The Tragedy of Phasma
Phasma may be dangerous, but at the end of the day, she's only a stormtrooper. Her uniform is fancier than the black and white ones worn by rank-and-file grunts like Finn at the outset of The Force Awakens, but she's still just a tool: a weapon to be used and thrown away by leaders with callous disregard for how valuable she truly was.
Finn threw away his armor and joined the Resistance, adopting an identity beyond the number that was anonymously assigned to him, and finding friends and family in the form of Poe, Rey, Han Solo, and The Resistance. Phasma never rose above her station, never sought out an identity of her own. She was driven by empty ambition and loyalty to a cruel order.
This is driven home when Finn delivers his final blow on Phasma: that last, decisive strike from his stun baton shatters part of Phasma's helmet; not the whole thing, but just enough for Finn's defeated enemy to look up at him with a human eye, long-concealed beneath her helmet of conformity. It calls to mind her dissatisfaction with Finn (or FN-2187, as he was known then) for removing his own helmet after failing to open fire on the unarmed villagers of Jakku, as seen in the opening minutes of The Force Awakens. She dedicated herself to the First Order war machine, and her appearance - as a cold and mechanical symbol of violence - reflected that dedication to a lack of humanity.
This, in turn, relates to the connection between Rey and Kylo Ren, as well as that between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Rey and Luke believed there was still good inside Kylo and Vader, respectively, but it was ultimately up to the villain to renounce his evil ways. Vader did, and saved the galaxy. Kylo Ren, in his (admittedly awesome) killing on Supreme Leader Snoke, only sought to consolidate his power and use his strength to bring Rey over to the Dark Side.
The Last Jedi explores the idea that there is good inside of everyone, and this is visually articulated by the fleeting glimpse of Phasma's true face hidden under her emotionless helmet. The good is buried, but accessible, and it's up to each individual to choose whether or not acknowledge and embrace their own good nature. Darth Vader turned to the light. Kylo Ren did not. Finn shed his stormtrooper visage and became a hero. Captain Phasma did not.
Ultimately, Phasma and Finn are haunting mirrors of one another, a look into what could have been, if things were different. Finn could have remained a loyal stormtrooper, and found out what loyalty earns: a shiny uniform, a lack of identity, and a death to be mourned by no one. Likewise, Phasma could have removed her own helmet years ago. It would have been difficult, it would have been dangerous, and it would surely have come at a great personal cost, but it would have been the right thing to do, and she could have had a very different, more fulfilling life.
Does The Last Jedi do justice to Captain Phasma? In a way it does, precisely because it doesn't. Phasma is a tragic figure of wasted potential, and her story is a cautionary tale about the difference between The First Order and The Resistance.
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018