Last Christmas, fans hearts everywhere were shattered when actress Carrie Fisher, who played Leia Skywalker Organa Solo, the Princess, the Senator, the General, passed away unexpectedly when her heart gave out. Her part in Star Wars: The Last Jedi was basically finished filming at that point, and Lucasfilm swore it would not be altered as a result of her death. This left fans wondering if Leia was already killed off in Episode VIII, or if she would survive. Does Leia die in The Last Jedi? Or does Episode IX have a bit of awkward retconning to deal with her passing? Warning: Spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi follow.
Having now seen The Last Jedi, I can see why Rian Johnson and company said the movie would not be altered. Because they had an out they could have taken: the scene where Leia and the rest of the Resistance leadership are blown to bits off the bridge. They could have changed the story, had Leia die there, mourned her, and moved on.
But to do that, they would have taken out Leia's most bad-ass scene in the entire run of films, when she proves that she really is the ultimate self rescuing princess, pulling herself back through the rubble of the bridge and to the door to be let back in after floating out into space.
It also would have robbed us of her other awesome moment, walking through the blasted down door, robed in all white, as she was in A New Hope, shooting a blaster, and taking down Oscar Isaac's Poe and his other mutineers (which include the character Kaydel Ko Connix played by her her real-life daughter Billie Lourd.)
So does Leia die in The Last Jedi? No she does not. Despite the fake out, and despite her being in a coma for a good third of the movie afterwards, Leia survives, because that's what Leia does. She's been a survivor from the beginning, and a leader to her people.
So what is Episode IX going to do? Instead of killing off Leia and having Luke be the sole survivor to the third movie, they are no stuck with the original set up, which was to lose Luke at the end of VIII, the way they lost Han at the end of VII. The final scene shows Leia heading out on the Falcon with Rey and the last of the resistance survivors (who now number so few they all fit on a single ship.)
So what happens now? Hoe does J.J. Abrams deal with the fact that not only has Johnson killed off a lot of his crutches, and prevented from remaking Return of the Jedi beat-for-beat by dispensing with that in this film, but the Leia question as well?
The answer, it seems, lies in Last Jedi's ending. The film opens with Leia telling Poe that one day he'll realize that the solution to the problem is making sure people survive, instead of jumping in an X-Wing and blowing stuff out of the sky. The film ends with him doing just that: seeing Luke's ploy for the time buyer it is, and getting the last of the Resistance to safety, so they can fight another day, rather than jumping in an X Wing and blowing Kylo Ren to bits. Leia smiles when he does it (and gets her most Carrie Fisher esque line in to boot), because she sees he's learned.
With Poe ready to take Leia's place as the leader of the Resistance (sort of the Good Guy Hux to Rey's Kylo Ren) in a way the next film isn't going to need Leia. It would be have been nice to see her pass the baton, as it were, in the final film. But Poe's already gotten to where they need him. Leia can pass on to the next world, knowing her work will be carried on, and in good hands.