As part of Disney buying Lucasfilm, one of the big sweeping changes to Star Wars going forward was the formation of the Lucasfilm Story Group. Essentially, the group would be responsible for all continuity from that point onward from movies to video games to comics to novels. Unfortunately, this also meant the death of the Star Wars Expanded Universe - and Mara Jade.
See, prior to the purchase by Disney and formation of the Story Group, Star Wars continuity basically lived in two separate but distinct timelines: the films, and everything else. That “everything else” became known as the Expanded Universe. A lot of this had to do with the events after Return of the Jedi, including but not limited to around the time that the newest film, The Force Awakens, takes place. So, how do you reconcile all this preexisting history with a new direction?
You get rid of it, basically.
The current line from folks in charge is that anything from the Expanded Universe - commonly referred to as the EU - isn’t canon until it is. Which is to say, unless something, someone, or somewhere shows up in one of the official films, the Clone Wars television series and film, or one of the offerings after the formation of the Storytelling Group, it essentially doesn’t exist in formal Star Wars canon. The official name of all this jettisoned content also changed to Star Wars Legends.
There is a lot for fans of the old stuff to grumble about given the sheer enormity of stuff that’s basically ignored at this point. But Mara Jade is perhaps the biggest sticking point in their collective craw. “Supremely competent, frequently conflicted, and possessed of a droll sense of humor, Jade is easily the most well-rounded character the EU ever produced,” reads an A.V. Club blurb about the death of the EU by Les Chappell, “and the one whose removal from canon produced the greatest outcry.”
Introduced in Timothy Zahn’s 1991 novel Heir to the Empire, she initially started off as a former assassin under Emperor Palpatine - whose final task for her after his death was to track down and kill Luke Skywalker. This didn’t come to pass, however. Over time she instead came to respect Luke, and she eventually went on to marry him, taking his surname to become Mara Jade Skywalker.
Mara Jade’s immense popularity is hard to pin down to one factor or another. But her character saw wide use across a variety of Expanded Universe properties, including a card game where she received her very own real-life model in Shannon McRandle. She fought the dastardly Yuuzhan Vong, had a son with Luke named Ben after Obi-Wan, and even rose to the rank of Jedi Master. As with most who bear the name Skywalker, her fate was not to live happily ever after, but even that only seemed to make fans love her more.
It’s unclear whether she’ll make a reappearance in the ongoing canon at all, let alone in The Force Awakens or subsequent films. Most likely outcome? She’s entirely scrapped, relegated to the Legends reprints and nothing more. Which is a huge shame. That’s coming from someone that’s not yet seen The Force Awakens or been spoiled on its content, however, so maybe there’s hope just yet. While it’s unlikely that she’d ever be introduced in the same way, maybe there’s still room in the galaxy for Mara Jade Skywalker.