What Bloodline Taught Us About Princess Leia

With Carrie Fisher’s recent passing, it’s important to understand what one of her most notable roles had become, both with Fisher’s own contributions and with other artist’s interpretations. The canon Star Wars novel, Bloodline, follows Princess Leia well after the events of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and details this character’s efforts in stabilizing a freshly shaken government. Along with being a fantastic and enrapturing read, Bloodline enlightens the reader on 4 important things to understand about one of the best characters from the Original Trilogy:

SPOILERS ahead for Bloodline and The Force Awakens

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  1. Leia Rarely Saw Her Loved Ones:

thank-you-very-muchAfter watching The Force Awakens, I mistakenly inferred that Han and Leia had a relatively close relationship until they lost Ben. Bloodline shows that this is far from the case—Leia and Han didn’t just go back to “the only thing [they were] ever good at” after losing their son—they’d already been doing so for years before that. We come to learn early in the novel that, two decades after the destruction of the second Death Star, Leia and Han had “been apart too often in their marriage. Too long… Leia had remained stuck… mired in the political muck.” Yet, even after Leia has this realization in the first act of the book, and the rest of the novel describes her repeated attempts to escape the political warzone she’s in, the story only ends with her and Han still separated by different duties.

She never even sees her son, Ben, in the novel, and what little hints we get about Luke tend to show that he’s rarely in the picture. The implications of such loneliness may be explored later in Star Wars: Episode 8, but for now it’s clear that Leia rarely saw those she loved between the Original Trilogy and Episode 7. Perhaps this familiarity with loneliness and separation—most likely endured in the same way she stoically coped with the destruction of Alderaan—explains how she maintained so much composure after the tragedy in the end of The Force Awakens.

  1. She Hasn’t Forgiven Vader (and might never forgive Kylo Ren):

tell-your-sister-you-were-rightSeveral times throughout Bloodline, Leia converses and ponders over the actions of her biological father. At one point after telling a fellow Senator about the time Vader tortured her, she mused about how “Luke had told her of their father’s last hours. He had renounced darkness, saved Luke, and become Anakin Skywalker. Whenever Luke told the story, a beatific smile lit up his face; his memories of that event gave him a level of comfort and even joy that sustained him. Those were memories Leia couldn’t share.” Just before thinking of this unshared peace, Leia even explained, “Sometimes I felt as if the only thing that kept me going in the aftermath of Alderaan was the strength of my hatred for Vader.”

These insights into Leia’s mind, which are repeatedly visited throughout the book, show just how starkly different Leia’s relationship with Vader was from Luke’s. In Return of the Jedi, Luke looked to Vader with hope, and was able to find peace in his redemption. Leia, however, fueled herself with the rage that she found against her father, and even when he’d been gone for two decades, she found no comfort in his attempt at a deathbed repentance. This could clearly have an impact on the story in the Sequel Trilogy—if Kylo Ren somehow yearned for the forgiveness of his mother, it’d be intriguing to see how she reacts. Given what occurs in Bloodline and how Kylo Ren replicated Vader’s actions by eliminating what Leia likely loved most at the time, she may have difficulty ever granting him mercy for what he did.

  1. She’s Extremely Selfless:

i-cant-believe-hes-goneAs troubled and hardened as she is, Leia may still be one of the most selfless characters in Star Wars. Such an inference is easy to make just given her backstory: she was an orphan, raised in a loving home and given a position within the Empire’s unstoppable government—and yet she pursued a rebellious path, regardless of the dangers such a trail led to. Even after her crew on Tantive IV was destroyed by stormtroopers, her body was tortured by Darth Vader himself, and her people were annihilated by the Death Star, she still refused to give in to her enemy’s demands. She fought the Empire through every step of the war and only sought to comfort or command others for the greater good.

Bloodline continues this trend of service, and it highlights the tolls such dedication takes. Leia embarks on several dangerous missions throughout the novel: she investigates a purported Hutt-controlled gang, puts a tracker on herself and is “caught” by a mob boss to ascertain his position, and risks her life in several skirmishes to gather intel for the Republic. She does all of this while juggling a term as a Senator and begrudgingly maintaining a campaign for a new government position. Because of such a hectic, dangerous lifestyle dedicated to the galaxy, she seems to give up all her personal free time and any relationship she might have been able to enjoy; in fact, her self-sacrificing nature is the reason she never sees her loved ones, and despite understanding this, she continues working hard.

