How 'Star Wars: Episode VIII' Can Fix the Franchise's Daddy Issues

Carrie Fisher_The Force Awakens_Still - Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of Lucasfilm
Can the next installment break with the series' long-running tradition?

Watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, I realized just how Star Wars: Episode VIII could break the mold for the franchise, while remaining true to everything that's gone before (and follow through on one of the major threads introduced in The Force Awakens): Drop the Daddy Issues and focus on the relationship between Leia and Kylo Ren.

To date, Star Wars has been a story about children's relationships with their fathers, as much as it's been about lightsabers, the Force or space battles that are supposed to be unwinnable but also end up being won nonetheless. More specifically, the saga is about children's relationship with their absent fathers: Anakin was a child of the Force, Luke's and Leia's relationship with Anakin — whose adopted name basically translates as "Dark Father," to double down on the theme — and, in The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren's relationship with Han Solo. (For that matter, you can add in Rey and her missing parents in general, as well.)

For all its intent to differentiate itself from the other movies in the franchise, Rogue One fits right into this pattern, with Jyn Erso and absent father Galen. As Jyn cradled her dying father in her arms, though, I started thinking about her mother, who appears briefly in the movie before being killed; it makes sense that we don't see Jyn grieving her, or even considering her too much, because of the time that's passed between the prologue and the movie proper, but that absence emphasizes how ignored mothers are in Star Wars lore.

Anakin's mother Shmi is literally abandoned by Episode I — The Phantom Menace, left behind on Tatooine as her child is taken away by the Jedi Order; by the time he goes back to see her in the next movie, she's just moments away from death. A similarly grim fate befalls Padme Amidala, who becomes far more a doomed lover for Anakin than any kind of absent mother for Luke or Leia; compare the amount of times Luke talks about his father with mentions of his mother as proof.

Leia's relationship with Kylo, then, offers the chance for the series to break new ground for the franchise, while maintaining the idea of generational roots divided by partisan lines — except, this time, it's the parent who seeks to redeem the child, as opposed to the Luke/Vader dynamic. It's a story that would place Leia firmly at the center of events, as opposed to the peripheral role she played in The Force Awakens, while also providing some sense of closure (or, at least, balance) to the murder of Han in the previous movie by allowing for further exploration — and contrasting — of both Leia's and Kylo Ren's reactions to the event.

Is this likely to happen? Probably not; I'd be pleasantly surprised if the movie doesn't spend more time exploring the mystery of Rey's parentage, probably focusing on whether or not Luke Skywalker is her father, to be honest. Centering around the male parent has proved to be a successful path up to this point, if nothing else. But should the franchise want to shift away from that repetition for whatever reason, there's a replacement option right there, waiting to be noticed.