A brief version of this speculation appears toward the end of episode 18 of Children of the Force, which you can listen to here (it appears around 53:50): http://childrenoftheforce.podbean.com/e/children-of-the-force-18-the-first-of-the-orders/
At Star Wars Celebration in April of 2015, the Star Wars fandom was taken aback when learning via The Force Awakens costume exhibit, that the Empire is no more. In its place arose the First Order.
Since then, people have speculated what could be meant by that term, First Order. There doesn’t seem to be any general consensus around the reason for the name and, as far as I can tell, fandom has basically accepted it and moved on.
But I like to dwell. I like to let questions fester. Which is why, seven months after we learned of the name, I have a theory on the First Order.
What if the word “Order” in “First Order” doesn’t mean what we think it means? Fans are used to saying, “The Jedi Order” and, to a lesser extent, “The Order of the Sith.” So naturally, most fans have assumed the name “First Order” utilizes that same usage of the word.
But there are multiple definitions of “order,” and it’s this one I want to explore in this post:
an authoritative command, direction, or instruction.
In the prequels, we see a lot of orders. Jedi give clones orders. Clones give clones orders. Neimodians give battle droids orders. Obi-Wan orders a Jawa juice.
But we’re talking about the Empire and that thing it became: the First Order.
The most important order given in the prequels is, beyond a doubt, Order 66. It was effectively the first order of the Empire. It was the order that ushered in the dark times.
The Empire eventually falls about a year after the Battle of Endor. We know from at least one book that’s been released so far, that Imperial remnants survive Endor and that they intend to restore the Empire back to it’s former planet-exploding glory.
What is the rallying cry for this decimated and decapitated Empire? What could possibly convince those affiliated with the Empire to continue to support this brutal regime that spectacularly lost the Galactic Civil War? It would take religious zeal to keep something like that together.
If the leaders of the fractured Empire want their remaining troops and officers to rally around something with religious zeal, they could rally them around the first order of the Empire: Order 66: Kill all Jedi.
If this is indeed the origin of the name, then not only does Kylo Ren want to destroy the last Jedi (something we (think we) know because of a toy), but that is also the mandate of the First Order itself.
So … why create an entire army and superweapon to kill one Jedi? Well, maybe it’s not just about one Jedi. Maybe, like religious zealots in our own galaxy, the First Order has reinterpreted history to fit their own needs. Kill all Jedi becomes kill all force users who won’t pledge their loyalty to the First Order.
And really, that isn’t much of a stretch from what the Emperor mandated in the first place. In Rebels, the Grand Inquisitor was given these orders from Vader via Palpatine:
“The Jedi Knights are all but destroyed. Yet your task is not complete, Inquisitor. The Emperor has foreseen a new threat rising against him: the children of the Force. They must not become Jedi.”
So not only are Jedi on the hit list, but all who would become Jedi are fair game, too. In this week’s episode of Rebels, “The Future of the Force,” we will see the logical extension of the plan that we saw Palpatine begin in the Clone Wars episode, “Children of the Force.” Mainly, a “join us or die” attitude toward all force users.
Star Wars has always existed within the context of our real world. The movies have always been a commentary on the political and moral issues of the day. With groups like the Islamic State dominating the headlines and our consciousness, it makes complete sense for Star Wars to explore these ideas in the sequel trilogy.
Fantastical fiction never exists in a vacuum. It always tells us about ourselves. A theocratic army hell-bent on destroying all who stand in their way? Using theology to legitimize and justify power grabs and murder? As the Galactic Empire echoed the Nazis (and the worst of the United States government), so too may the First Order chillingly echo the violent and destructive religious extremists of our time.