Bloodline especially highlights Leia’s selflessness in one scene with Han: after surviving a life-endangering mission and dutifully resuming a campaign for a grueling term in office, Leia is told by the scoundrel, “Don’t apologize to me for taking this too seriously, okay? You put duty first. Drives me crazy sometimes, but that’s who you are.” After hearing this assertion through a galaxy-spanning call, Leia attempts to console Han by telling him they’ll eventually get to spend time together, saying, “Someday.” Yet immediately after this, the reader sees that “The words sounded like a promise. But Leia couldn’t make herself believe that day would ever really come… and she knew Han couldn’t, either. Someday was the sun disappearing behind a cloud, a morning lost to darkness long before night should have come.” With this single paragraph (that is also constantly reinforced throughout the book) we can see just how altruistic Leia is, and how she endures the fact that her moral sacrifices will always take a toll on her life—and even, sometimes, others.

  1. She’s Still Awesome

leia-killin-itAs mentioned previously, Leia dedicates almost all of her time to either helping or saving the galaxy. However, this dedication doesn’t just involve long Senate meetings or even venturing out on dangerous missions where someone else does the hard work—for Leia, it means taking charge of her allies and destroying her enemies in a way that is uniquely charming to the last. Even her aide tries to temper her particularly confident gusto in one scene:

“But, Princess Leia!” C-3PO’s voice rose in alarm. “You can’t! The mission sounds terribly dangerous.”

“Threepio, in the quarter century you’ve served me, have you ever known me to run away from danger?”

“Well. No.” The droid considered this a moment before adding hopefully, “Yet you might eventually develop a stronger instinct for survival.”

Leia couldn’t help laughing. “Don’t count on it.”

Leia’s observation of herself undoubtedly rings true in the rest of Bloodline. Throughout the novel, she’s unafraid of confronting any sympathizers of the old Empire. She is the first to detect a terrorist attack and move everyone from danger, the only operative on her team who runs deeper into a criminal’s city—and kill a mob boss while doing so—and the lead investigator that uncovers a coalition of radical paramilitary groups preparing to fight the New Republic. Each of these moments—and many more within the novel—continue displaying Leia’s skill, courage, and gusto, all confirming that she is still the awesome Princess-warrior that we came to know and love in the Original Trilogy.

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Carrie Fisher: “There is no point at which you can say, ‘Well, I’m successful now. I might as well take a nap.'”

Leia Organa is an incredible character. Throughout the films, we grew to understand that she was an influential, intelligent fighter, and Bloodline only reinforces and enlightens our perception of her. When I first drafted this post, I had hoped that we would continue to see Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of her incredible character for several more years—but now, we can only hope that Episode 8 will give us one final look at this fantastic persona, even more deeply exploring the lonely, hardened, selfless, and incredible woman that was seen throughout Bloodline. I’m optimistic that more books will do the same. May Carrie Fisher rest in peace, and may we continue to remember what she added to this world through her introductory portrayal of such an inspiring character.

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Rogue One: Adding Depth to the Dark Side

SPOILERS ahead for Rogue One:

Star Wars films are no strangers to harrowing stories or moments. In some sequences like the Battle of Hoth or the Battle of Endor, the camera offers several shots of dying soldiers. In other moments, like Anakin’s destruction of the Jedi Temple, the films more clearly hone in on known characters’ downfalls while taking the time to ensure the audience understands the dramatic importance behind each dark detail.

Rogue One, however, adds a whole new level to the grisly side of Star Wars. While it still balances lightheartedness and drama in some scenes, the film is much closer to the tone of Saving Private Ryan than any other movie in the Star Wars franchise. It hones in on the pain of those within its story, and mercilessly—and intriguingly—showcases a more gritty dark side of the Star Wars galaxy through a variety of tools:

1. The Suffering:

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The suffering in Rogue One adds a layer of pain that we’ve never seen in the franchise before. One moment that utilizes this is, of course, the scene in which Darth Vader immolates several Rebels. Though the moment is short, the sheer panic and mayhem that explodes when Vader approaches the men is enough to show the audience just how horrifying the Galactic Civil War really was. No longer are we seeing faceless Clone Troopers blow up droids, or watching the moment that only foreshadows Anakin killing children—this time, we’re up close and personal with several human warriors that we’re rooting for, listening as they scream in horror before being slaughtered.

