We need to talk about Armitage Hux! In our fourth instalment of this series after Luke, Finn and Rey it is time we face the question: who is the Red General? This will contains massive spoilers for The Last Jedi if you haven’t seen it yet!
We first met General Hux in The Force Awakens and he was a complete nobody to us at that moment. This character had not featured in any EU novels, he evidently was not from the Original Trilogy era and so started out with a clean slate. In Star Wars however that means that most of us would have put him in the ‘run-of-the-mill Imperial Officer’ category. Someone as expendable as Captain Needa with perhaps the longevity of an Admiral Piet.
Hux is cut from different wood
However already in The Force awakens it shows quite clearly that this is no officer of ‘imperial make’. First it is notable that he corresponds with Kylo Ren as an equal, despite the fact that Kylo definitely does not think that is his appropriate role. In the Original Trilogy the only Imperial who spoke to Vader as an equal was Grand Moff Tarkin in A New Hope. After Tarkin’s demise with the first Death Star no other Imperial ever did, or did survive it if they did. In a way the trio Kylo, Hux and Snoke start out in the Sequel Trilogy pretty much where Vader, Tarkin and the Emperor are in A New Hope, except that we never see the Emperor in that film.
The council scene in A New Hope shows Tarkin a politician as well as a military leader. But there is no exterior sign in Tarkin of being committed to a political ideology or philosophy. Tarkin simply is a technocrat who has chosen early on in the Clone Wars to side with the victorious side, Palpatine’s. Hence he is usually measured, calm, calculating and presses ‘class advantage’ whenever he can, such as against Krennick in Rogue One. How different is Hux!
For Hux there is no council or anything like that. He is the defacto military supreme commander of the First Order’s forces, only reporting to Snoke himself. His dialogue scenes in The Force Awakens with subordinate staff make very clear: this army was built to his design, from the logistics of Star Killer base down to the way First Order Storm Troopers are snatched from their families and conditioned. Kylo holds Hux responsible for Finn’s defection. General Hux is most definitely committed to The First Order as well as to Supreme Leader Snoke.
Hux’s speech prior to the firing of Star Killer base comes straight out of the fanatically mad radicals’ handbook. Quite a few Star Wars fans found the over-the-top performance hard to digest, assuming it was meant to ridicule him as a character. What is actually shows however is that Hux is an extremist. This is made clear subtly earlier on in that movie when Hux proposes to use the Star Killer weapon and Snoke adopts the proposal. The look from Hux to Kylo is clearly one of victory. Probably Kylo is not impressed with this technological terror. But the fanatical Hux cannot wait to unleash it. Striking from afar into the heart of the Republic, like a terror organisation would. Hux is definitely not your ‘ordinary imperial officer’.
Hux and Kylo
The competition between Kylo and Hux that was set-up in The Force Awakens continues in The Last Jedi. Just as Poe Dameron humiliates Kylo Renn with his silly humor in the opening sequence of The Force Awakens so now Hux is the victim of Poe in the opening of The Last Jedi. Upon the successful escape of the Resistance from the Elenian System Snoke takes out his anger at Hux in a Vaderesque way. However Hux neither begs for mercy nor utters as much as a whimper. In fact what he does is point out that Snoke is wrong to believe that the Resistance is off the hook. A few scenes later Snoke concedes: Hux has provem smarter than Snoke had anticipated! It wouldn’t be Snoke’s last miscalculation in The Last Jedi.
On the way out of Snoke’s Throne Room Hux passes Kylo and gives him a satisfied grin. Kylo is the apprentice who failed, not Hux. In fact it had been Hux’s task at the end of The Force Awakens to retrieve a wounded and weakened Kylo, a task he evidently completed successfully on an exploding planet. No small feat and evidence of Hux’s considerable courage and smarts.
After Hux has left Snoke refers to him, in a conversation with Kylo, as a ‘cur’. Again many viewers might see that as simply another derogatory put-down for a character that is operatically fanatical and who carries his emotional attachment to the mission and the order on his every facial muscle. Snoke thinks he is using and manipulating Hux. But then, he thinks the same of Kylo and in the remainder of The last Jedi we see what a miscalculation that is. However the term “cur” has an interesting resonance with one of the key themes of The Last Jedi. It is a ‘nameless dog’, a ‘pariah dog’, a ‘mixed breed’ or ‘outcast’. Said differently: Hux is a no one who comes from nowhere in the eyes of Snoke and Renn.
The self-made Hux
These are all little clues that actually Hux’s arc aligns very well with the overall arc of the Sequel Trilogy. It is all about unexpectedly influential people who come from nowhere and who are nobodies. It is Rey, Finn, Rose Tico and also, surprisingly perhaps, General Hux. Hux is fanatically committed to the First Order and its leader. He is the only one who shows any emotion about its mission while Kylo and Snoke are to self-obsessed to take much notice. For them the First Order is merely a vehicle. But Hux seems to have an agenda he believes in. It is Hux whose handy work is all over the First Order’s military and never, not once, do we see him denigrating or belittling his troops and officers. If you have any understanding of the military you must realize what this means, when his authority remains in place despite public punishing by Snoke: these First Order troops are probably very loyal to their Red General.
The next time Hux sees Snoke, the Supreme Leader is cut in half and for a moment Hux contemplates ending the life of the unconscious Kylo Ren as well. When this shows one thing it is this: Hux has an ambition! He seems to be genuinely abhorred by Snoke’s death and shows opportunistic flexibility in declaring Kylo the new Supreme Leader. But in the Battle for Crait we are once again reminded that the First Order troops recognise the unbalanced and over-emotional ‘leadership’ of Kylo as they shut down their fire on Luke Skywalker’s mirage on Hux’s orders. Hux fits in an “Do you think you’ve got him” to Kylo … an ironic sneer he would have never allowed himself towards Snoke. Kylo continues Snoke’s abusive behaviour towards Hux, but things have changed: Hux does not admire or fear Kylo like he probably admired and feared Snoke.
So where are we with Hux at the end of The Last Jedi? Although formally Kylo Renn has ascended to the Supreme Leader position, we know that the Order’s grand army is loyal to its General Hux. In him they have a commander who will put his head on the line for his troops. Not once have we seen Hux trying to deflect blame to his troops, rather he has defended their qualities when challenged. This General from nowhere wields the real power in The First Order. But for Hux this is not just a military machine to realise his personal ambitions, as it is for Kylo, but a vehicle of fanatical conviction.
We have not yet heard much about what drives Hux, but something is driving him for sure. He seems to be a man with a mission who will not shy away from whatever war crime in order to achieve it. Episode IX could take his character anywhere. His background of ‘low esteem’ puts him in a place where he could understand Rey, and perhaps she him. But this ‘cur’ could turn out to be the far more dangerous opponent for Kylo. Although no match for him in The Force, the military machine of the First Order ultimately has its ear with Hux. We know that terminating Kylo is something Hux would consider when the option presents itself. That path could lead Episode IX down an entirely different road. And no silly joke by Poe Dameron will be able to dampen the explosive relationship between Hux and Renn.
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