Hold On On Holdo

Everybody loves a hero. Or at least everyone loves someone who looks like a hero.

And Poe Dameron, he’s a hero… or at least he looks like one. So when Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo doesn’t tell the fan favorite the plan to go to Crait, the failure is obviously hers and not his. Or is it?

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Before we answer that question, we must address the baggage that comes with it. For some, Holdo talking down to Poe is forced feminism and blatant emasculation. Besides the idea of Kathleen Kennedy and Rian Johnson sitting down at a table, twisting their respective villain mustaches, and trying to cut down one of the most important characters of the new trilogy just because they want to make a point is asinine and ridiculous, this argument doesn’t make sense as a business plan, it doesn’t make sense for the film, and it certainly is in no way necessary. Which is exactly why they didn’t do it.

Now, back to the real question. Is the fault Holdo’s fault or Poe’s? Yes.

What’s getting truly lost in all the Twitter spit and Facebook fires is that the lesson Yoda teaches Luke about sharing failure’s with your students applies to every hero, every mentor, and every student in the film.

Let us start by focusing on Poe Dameron, that cocky flyboy with a heart of gold. Since we first saw him in The Force Awakens, something clicked with fans. Nonetheless, he doesn’t go through any struggle in that film. He flies in, pew pew pew, goodbye Starkiller Base. No problem, no plot, no arc.

In The Last Jedi, however, we see him struggle. We see his bravado come back and bite him in the butt. He gets almost the entire Resistance fleet killed to take down one ship. One ship. But Poe doesn’t even seem to notice. Even after Leia slaps him in the face and demotes him, he doesn’t seem to get it. 

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Poe has a right here, right now mentality. What can we do at this moment, in this situation, to make this second better. In some cases, that’s not a problem. Sometimes there are small things that need be handled, like rescuing Han Solo, Rey, and Finn to protect the plans that lead to Luke Skywalker. Times such as those are when it is okay to jump in an X-Wing and blow stuff up.

Then there are other times. Times when the best tactic is survival, and the best hope is but another day to keep fighting the good fight. That is where we see the Resistance at the beginning of The Last Jedi. Times like these need leaders, ones who will make the right choice for the long game. No matter how hard it might be. At times, that is what makes a hero.

Han Solo comes back to help his friends with the Death Star, even though it will make him one of the most wanted men in the galaxy. He does it because in the long run bringing down the Empire will be better than taking the money and running. Leia promotes trust between Ewoks and rebels because cultivating that relationship will pay off eventually (albeit probably sooner and more profoundly than she imagined). Luke Skywalker throws away his lightsaber in front of the Emperor because more violence will only perpetuate more violence. Luke Skywalker projects himself to Crait because giving the Resistance a chance to survive, to restore hope and light to the galaxy, will mean far more than training a single person or turning back to violence as an answer. That is what makes a hero.

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Poe is not that yet. He proves that without a shadow of a doubt by forcing the fight with the dreadnought, and in doing so he causes Leia to start having second thoughts. She slaps him and demotes him. “Dead heroes, no leaders.” Poe is not ready to be what the Resistance needs. He may be able to fly better than anyone in any fleet, but a single pilot doesn’t win a war. Leaders do.

It is no wonder that Holdo doesn’t want to trust him with the plan. Leia’s final act prior to her coma was to demote him, showing that her trust in him has wavered. Plus, there has been a problem, according to Rose, with people deserting the Resistance. Amilyn Holdo comes into leadership at the most tenuous moment the Resistance has ever known. Who to trust and with what is a question she has to figure out as she goes. Poe has done nothing, and with his brashness, yelling, and attacks continues to do nothing, to prove that he deserves that trust.

Still, Holdo does fail Poe, just as Poe fails the Resistance. She probably should have at least announced that she had a larger plan. As the military lead is in no obligation to, but there is a chance it would have helped. It likely would have been folly to explain in full to Poe, as he tends to run his mouth a bit, but by not trusting her troops, particularly those close to Leia, she creates a struggle and strife that need not be there.

“The greatest teacher, failure is.”

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Holdo’s failure as leader of the Resistance is important, not just to the story, but to Poe’s journey. Once Poe figures out about the transports, she should have given council to him in some form. If she had, it is less likely that Poe tells Finn, and therefore less likely that DJ finds out, and thus less likely that DJ can betray Finn and Rose to the First Order. The Resistance is saved. No mutiny, no problems.

So, what does Holdo do about it? She makes up for her mistake. She stays behind, destroys Snoke’s ship, and depletes the fleet that can go after the Resistance on Crait. In the toughest of moments, she makes the choice of a leader and a hero. She stays because there is no other way. To trust a droid would allow for mechanical error. It has to be a leader, a martyr. She brings light forth, shattering through the First Order and showing Poe in a way words never could what it means to be a leader.

And finally, after mistake upon mistake throughout the film, he gets it. He retreats when they are outmatched. He doesn’t rush after Skywalker. He thinks about the bigger plan, saves the Resistance, and sparks a fire…

2 thoughts on “Hold On On Holdo

  1. Good piece! I bet what she wears also fries some fans. (A good fanfic is out there somewhere about why she’s dressed that way when the rest of her staff is in uniform. For me, it fits with the character as described in Gray’s book about Leia.)

    A part of the situation that many leave out is Poe’s comment on Holdo not being what he expected of an Admiral who fought a battle that impressed (for good or bad) Poe enough to name. I don’t read all the non-movie material; if Holdo’s battle is mentioned elsewhere, what happened in it and Holdo’s part would be an important clue to Poe’s mindset going into his first talk with Holdo.

    (Still, it must be said that a military leader in charge of a battle needs to know that people will do what they’re told to do and when to do it. Esp in a *dire* situation. That’s one of the nasty about fighting: it’s not a consensual system, even in a Resistance that is not as anal as the First Order.)

    Putting that aside, the Holdo/Poe clash may also grow out of Poe being so accustomed to dealing with Leia, and to knowing a lot more about everything than someone else in his position would probably know, that it wouldn’t occur to him that a new leader, from a different part of the resistance fleet, on *his* ship, wouldn’t simply act like Leia. He clearly thought that Leia would be on his side in those split-seconds before she blasts him silly…with no explanations.

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  2. Agree. Poe is used to being Leia’s favorite son. He’s like Leia in that they’re both very action-oriented, only he lacks Leia’s strategic experience and wisdom. Without Leia to guide him, he’s unpredictable, which is exactly why Holdo dresses him down for questioning her. Holdo has no existing relationship with him, and he’d just disobeyed direct orders, resulting in huge losses for the Resistance. Poe may feel like Holdo owes him an answer, but from Holdo’s point of view, he’s an insubordinate stranger who’s been getting their people killed. Why would she share her strategies with him?

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