Director Rian Johnson has been filming his Star Wars: Episode VIII for a little over a month, and for the time being things are relatively quiet. As production chugs along, there haven't been many noteworthy leaks, outside of some set photos taken from the sequel's Dubrovnik, Croatia location. Given that a major part of Star Wars: The Force Awakens' success was the thick veil of secrecy, fans aren't exactly complaining; but it's still odd that there's a lack of information - speculation or otherwise.
However, that could be changing soon. Recently, alleged details about Laura Dern's mystery character emerged, indicating that she has an antagonistic relationship with Resistance pilot Poe Dameron. The scene descriptions that came out were somewhat vague, making it difficult to piece together context. Now, a new report provides some clarity on the situation, lending credence to the earlier rumors.
Making Star Wars was "able to dig a bit" regarding what was previously claimed, saying that it seems legitimate. According to them, Dern is playing a leader of the Resistance who takes over command when General Leia's ship is ambushed and Leia falls into a coma. Under Dern's leadership, things are made "far worse" for the Resistance. As a result, Poe "takes control" and becomes the group's interim leader - perhaps a reference to a supposed sequence where he commandeers Dern's ship. Making Star Wars also notes that Dern's true loyalties are meant to be ambiguous, the viewer unsure if she's good or evil.
Considering this is true, it will be interesting to see who is behind the attack on Leia. One of the revelations in the Force Awakens novelization was that the Resistance operates mainly as its own entity and is not the army of the New Republic. Many disapprove of Leia waging a war against the First Order (which signed a treaty with the Republic), and Leia considers herself a "political pariah." A plausible theory, then, is that Dern portrays one of Leia's political opponents that believes the Resistance causes more harm than good and looks to take matters into her own hands. That doesn't necessarily mean she's affiliated with Supreme Leader Snoke; she just could be someone that doesn't see eye-to-eye with Leia and represents a morally grey area of the franchise.
Fans are about to get a greater look at Leia's Episode VII backstory in the upcoming canon novel Bloodline, which details a conflict between Populists (including Leia), who believe individual planets should retain authority, and Centralists, who feel a strong government is the best option. Based on that synopsis, it seems awfully coincidental that Lucasfilm would be fleshing out the concept of a fractured Republic now, roughly a year and a half before Episode VIII hits theaters. Not that the book (which is set six years before The Force Awakens) will end up being required reading for moviegoers, but it would be an ideal way of acclimating viewers to this idea before it gets the spotlight in a future film.
This also sounds like it could be a substantial arc for Poe, who quickly became a fan-favorite after The Force Awakens. Many wished he had more screen time in Episode VII, so it would be nice to see him get a meaty role in the sequel and emerge as an assertive leader for the heroes. Arguably, he drew the short straw last time out, with most of the focus on Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren. Further developing Poe would help Star Wars 8 stand out and give his admirers something to celebrate.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters on December 16th, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode 8 on December 15th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode 9 is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.
Source: Making Star Wars