Nothing but applause for your latest essay. It encapsulates many of my feelings, especially about the place of deconstructionism in current Star Wars. I'd be curious as to your opinions of how the Big Three (Luke, Han, and Leia) have been used in the two movies thus far. I have my own opinions on the matter, but I doubt they're as eloquent as yours.
I appreciate your reading and your feedback most sincerely.
Since you ask...
Obviously I cannot give a complete opinion on the trilogy whilst said trilogy is not yet completed itself. Looking at it so far, though, the most succinct way I can put it is this: though I do like some of the things that the Sequel Trilogy did with the Big Three, overall I am stunned by its incompetence in this regard.
May as well go in order - so Han Solo first. In many ways his character, like so many other things in The Force Awakens, was strangled at least half to death by the film's absolutely gluttonous appetite for cheap nostalgia tricks. It's so damn scared that people won't recognize it as Star Wars if it has too many original thoughts - so instead of Han and Chewbacca being part of the Resistance or looking for Luke on their own or whatever, they're right back where they were when we met them in A New Hope - two scoundrels, dodging other scoundrels, who end up as reluctant do-gooders after crossing paths with the main protagonists.
Though I have mixed feelings about it now, I thought initially, and still think at least in part, that killing Solo off in TFA was one of the only genuinely daring and impressive things that movie did - along with Kylo Ren's arc, to which it is connected. Having him die while trying to save his son's soul is an honorable way for him to go out. And though killing Han off so early in the trilogy has unfortunate consequences for the rest of it (which I'll get to eventually), to this day I still think it's an absolutely bone-chilling moment when he sees Kylo on the catwalk and goes out to confront him.
As for Luke... The basic idea of him giving up and going into exile after the failure of his Jedi academy, and it being up to Rey and/or the other characters to bring him back onto the Jedi path - I'm not as dead-set against that premise as some are; I don't think it's "character assassination", as I've heard it called. But the way they did it, most of all the exact reason for his giving up? Karohalva helped me figure this out (dunno if you remember him, but he and I still correspond) - it gets Luke's character exactly backwards.
The way I see it, what makes Luke Skywalker so beloved as a hero, both in terms of popular culture and the Star Wars fandom, is what we see of him in his personal quest in RotJ, which in turn is what makes him an apex of the Jedi ideal: more than his ability to face and kill evildoers, he has a kind of moral perception: he's able to see when it is possible to turn an enemy into a friend, to convince an evildoer to come back to the light, and he believes in this with a faith that is anything but naive. Both of his mentors think that Vader has gone too far down the dark path to ever return, and given what Obi-Wan saw Anakin do in RotS, it's easy to see why. Yet Luke is able to see and know that even a monster like Vader has a chance to redeem himself.
Aside from the movies, this trait of Luke's comes through pretty much perfectly at several points in Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor. It also showed up, surprisingly, in EA's Battlefront 2 game here, where Luke saves an Imperial from some giant space bugs right after killing the guy's squadmates. When the Imperial incredulously asks "Why'd you help me?", Luke just looks at him and says, "Because you asked."
Now, in light of this, what we see in The Last Jedi about what went on between Luke and Ben Solo makes no sense. The Luke Skywalker we see there, who has a powerful premonition of the darkness and evil growing in his nephew, and is affected in such a way as to pull a lightsaber on him, to even consider killing him to preempt an evil future? That has nothing to do with the Luke Skywalker we saw in Return of the Jedi. What would have made sense is the exact opposite of what we got. Suppose what we had instead was that Luke sees Ben's moral corruption or vulnerability (by whatever means) and chooses not to take action, or enough action, against it. Suppose he keeps seeing warning signs and turns a blind eye to them, or underestimates their seriousness, always reminding himself that he can feel the good in Ben Solo, always falling back on his faith that Ben will make the right choice because, after all, even Darth Vader was able to do so after a lifetime of crimes and atrocities. So then, when Ben actually turns to the dark side, that would be what destroys Luke's confidence in the Jedi way and drives him into exile; he was so confident of the good in his nephew that he failed to take seriously the possibility that Ben might still choose evil anyway.
