WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for director Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi, in theaters now.
Beloved actress Carrie Fisher had completed all of her scenes for Star Wars: The Last Jedi by the time of her death in December 2016, leading Disney CEO Bob Iger to assure fans her loss wouldn't affect the film's story. Still, we were left to wonder how General Leia Organa might be written out of the saga.
Somewhat surprisingly, the iconic character isn't killed off in The Last Jedi, which is dedicated to Fisher with a touching title card in the end credits. The original plan, according to Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, was for Leia to take center stage in Episode IX, which is evident from how The Last Jedi leaves Fisher's character. Against all odds, the Resistance survives, and there's the promise it will grow, and that Rey will keep the Jedi alive.
Leia's role in the saga isn't yet over, it seems, although it's difficult to imagine what shape it will take. Still, The Last Jedi serves as a fitting send-off for Fisher, providing the actress and her iconic character with memorable, important moments.
One of those even seemed to signal Leia's demise, but instead reminded audiences that she's a Skywalker. When the Resistance fleet comes under attack by the First Order, the primary command deck of the flagship Raddus is destroyed, and Leia is sucked out into the vacuum of space. But just as it appears her fate his sealed, Leia summons the Force to propel herself back aboard the badly damaged vessel. Severely injured but still alive, she remains in a coma for much of the film.
But while Leia's use of the Force is her most visually spectacular of The Last Jedi, the most heartwarming moment is when she's reunited with brother Luke, who arrives on Crait after years of self-imposed exile to help rescue the Resistance. Poised for a confrontation with Kylo Ren, Luke -- well, his Force projection, in any case -- pauses to speak to Leia and give her a memento of Han Solo. One key piece of dialogue Luke leaves his sister with is that "nobody is ever really gone," which seems like a direct reference to Han, but also applies to so much more. Including the late Fisher herself.
Leia survives the next wave of attacks by the First Order, and escapes Crait with a determination to rebuild the Resistance. However, audiences know that Leia, and Fisher, can't be a part of that. Director J.J. Abrams' Episode IX has the huge task of deciding how Leia's story comes to an end.
Written and directed by Rian Johnson, Star Wars: The Last Jedi stars Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Daisy Ridley as Rey, John Boyega as Finn, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke, Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux, Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata, Benicio Del Toro as ‘DJ’, Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico, Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, and the late Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa. The film is in theaters worldwide.