princess leia lives

This post contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

It’s been one year since we lost Carrie Fisher, and to borrow a sentiment from her “space brother” Mark Hamill, it’s hard to think of her in anything but the present tense. She was so beloved, and so larger-than-life, that death was but a blip in her biography. She will live on forever as a writer, a personality, a mother, godmother, and actress. And she will, of course, always be our cherished princess and general, Leia Organa of the Star Wars universe.

One unfortunate byproduct of her untimely passing was that we’ll never get to see what was meant to be her star turn in Star Wars Episode IX, the script of which is being completely retooled to write Leia out in a way that honors the character. Luckily for J.J. Abrams, the writer/director tasked with bidding Leia adieu, Rian Johnson set up some easy reroutes in the text of The Last Jedi. Near that film’s end, Leia passes the reins of the Resistance to Poe Dameron. She also suffered a near-fatal injury in the film, one she’s still recovering from by the end. Perhaps a worn-down Leia – fresh from the loss of her husband and brother, and troubled by her son’s ascension to the Supreme Leader throne – succumbs to her ailments. Or perhaps she’s taken down in a First Order strike.

Whatever the case, Leia will still be a major part of Episode IX. Part of that is plot, but it’s also in her symbolic influence on all of the women in this era of Star Wars. It was present in The Last Jedi, and it will be present going forward. Here are the hooks she already has in the legacy of the women of Star Wars.

The Last Jedi Holdo

Vice Admiral Holdo

Yes, Holdo died in a sacrificial move near the end of The Last Jedi, and won’t be a lead in Episode IX. But in the brief time we spent with her, we saw how deeply Leia influenced Holdo’s characterization.

Holdo is steadfast, determined, so pledged to the Resistance that she’s willing to die for it. She’s also even-keeled, biting, and keeps her cool in the face of adversity, whether it’s coming from the First Order or Poe’s tasteless disbelief that she could possibly be a war hero. Leia was made from the same stuff; regal and determined, but a spitfire known for dressing down the men who tried to undermine her. Both characters are also highly feminine, a subversion of what we typically think of military leaders. Holdo’s long purple dress recalls the ethereal white dress we first see Leia wearing; both make you think one thing about a character that quickly proves to be something quite different.

In canon, Holdo and Leia go way back: both were members of the Apprentice Legislature, an organization for youth in politics. Leia was an early member of the Rebellion, and Holdo an early supporter after Leia told her about it. The women came of age together in a time of turmoil, and stayed devoted to retaining peace in the galaxy. Holdo may be gone, but she showed us how deeply Leia’s passion is felt among women in the this universe, and how she continues to inspire other leaders like her.

best female star wars characters rose tico

Rose Tico

This is a little more indirect, but like Holdo, Rose is a die-hard member of the Resistance. She’s also smart and scrappy, and willing to go along with any plan – however ill-advised – if it means buying time and saving lives.

She may not spend much physical screen-time with Leia, but there’s no doubt the general would be proud of Rose’s determination and fire. Leia comes from royalty and Rose from nothing, but both are united in a desire to restore peace and power to the people of the galaxy, and to prevent another totalitarian society. With Leia gone in Episode IX, Rose is one of only a few survivors that will help light the spark to burn the First Order down – a light Leia first started.

The last Jedi rey

Rey 

Leia may not have been the lead of the original Star Wars trilogy, but she was certainly an important part of the main trio, and inspired a cadre of female heroines-to-be. Without Leia’s cultural significance, there would be no Rey, our new hero, and a role model for young women everywhere; a symbol of strength, perseverance, and hope. Leia blazed the trail so that characters like Rey could exist in power.

In the text of the new Star Wars trilogy, Rey and Leia share a connection. We see it at the end of both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. As far as we know, they’re the only living Force-sensitive women, which makes their subtle moments of recognition and comfort so powerful. In The Force Awakens, Leia utters Star Wars’ most famous line – “may the Force be with you” – to Rey, and it matters so much: it’s the first time two female characters of importance got to share such a vital Star Wars moment. In retrospect, it feels like Leia passing the torch to Rey, and, in a way, like Fisher passing it to Ridley. They get another moment like this at the end of The Last Jedi, too. Ridley reflected on this in a recent interview with Glamour:

“The last thing Carrie and I filmed together was emotional for a variety of reasons. It’s the end of the film, and all of this crazy stuff has happened. There’s this moment that we share, and thinking about it now, I realize that it’s going to be really hard to watch. Because it will seem like a goodbye, even though it wasn’t at the time. You know, she and I went through a similar thing at different times [as Star Wars heroes].”

The scene in question comes in The Last Jedi’s final moments, when Rey and Leia reflect on the death of Luke, and how it wasn’t sad or hateful, but a moment of “peace and purpose.” We don’t know how peacefully Leia will exit the story, but in moments like this with Rey, and in the hearts of fighters like Holdo and Rose, it’s clear she’s already served so much purpose.

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