Solo and the Sequel Trilogy
by Amy Wishman
When Solo released in May 2018, I had pretty low expectations: I wanted a fun summer movie that would be a pleasant break from the fractious fandom of The Last Jedi. I didn’t expect to find a new favorite Star Wars (it’s just SO FUN) and a newfound appreciation for Han as a character and the sequel trilogy.
Scoundrel and Scavenger
I think I am late to the party on this, but while The Force Awakens showed similarities between Han and Rey, I always felt like their relationship felt a bit rushed and disingenuous; I didn’t necessarily really buy it, it felt lacking in some way. Enter Solo, and I have the background information I need to fully invest in Rey’s looking up to Han, and for Han seeing a bit of himself in Rey. It makes Rey’s reaction to Han’s death and subsequent animosity and later compassion much more meaningful.
Han’s upbringing at the hands of the “foul Lady Proxima” (the crawl’s words, NOT mine) shows a kid from the mean streets, eager to break free. His ability to survive matched only by his ability to still love and trust another. Rey’s scavenging for the foul Unkar Plutt (my words, all mine) shows the same hand-to-mouth existence that somehow didn’t break apart the soul of the scavenger and survivor. Both Han and Rey have a natural affinity for piloting, both use that as their ticket to leave their home worlds and their past behind. Both Rey and Han have no people, no last name. The look on Han’s face as Rey confirms it’s “JustRey” on Takodana resonates now.
Neither Han nor Rey are content to shake the dust of their homes off their feet—both want to go back. Han’s earnest and endearing desire to do anything it takes to get back to Corellia and Qi’ra is matched only by Rey’s insistence she return to Jakku. They have one foot in the future, and one in the past. Both Han and Rey find a reluctant mentor, Beckett to Han, Han in turn to Rey. The giving of the blaster showing the transfer of a weapon and some affection to go along with it.
Solo and The Force Awakens both show Han and Rey connecting with others—with finding a family As Han translates for Chewie, sitting around the campfire“I don’t know if he said ‘tribe’ or ‘family’” and Beckett’s “What’s the difference?” it hits home how the theme of found family and belonging fit both Han and Rey on their journeys.
Scoundrel and Soldier
Solo shows parallels to Finn’s journey in the sequel trilogy as well. Both deserters of an empire, they both show an innate knowledge of what is right and wrong, and despite their best interests, do what’s right. Finn doesn’t fire on the townspeople of Tuanal and Han notes to a superior that on Mimban “It’s their planet, we’re the hostiles.”
Han’s promise to Qi’ra, as she is wrenched from his grasp in Corellia is that he will come back. And he does. So also Finn returns to Starkiller Base to go back for Rey. Han and Finn have no precedent, no background knowledge of this—they just know that you go back for the ones you care for. If it turns out the ones you’re going back for don’t really need your help—well, that’s what happens when you care for strong, capable women. It doesn’t change the heroism or the loyalty of the action.
On Kessel, we see Chewie find some Wookiees, and he has the chance to leave with them. Without any words we can understand, we see Chewie deliberate and decide, ultimately, to stay with his new tribe, his new family. On Takodana, Finn’s panicked need to flee the First Order has him secure a way to the Outer Rim, but when the First Order shows up, instead of fleeing—he faces his fears and decides to stay, to help Rey, his found family.
Scoundrel and Son
No examination of Solo and the sequel trilogy would be complete without looking at the film’s namesake and his son, Ben Solo. In The Last Jedi Snoke tells Ben “You have too much of your father’s heart in you, Ben Solo” and while I grasped the line at the time, (as I did anything that hints towards redemption) I didn’t appreciate the line until Solo, when I saw what a good heart Han had.
Both Han and Ben are posing, both to themselves and to others, trying to be who they aren’t. Han is posing as a self-proclaimed“outlaw”and Ben hiding his true self behind a mask and acts so terrible he only hopes to lose the pull of the Light forever. I have made no secret of my desire for a fully-redeemed, living, breathing Ben Solo to be in Episode IX and so, like Han, I want to see Ben embrace his status as “a good guy.”
On Dryden Vos’ yacht we see even more parallels. Vos is to Qi’ra what Snoke is Ben: a cruel overlord, someone constantly pushing them to do darker and darker deeds while goading about the results. Vos tells Han Qi’ra has done things he’ll never understand, “But I do.” Snoke boasts about his young apprentice being a “son of darkness.” Both Vos and Snoke remain confident in the faithfulness of their underlings, never doubting for a moment they are in the position of power, both making a test of killing someone to prove loyalty (and in Snoke’s case, two someones). As Qi’ra holds Han at sword point, and he beseeches her to not buy into Vos’s lies, he looks her in her eyes and tells her what Vos has said isn’t true. She then turns on Vos, and kills him, saving Han’s life; just as Ben kills Snoke, his true enemy, to save Rey.
Later we see Han shoot his father figure, Beckett, killing him. But after firing the fatal blast, Han holds Beckett in his arms, and Beckett, in a moment of tender affirmation, tells Han he made the right choice and touches Han’s face before dying. It directly brings to mind Han, touching the face of his son on Starkiller Base, his son who at that very moment is holding an ignited light saber in his father’s chest, before falling off the ledge to his death. The gentle touches that offer both rebuke and forgiveness.
In Solo, Vos and Beckett dead, the coaxium safely on its way to Enfys, Han looks up and watches Qi’ra leave him, making her choice; just as Ben, holding his father’s erstwhile dice, looks up from where he kneels and sees Rey shut the door of the Falcon, making her choice. Both father and son are in middle chapters of their stories at that point in the narrative. They’re not done yet.
No examination of Solo and the sequel trilogy would be complete without a mention of the dice. (Indeed, the dice and their significance warrants its own piece.) Han sees the dice as a good luck charm, and they end up in the hands of Qi’ra, Luke, Leia and Ben, in addition to Han himself. The dice follow whoever seems to need a bit of something else, a bit a of luck, a push from the Force, a token of comfort, a nudge towards redemption. The dice stand in for Han’s presence in the lives of those he’s loved who are left behind. Han’s dice are there when Han isn’t able to be, and I’m convinced we haven’t seen the last of them, or the last of Solo’s influence in the sequel trilogy.
Where do you see parallels between Solo and the sequel trilogy? Come tell me! I’m @AmyWishman on Twitter!