Not Politics Presents: Poe Dameron: Great character, lousy military leader

Welcome to Damper Three’s new, periodic series Not Politics, where we talk about all things having nothing to do with politics. We’re not saying ignore politics. It’s important, okay? There’s a lot going on these days…some of it the normal inanity of life, some of it crazy, off-the-hook pandemic-level stuff.

And speaking of pandemics, this series won’t be about COVID-19 or Coronavirus or any other pestilence-related themes. This is for two reasons: first, this reporting is pretty well covered in the real world by the likes of ABC, NBC, and CNBC, and in the realm of fiction by Sean Hannity. Second, we here at D3 need to avoid reading more about pandemics the same way we need to avoid spraying gasoline on grass fires we’re trying to control…our hypochondria does NOT need that fuel.

Also, recessions and layoffs. None of that. Ugh.

So, with that in mind, let’s dive right into something definitely not political:  Poe Dameron was a
Poe. As close as D3 will get to a
Disney copyright infringement
terrible military leader and should have been court-martialed. Three times. At least.

Please note: I do not in any way mean anything critical about Oscar Isaac. His portrayal of Dameron was spot on, creating a likable character who fits nicely into the Star Wars pantheon. His chemistry with John Boyega was a big reason why The Force Awakens worked, and why we had such high expectations for The Last Jedi.

But let’s take a look at three key events from the middle sequel film that shows how Poe nearly destroyed the Resistance. Oh, and if you’ve never watched The Last Jedi, there are spoilers ahead.

The first time is pretty obvious and central to the start of the film. In the opening scenes, Poe engages the First Order’s fleet, including a monster dreadnaught spacecraft, in an attempt to distract the bad guys long enough for the Resistance to escape. It’s the perfect mission for a wisecracking ace pilot, right? And it worked…the good guys escaped the abandoned base, and General Leia ordered Poe to return with his squadron. Poe promptly ignores the order, because he sees an opportunity to take out the “fleet killer” dreadnaught. And take it out they did, at the cost of the Resistance’s bomber fleet (including the sister of Rose Tiko). According to a display Leia looked at, at least 8 bombers (each with a crew of 2) and 4 fighters were lost in the attack.

This easily should have led to Poe being dragged before a military tribunal. He defied Leia’s orders and sacrificed, without thinking, the lives of about 20 pilots and gunners to meet a military objective that risked the very existence of the Resistance. But okay, let’s say that his heroics were so overwhelming, that the destruction of a dreadnaught so significant, that he got a pass.

The second event worthy of jail time threads throughout the chase at the heart of the movie. The entire time that Leia is comatose, he does nothing but undermine Amilyn Holdo, the General’s second in command. Now, while it is true that the manner Holdo completely disregarded/ignored Poe’s requests for answers for her actions might seem excessively dramatic, the fact is that Poe had no need to know. She was in charge, he was not. And so his near-insurrection, stopped only by Leia waking up and knocking the Hades out of him, easily should have landed him in front of a judge.

But he got off again, evidently because Leia and Holdo admit to liking the scruffy pilot. But the third transgression really ticks me off. It’s almost the end of the movie, and the Resistance has quite literally been cornered on the planet Crait. Poe and a rag-tag group have one last, desperate mission (quite similar to the start of the movie): delay the First Order attack long enough for help to arrive. As far as they know, if they fail, the Resistance is doomed. So this small group of friends hop into “skimmers” and assault the vastly more powerful attacking forces.

And suddenly, Poe is no longer the brash, daring leader. The most immediate threat facing the good guys is a kind of laser battering ram, a device Finn says is based on “Death Star” technology that can easily breach the heavy armor of the Resistance hideout. It’s the reason Finn insisted this crazy attack take place. As the heroes zoom in, they start taking casualties. Poe decides it’s impossible, and calls off the attack. Finn, his friend, understands the threat, and intends to sacrifice his own life to take out the ram. But evidently, “kill a dreadnaught but possibly enable the destruction of the Resistance” is an acceptable risk for Poe, but “let buddy Finn sacrifice himself or assure the destruction of the Resistance” is a step too far. He actually orders Finn to retreat. Again, as far as he knew, as soon as that laser ram fired, the last of the Resistance defenses would be destroyed.

Was he concerned for his friend? Of course. Poe and Finn’s friendship is one of the strengths of the sequel trilogy. But as a military leader, man did he suck. Bad. He’s at best a tactician. As a leader, he
failed miserably.

The heroes and villains of Star Wars are flawed, and often even the unintentional flaws are endearing. But watching Poe’s military incompetence, and seeing him not only not be held accountable but get promoted in spite of it, seems a ...bit...far...fet…oh.
Never mind.


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