Anthony Breznican
December 16, 2017 at 12:00 PM EST
Lucasfilm Ltd

Ever since we learned in Return of the Jedi that Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa were twins and the estranged children of Darth Vader, one question has persisted: Why did we never see Leia use the Force, since it flows so powerfully through her bloodline?

The Last Jedi finally gives Carrie Fisher a chance to wield the Force in a literally breathtaking scene (finally warning: spoilers ahead) in which Leia is tossed into the vacuum of space after First Order rockets blow apart the bridge of her command ship, killing Admiral Ackbar and the rest of the top Resistance leadership in the process.

We see her face dusted with ice from the cold, and her seemingly lifeless body floating amid the debris. Then … a twitch of her fingers. Her eyes open.

The general is not down yet.

She reaches out her hand and draws herself back to the shattered bridge, where she is critically wounded, but still alive.

Forceful Awakening

That scene originated because Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy was one of the fans who kept speculating about Leia’s Force sensitivity, director Rian Johnson said at the Q&A Friday.

“She kept [saying], ‘Leia’s a Skywalker, Luke gave her this speech in Jedi and told her basically, ‘You have this potential, too.’ It seemed to me it would be a really emotionally impactful thing to see her use it,” the filmmaker said.

But why hadn’t she used it before? Most fans would say, maybe her amazing diplomatic and strategic skills might be just another representation of the Force. As Luke says in this film, this power is about more than laser-sword fights.

Johnson felt overt Force powers might only awaken in her this directing in the midst of a crisis. “I liked the idea it would be an instinctual thing. This would be more like stories you hear about parents of toddlers who get caught under cars and they get Hulk strength and lift the car up,” he said.

“It would be something in these final moments to show that she’s not done with the fight. And like a drowning person pulling herself back, that’s how it manifests itself for the first time in her.”

How did Fisher respond when she learned she would become strong with the Force?

“She was excited. But she loved words and was more excited about some of the wordplay and jokes,” Johnson said. “She was more excited about the line, “Get your head out of your cockpit.’”

A Revealing Glance

Leia also gets the big Chewbacca hug that she was denied in The Force Awakens, but her most powerful scene was the reunion with her brother. Mark Hamill got choked up describing that moment with Fisher during the post-screening discussion.

“I’m saying goodbye to her in the movie, and it’s just so tragic now that … I can’t really watch it,” Hamill said, his voice breaking. “I’m still … it’s me being in denial. She’s so present tense, not past tense. And she really deserved to be here because she’s so wonderful in the movie.”

Those watching the film for the first time will likely miss this (they’re supposed to), but Fisher also delivers a subtle, revealing glance during their interaction when Luke reaches out and hands her the pair of Han Solo’s golden dice that were hanging inside the Millennium Falcon.

Her expression is not grief, but shock. And it’s not about receiving this memento.

“That’s when she knows,” Hamill says.

Her brother isn’t really there. And yet he is.

It’s not a bad metaphor for the legacy of Carrie Fisher.

More post-screening insights (these are heavy spoilers, but if you’ve read this far…)

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