OBVIOUSLY MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. Do not read if you haven’t seen the movie yet.
The first time I saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I really hated this character. Vice Admiral Holdo appears out of (seemingly) nowhere to take command of the Resistance after Leia’s brush with death. We’re given a quick back story that she was the hero of a previous battle and that’s that.
Her command doesn’t last very long as the fleet (all three vessels of it) is wiped out within an hour of screen time of her assuming command after her escape plan goes awry.
But, upon further review, would her plan have worked if not for Poe’s self-entitled insubordinate meddling?
First let’s set the scene.
The remnants of the Resistance fleet were being chased down by the First Order’s larger, more powerful but slower capital ships. Our heroes only had enough fuel remaining for a single jump to light speed but were hesitant to make the jump because they knew the First Order could track them through light speed (which is a new technology).
So Vice Admiral Holdo has a plan to load the remaining Resistance personal into cloaked life boats as they pass a planet with an old rebel base. The goal is for the First Order to follow the now empty Resistance cruiser past the planet, unaware that the Resistance personal were transferred there.
Holdo decides to keep this plan compartmentalized to herself and not share it with the rest of the team. At first I thought this was a bad idea and where the plot begins to break away from previous Star Wars movies, where the pilots were always briefed with the ‘big picture’ by their superiors.
Commander Poe, who had been demoted earlier in the movie by Leia for losing his wing of pilots after pressing an attack on an enemy Dreadnaught (disobeying a direct order to break off), takes exception to being kept in the dark. Untrusting of Holdo and believing she actually has no plan of escape at all, he sends Finn and Rose to find a splicer (hacker) and sneak onto the lead Imperial Star Destroyer while he leads a mutiny on board their cruiser. GeekyMommy says that it’s like he was trying to “Mansplain” a better plan and when she wouldn’t listen to him with his superior male intelligence, he ran amok. (GeekyMommy’s words, not mine!)
Holdo later regains command and continues her plan to sneak the resistance fighters onto the planet. Her plan quickly goes to Hell in a hand basket however when the First Order ships adjust their fire to target the shieldless cloaked shuttles full of Resistance personal as opposed to the now decoy cruiser. Holdo then goes out “Like A Boss” in probably the coolest space Kamikaze scene ever put on screen.
But upon further review…
Holdo’s compartmentalizing the information is not only the right of any leader of a military unit, but also actually makes a great deal of sense since she already knows her fleet is being tracked, but not sure how.
What is the source of the leak? Could there be listening devices on board? Perhaps a member of the crew is actually a traitor and relaying information to their pursuers? With these questions in mind, it makes sense to keep as many people on a ‘need to know’ basis as possible.
Her plan was actually working well until the First Order discovered the cloaked shuttles moving away from the cruiser to the planet.
How did the Imperials discover the cloaked ships?
The Imperials captured Finn, Rose and the morally agnostic hacker DJ because the idea that 3 people could sneak onto a massive Star Destroyer and hack their computer system is the space equivalent of an Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary!
D.J. then sells the resistance plan to the Imperials who begin immediately destroying the defenseless shuttles full of Poe’s friends.
D.J would not have been on the Star Destroyer in the first place to have been captured if not for Poe making moves without consulting his superiors. And even after being captured, he would NOT have able to reveal the cloaked shuttle to the Imperials if the details of the plan had been kept compartmentalized as Holdo wanted. She didn’t want to tell Poe about the plan, and the second she did, he essentially gave it to the enemy!
The components of the equation that led to the Imperials discovering the cloaked shuttles were all in play because of Poe’s impulsive actions.
Poe really is the poor-man’s Han Solo. Solo was famous for “never tell me the odds” but then beating the odds. Poe wants to be that guy, but really needs to listen to the odds.
The End Result
Obviously, we are talking about hypotheticals in a fictional story, but by all accounts, Holdo’s plan of escape for the resistance would have worked had Poe followed the orders of those in command above him. Her plan was working in fact until D.J. (who Poe placed on the Star Detroyer) with the information of the escape plan (that Poe leaked to him) was utilized by the enemy.
While I still question Holdo’s actions after the launch of the cloaked shuttles (Why not jump to lightspeed so the Star Destroyers follow? Move the cruiser into a blocking position to shield the shuttles? Make her Kamikaze run immediately after the 1st shuttle was fired on), she did have a workable plan in place that would have worked if all her commanders had followed the Bill Belichick-New England Patriots motto of “Just Do Your Job.”
So my initial impression of Vice Admiral Holdo as being the goat of this whole film was actually incorrect. Poe’s feeling of self-entitlement, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants attitude and laissez faire approach towards information security lead directly to the deaths of multiple shuttles full of his friends.
As for why couldn’t Holdo’s role be held by Leia or Admiral Ackbar, the person in charge had to be someone we didn’t know and didn’t necessarily trust. How many of us were duped by Poe’s dumb plan and thought what he was doing was right? We would have trusted Leia or Ackbar without question, but our lack of knowledge of Holdo, and perhaps even her clothing that doesn’t exactly speak military strategist, made us fall into that trap.
Also, other arm-chair quarterbacks wonder, “Well, if Holdo didn’t trust Poe, why didn’t she put him into the brig?” Poe hadn’t done anything brig-worthy and with the limited number of resistance fighters (Rose said she had just put 3 in the brig earlier that day), she couldn’t afford to lose someone who could actually fire a gun in the right direction (unlike say, Stormtroopers). He was stuck on a ship in the middle of space with a fleet of First Order ships following them – what trouble could he get into? It’s like trusting a toddler in a “childproof” room. Apparently a lot!
What are your thoughts on Holdo? Did she get a bad rap? How about Poe?