Leia’s Most Daring Pilot

Three. Weeks. Until. Star Wars: Episode VIII-The Last Jedi. How will we ever survive?

By reading about Poe Dameron, of course. Join me under the cut!

Poe Dameron in the Last Jedi

When I first wrote my story arc predictions, my information about Poe and his upcoming arc in The Last Jedi, my information was admittedly limited. But now, thanks to that EW article, we have a much better idea of what Poe’s up to.

Poe’s Arc

Poe’s arc is deceptively straightforward: he’s being groomed to take Leia’s place as the leader of the Resistance.

I say deceptively straightforward because as six movies of watching Jedi get trained has taught us, it’s never that simple. Poe is going from a damned fine pilot, squadron and wing commander to being Dwight Eisenhower. That’s a big leap, one that’s going to test his determination, his ability to think outside the box, and his willingness to sacrifice his friends and family in order to defeat a greater evil.

And, of course, all this is being represented in the form of one person: Vice Admiral Holdo.

Poe vs. Holdo! Who’ll win?

Well, Poe. Obviously. What, you don’t think it’s that obvious? You think Holdo will teach Poe to ‘tame his anger,’ or something like that?

Okay, that’s fair. Marketing materials have suggested that Poe is going to have his own struggles with the Dark Side in the form of mundane, everyday extremism, and Holdo is described as being a cooler head. Makes sense that he’d learn to cool his temper from her, right?

Except there’s one problem with that. In fiction, there are People Who Are Important To The Plot, and there are People Who Aren’t Important. People Who Are Important have a way greater chance of being right in fiction than the People Who Aren’t. And Poe, ultimately, is Important. Holdo, ultimately, isn’t and never will be.

Holdo isn’t a mentor character. That’s Leia’s relationship to Poe. She isn’t a hero character; those slots have already been taken. What she is is an antagonist character: she exists basically so we don’t have shots of Poe arguing with himself over right and wrong. It was cheesy when Shakespeare did it, and let’s face it: nobody who’s ever worked for Star Wars has ever been as good as the Bard.

So Holdo’s an antagonist and a minor one at that. Which pretty much guarantees that Poe is going to be way more right than she is. Certainly, Poe will learn some things from her, otherwise it wouldn’t be his arc, but at the end of the day, Holdo’s a grindstone for Poe’s knife. Meant to sharpen him, not remake him.

But righteous anger!

What anger? Seriously, what anger? Where, in all of The Force Awakens, did we see Poe react with anger to the First Order? Or hatred or fear for that matter?

Um, nowhere. Poe reacts to getting tortured with defiance and snark. He spares a stormtrooper who kneels down to help a fallen comrade (Finn). He immediately trusts and befriends Finn later, even symbolically freeing Finn from the First Order by bestowing him a Name. If you’ve read mythology, you know that this is some powerful shit, a power even gods fear. Later, even when facing imminent total galactic annihilation (make no mistake, that’s the ultimate fate of creating a weapon like Starkiller Base) Poe remains professional and detached throughout. Excited and enthusiastic, yes, but not angry or hateful or afraid.

Okay, so if anger isn’t Poe’s issue in The Last Jedi, then what is? According to all press, Poe is going to struggle with going to extremes. What else can that be but crimes committed out of anger and hatred?

Recklessness. Recklessness combined with a lack of command experience. Poe is a starfighter pilot by training and experience. That requires a certain aggression, a certain arrogance. Qualities that Poe has in spades. Seriously, when your first response to a Vader Clone threatening you is to make fun of his mask, you’ve got balls Chuck Yeager would be jealous of.

But at the same time, it would make him more likely to attack when his forces aren’t ready. Or to jump into his starfighter and take care of the problem personally. And even his command experience, which has been that of a squadron and a wing so far, aren’t going to help temper that much. They’re still lead from the front commands, and now Poe has to learn how to command from behind. How to sit in a command bunker and tell people to die for objectives they can’t understand. From captain to major, to mix services. From leader to staff officer.

Some of Holdo’s analytical and calculating nature will rub off on Poe, of course. But ultimately, he’s going to be proven right: the First Order will need to be taken down hard, and more aggressive tactics will be needed than what Holdo proposes. He just needs to learn how to do so wisely, and Holdo will only be a small part of that.

As a side note, anger is never righteous in Star Wars. To quote Yoda on the subject:

But beware the Dark Side. Anger, fear, aggresion; of the Dark Side are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you star down the dark path forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.-Yoda, Empire Strikes Back.

Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.-Yoda, The Phantom Menace

Poe as a Foil to Kylo Ren

Poe isn’t quite as straight a foil to Kylo as Finn or Rey are, but he’s still very much in contrast to the Master of the Knights of Ren.

  • Both have a snarky, deadpan sense of humour. But whereas Poe uses his to express his total fearlessness, Kylo uses it hide the fact that he’s permanently scared shitless. Think about it: Kylo’s Crowning Moment of Funny is when Lor San Tekka rather bluntly tells him that he can’t hide from who he is and Kylo snarks about how true that is before killing the old man. Poe’s moment, on the other hand, comes after a torture session, which he blows off entirely.
  • Both are, in a sense, Leia’s kids. Kylo is her biological son, who fell to the Dark Side. Poe is the son of a friend that Leia informally adopted and is grooming to take her place. It’ll be interesting to see if we get a contrast where Kylo orders a war crime without a second thought (like in the village on Jakku) whereas Poe refuses, even if it costs him a victory.
  • Both are being groomed by leaders for specific purposes. Kylo, to be used and abused by Snoke. Poe, so that he can lead the next generation into a better life than the last one.
  • Both are damned fine pilots.

Poe is Leia’s Successor in Narrative Terms as Well as the Leader of the Resistance

Right, this is a simple one: Poe effectively takes Leia’s place in the new Power Trio.

  • High ranking member of the Resistance/Rebellion
  • Defiant to the last
  • Future leader
  • Same sense of humour. People tend to forget that Leia was as snarky as Han (especially when it came to Han) in the OT. Poe has clearly picked up some skills in that department.
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