My first introduction to Amilyn Holdo was reading Claudia Gray’s Leia: Princess of Alderaan before watching The Last Jedi, but it was Laura Dern’s performance that truly made me fall in love with the Vice Admiral. The Holdo we see in The Last Jedi has a hint of the regal poise of Mon Mothma to her demeanor, but underneath the surface dwells a strange bird of many colors. If you give her more than a passing glance, you will immediately see what is beneath. It is not just in the superficial, like her purple hair and eye-catching dress. It is in her eyes, the windows to her soul, which hold that very same spark that she sees within the Resistance. Her colorful countenance does reveal part of her nature, as contrary to her austere compatriots on Gatalenta partial to simple grey and red, she styles herself fancifully and as she pleases. A true rebel at heart, from childhood to adulthood, and someone I will definitely take style cues from in my own middle-age.
When called to fill General Organa’s shoes in the midst of a crisis – a monumental challenge – she does not hesitate. Into the fray she goes, never letting on that she is probably scared out of her mind by not just the reality of the Resistance’s odds of survival, but of her friend possibly dying. Amilyn, a loyal and loving friend since childhood, would be thinking of Leia every second she laid unresponsive and silent on that bed. But Vice Admiral Holdo, competent and hardened by trials much like Leia alongside her, soldiers on. She stands tall, and tries to do her duty during the worst possible circumstances. There is no room nor time for doubt.
I have heard people argue that she’s a terrible leader. I disagree. I respect the hell out of her for expecting Poe to respect her role as commanding officer. If she had been a man her decision to play her cards close to the chest when a possible traitor was on board would have been viewed differently. Letting every subordinate cocksure flyboy in on the details of how she planned to save the day, especially one recently demoted for acting against his superiors’ orders, would have been incredibly irresponsible. I love Poe, but he had been rash and neglectful of his duties to his fellow rebels in the opening battle, and then continued to not take responsibility for those actions. Furthermore, he neglected to inform leadership that tracking through hyperspace may now be possible, instead jeopardizing the entire Resistance. Think what you will of Holdo’s strategy, but she was absolutely instrumental in teaching him about the realities of leadership and responsibility.
It is just too bad she had to die for the lesson to be imparted, a flame extinguished at the zenith of its burning.
Holdo’s ultimate sacrifice, saving what is left of the Resistance with a daring lightspeed jump that she knows she will not live to see the effects of, is one of the most stunning moments in Star Wars to me. In that magnificently mad maneuver, she is taking flight, spreading her wings to protect the spark she loves so dearly. The way the galaxy seems to completely shatter upon that fateful impact gives me chills even now. How everything goes too quiet and, for a few moments, dies along with her. What a glorious end for a brave and effervescent rebel.
I do wish we could have gotten more of her character in the sequel trilogy, in tandem with her life-long friend Leia. Not just because it is so rare that we get to see two middle-aged women leading a resistance force together, but to also see them supporting each other through gruesome hours spent at the war table and advising each other on the cruel calculus of war, strengthened by their bond of hope.
As fate would have it, Leia would soon follow her friend and become one with the Force – both women gone too soon, but only after having given their all for the people and being instrumental in saving the galaxy. The strange bird became an avenging phoenix in the end, her legend rising from the ashes of the Supremacy, and we will always remember her sacrifice.