Based on The Last Jedi’s Ending the Handling of Leia Will be a Monumental Task for Abrams and Terrio
Spoilers will be present for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, so proceed at your own risk!
If you’ve seen The Last Jedi by now then you know just how important the character of General Leia was going to be in Star Wars: Episode IX. Her Resistance has been decimated by her son and the First Order, and only she, Poe, Finn, Rey, Chewie, the Droids, and a handful of no name soldiers remain to combat her son, who just so happens to now be the Supreme Leader of the First Order. Even Leia’s last line, which hinted that her band of rebels had all that they needed to spark a full on rebellion against the First Order implied that she and the survivors would be the heroes to take on the Order, but with Fisher’s unfortunate death, that can no longer be the case.
At least not in the manner that I believe Lucasfilm and the writers intended for Leia’s role to play out in the final chapter of this new trilogy. Just based on how The Last Jedi plays out, as well as interviews from the likes of Kathleen Kennedy, who all but said that Leia would have a lead and starring role in the final film, it’s hard to think how they can honor the character now that the actress behind her is gone. To me it was clear that in Episode IX Leia and Kylo were going to have a come to Force Jesus moment. She clearly still has an effect on him, which was showcased during his attack on her capital ship, and his inability to pull the trigger on blowing up the bridge.
Maybe he was going to kill her off in IX this whole time, but even if that was the direction I don’t think it was going to be an early part of the film. I actually believed that Leia would have a major hand in turning Kylo, but who knows what his mental state is now after he took over the First Order by cutting Snoke in half. Just imagine a showdown between Mother and Son! It would be an interaction never seen in Star Wars, or most fictional properties for that matter. These types of movie moments almost always come down to the Son and Father to resolve their issues that also happen to affect a ton of other people, so seeing a Mother and Son hash their beef out would have been very fresh and new. Just imagine seeing Leia wield more of her Force powers in a mental battle with her son, or her and Rey teaming up to take him down and turn him like Vader! The possibilities on speculations for how Leia would have been handled in Episode IX if Fisher were still alive are endless, and now they’re just pipe dreams.
Fisher’s passing, while tragic in its own right, leaves J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio — Episode IX’s writers — in an extremely tough spot. Now don’t get me wrong, the loss of a human life is way more tragic than the loss of a fictional character, but after seeing how Leia was handled in The Last Jedi, it’s hard for me to understand how she will be handled in Episode IX. With no more Han and Luke, Leia was the last of the old guard, so like Han and Luke before her, I do believe Leia was going to get a major turn in the spotlight in the final film, but now it seems impossible to do this character justice. Maybe the passing of Fisher will open up the door for Force Luke to be used in her place, but no matter how you slice it, Fisher’s death fundamentally changed how this trilogy will play out, and based on the events in The Last Jedi, the impact of her death on the narrative makes for a monumental challenge for the Episode IX cast and crew.
Don’t forget that Abrams and Terrio essentially have their creative hands tied unless Lucasfilm has gone back on its choice to not use a fully CGI General Leia. This leaves them with either miraculously finding unused footage of Fisher as Leia to try and shoehorn in an honorable death, or relegating the most important figure in the Resistance to comm links only. Basically meaning that the only interaction we would get from Leia in Episode IX would be done over radios and communicators. I guess they could write her out in the opening crawl, but that feels just too cheap for a character like Leia, so I’m hoping this method isn’t being considered. There’s just no route Abrams and Terrio can take to honor the character in the manner she deserves, so their handling of Leia has to be as complicated of a problem that any writer could face in the Star Wars saga.
It makes you wonder why Leia’s arc wasn’t altered in The Last Jedi, because there were at least two spots that she could have been snuffed out that would have worked narratively. I’m guessing her role was left unchanged to honor Fisher’s last stint as Leia, which I totally get and respect, but from a narrative sense, leaving her arc as is really puts Abrams and Terrio in a tough spot. She could have easily been lost when she was blown out into the vacuum of space, which would have been tragic to watch, but would have packed a ton of emotion and provide the audience with even more hate fuel for Kylo and the First Order. Now the scene that would have made even better sense to send Leia off in style is the one where Holdo lightspeeds the Resistance capital ship into the First Order fleet. I don’t know about you, but when Holdo did that I teared up a bit, and instantly realized how great of a character Laura Dern played. It was a very heroic and now iconic moment in the Star Wars franchise, so having Leia take her place would have made perfect sense. But again, the powers-at-be didn’t want to alter Leia’s arc in any fashion in The Last Jedi, so we got the story that was initially meant to be told.
The problem with this result is that Fisher is no longer with us to payoff on the setup for Leia that was laid out in The Last Jedi. It will be near impossible to handle this character in an honorable way, so I’m not envious for the task Abrams and his team has in Episode IX. I’m hoping we are all blown away and surprised by Leia’s handling in IX, but as of right now I just can’t wrap my head around how this can be achieved.
I’m sure between now and December of 2019 many theories will spring up around this topic, so make sure to stay tuned to EB and our Star Wars Time podcast, which you can check out and subscribe to below. Here’s to hoping for a proper Leia send off even though my limited brain can’t envision how that will even be possible after the events of The Last Jedi.
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