Leia has always been one of my favorite characters, not just in Star Wars but overall. I get excited about seeing Leia on screen again and it was one of my personal high points to see her in TFA. Over the past two months we’ve gotten a couple of reports of what Leia will be up to in VIII and I want to explore what that means for the character, the Resistance and the film itself. Potential SPOILERS for Episode VIII below, so read on at your own discretion.
Lets start with what the Resistance looks like in Episode VIII. Latino Review broke the story(confirmed by MSW) that Leia and Laura Dern’s character were on the same side but at odds with each other. At the time I wondered why a newcomer to the Resistance would be challenging Leia’s leadership and techniques then Bloodline came out. When it did we learned from Pablo Hidalgo that Rian Johnson(Episode VIII Director) had input on disposition of the New Republic and its political factions. Now Laura Dern’s character and her friction with Leia became clearer to me. Laura Dern is NOT a part of the Resistance, she’s from the Republic and I suspect a Centrist, which puts her ideologically opposed to Leia, a Populist, and also as we saw in Bloodline more inclined to sympathize with the First Order. Based on this information we can put together what Leia is dealing with. She is trying to run a war against a better armed and prepared First Order and she is also having to play politics against someone who is more inclined to accept First Order rule.
No doubt Dern’s character believes she has a better way to run the war, despite Leia’s experience. Based on the reports Dern gets her wish for at least a small time as Leia is taken out via an explosion in the first third of the film.
So if Leia’s ship explodes… how does she survive? According to reports the Force. The question then is is this an unconscious decision or has Leia decided its time she learned more about the Force on her own? Maybe its because I love the character so much but I think she has been studying up on her own. Now that Rey has located Luke, Leia may have reached out for some tips or maybe Luke has given her holocrons either recently or in the past. Either way I suspect Leia has taken an active role in learning to use the Force and this is what saved her life.
JJ Abrams actually spoke about the decision to have Leia not use the Force in TFA. He stated:
It was a great question, and one that we talked about quite a bit, even with Carrie [Fisher]…Why did she not take advantage of this natural Force strength that this character had. And one of the answers was that it was simply a choice that she made, that her decision to run the Rebellion, and ultimately this Resistance, and consider herself a General, as opposed to a Jedi. It was simply a choice that she took.
Now that we know that Leia very well may use the Force in Episode VIII, what changed? Presumably as a plot point for VIII, and given that this was never in TFA, things could change. With this in mind, why would she want to learn to use the Force? Possibly to be able to confront her son and/or Snoke if needed. Not necessarily to fight but to be able to protect her mind and herself. The death of Han coupled with the loss of her son would be enough for her to desire to learn more.
Leia is in a position of fighting a war and no doubt annoyed at having to play politics with Dern’s character. On top of this she is trying to understand what happened to her son and if there is anything left for her to do. Leia has grown weary of the petty little things and is focused on Destroying the First Order and saving what is left of her family. While reports put her out of action for much of the movie and most likely turning the war effort over to others, this will open her up to more time to save her family. i suspect Leia’s time to shine will be in Episode IX and I for one can’t wait.