The Star Wars Deep Dive is a StarWars.com feature that explores themes, motifs, and characters from across the saga.
Spoiler warning: This article features details and plot points from Solo: A Star Wars Story.
I don’t think there’s been a movie starring Han Solo that made him more deep and complex than Solo: A Star Wars Story, but it needs to be taken against all of the other films for the depth to really be seen.
There’s one scene in particular that plays in my mind, over and over and over again and that’s the final duel between Han and Beckett. Many people will tell you that it’s a comment on Han from A New Hope and his handling of Greedo, but I think that’s missing the forest for the wroshyr trees. For me, this particular scene in Solo has a lot more to say about the final showdown between Han and his son in The Force Awakens.
In Solo: A Star Wars Story, Han is an orphan, absent a father figure. The closest thing he gets in the course of the film is Tobias Beckett, a mouthy scooch of a criminal, taking on big jobs for people like Crimson Dawn. He takes Han under his wing and tries to show him the way of the world. It’s an example Han never got out of Lady Proxima and he certainly never got it out of the Empire when he was under their tutelage. But Beckett fills that role from the moment Han sees him on Mimban.
You can tell that Han is awed by Beckett at first sight and sticks with him from that moment forward. Even after getting betrayed by him and almost fed to a beast, Han still follows Beckett around like a lost puppy who doesn’t realize he wasn’t lost but abandoned.
Like any rebellious teenager, Han doesn’t quite gel with all of Beckett’s advice, but he still looks up to him and listens when a plan is being made. In fact, one of my favorite moments comes during the escape from Kessel, when Han realizes that the guards are on to him.
“What do I do?” he asks Beckett.
“Improvise!” Beckett responds.
“But you told me never to improvise!” Han replies, as though he’d been hanging onto every word Beckett said, so as not to mess up the plan.
It’s not quite the Han we’ve known, the one who “takes orders from just one person.” It’s a proto-Han, still learning his way.
This brings us to the duel between Han and his father figure. Han is forced to choose between his own survival and the man he’s spent the entire movie looking up to. He’s learned his lesson and fires first, killing his father figure. Because he has to, but not because he wants to. Han is such a gentle spirit beneath that would-be outlaw exterior that he races to Beckett’s side and cradles him in his death, hearing his last words and comforting him in his last moments.
Regret is painted on Han’s face.
This wasn’t something he wanted to do.
And this is all echoed as we move forward into the far future of The Force Awakens.
Han is the father figure here now. And he’s facing off against his own son. The one he wanted. The one he loved. And Ben is faced with a dilemma much like the one his father faced on that sandy cliff of Savareen.
Ben has two options, neither good in his mind. He can turn back from the dark and give up the future he wants for himself, with the power and control he seeks, or he can murder his father. And he’s torn between the two.
Han knows that his life is in peril here, and for a man who’s shot first throughout his life, the fact that he doesn’t even consider it here — and tells his son that he’d do anything for him — is very telling about how far Han has come in embracing the love that’s in his nature.
And when Ben decides to act, Han doesn’t stop him, sacrificing himself in the hopes that this will benefit his son.
Han has changed a lot over the years, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is Han’s compassion — compassion that he worked so hard over his life to suppress. In his final moments, just as he did with Beckett, he takes the time to comfort the other party of the duel. There is almost nothing more emotional for me in The Force Awakens than the moment where Han, with a lightsaber through his middle, reaches up and caresses the face of his son.
This is Han Solo.
This is the true essence of who that man is.
Full of regret over how things had to happen, with a heart full of love, even for the people who wished to kill him.
Seeing this arc play full circle from Solo all the way to The Force Awakens is a beautiful thing. We’ve seen his austere beginnings and his august ending and it closes the book on a character who is now more complex than we ever understood.
I hope the next time you watch The Force Awakens, you’re able to see the ghost of Beckett and the Han-that-was looming over that bridge, because it adds an emotion to the scene that you might not be prepared for.