WARNING: Spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi follow.
Toward the beginning of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the life of one of our favourite characters is threatened: When the bridge of the Resistance cruiser Raddus is blasted by a First Order strike, it appears as if General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) has perished along with Admiral Ackbar. Those who paid attention to the numerous trailers, though, had seen glimpses of the general standing in the abandoned Rebel base hangar on Crait, yet to occur in the film. This was the hope that kept the tears of many from flowing. She had to live. But how?
Then the camera zooms in on Leia floating in the freezing nothingness of space. Her fingers move. She reaches out, and suddenly she is flying toward the Raddus, through the devastated bridge still exposed to vacuum, past a hologram, and up to an airtight door. Has she used the Force? Absolutely! Where so often we see Force users shoving things about, Leia's first overt demonstration of true Force power is to pull her way back toward something. From a storytelling perspective, it highlights the meta of the entire movie, with light and dark in opposition, particularly when juxtaposed against the tragic split between Luke Skywalker and Ben Solo, who Force blasts his uncle away.
The Force Awakens plays coy with Leia's connection to the Force, though it is apparent she senses something terrible when Kylo Ren kills Han Solo. Precedent from the original and prequel trilogies also indicates that Force users can reach out and feel a cry for help from someone to whom they are emotionally attached, yet Leia needs a map to reveal the location of her long-lost brother. The Last Jedi offers some explanation: Luke Skywalker had cut himself off from the Force. He isn't even aware that Han Solo has died.
Why is this important to many Star Wars fans? After Luke abandons his training in The Empire Strikes Back, the Force ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi and still-corporeal Yoda discuss the untimely departure of the Jedi apprentice. Obi-Wan says, "That boy was our last hope." Yoda looks up to the sky and responds, "No. There is another." Fans have long speculated about the other hope. Many long-time female fans desperately wanted it to be Leia Organa. The reveal of their twin sibling connection in Return of the Jedi reinforced women's hopes and dreams that they too could imagine themselves heroic Knights of a Jedi Order.
Although Leia may not have wielded a lightsaber in the original trilogy, we can look back on her knack for hitting her mark with a blaster, piloting a speeder at breakneck speeds through a forest of trees, or making a snap decision in the heat of battle as likely enhanced by her latent Force ability. The fact that Leia had Force potential was highlighted earlier this year in a short story titled "There Is Another" written by Gary D. Schmidt for Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View. In that story, Yoda expresses reluctance over training Luke, wishing instead to take Leia as his apprentice.