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A character from the Legends series could have significantly enhanced Disney’s Star Wars canon, but the opportunity has passed

One Legends Character Would’ve Massively Improved Disney’s Star Wars Canon – & It’s Too Late

The Star Wars franchise had the perfect opportunity to add a Legends-era character to the original trilogy, which would have had major ramifications for the modern canon. Before the Star Wars franchise underwent a partial reboot in 2014 to prepare for the sequel trilogy, what is now known as Legends was the official Star Wars timeline, with its various properties comprising the Expanded Universe. The original and prequel trilogy movies carried over into the modern Star Wars canon, but had Return of the Jedi included one Legends-exclusive character as an Easter egg, the newer continuity could have been vastly improved.

Introduced in Timothy Zahn’s novel Heir to the Empire, Mara Jade quickly became a favorite of the Star Wars franchise’s followers, thanks to her complex characterization. While Mara Jade is well known for her marriage to Luke Skywalker, there is so much more to her character and in-universe history than her romance with Luke. Mara Jade was once a lethal, dark side-trained Emperor’s Hand before becoming a smuggler and eventually a Jedi Master. Fascinatingly, Mara Jade was also in Jabba the Hutt’s Palace during the events of Return of the Jedi, though she is unseen in the movie itself.

How Mara Jade Tied To Return of the Jedi

As revealed in various Legends-era materials, Mara Jade was on a mission for Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi’s first act and was disguised as one of the crime lord’s many entertainers in Jabba’s Palace. Mara Jade – under the assumed name of Arica – even interacted with C-3PO in the Return of the Jedi radio drama, yet she was curiously not added to the film in its 1997 Special Edition rerelease, despite the new footage it added to the movie’s first act. Mara Jade even had the perfect performer to play her: Shannon McRandle, who portrayed Mara in still images.

Mara Jade’s mission to Jabba’s Palace is shown from her perspective in the short story Sleight of Hand: The Tale of Mara Jade by Timothy Zahn and the comic series Mara Jade – By the Emperor’s Hand , by Timothy Zahn and Michael A. Stackpole.

The reason for Return of the Jedi’s special edition not adding Mara Jade to its extended first act is unknown, though A New Hope’s rerelease notably added other Expanded Universe content, such as the Outrider from Shadows of the Empire. George Lucas reportedly disliked Mara Jade, despite her prominent role in the original Star Wars continuity, and this might have influenced her exclusion from Return of the Jedi. In any case, if Mara Jade had been included in Return of the Jedi, there would have been little impact on the Legends timeline but major potential changes to the modern canon.

Mara Jade Would Have Added Another Layer Of Tragedy To Luke’s Exile…

Since Return of the Jedi is a Legends-era property that carried over into the modern Star Wars canon, this would mean that Mara Jade might have been brought into the new timeline as well. Of course, the Lucasfilm Story Group could have hand-waved McRandle’s character as nothing more than one of Jabba’s entertainers, but after mostly cleaning their slate in preparation for the sequel trilogy, they had a chance to reimagine her. Had Mara Jade been included in Return of the Jedi and had Lucasfilm acknowledged her as such, they would have to integrate her into the sequel trilogy era.

Mara Jade would likely be among the many casualties of Kylo Ren (formerly Ben Solo).

The modern Star Wars canon’s lore is different from that of Star Wars Legends, but if Mara Jade married Luke Skywalker in the newer continuity like her original counterpart, Luke Skywalker’s exile in the sequel trilogy would be far more tragic. Mara Jade would likely be among the many casualties of Kylo Ren (formerly Ben Solo), and while this would, unfortunately, be an example of the trope known as “fridging,” it would add to Luke’s motivation for entering a self-imposed exile. Moreover, this would have further ramifications for Luke’s new generation of Jedi.

But Mara Would Have Meant Luke’s Jedi Order Was Very Different

As it stands, one of the modern Star Wars canon’s biggest mistakes in how it handled Luke Skywalker’s characterization is its portrayal of his new generation of Jedi. Luke’s original trilogy character arc has him defy the traditions of the prequel-era Jedi Order, redeeming his father and defeating Emperor Palpatine by embracing healthy attachment instead of forgoing all attachment or succumbing to the dark side. This put Luke in the best possible position to rebuild the Jedi Order with a multitude of improvements, but he did nothing of the sort, as revealed in the sequels.

In Legends, by contrast, Luke did not rebuild the prequel-era Jedi but instead established the New Jedi Order, a significantly reformed successor that ignored the problematic and emotionally unhealthy traditions of its predecessor. Had the modern Star Wars canon included Mara Jade from the start and established that she and Luke marry like their original iterations, this would strongly imply that Luke’s new generation of Jedi made major reforms to the Jedi way, like the Legends-era New Jedi Order. This would also necessitate that Luke be characterized more accurately in the Star Wars sequel trilogy.

A Canon Mara Jade Would’ve Added Another Hook To The Mandalorian Era

In this scenario, Mara Jade would be dead before the events of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, but there would be plenty of room to explore her story in the modern canon. Her past as Palpatine’s assassin would have to be rewritten in the original trilogy era, as would her post-Return of the Jedi escapades. With the early New Republic era being explored in TV shows like The Mandalorian and Ahsoka, Mara Jade would inevitably have to appear and eventually meet Luke Skywalker

The Thrawntrilogy has already influenced much of the modern Star Wars canon, particularly its New Republic era, so Mara’s inclusion in the Disney+ shows would have made sense in this scenario. Dave Filoni’s forthcoming New Republic-era Star Wars movie is not only set to conclude the collective stories of the era’s TV shows, but it is also hypothesized to be a loose adaptation of the Thrawntrilogy itself, adjusted for the modern canon, of course. Whether Mara Jade’s story can be told in the modern canon in actuality, however, is another matter.

It’s Too Late To Tell Mara’s Star Wars Story Now

Considering Mara Jade’s popularity and the modern Star Wars canon’s tendency to repurpose and reimagine lore from the Legends continuity, her introduction into the current continuity seems almost inevitable. An argument can be made, however, that Mara Jade ought to remain exclusive to the Legends timeline, as the modern canon’s lore prevents much of Mara Jade’s story from Legends from fitting into canon. Despite this, Mara Jade can inspire the modern Star Wars canon’s Emperor’s Hands with similar stories, such as one who reforms and leaves the Empire.

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