My pet theory on the First Order is that it’s made up of relatively independent, ehr, not really cells (too independent, though who knows), but branches, made up of the diverse remnants left after RotJ/Jakku. Historically speaking, it would make sense for the diverse Imperial remnants to have spent time apart, then rejoined. There’s a caveat because I can see that regrouping happening three ways; with alliances between different remnants, or with one eating the others. And a third way, mixing both, with a main remnant allying itself to some of the others and blitzing the ones they disagree with. For now, I’m leaning towards third.
If there are various remnants and they’re not that united, it could lead to infighting and one-upmanship, but it could also mean versatility, adaptability.
…Also leaves the door open for moar Imperial remnants, allied to the First Order or not. You know, since we’ll need more baddies at some point.
Let’s talk history a bit.
[Aftermath] gives us the earliest view of Imperial remnants, after the Battle of Endor in 4 ABY. Mostly, the Empire is in chaos, splintering; it’s a time of opportunities for many Imperials, people like Rae Sloane but also regional governors carving up territories or fleeing, hidden fleets, etc. In some parts of the Galaxy, conflict’s still going strong. The Akiva summit ends up a failure, and the New Republic proclaims itself. What happens to the hidden fleet of Aftermath and my wildest hypothesis ever links them to R1, yes I swear, btw by the time of Jakku is uncertain, but we know its flagship, the super star destroyer Ravager was at the Battle of Jakku (c. 5 ABY) and crashed there.
Lost Stars brings us up to the Battle of Jakku, during which Cienna thinks “The power plays and attempted coups have thinned the ranks. Everyone else with seniority has either defected to one of the splinter fleets or been eliminated.” So at this point the situation hasn’t much changed for the Empire since it started splintering post-Endor.
But it will, as another bit of Lost Stars informs us, emphasis mine: “Too many people had to work for the Empire for them all to be jailed. That’s literally hundreds of billions of people, not even counting the troops who vanished with the rest of the Imperial Starfleet.”
I fucking love this bit – thank you, realism. Anyway, what’s interesting for us here is the mention of the Imperial Starfleet; it’s set to be a main player since by the end of Lost Stars, they already started regrouping: “While the rebel pundits confidently predicted the Empire’s disappearance and surrender—believed them divided against each other and helpless—they were instead rejoining forces and growing stronger than before.” More important, “the Imperial Starfleet had reestablished a hierarchy of command. They had developed a long-term strategy. The old factionalism had been swept away, and at last they stood together, united again.”
Okay, so it’s an Imperial speaking, and he’s speaking, specifically, about the Imperial Starfleet remnant – so I don’t think all the splintered fleets, the fleeing governors etc are concerned.
And in any case, there also, after the Battle of Jakku, the Imperials who signed the Galactic Concordance – it’s a bit unclear which ones did. I doubt it’s the Imperial Starfleet remnant. Which raises the interesting question of is-the-First-Order-really-legally-bound-by-the-Galactic-Concordance (if they didn’t sign, answer is no, point and laugh at the New Republic). Ahem.
The [preview to the propaganda book] says “The Galactic Concordance, the peace treaty that brought an end to hostility, was at last signed after the last remnants of the Imperial fleet vanished following the Battle of Jakku. Former Imperial governors were invited to the New Republic, though many of them bore the weight of crushing reparations.“
So logically, those who signed should be those who recognized the New Republic – and joined it, becoming the Centrist faction of the Galactic Senate.
And the preview also says “Over time, the former Imperials reunited as the First Order and coolly inhabited a wing of Republic politics until tension reached a breaking point. The First Order seceded from the New Republic, a move that was welcomed by many in the galactic capital. But others realized that without Republic oversight, the First Order would return to the Empire’s draconian ways and ambitious expansion. To counter this specific concern, Leia Organa of Alderaan founded the Resistance, a paramilitary group that probed the neutral space separating the First Order and the Republic for signs of treaty violation.”
But [Bloodline] has shown that c. 28 ABY the Centrists aren’t calling themselves the First Order yet, other than in the greatest secrecy. They’re in cahoots with both a super nebulous remnant (likely the Imperial Starfleet one), and another, the Amaxine warriors. The Amaxine warriors, led by Hadrassian, regrouped separately, and are very different from the military we’ve seen in TFA (just the fact they call themselves warriors is indicative of a different mindset), but still they were part of the First Order, and its weirdass plan.
