5 Years Later, Star Wars' Biggest Flop Is Still Holding it Back in One Frustrating Way
The absence of the Skywalkers is becoming too distracting to ignore.
The Star Wars saga has always been about the Skywalker family, but that’s made things tricky for Lucasfilm’s expanding galaxy. Shows like The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and Ahsoka are working to explore a chapter of Star Wars history that the current canon hadn’t touched: the New Republic. These stories take place after Return of the Jedi, which means Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and Han Solo are still kicking around. For the first time, though, Star Wars isn’t really about the Skywalkers at all, and that has a lot to do with Lucasfilm’s fear of recasting iconic roles.
After Lucasfilm tried (and, apparently, failed) to recast Han Solo in Solo, recasting has been off-limits. Now it’s all about de-aging the original actors for brief but distracting cameos. Mark Hamill reprised his role as Luke in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, while Carrie Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, stood in for Leia in The Rise of Skywalker. Otherwise, new projects have tried to navigate the New Republic era — a world these characters had a hand in shaping — without featuring them at all.
Do the new Star Wars shows need the Skywalkers to work? No, but it’s getting harder to ignore their absence, especially as Ahsoka and The Mandalorian dive into the inner workings (and flaws) of the New Republic. Episode 3 of Ahsoka, “Ready to Fly,” gives us our first glimpse into the New Republic Senate. General Hera Syndulla (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is granted a meeting with Chancellor Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) and a group of her most trusted senators. They’re meeting to discuss the threat of Thrawn’s return, but it’s clear no one but Hera is taking it seriously.
As Hera trades barbs with Senator Xiono, it’s impossible not to think about Leia. Little is known about her role in the galactic reformation, but canon novels like Bloodline confirm that she works closely with Mon Mothma to reestablish the Senate, and serves as a representative to the Alderaan sector until the rise of the First Order. In Marvel’s Star Wars comics, Leia even tracks down factions of the Imperial remnant, so Thrawn’s return would be of undeniable interest to her. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely Leia will appear in Ahsoka, or any Disney+ show. Lucasfilm’s aversion to recasting has sidelined one of the most important figures in the New Republic, and Ahsoka can’t even be bothered to explain her absence.
As showrunner Dave Filoni works to expand the world of The Mandalorian and its spin-offs, the spotlight will inevitably shift away from the Skywalkers. To some extent, that’s great; we’re witnessing real diversification in the stories Star Wars is willing to explore. But Lucasfilm is limiting the scope and specificity of its most interesting era. Without Leia, Star Wars is incapable of fully diving into the New Republic’s inner workings. And without Luke, there’s no way we’ll see the beginnings of his new Jedi Order. The Mando-verse is writing itself into a corner, and there’s only so much that characters like Din Djarin, Ahsoka, and Mon Mothma can do to distract fans from the bun-haired elephant in the room.
Solo may have been a box office disappointment, but abandoning recasting forever is a horrible lesson to take away from its struggles. Hopefully, Lucasfilm will eventually find a way to fold the Skywalkers back into the larger narrative. Until then, fans will have to content themselves with knowing that, somewhere in the galaxy, the Skywalkers are doing their own thing.