Baby Yoda of The Mandalorian (2019-present) is hot right now, this is true. But what if I told you about a character who took the old Star Wars expanded universe (now under the umbrella of Legacies) by storm almost as soon as they were introduced? Mara Jade (eventually Mara Jade Skywalker) was introduced as a Force-sensitive Imperial assassin in the Heir to the Empire trilogy by Timothy Zahn in 1991. She remained a highly popular character until her death in the Legacy of the Force series in 2007.
IGN named Mara Jade the 19th best character in the Star Wars universe out of 100 total characters in 2010, three years after her in-universe death. Zahn, who created both Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Thrawn, named the two of them as his favorite characters that he had created. Thrawn actually does appear in canon for today’s Star Wars universe, in the animated series Star Wars: Rebels (2014-2018) and in new Thrawn novels written by Zahn.
However you may feel about Lucasfilm effectively shunting the original expanded universe into an abandoned silo, there were a lot of great characters and concepts essentially left to gather dust. One of those characters was Mara Jade. She was a dynamo character who went on a real redemptive journey, going from Imperial assassin (borderline Sith) to Jedi Master on the new Jedi High Council.
Obviously, her arc would have to undergo some changes: as of the end of The Last Jedi (2017), there’s no indication that the Jedi Order will ever be rebuilt. Who knows what will happen in The Rise of Skywalker (2019), but it is likely that if Mara Jade was reintroduced into the new Star Wars canon, her arc would be substantially altered.
But that’s fine. In the simplest of terms, Mara Jade’s original arc took her from Dark Side assassin to honorable warrior, and that could still be accomplished. Her original arc was closely tied to Luke Skywalker: she was ordered to kill him through her final command from Emperor Palpatine, and boy, does she try to follow that order to the letter. But she ultimately fails, falls in love with Luke, and trains with him to become a Jedi.
Her arc after the Heir to the Empire trilogy and The Hand of Thrawn (1997-1998) duology is a little disappointing. During a horrible alien invasion by the Yuuzhan Vong (which should be left in the past), Mara Jade’s arc is about her getting infected by spores from the alien race, leaving her dying. She’s already turned to the light, and it’d be a hard-fought battle to match her redemption arc — a battle the writers lost.
Mara Jade’s death was somehow powerful but unnecessary, the climax to another “Skywalker descendant turns to the Dark Side” arc in the Legacy of the Force series. But despite Mara Jade’s underutilization in the years following her redemption, she still continued to inspire. Her adventures pre-Luke caught a lot of attention, as the adventures of an Imperial assassin certainly should.
The wonder of Mara Jade is that she could fit into any of the ongoing Star Wars series, especially The Mandalorian, being set so soon after Return of the Jedi. But she honestly deserves her own movie, if at all possible with the canon they’re currently building. A spy-assassin thriller is a genre Star Wars hasn’t explored yet despite the pre-existing thriller-aspects in the Star Wars universe. Taking it all the way only makes sense, especially with a franchise that desperately needs to diversify not only the stories being told but the type of stories being told.
Mara Jade still fits into the mold of Star Wars heroes who undergo significant transformations, and she could do that with or without a redemption plotline involving Luke Skywalker. Make her target another high-profile Rebel or have her find her light side in a totally new and unique way. But in an era and a franchise where it feels like it’s mainly men who get the redemption arcs, it would be nice to see a female character get a chance at personal salvation…and a chance at finding her take on the light side of the Force.
If Mara Jade were to get a chance at the big screen, she might benefit from a reintroduction first, either through a supporting role in another film or perhaps a guest spot on The Mandalorian. The future could be bright for our favorite redhead Star Wars anti-heroine, and hopefully, Lucasfilm considers bringing her back into the fold as the franchise enters a new, uncertain era.