If Star Wars fans love talking about one character from the “Expanded Universe,” it’s Mara Jade. Former hired assassin for Emperor Palpatine, subsequently heroic Jedi Knight, and wife of Luke Skywalker, Mara isn’t just some random character from the Star Wars: Legends, she’s a crucial part of non-canon Star Wars — unfortunately, she also just doesn’t fit into the current Star Wars universe.
Though Mara dies in Legends canon, Star Wars fans also love talking about bringing her back. Not a week goes by without some outlet claiming it’s happening and that a famous performer is playing Mara Jade. But let’s get serious: getting Mara Jade back into Star Wars canon is nearly impossible. Here are three reasons why Mara Jade (probably) will never return, along with one very risky way of rebooting her backstory (that is totally the best option).
3. Top Star Wars creatives say it’s not happening
Mara Jade originates in the three-novel cycle by Timothy Zahn, generally referred to as “The Thrawn Trilogy. “ Although several aspects from these books — including its villain, Grand Admiral Thrawn — have been re-canonized, it doesn’t appear Mara Jade will receive that same treatment. Even as Thrawn made his way back into the real Star Wars canon, Star Wars Rebels producer Dave Filoni directly responded to a “will you reboot Mara Jade?” question by saying: “No, not likely. You got Thrawn!”
Now, a lot has changed since Filoni said that in 2017, but right now, his answer still stands.
2. “The Emperor’s Hand” doesn’t fit in Star Wars canon
If there’s one thing contemporary Star Wars canon has accomplished, it’s a lot of retroactive work on Mr. Sheev Palpatine. Back before he had a first name, and well before we knew he was once a senator from Naboo, the Emperor employed a secret assassin to operate alongside Darth Vader. This person, code-named “The Emperor’s Hand,” was none other than Mara Jade.
Palpatine’s pulled off many surprises in the canon thus far, including the Final Order, various clones, a secret granddaughter, Sith Wayfinders, and a group of loyal followers (on a secret planet called Exegol, naturally). The idea that the Emperor could have had yet another secret project in place during the classic trilogy might be a bit much, even for the more flexible Star Wars fans among us. Sure, the glass-is-half-full observer might note that Palpatine has enough secrets that adding Mara into the mix would be easy. But this approach forgets how special Mara was to the old canon, before Palpatine put these other complicated contingency plans into place.
1. Luke’s backstory before The Force Awakens is crowded enough
Right after Return of the Jedi, Luke tried to train his sister Leia to become a Jedi Knight. She abandoned that training after experiencing a vision of her son turning to the dark side. A few years after that, Luke picked up a little baby Yoda named Grogu from a Mandalorian who was fighting some Dark Troopers in the middle of nowhere. Later, he started a Jedi school with a bunch of tweens, which was eventually sabotaged by Snoke/Palpatine and Ben Solo.
If Mara Jade’s storyline were to be put back into the canon but made to match up with all these new events, where would she have been all this time? Now, in theory, the timeframe of The Mandalorian (five years after ROTJ) could set up a retconned version of Zahn’s novel Heir to the Empire, complete with Grand Admiral Thrawn returning to mix things up.
If Ahsoka, Rangers of the New Republic, and all the other series set in the Mando-era did end up rebooting the Thrawn Trilogy, then sure, Mara Jade would be a part of that. But, this would also require an explanation for Mara Jade’s absence around the time of The Force Awakens. Yes, this problem exists with Grogu too, but if Mara’s storyline were part of Luke’s pre-TFA backstory, then she’d have to die. And, Kylo Ren would probably have to kill her. Confused?
Well, many, many books after Mara was introduced – and after she married Luke in the comic book storyline Union (written by Michael Stackpole) – she was eventually murdered by Darth Caedus in Karen Traviss’ novel Sacrifice, published in 2007. In the old canon, Sacrifice takes place about 40 ABY, which doesn’t really have an exact analog in the current canon since The Rise of Skywalker happens in 35 ABY. Anyway! In this canon —just like in real canon — Han and Leia’s son turns to the Dark Side and becomes a massive problem. The difference: his name is Jacen Solo, and his Sith name is... Darth Caedus. For years, fans have pointed out the similarities between Jacen Solo and the film canon’s Ben Solo, with some folks suggesting Rey had more in common with Jacen Solo’s twin sister, Jaina Solo, than we might think. (Obviously, those theories didn’t work out, and Reylo happened.)
So, if Mara Jade were brought back into canon around 9 ABY, just like in Legends, she would still have to disappear from Luke’s life again before 33 ABY and The Force Awakens. Back when we only had The Force Awakens, some fans believed this had happened, and that Luke was standing over Mara Jade’s grave when Rey came to give him that lightsaber. Either way, rebooting Mara Jade with her Luke Skywalker-spouse connection creates a situation where you have to kill her to bring her back. Does anyone really want to see that happen?
How to put Mara Jade in modern Star Wars
The most obvious ways of bringing the Mara Jade fans know and love over from Legends into legitimate canon come with a whole mess of complicated strings. But what if Mara Jade was rebooted with an entirely new backstory? Instead of making her a former agent of Palpatine and an eventual love interest for Luke Skywalker, why not ditch all of that? What would be left is still a Force-sensitive, lightsaber-proficient badass with ties to the criminal underworld and various smugglers.
In Heir to the Empire, Mara was working for Talon Karrde, a central figure in the world of galactic smuggling seen in the Legends canon. Karrde and his organization could easily be rebooted into the world of The Mandalorian. In fact, if you just imagined a slightly more ethical version of Mando’s old buddies from the Season 1 episode, “The Prisoner,” then you’ve already got a pretty good picture of Talon Kardde and his gang. If Mara was brought back into canon, this would be the way to do it. No Emperor’s Hand backstory. No destiny as the wife of Luke Skywalker. Instead, a smuggler who can use the Force, and when needed, will bust out a purple lightsaber and do some damage.
Book of Boba Fett — which probably won’t feature Mara Jade — hits Disney+ in December 2021.