If you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi yet, then you need to go somewhere else. This article contains spoilers for the ending of The Last Jedi. If you're still reading this, then spoilers are YOUR OWN FAULT. Cool? Cool.
If you have seen the movie, though, then you are aware of the sad fate of Captain Phasma at the end: Show Spoiler She fell into the middle of a fiery explosion, as Snoke’s ship was being destroyed. Presumably, she is now dead. Now, it’s possible she survived — after all, her fate was unclear after she was thrown into a trash compactor during The Force Awakens, but the comic series from Kelly Thompson and Marco Checchetto filled in those blanks.
We’ve seen Star Wars villains come back from worse — Darth Maul was cut in half in The Phantom Menace, and yet he became one of the most intriguing villains of the franchise, thanks to his role in the TV series The Clone Wars and Rebels. Phasma could still have a future in Star Wars, but from what we’ve seen so far, it’s unlikely. But why has she had such a lackluster sendoff in not one but two movies?
The answer goes back to this picture.
Remember this? This picture accompanied the first casting announcement for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and set off a firestorm of speculation and excitement across the Internet. But relatively quickly, many fans (most of them women) noticed something troubling about this photo. Can you see it?
That’s right. There are fourteen people in this photo. THREE of them — Daisy Ridley, Carrie Fisher, and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy — are women.
It’s unacceptable, and after the furor that resulted the movie announced more women had been cast. One of them was the resplendent Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma.
Look, I don’t know anything about the early scripts of the The Force Awakens. I have no clue if Phasma was always a character, and they just waited until after that initial table read to cast the role. But my enduring suspicion is that she wasn’t.
My guess is that, after the vocal response of fans frustrated with the apparent lopsided gender dynamics of the new film, Abrams and co. panicked. They wrote additional female characters, such as Phasma and Maz Kanata, into the script. Again, I may be wholly wrong about this. But considering how small Phasma’s role is in The Force Awakens, I don’t think I am. I’m not trying to criticize them for the decision; I’m glad it happened. Star Wars needed more awesome women. But it’s hard to argue that Phasma doesn’t exactly play a huge role in the film.
Whatever her origins, everyone (including me) expected, then, that Captain Phasma would have a bigger role in The Last Jedi. She makes her debut late in the movie, but it’s pretty spectacular. But . . . then it’s over. A duel with Finn, and her moment (and likely, her role in the franchise) is gone.
It’s surprising for multiple reasons — with the release of the afore-mentioned Captain Phasma comic, as well as Phasma by Delilah Dawson, it seemed as though she was being set up to be a Big Deal in The Last Jedi, as a real archrival for Finn.
And, to be fair, when the two met, it was pretty spectacular. I don’t want to downplay that. But the fight was over all too quickly and Phasma, in her resplendent chrome armor, met her end. I loved so much of The Last Jedi, but the fate of Phasma is one of the few storylines I take issue with. Why kill off such an awesome character so fast, without giving her any sort of on-screen character development? After all, Gwendoline Christie is a gift and a treasure. Surely we want her around for future films?
However, Lucasfilm might want to close the chapter on John Boyega’s Stormtrooper past and open up new narrative opportunities for him. There might not be a place for Phasma in the new First Order that results after the events of The Last Jedi. There might just be too many characters. Or, you know, Phasma could actually be alive (though I doubt it).
Whatever the reason, I’m sad that we didn’t get more of Captain Phasma before her fiery end. I was hoping that the backstory we got in the books and comics were hinting that Phasma was going to betray the First Order and forge her own path, perhaps as an antihero. After all, if there’s one thing we’ve learned about her, it’s that she looks out for no one but herself - and that kind of moral ambiguity is refreshing, especially for a female character. We’ll miss you, Captain Phasma, and the potential of what you could have become.