norra wexley

(Welcome to A Different Point of View, a column where we explore the supporting characters of the Star Wars universe and discuss why they deserve more time in the spotlight.)

If you’re deep enough into the Star Wars fandom, you know the last week was a bit of a catastrophic public relations nightmare. Since my biological make-up is at least 70% spite, this week’s column took a last minute left-turn in response. Today, we’re going to talk about Norra Wexley.

Created by Chuck Wendig for his Aftermath book series, Norra is a woman who should be elevated in the lore so more people can see her complex character. Not just complex for Star Wars, but one of the deepest roles I’ve personally ever seen written for a mother in any medium.

Who is She?

Growing up on the Outer Rim jungle planet Akiva, Norra Wexley was a human woman and member of the Rebel Alliance from its earliest days all the way past the Battle of Endor. From the planet capital of Myrra, Norra and her husband Brentin helped pass messages between rebel cells while also raising their son Temmin. When Brentin was discovered and arrested by the Imperials occupying Akiva, Norra has an impossible choice: join the Rebellion in a more active role to seek out her husband and continue their work, or stay under the radar and raise her son. Norra chooses the former, forever complicating the relationship between her and her teenaged son.

When writing Norra, Chuck Wendig told me he wanted to upend the usual fantasy trope of absentee mothers:

“My goal with her was always too to create a “strong mom” character — given that in Star Wars (and arguably in a lot of YA too) mothers are given a short, short shrift in terms of getting to be fully-fledged, complex characters with agency in the world. Hell, most of them are dead before the story starts.”

He’s not wrong. The Missing Mom trope is at critical mass in a galaxy far, far away. Anakin’s mom dies, Luke and Leia are both orphaned twice over by the end of Return of the Jedi, Han Solo is clearly an orphan, Ezra is an orphan, Jyn Erso is an orphan, and even Rey is functionally (if not literally) an orphan. Into that motherless void steps Norra Wexley and she’s all the more interesting for not adhering to maternal expectations.

Norra is a big-picture person. She sees three steps down the line, which can blind her to what is right in front of her. Arguments could be made in either direction: is she a deadbeat mother (as her sister asserts) for selfishly throwing herself headlong into danger or is she making the galaxy a safer place for her son and the children of everyone else? Is it both? It’s both. And holding those two opposing truths in place is the crux of who Norra is as a wife, mother, and rebel.

When Was She Introduced?

Norra was created specifically for the Aftermath trilogy written by Chuck Wendig. Retconned into the background of Return of the Jedi, Norra was given a background as one of the Y-Wings that assisted Lando Calrissian in destroying the second Death Star. Ostensibly she becomes one piece of a rag-tag team of not-quite-allies sent on a series of missions of great import to the Rebellion, ultimately culminating during the Battle of Jakku.

While Norra has yet to appear in any other Star Wars media, she was finally given a face during the promotion of the final Aftermath installment, Empire’s End. So should Lucasfilm choose to add her to the live-action or animation mix, there is a template for how she should look physically. Although without a set age, Norra’s silver hair could simply be natural instead of a sign of aging. With Temmin her son being 15 during the course of the saga, Norra could range in age from her thirties to her fifties.

Why She’s Fascinating

Well first of all, the aforementioned “living mom” status. Norra is an anomaly in Star Wars lore. Sure, Leia Organa is a mother but we have seen very little of her parenting years and, quite frankly, based the results she was kind of garbage at it. What’s great about Norra is we get to witness her relationship with her son, Temmin, in all its dysfunctional glory.

Let’s back up a bit. Within the narrative, Norra convinces herself the best thing for her son’s safety is for Norra to dump his 12-year-old butt with his aunts and conscript herself into service to the Rebellion as a pilot. When she returns three years later, she has mostly succeeded in her mission. The Empire is on the run. She a hero of the Rebellion. She has the medal to prove it. But Imperials are still in control of Akiva. And she still hasn’t found her husband. And her son is now a petty criminal running an illegal junk shop out of their home and befriending a terrifying visage he built from spare battle droid part (All hail, Mr. Bones). So while Norra’s macro plans have been a success, her daily life is in shambles.  

