These are some musings about the Phasma novel I had when it came out with regards to the First Order, Snoke and Kylo Ren.
This isn’t a huge point, but the fact that both Sloane and Brendol retained their positions while Snoke was in power indicates they had no issue with him leading the FO. This rather suggests Snoke was already in control and/or had the blessing of Palpatine. It does not look like Snoke had to purge the top leadership.
The Motivations of the First Order:
The next point is about the First Order and actually ties into something we’ve now seen repeatedly. We know what drives those who supported the Empire and what drove them to form the FO – the desire for the perceived peace and order of the Empire. We see characters from Sloane to Iden (from Inferno Squad) disparage the rebels as anarchists. Indeed, Sloane leaves for the Unknown Regions with the intent of establishing a new Empire with order as its cornerstone.
The Cardinal, a Captain in the FO, is a true believer in this mission:
“It’s right there in the name. First Order. First, order. Fixing the mess left behind by the Republic and now the New Republic. Getting rid of bloated diplomats and lobbyists who don’t represent real people with real problems. Bringing equality to all. The old system of government is ludicrous and doomed to fail. Sentient beings are incapable of making the choices that are in their best interests in the long run. The whole point of the First Order is stability.”
Dawson, Delilah S.. Phasma (Star Wars): Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars: the Last Jedi) (Kindle Locations 779-783). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
That the galaxy is in chaos under the Republic is something drilled into FO trainees. Indeed, the FO’s strategy of recruiting among the galaxy’s orphans is especially effective in engendering loyalty and fanaticism. Many of its soldiers have suffered under that very chaos.
What do the motives of the FO have to do with Kylo Ren? Everything as it turns out. From the novelization:
A gloved hand rose to take in the sweep of light and energy arrayed before them. “Look at it, Lieutenant. So much beauty among so much turmoil. In a way, we are but an infinitely smaller reflection of the same conflict. It is the task of the First Order to remove the disorder from our own existence, so that civilization may be returned to the stability that promotes progress. A stability that existed under the Empire, was reduced to anarchy by the Rebellion, was inherited in turn by the so-called Republic, and will be restored by us. Future historians will look upon this as the time when a strong hand brought the rule of law back to civilization.”
Kylo Ren percieves a galaxy in chaos and sees autocratic rule as necessary for stablizing it. The important thing to note is what Kylo Ren is not – a soldier recruited or conscripted out of squaler in childhood and indoctrinated. He joined as an adult out of his own free will after being and part of the most powerful family in the galaxy. Therefore, the question is what drove him to adopt the views of the First Order.
As the son of a powerful and active senator and nephew (eventually student) of the sole surviving Jedi, Ben would have had a front row seat to the problems plaguing the galaxy (no doubt deliberately worsened by Snoke and the First Order itself). With the vacuum left by the collapse of the Empire, it would have taken a long time for the Republic to assert itself under the wisest of leadership. It was not under the wisest of leadership though and we already saw signs of it’s ineffectiveness in the Aftermath trilogy (and brought to a head by the time of Bloodline). Given who his parents were, a lot of their time would have been spent running around putting out brush fires without the help of the Republic. This would be bad enough, but to make matters worse, he, his mother and uncle had incredible innate power. To him this must have been a sign they had a duty to rule and stop the chaos. He must have been incredibly frustrated that his mother refused to develop her own power and his uncle refused to do what was clearly necessary. By the time of his fall, he must have seen himself and the FO as the galaxy’s only salvation.
Note: There’s considerably more to be sure, but my interest here is to just explore what Ben must have experienced and thought to lead him to betray his own family and join the very organization it opposed.