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The incredible role Leia would have played in The Rise of Skywalker

Oh, what wonders we might've witnessed in Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.

In a recent interview with Yahoo! Entertainment, the late Carrie Fisher's brother Todd revealed that the tragic death of his sister forced the final installment in the Skywalker Saga to undergo a seismic narrative shift. Fisher claimed that Carrie's General Leia Organa was set to play a major role in the iconic series' final episode, and that she was actually the "last Jedi" teased in the title of Rian Johnson's divisive Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

According to Fisher, the original plan for Leia in The Rise of Skywalker was to have Leia become a full blown Jedi master, and Abrams had even planned for Leia to wield her very own lightsaber. "She was going to be the big payoff in the final film. She was going to be the last Jedi, so to speak," Fisher explained "That's cool, right?"

Not for nothing, but "cool" doesn't even come close to covering how galaxy-shatteringly brilliant that particular storyline would've been. The very thought of her picking up a lightsaber and throwing down with some of the galaxy's biggest bads (possibly even her own son, Adam Driver's nefarious Kylo Ren) is almost too much to handle. Unfortunately, The Last Jedi was able to provide us with only a tease of Leia's true abilities.

Yes, we know that the scene we refer to — which saw a seemingly unconscious Leia use the Force to pull herself to safety through the vacuum of space — was one of the more divisive scenes in the flickBut we also know that most fans who took issue with scene were more critical of its execution than its context, because contextually speaking, Leia being Force sensitive is not simply an intriguing storyline, it makes perfect sense. She is, after all, the twin sister of Jedi master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the daughter former Jedi-slash-Sith Lord Anakin Skywalker (aka Darth Vader), and the mother of Kylo Ren; with such a potent bloodline, one can only imagine the broad current of midi-chlorians coursing through Leia's veins. 

Frankly, Leia's family history alone should've had fans asking not whether or not she could be a Jedi, but why it took so long for her to wield the power of the Force to begin with. It seems J.J. Abrams and the current keepers of Star Wars lore were keenly aware of that fact when they were mapping out the character's arc for the new trilogy, with The Rise of Skywalker planned as Leia's big coming out party. 

This obviously also means that Fisher was clearly going to have an even bigger role in the series' swan song than anyone would've initially thought. In the wake of the actor's untimely passing, we've come to know that her screen time in the 2 hour and 35 minute The Rise of Skywalker will come via unused footage from The Last Jedi, and will likely max out at roughly eight minutes. As such, we can only imagine the nightmare Abrams and Co. went through in not just re-contextualizing Leia's role in the final chapter, but also ensuring both character and actor got the fond farewell they deserved.

What does Leia's modified arc mean for The Rise of Skywalker?

If Todd Fisher is to be believed, J.J. Abrams found a way to address Leia's fate, and move forward on The Rise of Skywalker without her mammoth story arc. "They grabbed every frame [of the available footage] and analyzed it... and then reverse-engineered it and [got] it into the story the right way," Fisher said. "It's kind of magical."

While we've long known Abrams had planned to use that Last Jedi footage, Fisher's statement that the director "reverse-engineered" it for The Rise of Skywalker is particularly intriguing. Since we don't have a single clue what it contains, we obviously can't even begin to imagine how Abrams worked it into The Rise of Skywalker's narrative. For his part, Todd Fisher is keeping quiet as well, which means we'll all just have to wait to see how it all comes together. Fisher wants fans to know, though, that Abrams has indeed cobbled together a noble farewell for Fisher and Leia.

"This is, in its own way, a payoff," Fisher said. "It's Carrie talking to us all from beyond. The beautiful thing about the concept of the Force is that there is no real death; you just exist in another dimension. So Carrie is looking down or sideways or wherever and is still part of us. To be able to see that — it's magical stuff only in the movies."

As for what Leia's reduced role in the final film could mean, well, first of all: we now really have no idea what the title The Rise of Skywalker actually means. After Johnson's game-changing twists in The Last Jedi, it was initially presumed that Rey (Daisy Ridley) was the Jedi referred to by the title (even if Luke's assertion that "she will not be the last Jedi" called that point into question). As Leia was apparently the titular Force-wielder of Episode VIII, the obvious assumption is that she was also meant to be the Skywalker rising in the final chapter. 

If so, this might also confirm that J.J. Abrams is not looking to change the narrative concerning Rey's non-Skywalker parentage. Perhaps Rey (or possibly some other Force sensitive) will simply be using the Skywalker name and legacy to further the teachings of the Jedi. Hey, for all we really know about The Rise of Skywalker at this point, Rey could break bad, and Kylo could turn his back on the dark side, returning to his Uncle Luke's teachings and becoming a sort of new age Jedi master. That... could happen, right?

Of course, it really does seem unlikely given what we've seen in the trailers for the film (although, lest we forget, Disney and its subsidiaries are swiftly approaching mastery of the Intentionally Misleading Trailer Gambit). If there's one thing for certain regarding those spots, it's that Abrams and the Star Wars team want to make it crystal clear that, "no one is ever really gone." Todd Fisher seemed to echo that sentiment with his insight that in death Jedi exist "in another dimension," a statement that now feels more than a little bit loaded. 

In any event, the clock is officially ticking on the Skywalker Saga, with Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker hitting theaters on December 20. Here's hoping Abrams and company deliver a fitting end to the fabled franchise.