Sometimes creative people are akin to magicians in that they like misdirection – and where Star Wars’ newest villains, the First Order, are concerned there is a lot of going on right now. I should declare here that this is a purely speculative piece, no inside information, nothing up my sleeves… It may be nuked to high heaven by the revelations of Episode VIII, whose bombardment begins December 2017. Or, it might bolster what I lay out here. We’re not going to know for ages so let’s have some fun instead…
In the wake of Bloodline, it seems everyone is going ‘ah, that’s what the First Order is!’ This is a major error because you’re looking exactly where they want you to look, even better you are focusing on one aspect, when the enemy is rather multifaceted. Looking at the pieces available the inescapable conclusion is the First Order is a combination of pieces. It is neither precisely this or that thing, at a surface level it defies easy categorization by being a supposedly chaotic assemblage.
What are the pieces we have? There is Bloodline’s political cabal, lusting after more of everything. There is, way in the background, the successor to Brendol Hux’s Arkanis Academy. (Rebels: Servants of the Empire quartet of course, and no, I’m not going to stop mentioning it) There is a disappeared Imperial Fleet. There is the move to the Unknown Regions of much Imperial resource and materiel. There is, from Aftermath, the desire to find the source of the dark side in the Unknown Regions too. Old and new elements are all jumbled in a crazy patchwork. For something that calls itself the First Order where is the order in all this?
It lies in the combination of all the pieces, which adds up to a common desire to dominate and control. The First Order also learnt from the Rebellion as much as the Empire, for it saw the value of improvisation. Bloodline is the proof of this for they never could have expected such a coup as Leia’s heritage destroying her political career. That that also created their nemesis in Leia’s Resistance suggests the Force has a warped sense of humour. When this opportunity comes along, Carise Sindian seizes it for all it’s worth. Thus this is not the Darth Sidious master-planning adversary of old, no, it’s far more dangerous. This enemy has a measure of flexibility due to having only a loose plan. Sidious? Had plans.
Another likely example of the First Order’s opportunism may be in the genesis of Kylo Ren and even Supreme Leader Snoke. All we know of what Luke and Ben are doing in Bloodline is that they are far away. What if Luke picked up on talk of there being a source of the dark side? What if he decides to go looking for it and is destroyed by the success of this quest? Say by finding the source of the dark side incarnate in the form of Snoke? This, combined with using the revelation of Vader being Ben’s grandfather, might well be enough to twist a competitive desire in Ben to overload, which gives the First Order one of its best weapons.
The First Order’s modus operandi takes its cue from Tarkin and the Death Star. Their use of the Starkiller is representative of this – Tarkin’s flaw in their eyes? He didn’t blow up enough planets! The Empire’s failing as a whole? It was not sufficiently violent. Its forces were not motivated enough to really fight for it, thus Brendol Hux’s project to create perfect fanatics. Clearly, overwhelming military force was less than overwhelming, thus bigger, badder Star Destroyers. It has been said the First Order is also separatist at heart, it separates from the Republic, but if that was all it desired then why build forces to invade? Why build a Starkiller at all? A separatist state would view the Republic as irrelevant. No, the only thing they have in common with the Separatists of the Clone Wars is a desire for no restraints whatsoever. In this respect the old Separatists were the perfect opportunity for Darth Sidious, but also a threat – for they desired what he did, thus they had to go (also why he installed his pawn Dooku as the Separatist leader – it ensures they could not become a true threat).
At heart, what is the First Order about? In a good many of its appearances so far it has demonstrated a desire for hierarchy, of beings obeying their betters. This also hides a greater truth – that the entire organization is built on the notion of the grievous insult of the galaxy rejecting the Empire the first chance it got! This is what drives the desire to invade, to annihilate planets from afar – it’s all about vengeance. Like the Jedi to the Sith, the Republic committed the ultimate offense by defeating the Empire, so it must pay. The galaxy must burn and be crushed.
Yet why must it? Where is all this going? This is perhaps the biggest secret of the First Order – they do not know. When all the rhetoric, violence and obsession is stripped away, what remains? Not much. The First Order is first order desire incarnate! They want to rule the galaxy! Why? Because they do, now shut up or they’ll nuke your homeworld. In free will terms, using the philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s term, they are wanton individuals, they are simply doing that what they want without any pesky second order desires, which you, as a rational individual, use to really make decisions – for instance, to watch A New Hope or Empire Strikes Back? You will have contemplated reasons to choose one over the other, it will not be that you watch one of them ‘just because you want to’.
What then is the First Order revealed as? A tantrum. A massive, galactic level tantrum by a bunch of pathetic, immature and wanton individuals who do not even know why they are doing all this, save for a misplaced sense of insulted pride and vengeance. They have killed billions if not trillions and will certainly add more to their bloody tally, but can their desire to crush and terrorize really work in the long term? No. It might be said some of the First Order are too experienced to be immature, but what is maturity? In part, it is accepting there are limits to what you can do at any one time and that there are good reasons for those limits. This is practically the foundation of civil society. Yet, time and again individuals who want to do what they want to do whenever they want to have come along and tried to wreck it all and failed. All the First Order is about is fucking shit up to rule.