Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens has finally arrived and it’s shaking up the entire Star Wars universe. With new characters swooping in to take over the franchise from the originals, it’s hard to embrace new faces without also wondering what’s become of the beloved old ones. Thankfully, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Leia (now a General, no longer a Princess) all appear in The Force Awakens, but their fates aren't so secure. For instance, what happens to Han Solo in The Force Awakens is something not guaranteed to make fans too happy. Spoilers ahead!
Played by Harrison Ford, Han has always been beloved, thanks to good looks, bravado, sarcasm, and charm that have made him a fan favorite for generations. When audiences saw Chewbacca and him boarding the Millennium Falcon in the Force Awakens trailer and proudly declaring, “We’re home,” it was like an old boyfriend had returned. But what actually happens to Han Solo in the film is less uplifting, albeit not off the bat. The first time Han Solo appears in the film is when Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) have already stolen the Millennium Falcon to escape the planet Jakku. When Han and Chewie capture then board the Falcon and Han lovingly says, “Chewie, we’re home,” I knew the boyfriend was back and we were in trouble.
So what is Han doing out in space? He isn't looking for the Falcon per se, but he has returned back to his old smuggling ways. Not long after they all board the ship, they’re attacked by two opposing smuggling groups, both of whom Han owes money to and promises to pay back (oh, Han, never change). So he isn’t a part of the Resistance at the start of The Force Awakens and, as it turns out, hasn’t been spending much time with the love of his life, Leia, either.
Throughout the course of the film, it’s slowly revealed that Dark Side baddie Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is Leia and Han’s son, Ben (most likely named after Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi). Noticing that Ben was strong with The Force, Luke, the last remaining Jedi, agreed to train him. But Ben turned on Luke, and joined the Dark Side, crushing the spirits of all three of the original characters. Han and Leia, as they say in the film, “dealt with it in our own ways,” with Han returning to smuggling and Leia putting her efforts further into the Resistance.
In the climax of the film, Han confronts Kylo Ren over a metal bridge extended over a vast empty space, a direct homage to Luke facing off against Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back, and the fight between Darth Maul, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan in The Phantom Menace. Han tries to get his son to turn back to the light, and for a moment, you think the tormented Kylo Ren just might join him. Instead (again, spoilers!) Kylo drives his red lightsaber straight through Han's chest and tosses his lifeless body into the massive pit below as Rey and Finn watch in horror.
It’s a tragedy many fans were unfortunately expecting. After all, it’s pretty much confirmed now that every Star Wars trilogy needs a major death at the end of its first film to spur the young and impressionable characters into action. It happened for Luke when Darth Vader killed Obi-Wan in A New Hope, and it happened for Obi-Wan when Darth Maul took the life of Qui-Gon at the end of The Phantom Menace. The two characters had been father figures to their young students, and Han becomes a father figure to Rey, our new hero, over the course of this movie. For the impact to stick, the Dark Side had to take away someone that was beloved, someone who would be missed by both fans and characters.
Han’s death also sadly makes the most sense in the realm of the Force. The series can’t kill Luke, at least not just yet. Luke is the Jedi Knight. Luke is the one who has the power to defeat the Dark Side. Han, while lovable, important, and now a member of the family, just never had that power. Thankfully, the comedy that Han brought to the Star Wars universe is not lost, as Boyega, Isaac, and Ridley all prove in this film that they’ve got the comedic chops to take some of the load. Han Solo’s sarcasm will live on (probably mostly in Boyega, those two have a couple of great back and forths in The Force Awakens). Audiences loved him and rooted for him, and our collective hears break for Chewie. I'll miss you, Han Solo.
For more Star Wars, check out Bustle's Youtube channel:
Images: Disney, Giphy