Leia Organa isn’t the One prophesied to bring balance to the Force. That’s her father. Nor is she the Celebrated One. That’s her brother. Instead she’s the Real One, and the true center of the Star Wars saga.
As much as the Star Wars franchise has been analyzed to death, this seems to have been overlooked or ignored by most fans, from the casual to the deeply-committed. But the nine-part Skywalker saga is Leia’s story — it’s a space opera about an abandoned princess who becomes a rebel leader, meets her estranged twin brother, and with his help, defeats her father’s imperial power. It takes her six movies to get it done, but the story doesn’t end until she passes away. As Luke Force-vanishes and Han gets split in two, they leave Leia to complete the series’ natural arc.
Because it’s her story.
On more than one occasion, George Lucas has pointed this out. Speaking about the original film, Episode IV: A New Hope, Lucas once said, “[Leia] is the one who knew everything. She was the one driving the whole story. … I insisted that they do action figures of Princess Leia. When you’ve lined them up, she’s the main character, for God’s sake.”
In fact, he imagined that she would eventually take power over the whole galaxy as Supreme Chancellor (which only didn’t come to pass because he sold the franchise to Disney before he completed it, leaving it to others to finish). “By the end of the trilogy, Luke would have rebuilt much of the Jedi, and we would have the renewal of the New Republic, with Leia, Senator Organa, becoming the Supreme Chancellor in charge of everything. So she ended up being the Chosen One,’” Lucas told the author of The Star Wars Archive.
In fairness, The Rise of Skywalker, the bloated, nonsensical final film in the final trilogy, was intended to center Leia properly. But on December 23, 2016, Carrie Fisher died of a heart attack on a flight from London to L.A. Kathleen Kennedy, head of the Disney-fied Star Wars, recalled that when shooting ended for The Last Jedi, Fisher had been very much looking forward to filming The Rise of the Skywalker. “She was having a blast,” Kennedy told Vanity Fair in 2017. “The minute she finished, she grabbed me and said, ‘I’d better be at the forefront of IX!’ Because Harrison was front and center on VII, and Mark is front and center on VIII. She thought IX would be her movie. And it would have been.”
But don’t just take Lucas’ and Kennedy’s word for it (or mine), it’s all right there in the movies as well. Admittedly, there isn’t much in the way of Leia’s stroyline in the prequels since it’s all about her daddy’s issues and her only appearance is in utero. Still, we do see how her parents shape the course of her life. And how Leia’s mother is a legit queen, who is also among the most powerful politicians in the galaxy. To get shit handled, she often masqueraded as her own handmaiden. That’s a classic fairytale move. But even more to my point, Queen Amidala and Leia have the same energy, they mirror each other.
Meanwhile, when we catch up with grown-up Leia in A New Hope, she’s the secret leader of the rebels whose ship has been caught and boarded by her father. In the first few minutes of A New Hope, we see that Darth Vader is now the most feared man in the galaxy, a foreman for galactic fascism. Strangely, though, he doesn’t recognize his own daughter when she’s standing right in front of him. This is weird since later he’s able to sense his son’s presence at a distance of a moon to a planetary surface. Let’s just say, Vader and Leia aren’t as connected.
The bigger irony, however, is how the daughter must clean up the sins of the father. For the next few films, we watch Leia essentially suffer the same fate as her mother, while she fights to save the galaxy from the men of her family, who refuse to listen to her, opting instead to do things their way, which, in turn, only makes things worse, forcing Leia to fix an even bigger problem.
Along those lines, at the end of Empire Strikes Back, Vader has frozen the love of Leia’s life into carbonite while remaining lightsaber-focused on converting her brother to the Dark Side (or killing him). In the process, Luke loses his hand (but hey, gains a father), and is left a crumpled wreck of a man clinging to the edge of Cloud City. Guess who saves his moisture-farming ass? You already know who — Leia.
She senses Luke and uses the Force to connect with him. Then she tells Lando Calrissian and Chewbacca where to find him. Thus, the Millennium Falcon pulls up, grabs Luke and everyone inside gets back to saving the galaxy — all thanks to Leia.
Vader essentially admits to Leia’s position in the family/galaxy/series in Return of the Jedi when, with his dying breath, he whispers to Luke, “Tell your sister… you were right.” These six words amount to Vader’s only positive communication with Leia in his entire life. Her father clearly doesn’t deserve her. But that’s how it goes for heroes.
In the last three films, we meet Leia’s emo son, Kylo Ren. He was originally named Ben Solo, since he’s the son she had with Han. But her boy’s heart is broken by Luke, and she loses him when he’s turned to the Dark Side. Leia, however, can’t rest until she’s undone all the damage the men in her family have created. She gets help from her adopted daughter Rey, an orphan who looks to Leia as her “soul mother.”
When Leia sends her young stand-in to go fetch Luke and bring him out of his self-imposed exile, her plan fails. Not because it’s her plan, but because her brother refuses to be the hero. Luke says it flat out when he tells Rey, “You don’t need Luke Skywalker.” He’s right: She needs another Skywalker — Leia. Later on, just before Luke confronts Kylo Ren and tries to balance the damage he’s done, Luke and Leia share a quiet wordless moment. He looks at her, places her head in his hands and kisses her on the forehead. Then he marches off to win a battle against her son in what will be his final act. In doing so, he leaves Leia to win the war, knowing that she absolutely will.
Again, Leia’s storyline reaches its climax in The Rise of Skywalker. In it, she lies hovering between life and death, yet uses the Force to guide Rey and to connect with Kylo. Through them, Leia finally defeats the Emperor and his brand of Final Boss-level toxic masculinity once and for all. Exhausted by the effort, she passes away, but only after she senses that Kylo has died too, and that her adopted daughter is victorious.
In the end, Leia is the hero who’s able to restore balance to the Force — the balance that her father sought, that her brother attempted to wrest, but only Leia could bring about. Because Star Wars is a space-based fairytale about a princess who frees herself and then saves the entire galaxy. After which, everyone lives happily ever after.