Note: This post contains spoilers for The Aftermath Trilogy by Chuck Wendig
One of the travesties of The Rise of Skywalker that gets little attention but irritated me enough to commit a blog post about is the treatment of General Hux. But first, let me go back to the casting reveal for The Force Awakens and how excited I was when Domhnall Gleeson was announced to play a role. I was impressed with his performance in Ex Machina has a programmer who becomes infatuated with an AI. And 2015 was Gleeson’s year: he was in critically acclaimed films like Brooklyn, The Revenant and ended it with The Force Awakens so I was interested if he would be a layered villain. I forgot that it was a Star Wars film and, the films at least, treat their Imperial Officers as two-dimensional talking points.
I liked General Hux more in The Last Jedi and thought Rian Johnson did a great job with his particular lines and humor, especially when he is playing off of Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. The pure contempt dripping from Gleeson’s face having to take orders from Kylo Ren near the end of the film was amazing. Having watched and enjoyed Peter Rabbit, Gleeson has great comedic timing and would have loved to see that comedic element combined with a competent villain. Hux is not incompetent, he is just not threatening.
Because of that contempt, I wondered if Hux would end up sabotaging Ren in some way or undermining him with the non-dead Palpatine. In the first 10 minutes of The Rise of Skywalker, when it is mentioned that there is a spy in the First Order, I said to myself “bingo!” And, even though I had a bad feeling right when the film started that I was going to hate it, I was curious to see where they would take Hux’s character.
Ooooh man, this could have been so much better! If you read canon material, Armitage Hux’s backstory is quite compelling: a bastard child of a respected Imperial Officer, Brendol Hux, who was in charge of training young Imperial cadets. As a young boy, he was used by Imperial Officers as a weapon of insult to his father:
When the Empire officially surrendered, Hux was taken by Rae Sloane, his father, and other young cadets to the unknown regions to bring about the First Order. In the end, employed Captain Phasma to kill Brendol and rose within the ranks of the First Order as General. Now imagine getting all that way and have to take orders from a force-sensitive kid who is prone to temper tantrums. Granted he had a chance to kill Kylo Ren in a rare moment of weakness when he was recovering from the Supremecy being split open by the Holdo maneuver, he thought the better of it and remained second in command. Until he found himself fourth in command, now behind Palpatine, Kylo, and Pryde (though not sure if that was the exact command chain because it didn’t last long).
Nope. This is not how you do a character like Hux. And Hux agreed…which is why he became a spy. To spite Kylo Ren, whom he saw as the main reason why he was not in control of the First Order and now lower in the chain with the Final Order .
In the end, Hux helps Poe and Finn escape a First Order ship with Chewie but is found out by General Pryde and then this:
So with that recap and context out of the way let’s talk about how this could have been handle better. First, in no way should he be redeemed by joining the Resistance. People who use “Death Star” weapons to wipe out star systems should not get a redemption arc. It was bad enough that Kylo Ren got one and Star Wars needs to stop having bad people be redeemed in the last 30 minutes of the finale of trilogies.
Hux is ambitious and spiteful and channels those two traits toward getting ahead and getting revenge. In the Age of Resistance one shot, he used a radar tech’s error in his ship’s maintenance as an excuse to execute his commanding officer, General Brooks, who treated Hux poorly as a child. It’s what led him to have his father killed and spying for the Resistance to undermine Kylo Ren. He is fueled by his enemies constantly underestimating him so it would fitting to also have Pryde and Palpatine underestimate him.
Hux was a child soldier, raised under the training and scrutiny of his father but also Captain Phasma and Rae Sloane. He also would know that having a small faction within the First Order that was loyal to him might be beneficial. Galius Rex understood that when he planned to take child soldiers Brendol had trained into the unknown regions before Rae Sloane killed him. What if Hux had cultivated a loyal group of troopers and officers and turned on Pryde instead? Then took a few ships and escaped. It would leave a thread open and another villain out in the galaxy, waiting to return. It might feel repetitive but that is the story of war: you defeat an enemy and, after a while, the enemy reinvents itself and tries again. And on and on it goes. Plus, Hux would complete the prophecy he proclaimed to Brooks of outliving everyone and this would give a compelling post-The Rise of Skywalker storyline to the heroes of the Resistance. Rogue Squadron is rumored to be taking place either during or post-Sequel trilogy. It would have been cool the main plot revolved around hunting down escaped First Order in the unknown regions to take them out immediately, not repeating the mistakes of the New Republic after the fall of the Empire. Even in one film, it could have conveyed the dangerousness of having a desperate remaining faction, led by a desperate leader backed into a corner. And it would be contained within one movie, a swan song for General Hux since he was denied a proper one in The Rise of Skywalker.
I know Hux is dead so this is all unrealistic, but it does go back to my main complaint about Star Wars villains in the films, specifically Imperial-type villains: that they are very one-note and very boring. There is no reason why we couldn’t have a Kallus-type character (from Rebels) in a trilogy film or just spend more time developing an Imperial villain instead of focusing on the conflict between Jedi and Sith. As more Disney+ shows get developed and released, more fans will get used to the long format storytelling we die-hards have become used to with The Clone Wars and Rebels. While The Mandalorian has yet to truly have a sympathetic Imperial, I wouldn’t be surprised if future seasons do introduce one, or explore Moff Gideon’s backstory and shape him into a compelling villain. The same should be expected from the films moving forward so we don’t have another missed opportunity like Armitage Hux.