By the end of Bloodline, the Amaxine have been discovered and blown up (well, one of their bases, everyone forgets the others), the Centrists are planning to secede, and Leia is starting the Resistance. When exactly the Centrists secede, how important they really are in the First Order, is still unclear. Like Snoke or the Knights of Ren and –
Okay, so there still are timeline issues, and data, even now that Bloodline came out, is sadly lacking. Aftermath: Life Debt and Empire’s End will probably not be that useful, too – they’ll cover the time up to the Battle of Jakku only methinks.
But overall I do think it points towards a main remnant, and the Imperial Starflet is in prime position for this – more than the Centrists, methinks; the First Order in TFA is, after all, highly militaristic, and we know they have fleets and the Centrists apparently know nothing of Starkiller and no one will make me believe that shit was built in six years.
Anyway. Commanding structure. Snoke would be the head of it all, I guess. The Imperial Starfleet would have been the backbone, but by TFA I think it’s likely there’s more than one fleet. We have their rank structure, from the VD
The VD also tells us Starkiller Base is pretty much independent from normal chain of command, with the General Hux / Kylo Ren / Captain ‘my true rank ain’t Captain’ Phasma triumvirate answering only to Snoke. We have the Poe comics, with Agent Terex, who looks like he’s doing his own thing (I need to catch up on those though). There may be other smaller groups like the Amaxine warriors. The Knights of Ren are few, but seem to be kind of exotic assets.
…I’m still trying to make it all work together.
2) Does the High Command rules on the people like a junta?
It kind of depends on 3), but to be honest, this is a burning question to me. I can see many possibilities on that – a junta, some kind of Imperial Council whose composition could be anything, a loose system with regional governors? Something else? Where does Snoke fit – and the Centrists? If they seceded before TFA, how do they and their planets fit? They could have become a ruling class, or have little power, or just be a cog in the system.
Yet more questions.
3) Do they have a nation and civilization beyond the military?
I think the First Order has to exist beyond the military; and I have two reasons for that. First, there’s the ideological side of things; the First Order sees itself as the heir of the Empire, but more, they think they’re better. Purer (which is very interesting, but could still go many ways). They’re likely not to see the war as something over and done with (what with not all of them having signed the Galactic Concordance). Official line probably insists on legitimacy. They First Order wants to get its rightful role – galactic government. They’re not here to destroy the New Republic for shit and giggles. It’s still hard to get Snoke’s deal, but from all we’ve seen, the First Order is here to rule. They’re bringing back order and uniting the Galaxy whether or not they’re asked to. To them the New Republic is illegitimate – a government grown out of a bunch of terrorists, who won a battle but not the war.
From their point of view, it’s the Reconquista.
On the practical side – they have to sustain their war machine; on a pure logistical standpoint, I don’t see how the fuck they could without systems behind them. They need an infrastructure. They need popular support; they wouldn’t have been to stay hidden for more than twenty years without it – spotty communications or not, twenty years of brutal oppression should at least lead to rumors. And really, if the First Order wants to play the legitimacy card, it’s in their interest, reduced as they were post RotJ, not to be total assholes to the people helping them stay hidden.
The First Order has to be funded somehow; it has to feed its soldiers and equip them and build up its fleet and maintain it and – same for Starkiller Base. Centrists and their plots account for it, but all of it? I’m not so sure. And okay, let’s say that’s where the First Order money comes from – they still have to buy their shit somewhere, from food to hardware to whatever. They apparently mine for kyber crystals at least.
It’s likely civilians would have very little in common with the military we’ve seen up to now – I mean, they’d just be people; the First Order really could be appealing to residents of the Unknown Regions, or even zones further towards the Core. If they bring security, policing trade routes, equal treatment with the worlds at the bright center of the Galaxy? Well. And also…
4) Do they have permanent settlements in the Unknown Regions, and do you think there were natives living there who weren’t originally Imperials but are now par of the Order?
I think it’s a mixed thing; I think the military is mobile, as the VD says. But the Amaxine had bases, and that seemed permanent enough. The Starkiller Base has an origin point, though that doesn’t mean much in itself. So permanent settlements, I think, would be more of a civilian thing – better keep the military mobile for discretion, since they can. No need to maintain strong presence in allied worlds either, if they’ve been playing their cards right.
And I do think there were people living in the Unknown Regions; they were Unknown the way the Americas or Australia or whatever were terra incognita. The Republic hadn’t explored them, like Wild Space, but in no way does that mean those regions aren’t inhabited.
Plus, the Republic hadn’t explored them, but the Empire did. We don’t know really know what they did there before Endor, but there’s no way they exploring for the glory of it. Expansion, probably; whatever they started, the First Order could have continued. With limits (of the logistical kind), of course, but the New Republic never really went into the Unknown Regions, so they were pretty free on that level.