You know what Star Wars hasn't had enough of? Female friends. The Phantom Menace showcased plenty of women, but it never clearly delineated whether the handmaidens are Padmé Amidala's friends as well as her decoys and bodyguards. Attack of the Clones, for the most part, isolates the queen-turned-Senator; she shares a teary farewell with her handmaiden Dormé when fleeing Coruscant and then strategizes with the new Queen of Naboo. Her scenes with Mon Mothma in the incipient rebellion against the Emperor were cut from the theatrical release of Revenge of the Sith.
Padmé ends her arc as a lone female character in a story about men, much like Leia in the original trilogy. Although The Force Awakens includes more female characters, bonds of friendship do not connect them. Carrie Fisher's veteran General Leia Organa interacts only briefly with Daisy Ridley's scavenger loner Rey. Gwendoline Christie's Captain Phasma is a foil and menace to First Order defector Finn. Lupita Nyong'o donned a motion capture suit to portray alien Maz Kanata, who is much older and shorter than the actress, and she mentors Rey rather than befriending her.
The Last Jedi offers something different.
The Resistance includes sisters Rose and Paige Tico, though it's unclear how much screen time they will share. More has been revealed about the significance of Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, played by award-winning actress Laura Dern. Holdo specifically represents a peer to General Organa: both are military leaders, and they have a history dating back to their teenage years.
The novel Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray — created with input from The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson — documents Leia's time representing Alderaan in the Apprentice Legislature on Coruscant, where she meets Holdo, who hails from the planet Gatalenta. Amilyn sticks out with her bold fashion sense and hue-matching hair colors. For most of the book, Leia isn't sure what to make of the other young woman. Over the course of a story in which Leia uncovers the truth about her parents' role in the fledgling Rebellion, she ultimately finds an ally and friend in Amilyn.
At the global press event for The Last Jedi, held in Los Angeles, Laura Dern had a chance to speak to the character she plays: "I just want to pay tribute to Rian [Johnson] for being one of the most brilliantly subversive filmmakers I've ever been able to bear witness to. In the case of the look of my character, I was moved by the fact that he really wanted her strength to first lead with a very deep femininity. To see a powerful female character also be feminine is something that moves away from a stereotype that's sometimes perceived, in strong female characters must be like the boys."
In addition to being subversive, Dern told Entertainment Weekly, Holdo comes into the story to "shake things up." While she may be Leia's friend, she has a different approach and will clash with brash pilot Poe Dameron, who is loyal to General Organa. Holdo wants to strategize; Dameron would prefer to take the fight to the First Order. "She doesn't particularly look like your typical military leader, and so I think there's a bit of distrust for Poe," Isaac told Entertainment Weekly. Dern adds that Holdo symbolizes "stereotypes about women bosses. Like if she looks a certain way, she can't achieve the job or she must be brazen."