A couple of weeks ago some friends and I started writing character pieces based on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I started with Kylo Ren, my friend Aaron picked up with Luke, followed by Shannon with Maz Kanata and Layton on BB-8. Not gonna lie, this has been crazy fun for me; fun to write about Star Wars, fun to collaborate with friends and find out just how brilliant my peers are, fun to play in this world that has meant so much to me for most of my life.
I’m continuing on with our little series writing about Poe Dameron. Very minor spoilers follow because, well… I’ll get to that.
Poe Dameron is instantly likable. He’s introduced in the opening crawl as the best pilot in the resistance. Superlatives related to flying are big in the Star Wars universe. Obi Wan describes Anakin as the best starfighter pilot in the galaxy. The Millenium Falcon is the best ship in the fleet. Luke and Han are both known to be excellent pilots. These are things we will instantly care about and so we’re anxious to meet Poe. When we finally do, we’re greeted by the handsome and intense face of Oscar Isaac. Poe is incredibly earnest. Yes, he’s on a mission, but when he and Lor San Tekka talk about “The General” there is real respect and admiration in his voice.
I should sidestep my moderate geeking out for a second to totally geek out. Marvel did a four-part comic book series called “Shattered Empire” that shows a few adventures after the events of Return of the Jedi. In it we are given Poe Dameron’s “origin” story (it is strongly suggested that he was conceived in the celebration after Endor). His mother was a pilot who had been a part of the attack on Death Star 2 and his father was one of the commandos who helped bring down the shield generator on Endor. Poe is second generation rebellion and it’s easy to believe that he has been steeped in the lore and the ethos.
Because of his admiration for General Organa and his history with the rebellion/resistance, the opening exchange with Kylo Ren has a little extra weight. There is a good chance he knows the guy behind the mask and they probably aren’t that far apart in age. They were probably friends. (As much as anyone can be friends with the strange emo kid!) The banter, though one sided, is playful. Poe adds a lot of charm to the film but also a lot of humor.
It’s painfully tempting to draw parallels between the original three main cast and the new main cast. While I doubt there will be any complete one-to-one parallels, Poe is clearly the Princess Leia of the new trilogy thus far. He has one mission that adjusts slightly based on circumstances, he is the one captured early in the film and rescued by someone dressed as a stormtrooper, and most importantly, he is the one with no character arc. Nothing dramatic has changed for Poe by the end of the film. Yes, he’s been captured and rescued, he returns the missing piece of the map, he’s destroyed the Starkiller base (with a lot of help), and he’s probably lost a bunch of friends both in the republic fleet and the resistance squadron, but he hasn’t changed, not nearly in the ways that Finn and Rey’s lives have been changed. Like Leia, Poe’s role is to connect the other main heroes to the larger story of galactic warfare.
None of this is to say that Poe is a weak character. On the contrary, he’s the constant against which the other two main characters can be measured. He is a hero through and through and never wavers. When the resistance arrives to bail out Han, Chewie, and Finn you know Poe Dameron is going to be there leading that charge. He is quintessential hero, he’s confident but not arrogant, resolved but not invincible, serious about his mission yet light hearted. Once he likes you, whether former stormtrooper or droid, Poe Dameron calls you “buddy”. Poe Dameron is the guy you want to have a beer with!
Much has been made of the Poe/Finn relationship and while I do hope that we someday get a full on LGBT relationship in the Star Wars films (there are several in the Star Wars: Aftermath novel… big geek here), I don’t want that for Finn and Poe. I want to see a full on Star Wars bromance! Luke and Han were never on equal footing. Han had more of a bromance with Chewie. There are precious few glimmers of Obi Wan and Anakin bro-ing it up. Some weak banter, some history and weak jokes, but it’s never quite believable and the master/student dynamic works against it. With Poe and Finn we have the first real chance to see an intimate, platonic male friendship in this universe and I’m so here for that. I would love for episode 8 to begin with Poe and Finn on some sort of buddy cop-style mission.
In a world filled with conflicted smugglers, AWOL Jedi, stormtrooper dropouts, force prodigies, and dark side daddy issues, you need a simple hero; one who does what is right because it’s right because that’s how he was raised. Poe Dameron is the guy you want on your side. I’d wear his jacket any day.