Star Wars Finally Solves Big Darth Vader Cliffhanger From Return of the Jedi

A major Star Wars moment that was set up in Return of the Jedi is finally getting the pay off fans have been waiting for since 1983.

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Darth Vader
Photo: Lucasfilm

Return of the Jedi may have concluded George Lucas’ Original Trilogy in 1983, but that’s not stopped Star Wars from continuing to dig into the trilogy’s mysteries in the decades since its debut.

Take the current slate of post-Return of the Jedi live-action series making their way onto Disney+, for example. The Mandalorian generally explores the power vacuum in the Outer Rim left in the wake of the fall of the Empire, and The Book of Boba Fett tackles that even more directly on Tatooine. Both shows also continue the story of newly-christened Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker after defeating the Sith. From a certain point of view, these shows, as well as the upcoming Ahsoka, are missing pieces of the Original Trilogy puzzle, giving us answers on screen that previously could only be glimpsed in the pages of tie-in media.

But that doesn’t mean the current line of books and Marvel comics haven’t also continued to reveal things about our favorite characters beyond the screen, just like the classic, now non-canon Legends tie-in stories did in the years between the release of the Original and Prequel Trilogies. After all, this has been a Star Wars tradition since Timothy Zahn published Heir to the Empire in 1991 and first showed us what Luke and his friends were up to five years after the events of the trilogy.

Now, the upcoming Del Rey novel The Princess and the Scoundrel by Beth Revis adds two very important Original Trilogy-era stories to Disney canon: what our heroes were up to next right after the final scene of Return of the Jedi as well as the moment Han and Leia finally decided to tie the knot. Along the way, the book also addresses a big cliffhanger from Episode VI that’s been lingering since ’83.

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If you recall, in the final minutes of Jedi, Darth Vader (aka Anakin Skywalker) asks Luke to remove his helmet so that he can finally see his son with his own eyes, revealing his heavily scarred face to Luke for the first and final time. Vader uses his last breaths to tell the Jedi Knight that he’d been right about the Sith lord all along — there was still good in him, as demonstrated when the villain saved Luke from the Emperor out of love for his son.

Yet, the final words he speaks to Luke in the film are actually for his other child, Princess Leia: “Tell your sister, you were right.” But Return of the Jedi never actually showed Luke delivering this message to Leia, instead cutting to Vader’s funeral pyre and then the celebration in the Ewok village before the credits roll. Fans were left to wonder if and when Luke honored his father’s dying wish, and how Leia would react.

But a new excerpt from the book on StarWars.com shows us the moment when Luke attempts to share with Leia their father’s final words. Spoiler: it does not go well. Leia simply says, “Don’t” as Luke attempts to explain what Vader wanted her to know about him.

Understandly, the Princess of Alderaan’s disdain for Vader doesn’t just subside after she learns the truth about her father, which is actually very in line with how she felt about Anakin Skywalker’s dark legacy in Legends. There are even scenes in Legends where Anakin showed up as a Force ghost to ask Leia for forgiveness, only for his daughter to reject him. It makes perfect sense: after all, Vader is responsible for the deaths of her adoptive parents and the destruction of her home planet.

Revis expertly dives into Leia’s inner monologue during this scene: “My father was good, Leia thought, but in her mind she pictured Bail Organa, not Darth Vader. Thinking of Bail made her think of Breha, her mother. Of her home. Of everything she had lost.”

In the excerpt, Leia also wonders how it was possible that Luke could Vader so quickly after everything the Dark Lord of the Sith had done: “Did he have memories of their father? Was that why he was so capa­ble of forgiving the monster that was Darth Vader? They had been sepa­rated at birth, not just from each other but from their biological parents. Maybe Leia had a connection with their mother, and Luke had a con­nection with their father.”

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As a whole, this is a powerful scene that finally gives Leia the space to begin to really process the film’s biggest revelation. It’ll be interesting to see how the book expands on this further.

It’s true that classic novels like Truce at Bakura by Kathy Tyers, The Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton, and Heir to the Empire hit many of the same beats as The Princess and the Scoundrel for the Legends timeline back in the ’90s, and the 2016 canon novel Bloodline by Claudia Gray showed how the truth about Leia’s parentage continued to affect her decades after Jedi. But Revis’ new book is the first in-canon story that shows Leia dealing with her complicated feelings regarding Vader’s death right after the film.

This, plus the chance to see the canon version of Han and Leia’s wedding, should make The Princess and the Scoundrel a very worthwhile read when it hits bookstores on Aug. 16.