'Poe Dameron: Free Fall' Novel Reinforces How This 'Star Wars' Character Who Had Potential Is All Over The Place

I should preface this by saying that this is both a novel review (trying to be as spoiler-free as possible) and an assessment of the Poe Dameron character in general as he has been depicted across various Star Wars media.

Poe Dameron: Free Fall by Alex Segura was written to flesh out Poe Dameron’s spice runner backstory, which was introduced in The Rise of Skywalker. This backstory was met with some controversy with people who pointed out the Latino drug dealer stereotype. This made me feel skeptical going into this book, but I still wanted to see how it handled Poe Dameron as a character since I have followed him in various media. While there were poignant moments here and there, this book ultimately reinforced my belief that Poe Dameron is all over the place when it comes to how he is written.

The story takes place when Poe is at the age of 16, which I found a bit surprising. When the spice runner backstory was introduced, I expected that Poe would have been in his twenties. Then again, this is a YA novel, so I suppose that I should have known that he would be a teenager here. At the start of this novel, Poe is tired of living on a farm on Yavin IV. He lives there with his father Kes Dameron, and they both miss his mother Shara Bey, who died several years beforehand (the circumstances of her death not really being explored as one might expect). Poe is bored and, having heard stories of the Rebellion for which his parents fought, wishes for a more thrilling and exciting life. His father is worried about Poe following in his mother’s footsteps. Sound familiar? Yes, Poe is pretty much a Luke Skywalker type of character in this regard, but of course, he also becomes a Han Solo type of character as he embraces criminal activity with the Spice Runners of Kajimi, even falling in love with one of their members, Zorii Bliss, whose mother Zeva Bliss is also explored in this book.

Poe and Zorii’s interactions in The Rise of Skywalker are part of why I thought that this story would take place closer to the timeframe of the sequel trilogy. This story takes place about 17 years before that film, and I have to wonder whether there are more Poe and Zori stories between this and the sequel trilogy. Zorii says in The Rise of Skywalker that he left the Spice Runners to join the Resistance. However, we know from material released beforehand that he was in the New Republic Navy right before joining the Resistance. Given the wider gap in time, this makes Zorii’s assertion feel like even more of a headscratcher. Anyway, The Rise of Skywalker gave this idea of Poe and Zorii’s past romantic history. While it is convincing to an extent, it is not as compelling as I was expecting, especially when compared to romances of some of the other books. It was certainly not as compelling as the Thane and Ciena love story from Lost Stars, which many fans view as the gold standard for YA novels in Star Wars.

Of course, there is friction between Poe and his father at the beginning of the story. Even after the criminal activity, however, Kes just wants his son to come home. This brings to mind Han Solo’s relationship with his son Ben Solo, who would later turn to the dark side and become Kylo Ren. While the parallels that Poe shares with Kylo, Han, and Luke are interesting, they ultimately make me wish that Poe had been more planned and fleshed out from the beginning when the sequel trilogy was being developed.

Granted, Poe was originally intended to die in The Force Awakens, so it was not initially foreseen that he would become a member of a “new big three” like we eventually saw. However, given the journey and depictions of his character throughout the canon, I cannot help but think of scenarios that could have been incorporated into the films that would have made the parallels in this book feel like they mattered. Imagine if Kylo Ren, when looking into Poe’s mind, saw a confrontation between Poe and his father Kes, with the latter wanting him to come home. Imagine if Poe had conversed a bit with Han Solo about how they have both gone from being criminals to being heroes who fought for something that mattered, and how this could have also been relayed to Finn. Imagine if Poe had been given a conversation with Luke Skywalker about how they were both bored of life on a farm and were inspired by stories of heroism.

Instead, we get this “depending on writer” type of character who does not feel like his potential was realized. With the little screentime that he was given in The Force Awakens, Poe seems like a straight-edge do-gooder pilot. Greg Rucka and Charles Soule extrapolated from this and ran with the character in this vein for the Before the Awakening book and the Poe Dameron comics, respectively. Then came The Last Jedi, where Poe breaks some rules (without even having a moment where Rose could have blamed his actions for the tragic death of her sister Paige), and then tries to form a mutiny in a story arc that is so frustrating to watch. When Poe told Threepio to shut up, this did not feel to me like the Poe from the comics who risked his life to carry Threepio and keep him alive amidst blaster bolts, even though the droid insisted that he go on without him. The TV show Resistance, the novel Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse, and the junior novel Spark of the Resistance each did a decent job of synthesizing what we now knew of the character.

Then came The Rise of Skywalker. Suddenly, Finn is pointing out that Poe is shady. Suddenly, the fans were supposed to believe that Poe has been hiding this criminal past that feels like it comes out of nowhere. Finn and Rey’s reactions to this revelation, and Poe replying with “You were a scavenger?” and “You were a stormtrooper?” did bring me a good laugh. However, all being said, I do not think that even this new book Free Fall justified this dramatic character change. Theoretically, Poe could have been given a different criminal background that did not have unfortunate implications, but all in all, it feels like a last-minute hamfisted attempt to make him more like a Han Solo type. In Free Fall, the parallels that he shares with other major characters feel like they do not mean much because of how they do not really come into play in a poignant manner in the films.

Of course, Poe’s identity being all over the place is not entirely the fault of Free Fall. It does a fine job of weaving in stuff from other material, such as the character L’ulo L’ampar, who was introduced in Greg Rucka’s Shattered Empire comic miniseries along with Poe’s parents. That being said, the way that Poe as a character has been changed around a lot made it difficult for me to enjoy the book as much as I had hoped I would. The plot did not interest me very much, despite the action and even the use of swords. There are good moments here and there, and despite how rushed the ending feels, it does point him in the direction that we see in other material. I do think it is possible for there to be a follow-up to this book. However, I would be totally fine having a break from the Poe Dameron character for a while.

Score: 6.25/10


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