Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arrives in theaters today, and it answers quite a lot of questions tied to the epic saga in the process. One question that lingered over the film before cameras even began rolling was the role of Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), after Fisher tragically passed away in 2016. It was eventually confirmed that Leia would have a role in The Rise of Skywalker, through the use of archival footage from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. So, how exactly did Leia factor into the plot? Read on to find out. Major spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker below! Only look if you want to know!
In one of the opening scenes, we learn that Leia has been training Rey (Daisy Ridley) in the ways of the Force, all while they try to recover the Resistance's efforts. Rey admits to Leia that she doesn't feel worthy of Luke's lightsaber, and tells her to give it to her when she's really ready. The Resistance then learns of the return of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), which prompts Leia to send Rey, Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), BB-8, and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) to find a way to Palpatine's location. Before they leave, Leia imparts more wisdom on Rey and gives her Luke's lightsaber and they embrace. Later, Snap Wexley (Greg Grunberg) tells Leia that things might be dire for the group's mission, but she tells him not to worry.
Rey eventually comes face-to-face with Ben Solo/Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and the pair fight in the waters of the Death Star II wreckage. Through the Force, Leia senses that the two of them are dueling, and prepares to use her remaining strength to send a message to her son. She sends Ben a message, allowing Rey to get the upper hand in the battle, but quickly passes away as a result of it. Sensing Leia's death, Rey uses the Force to heal Ben, who then begins to question his tie to the Dark Side as Kylo Ren.
Even after her passing, Leia still plays an integral role in the following events of The Rise of Skywalker. Poe, Finn, and company eventually return to the Resistance base and learn of Leia's death, and that Poe has been appointed acting General in her absence. Poe later visits Leia's body (which is covered by a sheet) and questions if he has what it takes to carry on in Leia's role. Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) then arrives, and argues that the best way to keep Leia's memory alive is to work together with anyone who is willing to help the Resistance. Poe then hatches a plan to fight Palpatine and his "Final Order", and argues that while Leia might be gone, "what she stood for [and] what she fought for" isn't.
At the same time, Rey grows worried about the influence of Palpatine and the Dark Side, and decides to become a hermit on Ahch-To as Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) did. She is then visited by Luke's Force ghost, who tells her that he and Leia knew her true parentage, but wanted to train her because they could see the good in her. Luke then leads Rey to a lightsaber he had stored on Ahch-To -- Leia's. As Luke explains (and the audience sees in a flashback sequence), Leia received a vision on the final day of her Jedi training about the fate of herself and her son. She then asked Luke to keep her saber safe, as she could sense that someone would come along who would "finish her journey". Luke advised Rey to take both his and Leia's lightsaber to fight Palpatine, and she does just that, and ultimately defeats him by wielding both sabers at the same time. Shortly after, both Ben and Leia vanish from thin air, seemingly taken away by the Force.
In the film's final scene, Rey finds the Skywalker family home on Tattooine, and hides both Leia and Luke's sabers in the sand. A woman then approaches Rey and asks for her full name, just as Rey sees Force ghosts of Luke and Leia in the distance. Rey then responds that her last name is "Skywalker".
The idea that Leia is canonically dead after the events of The Rise of Skywalker is certainly emotional, even after the question of her fate has loomed over the Star Wars fandom for years. Having to watch Fisher's character pass away onscreen - after having to deal with her passing in real life - will certainly be a mix of jarring and bittersweet. Still, her role in the film - both in-person and beyond - feels like a fitting conclusion, given the circumstances surrounding The Rise of Skywalker. For many, Fisher's portrayal of Leia has symbolized so much of the heart, spirit, and determination of the Star Wars franchise, and her onscreen and offscreen life has been a significant source of inspiration. Seeing that inspiration brought to life on the big screen, as the Resistance fights against all odds to keep the spark alive, feels akin to the ways that the Star Wars fandom has carried on Fisher's legacy.
At the same time, The Rise of Skywalker allows fans to see more of Leia's connection to the Force, down to her own lightsaber. Outside of the flying scene in The Last Jedi, we haven't really gotten to see Leia's physical connection to the Force, and how it impacted her life between the original and sequel trilogies. Getting to see that play out - and having her lightsaber play a significant role in the third act of the film - might be one of the highlights of The Rise of Skywalker.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters now.