During the course of The Last Jedi, the heroes are on the run, dogged by Supreme Leader Snoke's merciless legions in a plot to seize military control of the galaxy.
Only an ever-diminishing Resistance stands against the rising tyranny, and by movie's end — spoilers — the Resistance has been decimated to the point of being able to fit inside the Millennium Falcon. Jedi-to-be Rey asks seasoned military leader Leia how they're going to be able to come back from their losses.
"We have everything we need," Leia says warmly, as the underdog Resistance lives to fight another day. They've ignited a spark of hope that will soon permeate across the galaxy, inspiring a new generation of believers.
The Resistance's top brass — including war veteran Admiral Ackbar — are among the casualties of The Last Jedi, killed in the same First Order attack that nearly cost Leia her life. The Force-sensitive Leia was able to save herself, but the assault left the Resistance commander in a coma.
Purple-haired Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo operated as interim leader in Leia's absence, butting heads with hotshot flyboy Poe Dameron in the process. The heroic pilot had a lot to learn, coming to understand there's a difference between being a hero and being a leader.
"The fact is now that the Resistance has been whittled to just a handful of people, they're running for their lives, and Leia is grooming me — him — to be a leader of the Resistance, as opposed to a dashing, rogue hero," Dameron actor Oscar Isaac said, shooting down worries his character is a Han Solo replacement.
"Poe's arc is one of evolving from a heroic soldier to a seasoned leader, to see beyond the single-mindedness of winning the battle to the larger picture of the future of the galaxy," Isaac explained. "I think Leia knows she won't be around forever and she, with tough love, wants to push Poe to be more than the badass pilot, to temper his heroic impulses with wisdom and clarity."
The Last Jedi poises Dameron to one day take charge, a development championed by Leia. "I think she sees in him the potential for a truly great leader of the Resistance and beyond," Isaac said.
"We feel his being a leader," Dern said. "He's on a hero's journey."
The next episodic installment of the saga, Episode IX, will have to proceed without Carrie Fisher in light of the actress' death — and with the Resistance's upper chain of command gone, it could fall on Poe Dameron to step up as the new leader of a Resistance that's more determined than ever.