But, obviously, that isn't what we got. Taken in isolation, I liked some of the other things to do with Luke. His Force Projection gambit at the end, I thought that was clever. The moment where he sees a vision of the twin suns of his home world before he becomes one with the Force, that was kinda beautiful. And again, him being despondently in exile and the heroes needing to restore his faith (as it were), that basic premise was a good one. The devil's in the details.
I have very little to say about what they did with Leia because they hardly did anything with her so far in these movies. She's thoroughly wasted in The Last Jedi. One of the only things that she could have done in that train-wreck of a plot was to butt heads with Poe Dameron like she does early in the film, but then they put her in a coma for most of it and give that role to... How does Poe introduce her? "You mean Admiral Holdo? The Admiral Holdo, who led the Resistance fleet to victory in the Battle of Wikkit Gate? Of course I know who she is! Everyone does!" Everyone but the audience, but too damn bad for them, I guess.
I feel I've given you far too much to read already, but to sum it up... There's something very ironic about how Episode 7, and to a slightly lesser extent all these new Star Wars movies, are so gluttonous for moments of sterile, shoehorned-in nostalgia. I think of all those moments. Finn bumping into the Falcon's holochess board and turning it on in the middle of a conversation. Han and Rey bantering about how many bloody parsecs he made the Kessel run in. R2-D2 replaying Leia's message from ANH to Luke. Jyn and Cassian in Jedha City, bumping into those two guys who're going to hassle Luke in Mos Eisley Cantina, and the freaking guy even drops the exact same line. Poe Dameron flying down a trench in Starkiller Base to get to the oscillator.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. All those bloody moments that took people, or took me, anyway, out of the experience of watching these movies, because they're so bloody self-conscious about being Star Wars, all for the sake of nostalgia. And yet they wasted the opportunity they had for the most obvious nostalgia thing of all, which would have been to bring the Big Three back together as a team to help fight the bad guys, or even just to celebrate their victory at the trilogy's end. That's what sucked about killing off Han in The Force Awakens, and to me it further underscores how terribly unplanned this trilogy was, and how badly disconnected its parts are from each other.
Roughly speaking, you can put me in the camp that prefers what the old EU did with the Big Three. It had plenty of its problems. I honestly never got really invested in the stories about their kids - Jacen and Jaina and the rest. The post-RotJ timeline got really bloated, and to its detriment could never bring itself to move on from these characters. They ostensibly wanted to make a fresh start with the Legacy comics, set a century later, but then it still comes down to some Skywalker and his Big Damn Jedi Destiny. But warts and all, I'd take the old EU. Among the cornballs and hacks who brought us things like Darksaber, Legacy of the Force, The Jedi Prince, and everything by Karen Traviss, you also had at least a handful of authors who really got these characters, and had enough sense to actually develop them.
That's all I've got. Tangentially, I'm still gonna watch Episode IX, but purely for the spectacle, and I think it'll be the last new Star Wars movie that I'll bother to see.
I agree 100% with your thoughts on Luke in TLJ--his reaction is completely out of character with ROTJ Luke. The amount of character assassination done to Luke Skywalker is IMO the biggest flaw of a film filled with them. Leia is critically under-used, and then without any setup, can space-Mary Poppins her way out of the cold vacuum of space? It's farcical. Otherwise, she does nothing but act as a figurehead for the Resistance who spends most of the movie sidelined except for stunning her best pilot.
IMO, all of the Big Three have been horrifically misused in DisneyWars. I agree that much of the old EU was cornball-insane (Yes, I too have read The Crystal Star.) I also still prefer it to everything Disney has done. At some point, I may be sufficiently annoyed to point out a number of physics and tactics-related screwups in DisneyWars, but honestly, I'm almost devoid of interest in the new trilogy to even devote vitriol towards its many, glaring errors. I personally do not plan on watching Episode IX, because the current state of the GFFA is nothing I care to support. I only saw TLJ because the tickets were offered to me by a friend and I left the theater appalled and angry.