Though he doesn’t get as much screentime as the other young newcomers, Poe has great impact on the plot of The Force Awakens. He is quickly established as a very skilled and heroic character, someone who is willing to risk his life for the Resistance, yet he is not without humor, even in the menacing presence of Kylo Ren.
Though he has been compared to a young Han Solo, Poe believes absolutely in the ideals of the Resistance, being the proud son of two former Rebel fighters (who can both be seen in the comic miniseries Star Wars: Shattered Empire). He is not the reluctant hero that Han was for much of the original trilogy, but is more like a combination of the idealism of Luke and the cocky confidence of Han.
Poe, taking after his mother, began his career as a pilot for the New Republic, but he soon became frustrated by their lack of concern over the First Order. After his superiors denied his request that an attack by TIE fighters on a freighter be investigated, Poe broke from a mission in order to perform reconnaissance on the First Order, which led to Poe engaging and escaping from two dozen TIE fighters. This insubordinate move, as recounted in the anthology novel Before the Awakening, gained the attention of Leia, who recruited him into the Resistance.
Poe’s escape with Finn from the First Order felt like classic Star Wars, both humorous and thrilling. The filmmakers could have created a more antagonistic relationship between Poe and the defecting stormtrooper, but I like Poe’s almost immediate acceptance of Finn, with Poe acting as Finn’s early mentor and role model. I also liked that it was Poe who named him Finn, refusing to call him by his dehumanizing trooper designation, and that he immediately embraced Finn as a friend when they saw each other again at the Resistance base.
While more ambiguous in the film, the story of how Poe escaped from Jakku is detailed in the novelization: after the TIE fighter was hit by the Destroyer, Poe lost consciousness. Finn, not able to help Poe, made the decision to eject before they crashed. Poe regained consciousness in time to gain some control over the ship and landed it as best he could. Though suffering from a concussion, Poe escaped form the TIE, his jacket becoming pinned in the cockpit. Poe then left the crash site before collapsing. When Poe awoke, he had temporary amnesia and began wandering aimlessly. He eventually remembered who he was and what had happened. Poe came across a local and was able to persuade the alien to give him a ride to the nearest town. After a brief encounter with brigands, Poe was able to get to a town and make his way offworld with the help of a merchant.
According to an Entertainment Weekly article, Poe was originally going to die in the crash, but by the time Oscar Issac accepted the role, thinking it would be a small but key cameo, Abrams had already changed the story so that he lived and was instrumental in destroying Starkiller Base.
Intriguingly, the novelization hints at possible love triangle between Rey, Finn, and Poe. In the novel, Rey first meets Poe at the Resistance base as R2 brings up his half of the map. As the crowd celebrates, they randomly hug each other, then both awkwardly introduce themselves, Poe “mumbling” his name and Rey searching his face and finding she “likes” it. I have to wonder if this idea will come into play in Episode 8 or 9, though there would have to be a new setup. It would certainly create some interesting tension between Finn and Poe, possibly even a more dark version of Han and Luke’s early rivalry over Leia.
Until next time: May the Force be with you. Always.
Chris “Darth Hound” Miller