The following contains mild spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story
One thing is abundantly clear to anyone who has accumulated a lot of years or a lot of mileage in life: the more you live, the more you learn…and the more you want to pass on to the next generation. It may not be true for everyone, but personally, it’s a lesson I’ve taken to heart. I look back on my past and see forks in the road I wish I’d taken. I find myself wishing I knew then what I know now. Wisdom does not always come with age, but I have a different perspective today than when I was younger. I was more trusting, more naive. True wisdom is the realization that we don’t know it all.
Every once in a while, you meet a younger version of yourself. It’s a surreal feeling if it’s never happened to you. But if it does, don’t be surprised if you find yourself compelled to mentor that person. When you encounter someone who is younger and hasn’t accumulated quite as many life experiences, you see your own choices and mistakes. You wish someone had shown you how to avoid the pitfalls. Sometimes, through others, we’re tempted to right the wrongs of our own past.
Having now seen Solo: A Star Wars Story, I watch the scenes with Han and Rey in The Force Awakens in a different context. The parallels between the two enrich the experience of both. So let’s revisit some of those scenes from The Force Awakens and discover what they say about Han, then and now.
Chewie, We’re Home
The moment Han sets foot upon his long lost Falcon, the statuesque Wookiee at his side, he feels at home. He has been a grifter, an Imperial officer, a smuggler, an outlaw, a Rebel fighter, a decorated war hero, a husband, a racer, and a father. But in all those roles he was restless and unsatisfied. Sometimes he felt like an imposter, according to his reflections on fatherhood in the book Last Shot. But aboard the Falcon, he is complete. Han Solo is indistinguishable from his ship. They are one and the same. Both are broken down rust buckets of jumbled wires, temperamental ticks, and a knack for getting out of impossible situations with spectacular flair.
So it’s no surprise that he is irritated with the interlopers that have stowed aboard his beloved ship. Han and Chewie glower at Finn and Rey, hiding below the floor grates. But it doesn’t take long for Han to recognize the runaway scavenger from Jakku. Rey looks all-too-familiar to the wizened space pirate. Han sees himself.
Like Han, Rey grew up alone, surviving on nothing but scrap and wits. And perhaps hope. She was abandoned at a young age and forced to rely upon herself. She was light years ahead of most people her age because she became resourceful at a younger age than most. Yet she had a longing about her that Han knew all too well — a desire to return to a place where something was left unresolved. Like a much younger Han Solo, Rey was holding on to a dream that was probably hopeless, but it was all she had. She was fresh and wide-eyed and overwhelmed by all the possibilities waiting for her in the galaxy – a galaxy of wonder and adventure. But Han knew the galaxy to be a different place, one of danger and betrayal.
I Didn’t Know There Was This Much Green In The Whole Galaxy
When Rey first surveys the rolling hills and glistening lakes of Takodona, she leans forward ever so slightly in the co-pilot’s seat, moved by the beauty of it all. She barely notices the look from Han. His expression is a bittersweet mix of sadness and recognition.
His mind drifts back to the first time he saw Vandor with its snow-capped peaks. It was a welcomed sight after the swampy hell of Mimban and the scrumrat hole that was his home of Corellia. Like Rey, Han escaped a tyrannical overseer who was exploiting the less fortunate and abusing the throwaway children of society, so he understood the thirst for freedom. But that freedom came at a cost. Han left his best friend, Qi’ra, behind. Han considers what Rey would give up for her first taste of freedom.
But instead of asking that question, he allows Rey to experience a little magic and wonder before the galaxy shows its true nature and leaves her disillusioned and alone. It’s likely someone will take advantage of her youthful idealism. She needs a better role model than the one he found when he escaped his service to the Empire. She deserves better than Tobias Beckett.
Han turns his attention back to the view. For the first time in years, he sees a little of that beauty too.
From the moment the Falcon’s landing struts touched down, Han had been preoccupied with something. He thinks about Chewie and what his life may have been if he had never met the fiercely loyal Wookiee in that mud pit. Chewie keeps him honest. Sometimes Chewie knows him better than he knows himself. Rey could use a friend like that. Han could use another co-pilot.
Listen Big Deal, You Got A Bigger Problem
The second interloper, a mouthy scooch named Finn, approaches Han seeking reassurance about Maz’s establishment. Apparently he’s a “big deal” in the resistance and wants to avoid any First Order entanglements. Han knows the twitchy makings of an imposter when he sees one. Han spent the majority of his life trying to be something he wasn’t, whether it was in the trenches as an Imperial mud trooper, a scoundrel in the underworld, or even a decent father. That last one hurt the most.
Thinking back to those years when he was hungry and naive, Han considers the roles he tried to slip into, but they never quite fit as snugly as he would have liked. To make matters worse, when he did allow someone to get close, they could usually see right through him. A ghost from his past whispers through his memory.
I might be the only person in the whole galaxy who knows what you really are.
So Han turns to Finn and gives him the best advice possible. Be honest. Women always figure out the truth. Every time.
Are You Offering Me A Job?
Han finds Rey outside gazing at the tranquil lake and he joins her at the water’s edge. Maz’s castle towers over the nearby shore. Growing up on the desert world of Jakku, Rey had probably never seen this much water in her life. He decides to follow through on what has preoccupied him since they first arrived. He gives her a pistol.
He knows where she’s from and that she can take care of herself. She is so much like him at that age. But Han learned years ago the value of having a good blaster at your side. The first step in taking someone under your wing is to give them a trusty sidearm. It will come in handy if she takes him up on his next offer. But is it something he is ready to offer?
He rarely speaks of it, but Han carries a great weight – the burden of guilt. Ben was out there somewhere, lost. Han isn’t sure he can take on that kind of responsibility with someone new. What if it happens again? But he brushes away the thought. Rey could be different. Han could start over. And get it right this time.
Han wonders if she has family. Is she searching for someone? Waiting for someone?
“You got a name?” he asks.
Yep, she’s definitely a loner. No last name, or no name that matters. Like Han, she doesn’t have any people. She’s just Rey. She is searching for a place to belong. She needs to be careful. It’s a dangerous galaxy.
Han makes his offer. He could use a second mate. He doesn’t want her to get the wrong impression. This isn’t going to be a cushy job where they bond over campfire stories. He is offering her a stable place to plant her feet. A place with purpose. He’s already seen how quickly Rey took to the Falcon. The feeling appears mutual. The Falcon doesn’t take to just anyone. The ship has always had a rebellious streak. But Rey is special.
Rey considers the offer for a moment. The thrill of a new opportunity quickly fades as she drifts away to some faraway place. She has to get back home, she tells him.
There it is. That look in her eyes tells Han that Rey is holding on to something deeply personal. Maybe she left someone on Jakku. He understands that feeling. But Rey doesn’t seem like the kind of person who would leave someone behind. No, the longing in those eyes doesn’t appear to be regret. Maybe she’s waiting for someone? Someone left and she’s pining for their return. He wonders how long Qi’ra had waited before she lost hope. She was stuck on Corellia, forced to make certain choices to survive. Han wants Rey to have a better choice. He considers how different his life would have been if he had never found that one true friend who stayed by his side no matter what.
“That’s too bad. Chewie kind of likes you.”
As Han walks away, Rey ponders for a moment. Wookiees are picky about who they trust. A Wookiee’s devotion is a testament to your character. At least that’s what she’s always heard.
She wrinkles her nose in a playful smile. This galaxy isn’t such a bad place.
Follow Mark Marquis on Twitter @djmmarquis.