The prequels are centered on how things fall apart, be it the Jedi, the Republic, or Anakin and Padmé. The separation of these things spirals the galaxy into chaos masked as order, until the next generation can rise up. Among those who rose was a petite, easy to look past young woman.
Leia stood right in front of Darth Vader and never wavered. She knew who she was, what she stood for, and what her mission in life was. For a 19 year-old, that is a level of maturity that few can say they have.
Leia’s capacity for good, and most importantly her strength in the darkest of times, is just as critical as Luke’s Jedi training. Without that heart, that bravery, that courage, Palpatine and the Empire reign eternally far before the time of Rey and Kylo. It is that bravery and courage that leads Leia, worn down by years of politics, to create the Resistance before the coming storm that would be the First Order. Again, without Leia the galaxy ends up in utter devastation, with Palpatine and the Final Order as the final nail in the coffin of hope.
But, wait, wasn’t it Ben Solo and Rey who stopped Palpatine this time? Yes, but what is the common element between these two characters? The Dyad connects them, but it is Leia that brings them together. It is Leia that raised Ben Solo to have the heart he was never able to excavate, the same heart she brought out in Han Solo, and it was Master Leia who trained Rey in the true art of being a Jedi.
For years there has been conversation around what and who a Jedi should be. In Rise of Skywalker, Luke gives us the definitive answer in saying, “Confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi.” No one has done that more than Leia Organa Solo Skywalker.
The split that happened when Anakin and Padmé is, in my opinion, healed when Ben and Rey become one. But even before then, Leia united the ideology of her mother with the fire of her (biological) father. In Leia: Princess of Alderaan, Breha Organa, Leia’s adoptive mother, cultivates those qualities in her. She encourages her to push her own limits, while also validating the heart that she had, and more importantly the moral code she was developing. This is the epitome of nature and nurture working in tandem, and the results speak for themselves.
Padmé’s heroic nature is often overlooked because of how she was basically brushed aside to be bare-foot and pregnant in Revenge of the Sith. While she may not wield a lightsaber or have the Force (until J.J. Abrams writes a story about her that is), Padmé is a hero nonetheless. Despite the galaxy being steeped in corruption and war, Padmé never wavers on what she believes. As a 14 year-old queen, she stood for non-violence, (“I will not condone a course of action that will lead my people to war.”), but also knew when enough was enough and it was time for aggressive negotiations. This quality is essential in being a Jedi, and is clearly displayed multiple times by her son. We’ve seen what happens when a Jedi thinks lightsaber first and heart second. Thankfully, Luke was able to right that ship, but it is Leia who lives by that creed.
Leia is not only the product of her mother, but of her biological father as well . (As Leia, per Bloodline, does not consider Anakin her father, and in memory of Carrie Fisher, I cannot call him “her father,” despite Carrie not being directly associated with that book. It just seems disrespectful, but I digress.) I’ve argued before that Luke is more of Padmé and Leia is more like Anakin, and that opinion still holds, but that does not mean that both children don’t inherently have part of each parent. From Anakin, Leia inherited the fire to do what is right, regardless of public opinion, as well as the faith in people that makes Anakin Skywalker someone we want to be like, until the whole dark side thing. Just as Anakin never gave up on Ahsoka’s innocence when she was accused of treason, Leia never gives up on Ben. She says, “I know my son is gone,” but there is a hollowness there, as if she knows she’s supposed to say that, and when Luke pulls out the, “No one’s ever really gone,” we see the hope that has defined Leia reignited, as if she is validated in believing in Ben despite where everything stands at the end of The Last Jedi.
Rise of Skywalker brings Leia’s journey to a conclusion in a very satisfying way (albeit the performance mostly being done by the backside of her head is a little frustrating). In this film, we find out that Leia did, in fact, train to be a Jedi. However, she had a vision of her son dying at the end of her Jedi path, so she puts down her saber until the one who can complete her Jedi journey comes along. Anakin and Luke both succumbed to the fear of what they saw in their respective visions, and in doing so did more harm than good. Yet it is Leia who is able to take the maturity and idealism of Padmé , combine it with the fire to do good and faith in others of Anakin, and lay down her sword (like Luke) that is possibly her greatest success. Without this moment of trust in the Force, Rey is not able to save the day at the end of Rise of Skywalker.
Power is an idea that comes up anytime Force-wielders are in the conversation. “Who is the most powerful?” is a question that never seems to die, despite the films blatantly telling us that it is not power that matters. Like Luke on the Second Death Star and at Crait, like Ahsoka in the Sith Temple on Malachor, and like Kanan’s sacrifice for his family, it is not about the point in your power meter. What is most important is wisdom, integrity, love, and faith. If we consider these as the markers of a Jedi Master, as the story tells us to, then Leia might just be the greatest Jedi of all time.