WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for director Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, in theaters now.
Two agonizing years ago, Star Wars: The Force Awakens left fans with a cliffhanger ending in which Rey finds Luke Skywalker in self-imposed exile, placing the saga at a crossorads. However, few could have predicted that our curiosity about the franchise's future would take such a tragic turn just one year later.
On Dec. 27, 2016, actress Carrie Fisher passed away at age 60 after suffering a massive heart attack four days earlier. And naturally, after an appropriate period of mourning, fans soon began to wonder what that would mean not only for the Star Wars as a whole but The Last Jedi, which had wrapped principal photography months earlier. Although we learned that Leia won’t appear in Episode IX, Disney CEO Bob Iger assured in March that Fisher's untimely passing wouldn’t affect The Last Jedi’s story.
But should it have? Or should a moment in The Last Jedi designated for another character have been used instead to provide Leia with the sendoff she truly deserved?
Writer/director Rian Johnson's film introduces the purple-haired Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern), who's placed in temporary command of the Resistance following an attack on the flagship Raddus cruiser results in the death of Admiral Ackbar and leaves General Organa in a comatose state.
Although she receives relatively little screen time, Holdo is quickly established as someone the audience is supposed to find abrasive – a pseudo-antagonist, if you will. She’s a by-the-books military leader, but by placing her in contention with Oscar Isaac’s fan-favorite Poe Dameron, this otherwise-forgivable quality positions Holdo as little more than an archetypal, unlikable authority figure.
Still, despite all of that, Holdo is placed at the forefront of arguably the most heroic, visually stunning moment in the film.
As the Raddus crew evacuates to Crait, Holdo tells Leia she’ll remain aboard because someone needs to ensure the rescue transports are able to take off. Admittedly, it’s a nice moment, as we learn that not only did Holdo have a plan all along, but that she and Leia are actually quite close – something that’s explored in other canonical mediums, but not so much in the film itself. However, after Benicio Del Toro's mysterious "DJ" betrays Finn and Rose on the First Order Mega-class Star Destroyer Supremacy, Supreme Leader Snoke’s flagship begins to fire upon the fleeing transports, destroying many of them in the process.
In an effort to prevent further casualties, Holdo powers up the hyperdrive on the Raddus. Perplexed, the First Order immediately questions Holdo’s game plan, but by the time General Hux realizes what’s about to happen, it’s too late: Holdo activates Raddus’ hyperdrive and rams through Supremacy at hyperspeed, sacrificing herself and taking a large section of the Mega Destroyer and the First Order with her.