Second, a smaller, albeit possibly more telling detail in the film that showcased suffering was near the beginning, when Jyn saves a crying child. This is the first time in the Star Wars films that the audience has seen a child actually despairing in the middle of combat. Though we get the dramatic hint towards Anakin Skywalker’s killing of younglings and see one young warrior fight in Episode 3, Star Wars had yet to show us the emotional reaction of a child within the horrors of war. As soon as we glimpse this moment, however, Rogue One carries on with the film, not stopping to dramatize or emphasize the point any more than it needs. It simply shows that children are being hurt by the Rebels’ battles and moves on. These two scenes offered a glimpse at just how terrifying the galaxy could be, whether one was a child or a grown soldier, and in so doing added a more austere level of human suffering that was previously unprecedented in Star Wars movies.

2. The Story:

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More obviously, the overall story of Rogue One shows just how dark Star Wars can be. It didn’t take its time dramatizing every single death that occurred, nor did it withhold itself from harming the most beloved characters—it simply showed the deaths of its protagonists, sometimes with an almost indifferent tone, as though simply detailing the sacrifices made. First came Galen’s death, which, unlike Vader’s in Episode 6, gave his child no comfort or resolution apart from confirming that she still had a job to do. Then K-2SO, the film’s main comedic source, was abruptly eliminated, and then Bodhi was taken in an unforgiving explosion, and so on and so forth until every main protagonist was gone. Some died holding each other for several painful moments, but others fell in quick, bursting sequences of flame and shrapnel that were as merciless as the bombs that caused them. The uncompromising, successive, and varied deaths that all but ended the story showed that Star Wars doesn’t need a happy ending—that sometimes, people will fight the good fight and still be destroyed by the dark.

3. The Rebellion:

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Perhaps most importantly, Rogue One shows a much more questionable side of the Rebellion than most fans had glimpsed before. First to note are the harsh decisions of the Rebels around Galen Erso: one Rebel leader explicitly tells Cassian Andor to kill Jyn’s father, even though he comes to understand that the Imperial superweapon that Galen’s helping with is already operational. Even after Andor refuses this order, however, X-Wings scramble on Galen’s location and are the cause of his death—showing just how ruthless the Rebellion can be, and confirming how the Empire is not alone in accepting collateral damage for its cause.

Second, Rogue One also displays the Rebellion’s dark side simply by having characters reveal the organization’s weaknesses. Bodhi, the Imperial pilot who throws in his lot against the Empire, seems to perceive Saw Gerrera’s violent men with fear and learns that Saw is happily willing to risk Bodhi’s sanity for his own safety.  When Jyn debates with the Rebel leaders that are deliberating around a table, the coalition almost looks to be a disorganized, spineless mess that doesn’t even make the decision to try attacking the Death Star. And for the Imperials and many citizens of Jedha, those fighting the Empire must look to be a group of troublesome, radical terrorists that stir up deadly skirmishes in their cities. These details show just how disorganized and dangerous the Rebellion truly was to itself and others around it.

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Minutes in, Rebels are backstabbing.

Finally, Cassian Andor provides perhaps the most in-depth view of the Rebellion’s dark side. Within one of the first scenes of Rogue One, he shoots an unarmed man in the back. Soon after, he keeps Jyn behind in his ship for the purpose of shooting her father. Even after deciding not to assassinate Galen Erso, he later justifies his joining Jyn by stating that he’s done too many things that he wanted to forget. He speaks for perhaps twenty other rebels when he expounds that his dark deeds need a purpose. Instead of claiming to help the galaxy or serve some ethical code, he defends his loyalty to Jyn only with a desire to give his actions a sense of importance and meaning. This explanation takes away from a gaudy, heroic explanation for the Rebels’ actions, and shows how, sometimes, people in this war were only fighting and killing so they could remain part of something bigger than themselves.

 

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Rogue One took on a darker tone than most Star Wars films, and in so doing was able to make a profound impact. As I stated four months before this film was released, all the heroes needed to die to show the sacrifice it took to be a Rebel. But the movie also adds complexity to the dark side of the Star Wars franchise by showing how much one could suffer within its worlds, by ending a story with several uncompromising defeats, and by displaying just how uncertain the morality of the Rebellion could be. Perhaps most important of all, however, was one lesson the film could only offer because of its dark, grim content. Saw Gerrera himself explained the point of this takeaway in the newest Star Wars novel, Catalyst:

“That wasn’t the point.”

“What was?”

“Believing that your actions mattered, and believing that a good end would come of them, even if you didn’t live to see the results.”

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