Why Did Leia Hug Rey In 'The Force Awakens'? J.J. Abrams Clarifies That Controversial Choice

If you walked away from Star Wars: The Force Awakens with a burning question about an embrace, J.J. Abrams would like you to know that you're not alone. Many fans were confused at the conclusion of the first film in this new Star Wars trilogy. After (months-late spoiler!) Han's death at the hands of his son, Kylo Ren, the survivors of the mission to lower the shields of Starkiller Base return to the Resistance. As they disembark the Millennium Falcon, Leia approaches and hugs Rey in grief. Two women sharing a loss? That's nothing to be upset about. But Leia's longtime friend and Han's longtime partner Chewbacca walks right by, seemingly unacknowledged. The internet has speculated on some deeper meaning within that choice, especially as it pertains to Rey's parentage. But finally, director J.J. Abrams has come clean about why Leia hugs Rey in The Force Awakens instead of Chewie.

It may not come as a surprise — seeing as this hug took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away — that Leia's chosen clinch partner had something to do with the Force. Abrams spoke up about the controversy (Hug-gate? Hug-gate.) to Slash Film during a press junket for the newest film from his Bad Robot production company, 10 Cloverfield Lane. The director made it clear that he had his motivations for arranging the scene the way he did, but that he also can see why it might have flustered audiences. He even went so far as to call it a "mistake." Abrams said:

My thinking at the time was that Chewbacca, despite the pain he was feeling, was focused on trying to save Finn and getting him taken care of. So I tried to have Chewbacca go off with him and focus on Rey, and then have Rey find Leia and Leia find Rey. The idea being that both of them being strong with the Force and never having met, would know about each other — that Leia would have been told about her beyond what we saw onscreen and Rey of course would have learned about Leia. And that reunion would be a meeting and a reunion all in one, and a sort of commiseration of their mutual loss.

That answer is basically what I was expecting. Leia and Rey are both Force-sensitive — Rey, perhaps more than any character the series has ever introduced. There's no doubt in my mind that Leia felt Han's death the moment it occurred and even his fear and desperation in the minutes leading up to it, when he stepped onto the bridge to meet Ben. Rey, in turn, can feel Leia's grief. It's an entirely unspoken connection that advances their relationship immediately. Some fans agree.

Still, Chewbacca is Chewbacca. He's Han's ride-or-die. He met Leia the second that Han did, and has protected and cared for her ever since. Logistically, Finn has to get to a medical bay. But even a touch on Chewie's furry arm or some type of acknowledgement would have made that finale more organic and in-character.

Fortunately, Abrams has two more movies in which to right the wrong. Here's hoping an emotional Chewie/Leia scene will make its way into Episode VIII.

Images: Walt Disney Studios; Giphy