The Last Jedi’s Fatal Flaw

So I saw the Last Jedi the day before the writing of this article (December 26th – the holidays have obliterated a decent chunk of my buffer, so this will go live only a few days after). I mostly liked it, especially since unlike the Force Awakens it didn’t have such interminable unoriginality (I am deeply afraid of how Episode IX is going to play out with Abrams at the helm again) but it does have a single fatal flaw that undermines pretty much all of its plot, which is spoilery and will therefore be discussed below the break.

Okay, so I know I’m not the only one to bring this up, but: Po’s entire character arc revolves around Vice Admiral Holdo being competent and worthy of his trust. Now here’s the problem: Vice Admiral Holdo at no point demonstrates any competence as a leader. Partly because the performance was pretty dismal and she isn’t all that inspiring, but mostly because she never gives a reason for withholding information from her people. Enough of the rebels have no idea what Holdo’s up to for Po to stage a mutiny towards the end of the movie, so clearly Po is not the only one who’s being kept into the dark as to the plan to evacuate to Crait. And yet, Holdo never gives any reason as to why she didn’t just immediately inform Po that yes, she has a plan to get (almost) everyone out of this alive.

So far as I can tell, the worst case scenario if she tells Po is that Po disagrees with the plan and subverts her authority to try and enact a different one. Which, y’know, he just did in the opening scene, so fair enough, except there’s no reason to believe that keeping him in the dark will help. Rather the opposite, telling a maverick “I totally have a plan, but you’re not allowed to know what it is, just trust me” is going to make him more nervous and thus more likely to take matters into his own hands. If keeping Po under control was the only objective, then the obvious thing to do is to lock him in his quarters and post a guard outside (or maybe inside, to keep an eye on him, but then maybe he persuades or knocks out the guard, but the general gist is the same). Despite the state of emergency, you don’t actually need all hands on deck because you can fly far outside the range of the enemy fleet for as long as your fuel lasts, so you can spare the guard, and this would actually prevent him from going rogue and, for example, staging a mutiny.

This undercuts Po’s entire character arc, which is the main throughline of the movie (well, that, and the Rey/Kylo/Luke sub-plot). This movie juggles a lot of sub-plots and side characters, but the Po plotline is the one that runs through the whole show (in addition to that Rey/Kylo/Luke thing), which means the entire movie is weaker for it having a crippling flaw. And it would be an easy flaw to fix. Just give Holdo a good reason not to tell Po what’s going on and have her actually tell Po what that reason is. Like, she suspects the First Order is tracking them not with bleeding edge tech, but just through a mole on board the rebel cruiser, she doesn’t trust Po to keep the evacuation plan to himself, and she strongly suspects that if there is a mole, it’s one of Po’s allies (i.e. the people whose loyalty he can count on to the point of plotting mutiny with them if and when it comes to that), since supporting the maverick is a pretty straightforwardly effective play for a mole. Bam, perfectly sensible reason to be keeping Po in the dark, his entire character arc now makes sense because he is being reckless and irresponsible rather than acting pretty appropriately to an information blackout that the leadership refuses to explain.

Also, the thing with the one arms dealer selling weapons to both the First Order and the Resistance was dumb. X-wings and tie fighters are different things. Why would a guy with a tie fighter factory build an x-wing factory to sell to the other side instead of just building another tie fighter factory? Building a second tie factory would be way easier than building a factory for a completely different kind of fighter and it’s not like the First Order only needs one tie factory to supply their galaxy-spanning fleet. To have a plotline where one arms dealer supplies weapons to both sides of a conflict, you need both sides to actually be using the same weapons. That scene is pretty much extraneous to the plot, even. You could remove it and everything would be fine.

Also, I don’t know why it bothers anyone that Leia was able to use an entry-level Force power when under life-threatening duress. It’s already pretty well established that Skywalkers get to cheat with these kinds of things, and using a basic Force pull isn’t really comparable to turning a trained Sith’s mind probe back on him like Rey did in Force Awakens, or even the mind trick she used later on. Mind-altering effects are things we have so far only seen fully trained Jedi knights using (and I still wouldn’t have objected if it didn’t come on the heels of Rey being given whatever level of Force affinity JJ Abrams needed her to have to make the current scene cooler while totally ignoring the effects on the setting and how it trivializes both Luke’s training and Kylo as a threat). Telekinesis is something we see half-trained padawans doing. It’s the very first step up from the basic reflex-enhancing shenanigans that Force sensitives are regularly shown to be capable of completely on auto-pilot with no training at all. Leia’s strong with the Force and she’s like fifty years old and has known she has Force potential for over half her life. It doesn’t really damage the setting at all to say that she’s at a point where she can bust out novice-grade powers when her life depends on it.

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