As sure as the rotation of the Earth itself, Rian Johnson is still being called upon to explain every little detail about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. His latest? Discussing just why Vice Admiral Holdo does the shocking, stunning thing she does in one of the movie’s most visually bombastic scenes.
Heading into the third act of The Last Jedi, the Resistance Fleet is down to a single ship, the Raddus. Poe Dameron’s secretive plan to sneak Rose and Finn onto the First Order flagship and disable its ability to track the Resistance through hyperspace goes horribly awry. The whole mess leads to the deaths of untold Resistance soldiers and support staff as their evacuation shuttles, suddenly revealed on the First Order’s systems thanks to the duplicitous DJ, get shot down by a slew of laser barrages. In one desperate final move, instead of quietly going down with her ship, Admiral Holdo turns the Raddus around, plots a jump to lightspeed, and catapults the capital ship directly into the First Order fleet, crippling dozens of vessels and sacrificing herself in a silent, gorgeous sequence.
But as talked-about as the sequence has become, simply from a visual standpoint, some Star Wars fans have also grumbled at such a tactic existing in the Star Wars universe. If such a move can be so effective against a sizable fleet, why haven’t the Resistance and the Rebel Alliance been hyper-flinging capital ships at their opponents for years?
Well, aside from the fact that hyper-speeding one of your few capital vessels at something seems like a grand waste of a such a valuable resource in ordinary circumstances—as the Lucasfilm Story Group’s Pablo Hidalgo recently explained in an extensive behind-the-scenes discussion of the film for the Star Wars Youtube channel, catapulting a snubfighter like an X-Wing into a vessel that size would have no effect—Johnson believes Holdo’s move comes from a moment of absolute desperation for the Resistance, rather than out of some premeditated strategy.
As he told the crew on the /Filmcast recently, the reason it’s not been seen before is that it’s a risky, desperate maneuver Holdo pulls out in the heat of the moment:
First of all, has this been done before, period? I’ve got to reserve the right for [Story Group member] Pablo [Hidalgo] to build it back into canon, if he’s like, ‘Yeah, this is a thing and they outlawed it...’
I think there’s various ways you can go with it. But it’s not like it was the plan to do this. It’s a spur of the moment thing. It’s this idea that she gets and she sits down and fucking does, and it obviously takes everybody completely by surprise. It takes Hux by surprise. The fact that Hux doesn’t see it coming means it’s probably not a standard military maneuver. I think it was something that Holdo pulled out of her butt in the moment.
Which makes sense—the situation Holdo found herself in was a completely dire one, and she knew she would be dying anyway. She’d already made the choice to be the officer who stays behind on the Raddus while the shuttles fled to Crait. Why not at least try to buy more time for her allies with one last act of defiance against the First Order? And a damn impressive act it was.