This article contains major The Rise of Skywalker spoilers. You can read a spoiler free review here instead.
The Rise of Skywalker gives closure too many Star Wars characters you’ve been following up to this point, including Rey, Kylo Ren, and Luke Skywalker, whose legacy is one of the main focal points of the Sequel Trilogy. But there’s another Skywalker’s whose story is front and center in the final installment of the saga: General Leia Organa, who appears in the film thanks to the filmmaking wizardry of director J.J. Abrams and the rest of the production team.
Never-before-seen footage from The Force Awakens was used to bring Leia into The Rise of Skywalker, with several of the movie’s scenes shot around the footage. This allowed Lucasfilm to give the character a proper farewell after Carrie Fisher’s passing in 2016. The scenes are bittersweet, to say the least, since we know it’s the last time we’ll see the character on the big screen (at least as played by Fisher), but they do lend new context to Leia’s role in the sequels. Here’s what we learned about Leia in The Rise of Skywalker and how the movie gave our beloved princess and general closure…
Leia Is a Jedi
We learn early on in the film that Leia’s Force abilities in The Last Jedi weren’t a fluke, so everyone can put their arguments on whether or not Leia could survive the vacuum of space away. It’s confirmed in Rey’s first scene that Leia is a Jedi and that she’s training the young Sequel Trilogy hero. Rey calls Leia “master” and clearly has a better relationship with the general than she ever did with Luke. On Leia’s part, there’s a willingness to train Rey and continue the legacy of the Jedi, something Luke was hesitant to do.
While The Rise of Skywalker understandably can’t show much in terms of Leia’s Force powers due to its dependence on what was shot for The Force Awakens, in which Leia showed no sign of having become a Jedi, we go get to see her wield her own lightsaber in the movie thanks to a flashback and CGI. On Ahch-To, where Rey plans to go into exile after discovering that she’s a Palpatine, Luke’s spirit reveals to his former student that he’d trained Leia in the ways of the Force and that she’d become adept at using a lightsaber, besting Luke in a duel in a flashback scene.
So why didn’t Leia stand with Luke as a leader of a new Jedi Order? The Rise of Skywalker gives a quick, vague answer to that question. Luke explains to Rey that Leia gave up her Jedi training because she had a vision that it would endanger Ben’s life. This is pretty ironic considering it is Leia’s Force powers that lead to Kylo Ren’s death.
Leia Dies Saving Ben
In one of the movie’s most explosive scenes, Rey and Kylo Ren meet on the wreckage of the Death Star for the climactic duel that will decide who is more powerful in the Force. Sensing that the heir to the Palpatine lineage and the last of the Skywalker bloodline are dueling to the death, Leia realizes that there’s only one thing she can do to save both her son and her apprentice.
Here is another moment from the movie that’s left open to interpretation, as no explanation is really given for why Leia passes away except that she has to use “the last of her strength” to send a message of love to Ben. Leia sacrifices herself to bring back Ben from the dark side, destroying Kylo Ren in the process. After reaching out to Ben, Leia dies.
There are clear real-life reasons why Leia dies in the movie as a way to close the character’s story after Leia’s passing, but the moment is a bit clumsy and rushed in this writer’s opinion. Still, it allows Leia to finally rest after a life of battles both on the frontlines and in senate chambers. And it falls in line with the trilogy’s pattern of bidding farewell to one of the Original Trilogy trio in each movie.
Leia’s sacrifice, along with Rey’s mercy and Han’s forgiveness, allows Ben to return to the light side and help the trilogy’s hero in the final battle against Emperor Palpatine on Exegol. While her screen time is limited, Leia’s role in the movie is pivotal to the final chapter of the saga.
Leia’s Force Ghost
Both Leia and Kylo Ren, the last Skywalkers (at least by blood), die sacrificing themselves for others. While it’s perhaps a little bit of a stretch that Ben (like Anakin) would be allowed to join the pantheon of Force spirits that also includes heroes like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Luke, it makes perfect sense that Leia is allowed to reach this state at the end of the movie.
The last we see of Leia in the flesh, her body is disappearing, which is what happens to Jedi before they return as Force ghosts. Leia’s transformation is later confirmed in the final scene of the movie when she appears next to Luke on Tatooine, smiling at Rey and welcoming her into the Skywalker family. It’s a sweet final moment between the Skywalkers that celebrates their many victories and sacrifices as well as the bright future of the family.
With Leia now a Force ghost, does this mean that she’ll continue to guide Rey on her many adventures ahead? Will she be key to helping Rey restore the Jedi Order? We’ll have to wait for those answers, which will likely come in tie-in novels and comics down the line. For now, there is comfort in the fact that our beloved princess, general, and Jedi (and the actress who brought her to life) will remain with us, always.