Spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
One of the biggest complaints about J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens was how it hyped up the presence of a chrome-plated stormtrooper, Captain Phasma (played by Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie), whose actual appearance in the film turned out to be underwhelming. Fans hoped for a bit of redemption for the character in December’s The Last Jedi, but she only turned up for a brief appearance and a quick death at the hands of her former soldier, Finn. The latest episode of The Star Wars Show premiered a deleted scene in the run-up to the upcoming home release for the film, one that shows a different ending for the character, which fits far better with the novels and comics that built up Captain Phasma throughout 2017.
This new scene picks up right after Finn bashes Phasma in the face with his riot control baton, shattering her helmet. In the film, she apparently meets her end right after that point, when the floor opens up under her and drops her into space. Here, she instead stands up to confront Finn, who asks her what would happen if anyone found out she was responsible for the destruction of Starkiller Base. When she sees that the troopers surrounding Finn are listening, she kills them all, prompting Finn to cut off her hand (a reliable Star Wars trope), before blasting her into the hanger with a heavy cannon, presumably, to her death.
Last year, I picked up Delilah S. Dawson’s novel Phasma, and was impressed with how it expanded its lead character’s background. Raised on a distant, post-apocalyptic planet, she was a character who looked out only for herself, joining the First Order only because it would be an escape from the brutal life on her homeworld. In my interview with Dawson later that year, she explained that the theme of the book was that “Phasma will do anything to survive,” and that the character is most threatened by those who stand in the way of her survival.
That novel wasn’t the only place Phasma appeared last year: she was also the star of a four-issue comic series, Captain Phasma, which follows the character in the aftermath of the destruction of Starkiller Base, as she races to track down a First Order survivor who might know she was complicit in the destruction of the base. In the process, she kills off potential witnesses, including those who aided her.
That’s why it’s a real shame that this deleted scene didn’t make it into the final cut of the film. For one, it would have been a more satisfying closure to Finn’s encounters with her, allowing him to confront her on a personal, emotional level. In the final cut, Finn does win, but it’s abrupt and rushed, as he pushes her into space. The outcome is the same, but the final version doesn’t carry the same emotional weight.
It’s also a letdown, because this is so clearly the scene Lucasfilm’s Story Group was building to in the leadup to the film: establishing Phasma as a vulnerable character, despite the chrome armor, and one who’s willing to turn on her own people if she feels threatened. It’s a visible reminder that multimedia projects such as Star Wars, with its myriad of books, comics, television shows, and films, is complicated, and that late-in-the-game changes can upend long-planned story arcs. In this case, the final cut of The Last Jedi essentially turns the story Phasma and Captain Phasma had been running toward into a dead end, and it undercuts both stories.
Plus, this scene makes Phasma the badass character that we were promised: rather than simply falling to her death, she shows her true colors as a soldier who’s only in the game to protect herself, no matter what the cost. It’s a scene that really deserves to be in that final cut. In an interview with EW, director Rian Johnson says he changed the scene because of its pacing — “we needed a more condensed version of that scene, where essentially it’s the same outcome.” Still, given how many Star Wars villains have survived worse (from immersion in lava to being eaten by a Sarlacc pit), maybe J.J. Abrams will bring her back somehow for Episode IX, and we can hope all over again for something a bit better.
Updated, March 14th, 2018, 12:00PM: Updated to include standalone cut scene.