At 15, Temmin thinks he’s grown and besides, his mother has been gone for years. She didn’t even bring his dad back home as she promised. All that serves as a dollop of angst on top of already strenuous teen years leads to an interesting conflict between them. Temmin’s roughness around the edges leads to betrayals both major and minor while Norra’s insistence on seeing the bigger picture leaves her son feeling abandoned, even when she’s still in the room.

Then there are Norra’s other relationships. Specifically with Wedge Antilles. In Aftermath, Norra’s first mission post-Endor is to rescue Wedge Antilles from Imperial jail. Despite an age gap — Wedge is in his twenties and Norra is old enough to have a teenager — the two have chemistry. Chemistry that is back-burnered throughout the saga while Norra searches for her husband. Without spoilers, let’s just say by the end of the day, any future stories with Norra could also include Wedge as a love interest without any breaking of vows or bonds. Let Norra and Wedge have something nice, is what I’m saying here Lucasfilm.

Living in the nebulous period between the destruction of the second Death Star and the end of the Empire at the Battle of Jakku, Norra is forced to have flexible morals. With the implosion of any power structure, people will flee. Enemies will become allies and then enemies once more. Norra crosses paths with several Imperial or former Imperial officers, including fan favorite and future column subject, Rae Sloane. Sometimes they meet as mortal foes. Sometimes as cautious allies. Always with the knowledge that the political landscape is constantly shifting quicksand beneath their feet. Seeing Norra find a way to compartmentalize her hatred to get the job done is part of what makes her interesting.

norra wexley

What Stories Could Lucasfilm Tell

We’ve only been exposed to a very small window of Norra Wexley’s life. The Aftermath trilogy picks up right after Return of the Jedi and ends after the Battle of Jakku. A single year. That’s a lot of untapped potential.

How did Norra meet her husband? We know Brentin was responsible for ferrying messages from different cells of the rebellion throughout the Outer Rim. That is no small responsibility. Did Brentin have contacts within the Galactic Senate? Did Norra? Was Brentin already involved with the nascent uprising when he met his Norra or did they fall into later? Did Temmin ever know anything besides furtive whispers between his parents and a steady stream of anonymous strangers?

Backing up even further, what was it like for Norra to grow up on a backwater jungle planet nominally ruled by the Confederacy of Independent Systems and then the Empire after it? Aftermath introduces readers to Esmelle, who is Norra’s older sister and Esmelle’s wife Shirene. We know Esmelle is significantly older than Norra and had a wild streak in her youth. Esmelle led a teenage gang at the time of Norra’s birth, hence her rather blasé response to Temmin falling into a life of crime under her charge. That’s…a lot of information just waiting to be expanded upon. What was the home life of young Norra like? Were her parents distraught by Esmelle’s actions? Did Norra look up to her? Was it just the family business? Did Norra learn fighting skills from her time with the Rebellion or did she come into that life already skilled?

Then there is Norra’s future. By the completion of Empire’s End, her entire life has been upended. Without much left for her on Akiva, Norra and Temmin pull up stakes and make a new home on Hosnian Prime, with Norra become a flight academy teacher. If that planet name sounds familiar, it’s because it is one of the world decimated by Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens. Less than three decades after Norra and Temmin arrive, the planet no longer exists. It’s distinctly possible they are both alive, so do the meet inglorious ends at the hands of the First Order? Did Norra truly find happiness in teaching instead of being in the thick of things? Did Temmin ever mend the last ragged edges of his relationship with his mother? Where are they when Hosian Prime detonates? What happened in the intervening decades?

29 years is a large gap. Large enough perhaps for Wedge Antilles to saunter back into the picture and for Mr. Bones to rise from the ashes.

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