The Last Jedi’s Lesson on Trust, Respect, and Leadership

admirla holdo

Like most of the rest of the free world, I was able to watch The Last Jedi (shoutout to Globe for the free tickets lmao). And, like the fangirl that I am (please note that Rogue One dragged me kicking and screaming back into this fandom, which I thought I had left behind in high school), I just had to talk about my favorite scene in the whole movie. I didn’t want to do it on Facebook, since most of my friends there haven’t seen it yet, so I decided to do it here, where I can plaster great big spoiler alerts everywhere.

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Tread carefully.

Like I said, I want to talk about my favorite scene – or rather, scenes – in the whole movie. No, it’s not the beatdown Kylo Ren and Rey lay on Snoke’s Praetorian Guard (although that was pretty awesome). It’s not any of Rey’s training with Luke Skywalker, or Luke’s last duel with Kylo Ren.

My favorite scenes consisted of General Organa and Admiral Holdo laying down the law most magnificently on brash, hotshot pilot Poe Dameron. Righteous.

The Last Jedi opens with a scene typical of the Star Wars franchise: a space dogfight. Poe Dameron leads a squadron of doomed bombers to take out a dreadnaught cruiser. While they do succeed, that success comes at a heavy price. The Resistance’s entire bomber squad is killed in action, most poignantly shown with the heartbreaking last sacrifice of gunner Paige Tico.

Poe returns to the Resistance main cruiser, expecting to be applauded and congratulated. Instead, General Organa hits him – both literally, with an open-handed slap; and figuratively, with a demotion from Commander to Captain, for disobeying her orders.

The Resistance’s best pilot, so used to getting what he wants and being in the right, again butts heads with authority. When First Order fighter jets led by Kylo Ren open fire on the bridge of the Resistance’s main cruiser, all the officers perish in the explosion – except of course my space mom and all-around BAMF General Organa. However, she falls into a coma, and is replaced in the chain of command by Admiral Holdo. You can clearly see that Poe was expecting to be named leader of the Resistance in Leia’s place, and sneers at the woman who’s chosen – who outranks him – instead. Slim, feminine, wearing a long purple gown and jewelry, and with purple hair caught up in an elegant chignon? That’s Admiral Holdo? Not what I was expecting.” Indeed.

Holdo tells Poe to stick to his post, choosing not to share her plans with him. This, of course, convinces him that Admiral Holdo is “a coward, and a traitor” and he decides to implement his own plans, including staging a mutiny. Eventually, Holdo, and a now-awakened General Organa, take command of the ship back, knock Poe out, and implement Holdo’s original plan, which turned out to be for the better after all. Holdo had planned to put everyone on the escape transports which would be cloaked and would make for a nearby planet which had an old base from the days of the Rebel Alliance, where they could allow the First Order to pass on by and send distress signals to their allies. The cruiser, meanwhile, would continue to move on, drawing the attention of the First Order’s guns.

This is a common theme in most stories with the “hotheaded badass who’s too good for the rules” archetype, but The Last Jedi did what most of these action movies didn’t. It showed the consequences of not following your superior officers’ orders – and, in this post-Trump era, it’s particularly significant that The Last Jedi shows us the consequences of not following your female superior officers’ orders. I’ve always wondered how in most action movies the main character maverick can just totally disregard rank and the chain of command and not pay for it. Well, in The Last Jedi, not only does Poe pay for his insubordination with a demotion (and also being shot by Leia, wow), Poe also pays with the lives of his men. We are shown, quite graphically in fact, how Poe’s defiance leads to nothing but death and destruction.

General Organa and Admiral Holdo have spent years, no, decades serving the Republic, both in the Senate and in various iterations of the Rebel Alliance and the Resistance. Poe presumes to know better than either of these two, and it’s this presumptuousness that leads to the Resistance fleet being utterly decimated.

He ignores Leia’s orders to retreat after the evacuation is complete. This leads to the deaths of the Resistance’s entire bomber squad and several fighter pilots as well. He decides to go along with Rose and Finn’s plan rather than staying to his post like Holdo tells him to and nearly sabotages a plan that would have saved what was left of the Resistance.

Some might argue that if Holdo had just let Poe in on her plan, then he would have fallen in line. But again, this is a concept that does not exist in the military. Superior officers are perfectly within their rights to initiate “need-to-know” plans, to borrow a phrase from Poe himself, and Poe did not need to know. Also, the moment he found out what Holdo’s plan was, he straight-up blabbed to Finn and Rose, which allowed their smuggler-turncoat pal, DJ, to overhear, and thus turn them over to the Resistance. Several of the originally thirty transports making for the hidden Rebel Alliance base are then destroyed, further crippling the fleet.

Leia said it best. Not everything can be solved by jumping into an X-fighter and blowing something up. More than soldiers, General Organa and Admiral Holdo are leaders. The problem at hand isn’t the only thing that they’re occupied with. They’re occupied with the safety of the Resistance, and guarding the hope that the Resistance brings to the galaxy. They don’t just think of winning the battle. They think of winning the war.

It’s a lesson that, thankfully, Poe seems to learn.  “We are the spark that will light the fire that will burn the First Order down. He becomes a leader, the leader Admiral Holdo, General Organa, and the Resistance needed him to be.

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