This past weekend I saw The Last Jedi for the fifth time. And while each new screening brings forth new details I hadn’t noticed before, it also reinforced something I have been struggling with in the Star Wars universe since I can remember. It’s a storyline that was a part of Claudia Gray’s canon-novel Bloodline, released last May, and one that, in my opinion, Rian Johnson touches on briefly in The Last Jedi. I’m talking about Luke and Leia’s problematic parentage in Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader.
Following the revelation in Empire Strikes Back that Darth Vader is Luke’s father, it isn’t until Return of the Jedi that Yoda confirms this lineage and also names Leia as Luke’s sister and thus a Skywalker by blood. From the end of the original trilogy up to the events in Bloodline, no one but Luke, Leia, and Han are aware of Darth Vader’s place in the family tree, not even Han and Leia’s son, Ben. It was always a little strange to me that such a secret was able to be kept for so long, given Leia’s stature in the Galactic Senate of the New Republic and Luke’s legendary status as the last Jedi Master. It isn’t until Bloodline that the expanded universe plays with the idea of a galaxy that knows its precious heroes are descended from darkness.
The events of Bloodline take place six years prior to The Force Awakens. The story of Leia’s parentage in the novel is actually a subplot that doesn’t come into play until later in the book but ends up having major repercussions on its characters by the novel’s end. The secret is discovered when a political rival of Leia’s, Lady Carise Sindian, finds an Organa family keepsake that reveals Darth Vader is Leia’s father. In order to sway votes before an important election, Sindian releases the information and suddenly Leia’s squeaky clean record comes under harsh criticism from the rest of the Senate. She loses a lot of support, although it’s unclear how far and wide the knowledge is spread across the galaxy. Leia writes to Ben to tell him, if he doesn’t already know, marking possibly the beginning of his dissent into darkness. By the novel’s end, the election is decided by only a few votes, influenced by the revelation as well as other various factors that coalesce from other story threads. It is not the landslide victory everyone was expecting for their favorite princess.
Throughout The Last Jedi, Leia is seen as a symbol of hope to a Resistance that can barely keep it’s head above water. Her stoic and dignified leadership is something that inspires loyalty amongst the rebels, and again, it’s unclear if her past is something that is widely known to them. I think about Leia’s relationship to Poe Dameron, and liken it to other mentorships she has had across Star Wars media with other characters. Leia is nothing if not honest, and because no one ever directly asks her about her family history, she never has to tell them the truth. Nor does she ever bring it up willingly. If you are familiar with Leia in the current expanded universe (and really in the old canon as well), her relationship to the name Skywalker is a complicated one. She is rarely referred to as one, and her loyalty and love for her adopted father, Bail Organa, allow her to justify her dismissal of Anakin as her birth father.
At the end of The Last Jedi, Leia insists the rebels use her personal code to send a distress call to any potential allies scattered in the Outer Rim territories. The message is received, but no one comes. If Luke is the legendary spark that enables the rebels to survive, and Leia is the beacon of hope they all fight for, why does no one come to their rescue? I wonder if the reason just happens to be that all Leia’s “friends” in the Outer Rim and beyond are still holding a grudge over the revelations about her family, and perhaps further suspicion that her son is within The First Order Leadership.
I say suspicion with regards to Ben Solo aka Kylo Ren because it is unclear how knowledgeable everyone is of Leia’s personal life. Han and Leia never had a conventional marriage, and Ben was sent away to train with Luke as teenager. He is a young adult during the events of Bloodline where he learns about Leia and Darth Vader. After the destruction of the Jedi Temple it’s possible that people just suspected Ben perished along with the rest of the Padawans. Or, they may suspect that Kylo Ren, a force sensitive being when there are few to be had is actually her son Ben. It’s just another reason to not get involved with a woman who clearly has a messed up family. Despite years of proof of her loyalty to the Rebellion, family ties are a hard thing to overcome in the minds of the public.
Director Rian Johnson influenced plot points in the Bloodline novel, which is another intriguing reason why this theory might hold more water in The Last Jedi. When Leia says, “The galaxy has lost all it’s hope,” it could mean more than just in the Resistance. It can mean her, her brother, and any redemption for their family. The idea is an interesting one to consider. Why would the galaxy place their trust in a woman with such dubious connections to the Dark Side? We know otherwise, but I’m excited that for the moment there are stories in the Star Wars canon that are exploring this mostly uncharted territory. It’s one of the primary reasons I enjoy indulging in the expanded universe of Star Wars books, comics, TV shows etc. It has thoroughly enhanced my enjoyment of the films and enables the narrative deep dive that is impossible to get on the silver screen alone.
Author: Jill Malcolm
Jill is happiest attending midnight screenings with other crazy film fans at her local theater. Her other passions include reading, traveling to faraway places, cat videos, pugs, and jalapeño peppers. She is co-founder of the blog Filmhash.