What Is Force Projection?
The Last Jedi introduced a brand new Jedi power – Force Projection. Through extreme concentration, Jedi can project images of themselves over long distances, even from one end of the galaxy to the other. These projections look indistinguishable from the real thing, and they can even physically interact with other people when necessary (as we saw when Luke gave his sister one last embrace and handed her a copy of Han Solo’s lucky dice).
The catch with Force Projection is that it’s extremely difficult to pull off and causes immense physical strain. Snoke managed to create a lasting connection between Rey and Kylo Ren, but we now know that was thanks to their unique status as two halves of a Force Dyad. Luke ultimately killed himself with the strain of projecting himself all the way to Crait.
How Did Princess Leia Die?
It seems that Leia shared her brother’s fate in the end. Leia reached out across the galaxy to communicate with her son. She didn’t actually project her image as Luke did on Crait, but it stands to reason that Leia, who abandoned her Jedi training years before, isn’t as experienced in that Jedi art. Even so, she managed to contact Ben. The strain of that act may have been enough to deal Leia a mortal blow.
Leia and Ben Solo’s Force Bond
There may be more to Leia’s death than simply her succumbing to the strain of projecting her mind all the way to the Endor system. She formed a mental link with her son in those final moments. She was connected to Ben at the exact point he was stabbed by Rey. However inadvertently, Rey may actually be the one responsible for killing Leia.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Gallery
Not that Rey can necessarily be blamed for what happened. Leia sensed Rey and Ben’s battle from afar. She clearly knew what she was doing when she reached out to Ben and distracted him in the midst of battle. She may have sensed that Ben’s redemption was close at hand and that only by assisting Rey could her son be saved (through the cleansing power of a lightsaber strike, of course).
In effect, Leia took that mortal blow herself, allowing Rey to heal and redeem Ben. For all we know, Leia specifically channeled her own life force into Ben, helping Rey along and sacrificing herself in the process. That may be why Leia finally dies and fades away at the moment Ben revives Rey and fades away himself. When Ben dies, any tether Leia still had to the living world went with him.
Leia and Padme Death Parallels
Leia’s death is interesting in how much it parallels that of her mother. In Return of the Jedi, we learn that Leia retains only a very primordial memory of Padme Amidala as a sad but beautiful woman. Revenge of the Sith shows us that Padme didn’t survive very long at all after the birth of her twins. The sheer emotional trauma of seeing the Republic collapse and her beloved husband fall to darkness was enough to sap Padme’s will to live.
Leia may have been physically killed by reaching out to Ben and being connected to him while he was mortally wounded, but she was already a woman lingering at death’s door. No doubt she was in a similar position as her mother by the time of Episode IX.Leia fought hard to topple the Empire and build the New Republic, only to watch her son succumb to the Dark Side and help the First Order destroy everything she fought so hard to create. Leia has seen some of her closest friends and loved ones die. Her entire life has been defined by resistance and war, and at some point, even the strongest woman in the galaxy just needs a little peace and eternal rest.
Leia’s death scene very intentionally parallels Padme’s death in Episode III. That movie shows Padme taking her final breaths right as Anakin takes his first breaths as Darth Vader. The Rise of Skywalker shows Leia dying and fading into the Force right as Rey is revived by Ben. Like her mother, Leia dies with great sadness in her heart. And also like Padme, Leia dies by bringing new life and new hope to the galaxy. Not a bad way for the general to go out.
For more Rise of Skywalker spoiler content, check out our detailed breakdown of the ending, see the significance of every lightsaber color, learn more about Emperor Palpatine’s return, learn more about the Sith planet Exegol and dive into the unexpected connection between Episode IX and The Mandalorian.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.