Caught in the open during the evacuation of their base on D’Qar, the Resistance confronts an existential moment of crisis as it stares down the barrel of two orbital autocannons, affixed to a First Order Dreadnaught, targeting their base and fleet. With only seconds to spare, the final Resistance transports flee the surface of D’Qar as the autocannons obliterate the now empty base. With personnel and equipment safely aboard the vessels of the Resistance fleet, General Leia Organa orders her forces to disengage but Poe Dameron has a different idea. Having taken out the surface cannons on the Dreadnought, Dameron ignores his commanding officer, switching off his communications, intent on scoring a victory against the First Order by taking out the “fleet-killer.”
One can easily criticize Dameron for his actions; and he is criticized, even demoted, when the Resistance makes its orbital exit from the D’Qar system following the battle. In this moment, though, the impetuous Commander gives the order to attack. Protected by X-Wings and A-Wings in the Resistance starfighter fleet, massive B/SF-17 heavy bombers “in tight formation” slowly move towards the Dreadnought preparing to unleash their payload of proton bombs to destroy the terrifying Man-of-war.
Although it’s surface cannons were knocked out by Dameron’s lone assault, the Dreadnought is not defenseless. TIE Fighter Squadrons throw themselves against the Resistance attackers, intent on destroying the bombers. A fierce dogfight commences. Starfighters on both sides are vaporized. A B/SF-17 is blasted apart by the green lasers of an attacking TIE. But the Resistance does not let up, and the Bombers close the distance with the imposing First Order capital ship which is now aiming its massive autocannons at the Resistance fleet. Bombardiers ready their payloads, opening bay doors and arming bombs as the vessels inch closer to “the sweet spot” where they will inflict maximum destruction.
Suddenly, a damaged TIE Fighter crashes into one of the Bombers, unleashing hell. Shredded from the inside, massive detonations hurtle debris into two other B/SF-17s which also erupt into flame. Watching from the ball turret at the base of her Bomber, a Resistance gunner witnesses the destruction. Removing her mask and breathing heavy, her wide-eyes reveal her shock and disbelief.
Now, this gunner’s Bomber is the only one that remains. Suspended above the massive First Order ship, it is the last hope for the small Resistance fleet. The situation is perilous and the tension is amplified when Dameron frantically contacts the gunner:
“Paige, come in, we’re over the target. Why aren’t your bay doors open? You’re the only bomber left, it’s all down to you!”
This gunner, Paige, springs into action. Exiting the ball turret at the bottom of the weapons bay, she opens the bay doors and calls to the bombardier up above.
“Nix!,” she yells, but there is no reply, only the distinct beeping of the weapons release on the grated floor far above.
“Paige, drop the payload, now!,” Dameron frantically exclaims. Determination on her face, she frantically climbs the ladder, past the armed bombs in their racks, emerging at the top to find the bombardier, Nix, dead on the floor. Paige reaches for the beeping, blinking weapons trigger laying nearby but as she does, a TIE Fighter blasts the cockpit of the Bomber, killing the pilot and sending fire and shock waves through the cabin. Losing her grip, Paige falls, landing heavy on the floor at the bottom of the weapons bay.
Momentarily unconscious, Tico opens her eyes. The trigger, still beeping, is far above, now dangling on the edge of the opening at the top of the ladder. Paige kicks the ladder but it does not fall to her. Again, she kicks, even harder, but it still does not fall. The Bomber continues forward, now moving over the “sweet spot” of the Dreadnought. The music laid over the scene adds to the tension, and we see Poe Dameron soundless but clearly screaming for the bombs to be dropped. Again, and again, Paige kicks the ladder but still the device does not fall to her.
Autocannons glowing red as they prepare to fire, General Organa sensing the impending doom of her forces, now Tico closes her eyes and clutches a half-crescent medallion on her necklace. Opening her eyes once more, a clear sense of determination painted on her face, Paige kicks the ladder with all her strength. Finally, the trigger tips over the edge and falls. Everything goes silent, the lone exception the sound of the remote clanking against a bomb rack on its way down. Laying there in the silence, Tico exhales as she watches the still beeping, blinking device go by her.
The camera view is now on the falling remote. Suddenly, the music begins to build and a hand reaches out, grasping it from the air. Paige is now laying face down, the item in her left hand. She presses the blinking red button and the bombs begin to drop on the Dreadnought, unleashing incendiary death.
Still laying there, Tico puts her hand once more to her medallion, touching it with a few fingers. We see her face, looking down through the grated floor, fire spreading down towards her through the now empty bomb bay. Resigned to her fate, a stoic expression upon her face, Paige Tico closes her eyes and is bathed in the flames of her dying craft as it crashes into the inferno ripping through the Dreadnought.
To say that Paige Tico (Veronica Ngo) is a minor character in The Last Jedi is neither controversial nor surprising. Two minutes after meeting her as she watches the other Resistance Bombers perish, she too is gone, vaporized in a massive explosion. But while her screen time is brief, her actions are exceedingly important, not only saving the Resistance but also, we learn soon after, the life of her sister Rose.
I have never been shy with my thoughts about The Last Jedi, disliking a number of things about the movie. I highlight as much in my piece Reflections on the Last Jedi, but my intention here is not to dwell on the negative. Instead, I mention that post to note that while I find The Last Jedi lacking in some specific ways, there are scenes and characters that I really did enjoy and could appreciate in the film. And at the top of that list is Paige Tico.
The first time I saw The Last Jedi I was absolutely mesmerized by the two minutes this Resistance gunner, Paige, is in the movie. In general, I find the opening of the film quite good, hitting all of the right notes as the small Resistance, caught in the midst of their evacuation, confronts the First Order. But Paige truly stands out, the opening sequence reaching a tension-filled crescendo with her heroism and ultimate sacrifice.
Honestly, this is my favorite moment in the entire Sequel Trilogy. I very well might be the only one who feels this way, or perhaps I am one of just a few. It’s the truth, though. The entire sequence doesn’t just captivate me, it affects me at my core. Frankly, this is why I have never written about the sacrifice of Paige Tico, at least not until now. I have never been able to find the words to express just how much this scene, Tico’s actions/death, speaks to me. The fact is that it just done, plain and simple. But if I have to put it into words, expressing some reason that accounts for my feelings, I would say this: it is because Paige’s sacrifice is incredibly personal.
As an audience, we are the only ones who know what Paige Tico does to save the Resistance fleet, who actually witness her actions and her death. Later, when meet Rose Tico mourning her sister, her own crescent-shaped medallion in hand, Rose can only imagine what happened in the final moments of Paige’s life. We are burdened with knowledge that Rose can not and will never know. To me, this is what makes the two minutes we spend with Paige Tico so intimate, so personal, so damn powerful.
We see Paige react to the destruction of the Bombers, shock and disbelief on her face.
We see Paige climb out of her ball turret, call to Nix, and climb the ladder.
We see Paige fall when the cockpit of her Bomber is destroyed.
We see Paige, on her back, desperately kicking the ladder to get the trigger to fall to her.
We see Paige close her eyes and grasp the medallion around her neck.
We see Paige kick the ladder one final time, knocking the trigger off the ledge above.
We see Paige grab the trigger out of the air as it falls past her, releasing the bombs.
We see Paige touch her medallion a final time, close her eyes and die.
We alone see the final two minutes of her life; we see the sacrifice of Paige Tico.