General Hux demonstrates incredible arrogance, pettiness, and poor judgement throughout The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi but never more so than in the opening battle of The Last Jedi. He has caught the last remnants of The Resistance in the middle of evacuation with little defense. This should have been easy pickings. Fortunately for our heroes, Hux makes a number of costly mistakes and allows them to slip through his fingers.
The Resistance is in the middle of a hurried evacuation of their base. They must have caught wind that The First Order was coming, because despite already limited resources they are leaving supplies behind in their haste. We get a sense of their desperation and low morale later when Rose comments about all of the desertion attempts she’s seen that day. All that’s missing is a secret message from Leia saying that this is their most desperate hour.
Hux shows up in the middle of the evacuation. He’s smug and at this point seems to have every right to be (if, of course we ignore all of his mistakes from the last movie!). The Resistance is totally unprepared for battle and stuck waiting for the rest of their ships to evacuate. This should be easy.
(Where’s Ender when you need him? “’This one’s easy, Ender,’ Alai said. ‘It’s easy, so why not be careful? I’d like to do this without the loss of a single ship.’” Looking for a great sci fi book to read? Ender’s Game should obviously be top of list!)
Mistakes Were Made
One of The First Order’s main advantages in this engagement is that The Resistance can’t go anywhere until they finish evacuating. The main thing The Resistance needs to do is buy time. They send in their best snarky weapon and Hux can’t resist delivering a dramatic speech.
Hux is there to wipe out The Resistance, so a talk with Poe doesn’t serve any purpose. He let’s his ego call the shots and squanders his advantage giving The Resistance all the time they need to evacuate. The call with Poe takes over a minute, though Hux catches a lucky break when Poe disobeys orders and doesn’t withdraw when Leia orders him to.
Over Reliance on Fancy Tech
It’s been pointed out elsewhere that Hux had more than enough fire power to take care of things without calling in the dreadnought. But, if you have it, you gotta use it, right? And, apparently, Dreadnoughts have been successful before from Poe’s comment that “these things are fleet killers”. However, Hux seems to get overly focused on solving problems with a big gun (think Star Killer Base or the miniaturized Death Star on Crait). Once he has his big gun, he gets tunnel vision and is unable to adapt during battle.
Hux allows the entire battle to be waged with and around the Dreadnought. He stands idly by and does not engage the Resistance fleet with his Star Destroyers. From the time that Poe attacks the surface cannon until the evacuation is complete, nearly two minutes pass. Even with the loss of his Dreadnought, the battle could have easily been turned to victory by capitalizing on Poe’s error of committing the fleet longer.
From when the Dreadnought arrives to when The Resistance finally jumps to light speed, 8 minutes 19 seconds pass (plus or minus a few seconds depending on the slow motion part), 8 long minutes where Hux does nothing but watch the Dreadnought battle and leave his three destroyers idle.
The Wrong Target
All of the above pales in comparison to Hux’s biggest mistake. Once the Dreadnought shows up, The Resistance has nearly completed its evacuation. A single transport is left on the ground and it’s getting ready to take off. The Dreadnought has a huge amount of fire power but it takes a long time to recharge (about 4 minutes). Inexplicably, Hux has it fire on the base instead of the flagship. General!
Had Hux fired on the flagship first, the bulk of The Resistance would have been destroyed and the remaining transports would have been unable to flee. Then, if Hux still wanted to use the Dreadnought on the base, he could have waited for it to recharge without risking the rebels getting away.
On The End Of A String
Despite overwhelming fire power, tactical advantage, and Poe’s mistakes, Hux is unable to win the battle. Lucky for him, Snoke buys his lame explanation that the The Resistance is now right where he wants them. Had Hux been serving under Vader, he would have surely failed for the last time.