One of Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s biggest – and most controversial – scenes was when General Leia Organa used the Force to save herself from certain death. Now, Star Wars canon is addressing why it took the former princess of Alderaan so long to use her Force powers in such a dramatic way. The scene in question comes early on in Rian Johnson's movie. Leia is blasted out into space after a First Order attack ran (but not ordered) by Kylo Ren. She floats in the vacuum, seemingly helpless, but then taps into her previously-unutilized Force potential and telekinetically moves herself back to the safety of the vessel, where she’s recovered by her crew.
Such a bold, declarative usage of the Force would have gone unquestioned from the likes of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (her brother) or the vile Kylo Ren (her son), but the fact that audiences had never really seen Organa use any (substantial) power or ability – not even beyond the realm of the films, where the character has been racking up some serious page counts in the tie-in novels and comic books – immediately made the scene one of the most debated in all of Star Wars. Now, that debate is canon.
The new canon book Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – Black Spire tells the tale of how Vi Moradi, the Resistance’s top spy, comes to land on the planet of Batuu (the setting of the Galaxy’s Edge theme-park land in both Anaheim, California and Orlando, Florida) and start to set up yet another hidden base for her beleaguered freedom movement just four months after The Last Jedi. While scouting for new allies and recruits, she comes across a sympathetic figure – one with indirect ties to Lor San Tekka and the Church of the Force - who wants to know whether the whispers about General Organa’s near-miraculous self-rescue are true. After Vi confirms them, this new character, Ylena, speaks reverently of the event:
"'All these years,' Ylena mused, her eyes far off. 'All these years, she had access to the Force and never used it. She could’ve swayed the Senate but wasn’t willing to use cheap tricks when she believed in diplomacy and freedom. That’s a strong woman and a good leader right there. And yet, in her time of greatest hardship, when it benefited not only her own needs but the greater good, she reached deep inside and claimed that connection that had always waited, dormant, for her call.'"
The common assumption following Star Wars: The Last Jedi was that Princess Leia touched the Force out of sheer self-preservation – her life was in danger and she acted almost instinctively to protect it, tapping into a reservoir of power that she didn’t even know she had. This was director Rian Johnson's explanation and echoed by Vi: “The general was a master strategist who used every piece on the dejarik board. Usually,” she remarks to herself. However, if Ylena's interpretation is, in fact, the accepted one heading into The Rise of Skywalker (and beyond), it would overturn the common consensus of the Star Wars community, both in-world and behind the scenes.
Then again, nothing in Star Wars canon to this point – not Leia’s appearances in the movies, various television episodes, books, comics, short stories or video games – suggests that she’s consciously aware of having a connection to and potential mastery over the Force, which questions Ylena’s assertion that Organa was actively, consciously, and continually making the choice to repress her abilities. The possibility of it being an unconscious decision, however, is still very much there – and audiences, by this point, are now well familiar with Star Wars’ ability to look at its various events and characters from certain points of view.
What this all does is canonize the debate that Star Wars fans have been having for the past two years, serving as a meta wink and keeping the multiple possibilities open as the Skywalker Saga moves towards its ending.
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge – Black Spire is available now.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019