When we last saw Han Solo at the end of Return of the Jedi, he was a far cry from the man we first met in that wretched hive of scum and villainy, known as the Mos Eisley Cantina.
He had all but given-up his selfish ways and his underworld lifestyle. The riches he failed to find, as a smuggler, he had now obtained in the form of deep friendships, and a home in an underdog organization called the Rebellion.
He helped secure freedom for the galaxy and captured the heart, of the woman whose upbringing and values, could not have been any further from his own. He was even beginning to see the truth in and develop a respect for ancient weapons and hokey religions.
As fireworks blazed over Endor and victory celebrations rang out across the galaxy, the happy ending for this nerf-herding scoundrel was practically assured. Han Solo had finally grown up, or so we thought.
Many years later, and on what would prove to be a truly fateful day, we see Han Solo boarding the Millennium Falcon, not with Leia, but with his old pal Chewbacca at his side. Guns raised and ready for trouble, Han was there to reclaim his ship. Just one of many precious things he had lost in the preceding years.
Finding his ship was merely a stroke of good fortune and a diversion from his real job of smuggling rathtars for the pompous King Prana. More than 30 years after that idyllic scene on Endor, Han Solo was back to his old ways, eeking out a living, doing what he does best.
When Rey exclaims, “This is the Millennium Falcon! You’re Han Solo.”, Han walks away and gruffs, “I used to be.” A typical Han Solo witticism, that also speaks volumes on just where Han is at this moment in his life.
Finn refers to Han as the “Rebellion General”, while Rey sees him as “the smuggler.” Han is clearly the latter at the moment which leads us to wonder what happened. Maybe Han didn’t grow up, but instead, he just grew old?
The Millennium Falcon was one of many things that would return to Han’s life. Reunited with his ship, Han was all but ready to move on, when he was halted in his tracks by the mention of a single name; Luke Skywalker. In that moment, Han realized that although he was through with the past, the past not through with him. As Maz Kanata said to him when he entered her castle, “You’re right back in it.”
In it he was. Luke, Leia, the First Order, a daring mission to save the galaxy, and at the center of it all, his son. Before long Han is doing all the right things for all the right reasons. He is the leader he once was. He is the man who Leia loved, and for the first time, we seem him as a father.
It’s in this role where the transformation from selfish to selfless takes place. Han willingly walks onto the catwalk to face his son. A confrontation he could have avoided. His death is not a certainty, but Han has faced Darth Vader, has seen the power of the dark side. As Leia said to him, though, “Luke is a Jedi. You’re his father.” With the hope that Han, the father, still means something, Han does what he always does and tries to talk his way out of it, which of course, he can’t.
In his final moments, when there were no more words to be said, the old smuggler has one trick left up his sleeve. A tender touch on Kylo’s cheek, planting the seeds of love and forgiveness, in the hope that they will take hold and grow, and consume the darkness, that Kylo is obsessed with keeping. It’s a longshot, but then again, Han never did care about the odds, did he?
Yes, Han Solo grew old, but he also grew up.
The Cantina Cast
The wretched hive your Jedi Master warned you about!