Not defending the ST's massive regression, especially as far as individual characters, but in the bigger picture isn't this kind of an innate problem with any Star Wars sequel? You need a war in the stars as your backdrop. So any post-RoTJ story that has the kind of big galactic conflict you'd expect from Star Wars would kind of tarnish that seemingly total heroic victory by default. Same with having a bunch of dark side types running around. Unless there's just no star war in Star Wars.
The First Order really is endlessly frustrating. Largely because I don't think it's an innately bad idea at it's core. A fanatical neo-Imperial insurgency trying to wind back the clock and drag the galaxy back to the way things "should" be versus heroes that try to respect the past by building upon it and moving forward is a solid theme for at least the first movie to sit on. The allure and inevitable tragedy of mindless nostalgia, I guess. Instead they just decided to be actually mindless in their nostalgia. Smuggler Han, Rebel Leader Leia, Luke just fucking off. Fucking Starkiller Base. Jesus.
Why couldn't TFA have been about the relatively covert "cold war" between a terrorist organization and Leia's paramilitary counter-intelligence Resistance group? Wasn't that actually the original plan even? Poe Dameron could have been some James Bond in space type shit. Why wasn't Han Solo simply working undercover, as a Resistance agent, posing as his previous profession?
I'm sorry. I know I'm pissing and moaning about stuff that's been pissed and moaned about for years now but it really is infuriating to see how they could have easily had their cake and eaten it too only to somehow totally misfire on a bunch of simple shit.