Star Wars: How Phasma Escaped the Trash Compactor & What Happened After The Force Awakens

This Star Wars article contains spoilers.

In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Captain Phasma is ready to fight Finn, a soldier formerly under her command, to the death for his betrayal and work against the First Order. But the last time any fans will remember seeing her on screen is on her way to an undignified end in the trash compactor of Starkiller Base. So how did Phasma end up back in the fight after the superweapon was destroyed? Released as part of the Journey to the Last Jedi line of books and comics, Marvel’s Captain Phasma miniseries has the answer. 

Written by Kelly Thompson, with art by Marco Chechetto, Captain Phasma is a five-issue series for now, although the "Book I" title in the text crawl might allow for more to come. We assume Marvel has paused the story until after The Last Jedi to avoid any overlap or spoilers.

The story of "Book I" follows the fearsome First Order captain from a daring escape from Starkiller Base to an inhospitable planet populated by warring species. Phasma is willing to betray and backstab almost anyone to get her way, even a fellow member of the First Order. 

Her backstory was also explored in the novel Phasma, which we reviewed here. From the sands of her homeworld Parnassos to the stormy seas of Luprora, the captain has always been a mysterious figure, a woman who doesn’t let other people get close enough to even see her face. Her fate in The Last Jedi is sealed, but the comics showed us more about where she found herself after Finn and Han pushed her aside on the way to their destinies. 

How Phasma Escaped the Trash Compactor

During Kylo Ren’s ill-fated encounter with his father, Phasma was not experiencing such dark apotheosis. Six minutes before the base is ready to fire its weapon, she is trudging through trash, calmly and deliberately making a record of her own survival. The problem: that record includes the fact that she lowered the shield around the base, allowing the Resistance starfighters through. 

The comic doesn’t linger on what happened inside the trash compactor. While Phasma seems to share the disgusting space with a tentacled alien not unlike the Death Star’s dianoga, she isn’t nearly as inconvenienced by it as Luke Skywalker was on the Death Star. She steps past the creature and goes on her way. The fact that the comic doesn’t linger on the trash compactor helps sell Phasma as a villain — even though she caved under Han, Finn, and Chewbacca’s threats, she finds her way back to the working part of the base pretty quickly after the Resistance blows a hole in the trash compactor during a bombing run. 

Phasma's escape off the planet involves her running through the snowy forest where Kylo and Rey are having their fateful lightsaber duel. She sees the fighting, but doesn't do anything to help her fellow First Order comrade. Instead, she makes it to a TIE fighter and flies off before Starkiller Base exploded.

The real problem for her is her treachery. The comic also answers what could be big plot holes for her character. Why did she lower the shield? Additionally, did General Hux and Kylo Ren ever discover her role in the destruction of their base?

Killing the Scapegoat 

The answer to the second question is a resounding no. As soon as she emerges from the trash compactor, Phasma discovers that only one other person has a copy of the record of her actions in the control room: Sol Rivas, a lieutenant in the stormtrooper corps. She creates a false record, with no mention of her part in the matter, then erases the original and frames Rivas for lowering the shields. The lie shows how Phasma is willing to throw her own soldiers under the bus if she thinks it will benefit herself. 

Phasma tracks down Rivas first in the exploding Starkiller Base, but he is able to escape on his own TIE fighter during the chaos. Eventually, Phasma finds Rivas on the environmentally-unstable planet Luprora and kills him by the end of the miniseries, eliminating the "traitor" and covering her tracks.

Her quest to kill Rivas is where the comic and the novel jive together well. The novel shows how Phasma was forced to make tough choices, including hurting her own people to keep their lives as safe as possible in their dangerous, irradiated wasteland of a planet. What loyalty she had to her family and her people died when they did on Parnassos, and the First Order seems to have hardened her even further. 

The one thing she has left to value is herself. That identity now includes her position in the First Order — whether for the power it gives her or because as a child of Parnassos she witnessed a world run by warlords. Perhaps she values her role in the First Order because it guarantees her food, shelter, and overall survival. Whatever her motivation, she needs to clean up her loose ends to keep that status. That means Rivas never stood a chance.

Why Phasma Lowered Starkiller Base's Shield in The Force Awakens

Phasma’s ruthlessness scares even her own troopers. She recruits a First Order pilot, TN-3465, to help her chase Rivas to Luprora. She later winds up in trouble, too: TN-3465 overhears Phasma’s conversation with Rivas and tries to hide her knowledge from Phasma.

The last issue also explains more of Phasma's thinking towards others. She believes that the species that colonized Luprora must evolve or die to stand up against the violent weather and rival creatures on their planet. If they die, they have simply been rejected by their world. Phasma does not bother to try to save them. 

“I’m a survivor. No matter what the cost,” Phasma says. 

Those words answer the question posed by her actions in The Force Awakens. She lowered the shield because it was the best way for her to survive. In the end, she executes TN-3465 despite the time they spent together, all in order to keep her secret hidden.

In The Last Jedi, she seems to still believe that the First Order is her best route for survival. But in true Star Wars fashion, villains get their comeuppance, and Phasma’s fatal flaw seems to be her selfishness. By the end of the comic, she has regained her place in the First Order. Believing her lie, General Hux welcomes Phasma back and congratulated her on her loyalty and determination. The Last Jedi starts just when The Force Awakens left off, but we now know exactly what happened to the First Order’s enforcer in between.

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