The Last Word Part 2 – Mutiny on the Raddis

As noted to previously, Poe risks his life to destroy the last point defense battery, allowing a fleet of absurdly glacial bombers to have a fighting chance to take down a dreadnought.1 Suffering damage, Leia tells him it is ‘not worth it’ and that he should return. This is already stupid. We see the enemies complaining that Poe is ‘too close’ to easily target, so by flying away with point defense still operational he really would be committing suicide. Second, the ship is preparing to destroy the cruiser within which are Leia and the hopes of the rebellion. I think the objective of this was to show Poe as a rule-breaker and loose cannon, but if that was the goal they should find more rational orders for him to disobey. As it is, the scene merely makes Leia look weak, incompetent, and micromanaging.

The bombers are all destroyed2, but so is the dreadnought, and the fleet escapes.

Poe is reamed, by Leia, for refusing a suicidal order to abort a mission. While refusing a suicide mission is in fact insubordination in most militaries, I briefly entertained the vision of a courtmartial attempting to prosecute, with a straight face, the refusal of a suicidal order to FAIL a mission. But moving on – First Order catch up to the fleet with an even bigger ship, set up a reprise of the opening scene, Leia proves herself weak by immediately changing her mind on demoting Poe in the face of the new threat, gets knocked unconscious, and is replaced by Vice Admiral Holdo.

I’ll confess to taking an instant disliking to the character, because she is introduced with a whispered conversation about “isn’t she the person who won the battle of something-or-other?” Such a statement is THE cardinal sin of the visual medium: telling rather than showing. Her appearance is also preceded with the phrase “the chain of command is quite clear”, followed by a pregnant pause that, in retrospect, sounds a lot like “I’m sorry guys, there’s nothing I can do about what happens next.”

Holdo follows that up with a speech whose words read like a fire-and-brimstone morale-booster of the Independence Day style, but does so with the attitude of someone announcing tea and cookies and a round of moderately awkward ice-breakers. The writers and actress were clearly not on the same page here. Holdo’s actress proceeds to wear out a single expression over the course of the movie, and if the actress was aiming for ‘stoic resolve’, I’d say Poe had some evidence to fear apathy and disengagement from the situation.

Holdo is, like Rose, an unnecessary character. She exists to replace Leia, but Leia’s bout of unconsciousness seems to exist only to allow Holdo to appear. Holdo’s final act could have been done by Leia (and given Leia’s actress is now dead, this would have been an perfect and emotional send-off). Worse, Leia’s character is also made irrelevant, as Leia’s only real role in the development of the plot is to be knocked unconscious so Holdo can take over, and much later to rubber-stamp Holdo’s escape plan.

At this point Poe finally has the opportunity show himself as a hot-shot rule-breaker by skipping a few steps up the chain of command to demand some idea of what the plan is. This is a fair question, and in most stories this would serve double duty by showing Poe’s rebellious nature and giving the audience some foreshadowing, if only so we know just how badly the heroes are screwed when the plan comes apart.

The audience does not get that. Holdo, in a particularly snide tone, takes Poe to task for being a hot-shot pilot. This is true, but for someone who claims to have seen Poe’s type many times before, she handles him particularly badly. She humiliates a prickly impulsive man in public and expects things to end well. She further blames him for the loss of the bombers which is not just BREATHTAKINGLY unfair but flatly untrue. And, of course, she tells him to shut up and stop asking questions of his superiors, which was hardly wise but at least within standard military tradition.

I will reiterate, however, that Holdo did this IN PUBLIC, on the bridge. She was announced as captain of another ship, never before seen and presumably brought on board to take command, so all of Holdo’s brand new subordinates got to use this interaction as the first sample of Holdo’s approach to inferiors. I will also note that everybody with a brain is hoping for a plan – they are out-gunned, and supposedly can’t run, and lost a base, and are fleeing from a collapsing government. Morale demands a plan to hold the fleet together, but Holdo gives uncharismatic platitudes and then demonstrates that people asking for a plan will get publicly humiliated. It is no surprise we see nobody else on the bridge ask for a plan after that demonstration. It is the least surprising fact in the galaxy that some of the bridge crew later assist in Poe’s mutiny.

In order to demonstrate just how stupid this is, let me describe an alternative approach. Since Holdo literally planned to do nothing for 18 hours, she had plenty of time to take Poe aside, explain the plan and why it would work, and generally school him in the lesson that superiors do generally have a plan even if they don’t share it and that if he doesn’t learn the lesson this time when she can afford to handle his delicate little pilot nerves (saying this in private, recall), next time will mean the brig. Or as another alternative, she could have had him evicted from bridge with no comment in the name of authority, and made a general announcement to the fleet in the name of keeping people from panicking as the rest of the ships in the fleet are slowly picked off, one by one.

On a strongly related note, the slow attrition as the smaller transports get picked off is criminal on Holdo’s part. According Leia, later, “Holdo knew the First Order was tracking the big ship” – a repeated emphasis on the singular nature of the First Order’s target, the Raddis. This raises the question of why the smaller ships (not Raddis) couldn’t have scattered.

The initial rejoinder seems to be the New Order’s hyperspace tracking technology – which is mounted on a single ship. Thus, the New Order can in fact only keep on top of ONE of the transports, and scattering still makes sense.

The second response is that, alone, the other transports would be easier targets for the rest of the New Order. If New Order has other forces able to track down the smaller transports, why are they not converging on the rebel fleet’s location, boxing them in and overwhelming them?

The third response is that all the ships were too low on fuel to play long-distance, multiple-jump evasion games – in which case the risk is still better than Holdo’s plan which GUARANTEES the destruction of every ship scheduled to run out of fuel in the next 18 hours (i.e., all but the Raddis). Further, the smaller transport ships are never indicated to have their own fleet of boats the way the Raddis did – if they did, then the Raddis should have (by the end) been surrounded by a cloud smaller craft from crews abandoning ship. Thus, Holdo’s plan was only ever to save the Raddis.

There is no saving Holdo’s “plan” without assumptions for which there is no on-screen evidence. By all appearances Holdo ruthlessly used the bulk of the fleet as a chaff and a distraction which – as long as the plot-critical safe distance was maintained – was completely unnecessary. Holdo’s handling of the other ships in the fleet alone deserves courtmartial and summary execution, and I really can not fathom why the other captains stuck around instead of heading for the Outer Rim for a life of smuggling and/or piracy, depending on personal inclination. All casualties of those smaller ships that ran out of fuel over the 18 hours can be laid directly at Holdo’s feet.

Worst of all, none of this mutiny plot achieved anything.We see nobody die, or even learn any lessons, from the mutiny – Poe is still reckless, Holdo has no regrets, Leia still trusts Holdo. The mutiny did not last long enough to save any transports or change the fleet’s “keep moving and take it” policy. Holdo’s “plan” had suc

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