive at a Imperial roadblock and it becomes clear Ocho has been working with the Empire, that she was prewarned about her fathers actions to try to stop him, something Lop finds hard to believe. The Imperial officer tells Ocho that the Yasaburo clan must now be punished for their leaders actions, but as a loyal Imperial citizen she can join them, Ocho agrees despite Lops objections, and cuts off her hair braid passing it to Lop and leaving with the Empire.
Lop returns to her father telling him what has happened, he tells her that he is sorry if he ever treated Lop & Ocho differently, because he tried not to, as family is about more than blood, and he has something to show her. He takes her into a chamber deep inside the rock their home is built upon, and in a ritual shows her a lightsaber in an ornate box, he tells her how the saber was left to the family by a warrior called a Jedi who visited the world centuries before. He tells her how the sword is passed down each generation, as he is now passing it to her, and that the destruction of the clan and it's holdings means nothing as long as the saber is safe in her hands. He then leaves in a transport, telling her he will take care of the situation with Ocho.
Later on another explosion rocks the Imperial compound, and worrying about her father, Lop races off to find out what's happened. Taking the speeder off the road and across piping and rooftops she gets to the hangar where her fathers transport ship has landed and finds him locked in combat with Ocho now wearing an Imperial uniform. Ocho slashes at her fathers face, but the blows are somewhat blocked by the lightsaber in Lops hands. She recognises the blade, and says that it is a family heirloom and belongs to her, that Lop isn't really part of the family.
Lop checks on their father, only for him to tell her that the attack destroyed his other eye and he will never see them again before slumping to the ground. Ocho attacks Lop, telling her as an outsider she can't understand, and Lop responds that she just wants them together as a family again. TD-4 tries to back this up by showing the hologram of them together on the beach, but Ocho slashes at the droid destroying it.
Seeing her father cut down, and her lifelong companion destroyed unlocks the force within Lop, and she pulls one of Yasaburo's blades into her hand and the two sisters clash, blades against blades, but Ocho's blades are inferior to the Lightsaber and shatter allowing Lop to cut an X into her chest and she falls from the platform. Only to rise up again, disdain on her face as the Raider corvette she has landed on lifts in the skies.
Lop picks up the remains of TD-4, which is still projecting in a loop the recording of them on the beach, with Ocho's voice repeating "We're going to be a family." . . .

High Points : Okay, this was really good, telling a complete tale within its 20 minute run time, and everything just feels so Star Wars, despite having a real Japanese feel to it. The Empire is so recognisable, exploiting the planet and its people, with even mention of how it's building it's military but there is no war any more.
And the oppressive nature of the Empire is shown again and again, mainly by the massive Imperial Star Destroyer hovering over the city, this massive vessel hanging over everything else which happens, a symbol of the Empires control over everything. But also by the Imperial compound, it's severe technology completely at odds with the nature around, and so polished and advanced compared to the run-down lived-in nature of the Tao city around it.

I also was very impressed by the inherent racism shown by characters, Yasaburo showed it at the beginning, even referring to Lop as "it", but he grows beyond that, but the human centric nature of the Empire as Ocho joins it, leads to her rejecting Lop as her sister, telling her how she can't understand, and isn't really part of the family.

While we grow to dislike Ocho through the episode, her racism towards Lop being one reason, but also her turning against her father and traditions. But the episode does a great job of showing us how the Empire is so successful, as it's actually quite understandable that Ocho makes her decision, the massive Star Destroyer overhead is a symbol of the power the Empire projects, compared to the handful of men her father has at his command. The Empire offers the galaxy, while her father offers only tradition. And the costs for this don't come from Ocho, the slavery shown in the episode isn't of her people, it's of aliens she can make herself think of as lesser beings. This episode shows the colonial nature of the Empire more effectively than perhaps anything else I can think of.

Finally the imagery is fantastic, from the above mentioned Star Destroyer which we see from various angles, as it occupies the sky above them, but also the worn nature of the city, looking more like a 21st century cyberpunk style than Star Wars, but this just gives Tao it's own feeling, a world with a Japanese heritage, advanced to the 21st Century, but then the Empire arrives and forces it's own constructions around what already existed. So we've got Imperial archtecture, alongside 21st Century, alongside traditional Japanese, it's a wonderful mashup which feels realistic.

Low Points : The one weakness of the episode was the animation however, there are sections of the story which have long periods of people talking, and the camera just moves from face to face, and the simple animation of the mouths here, which isn't much more than them just opening and closing, really shows its weakness, highlighted by these segments. It wouldn't have been too bad if the camera had roamed, showing us the scenery around the characters as they talked, but instead we just get pretty simplistic shows of faces with flapping mouths.

So what do you really think ? : I really liked this one, it feels so right, a planet exploited by the Empire, the inhabitants getting used to meeting aliens for the first time, as Yasaburo doesn't even think of Lop as a person at the start, although he rapidly adapts and comes to love her as his daughter. The clash between tradition and advancement, played out between the three lead characters, and the split this causes in their family, with Ocho feeling betrayed by her fathers actions, and him feeling betrayed by her willingness to abandon tradition, which is hugely important to him.
Personally I want to see more, but am happy with this being a one off, as it's a lovely little gem to treasure.

Final Words : So only one more episode to go, and I personally think I've just seen the highlight of the series. Which I'm surprised I haven't seen discussed much.
Most people I've seen reviewing the series rated The Ninth Jedi as the best of the series, an episode which had some good ideas, but made no effort to fit within the Star Wars universe. But this exists within Star Wars, but tells a unique story in its own way.
Maybe because it comes so late in the series, and I've read that many people had abandoned Visions after a few episodes as just not their thing, something I can understand, but saddens me as this is one of the best pieces of Star Wars I've seen recently.

Score : 9/10

Comments made about this Article!

08/Oct/2021 13:16:42 Posted by GMOverkill

Slight question....isn't this Episode 8 of Visions, not 7? If I remember correctly, Episode 7 was The Elder.
Friendly greetings, GMOverkill.

08/Oct/2021 14:13:31 Posted by Freddy

100% correct.
For some reason I'd gotten it into my head there were only 8 episodes in this season, so with 1 to go, this was Episode 7.

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