For many of us, Star Wars has been a significant part of our lives since it first hit theaters forty-two years ago. We relate to its characters, and quote its lines. It’s not just a film franchise, it’s a culture. On that basis, I think Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is going to have a far greater impact on Gen-Xers like me than many people realize. Goodbyes aren’t easy in any culture, but the farewells to be had in Episode IX are going to sting…. That’s especially true when it comes to the final goodbye we must bid to perhaps the most beloved princess of my generation, Leia Organa.

Leia; Goodbye; Star Wars
Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.

The most visceral reaction to The Last Jedi indeed came from those of us who have been here with Star Wars from the beginning. It certainly stemmed, to some degree, from idol worship, admittedly. General disdain for the film centered on Rian Johnson’s treatment of the franchise’s core characters. We won’t even get into how the film treated Luke Skywalker. But Leia? The Mary Poppins in space scene will live in franchise infamy. Notwithstanding, there was one good scene in Episode VIII in particular. It took place between Luke and Leia, finally, nearly two hours into the film. That one scene at last captured the emotion we’d hoped the rest of film would have had, but didn’t. And it was one that foretold of the difficulty we’d have in saying goodbye to our princess.

Saying goodbye to Princess Leia

Leia; Star Wars; Goodbye
Image: Lucasfilm Ltd

We know she’s already gone. Fisher’s first scene in The Rise of Skywalker will likely hit us all right smack in the feels… all of them. I find it difficult to imagine her final scene. Perhaps I don’t want to. Even three years later I still find myself unwilling, or more appropriately, unable to fully say goodbye to an actress and a character that has been a part of my life for nearly its entirety.

It will be three years this month that Carrie Fisher passed away and broke millions of Star Wars fans’ hearts. Leia was, in some ways, the heart of Star Wars. Strong and determined, yet compassionate and empathetic, Leia Organa epitomized that for which the Rebellion, and later the Resistance, stood. It was hard to imagine Star Wars without her. Thankfully, due to unused footage, we can forestall that fate for one more movie. The flip side of that is, of course, the fact that saying goodbye is now going to be that much harder.

Rey's Father; The Rise of Skywalker
Han and Leia together in The Force Awakens. (Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.)

With The Rise of Skywalker, however, we no longer have a choice. The Skywalker saga ends in a week and a day. Forget Palpatine. Forget Snoke and Kylo Ren and the question of Rey’s parentage. When it comes to Star Wars: Episode IX, what matters most is that we must say our final goodbye, and our princess will truly be gone.

To paraphrase Lor San Tekka in The Force Awakens: Carrie Fisher was more than an actress. And Leia Organa was and always will be far more than just a character on film: “To me, she is royalty.”

Goodbye, Princess.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens in theaters a week from tomorrow on December 20.