There’s a lot of bitterness to Han Solo in the first Star Wars film, no matter how much he tries to play it down with that winning grin of his. He’s dismissive of everyone’s feelings and expertise, and has no problems talking down to complete strangers, even when they’re paying him lots of money. He’s pretty much a jerk to everyone—we just love him because he makes such a great juxtaposition to all these noble rebels running around. So the big question is obviously, what’s Han’s deal?
Yeah, whoa. Prepare for the megaton of issues. You didn’t think Han’s journey would turn out sweet and simple, did you? It takes a lot of manpain to shoot Greedo first.
So Han wins the Falcon from Lando in that major sabacc game that Lando convinced him to join in on. Told you, Lando. (For those who are curious about the rules of sabacc, they can be found here. It’s actually a pretty fun game.) The ship is a seriously important score for Han—it’s not just a ship, it’s the best, and everyone knows it. And that means that Han is now super-number-one-smuggler-awesome-man. He retrofits it with all sorts of fancy stuff—just like he brags about in A New Hope—and then finds out that Chewie needs some home time, because he hasn’t seen his lady Wookiee friend in, like, decades. So he stops off with Chewie on Kashyyyk and the good furry friend gets married to Mallatobuck. Then the two of them say “see ya Malla,” and run off to do adventure-y things because, you know, life debt.
Wookiee society, man. You can just make any old excuse to go running off with the bros for a few years.
So Han goes back to Nar Shaddaa to become the hip kid on the block and runs into Bria, who gets a chance to explain that she wasn’t a mistress for the Moff. She was just spying. She is a spy of a rebellious sort of flavor. Han is not so impressed, but then she invites him to do a very lucrative job. If he and his buddies help her and the Alliance attack Ylesia (that place with the slaving colonies and the spice refineries from the first book), they can all split the treasure and goodies and make a lot of money. Jabba, who has been employing Han lately, is all for it, since those spice refineries are run by Hutt competition. Han gets a gang together to run the attack.
But Bria’s a little more mercenary about her work for the Rebels than Han’s later acquaintances will be. Once they win, she turns on him and claims all the loot for the Alliance. This happens twice, actually, again in a treasure hunt for a fancy gem statue. Bria is angry with Han for refusing to give up his wanton ways and join her fight. Han is furious right back at her (a few of his compatriots died in the attack), but the rest of the mercenaries are convinced that he and Bria had it planned from the go-ahead. Lando throws a haymaker and tells Solo he never wants to see him again.
And now we know why Han was so spooked about visiting Lando in Empire. He was probably more nervous for turning up on the guy’s doorstep with one of the Alliance’s biggest leaders on board Lando’s old ship. It’s also weird to realize that the reward Han got for rescuing Leia might have technically been his share of that old job—where the hell does the Alliance get reward money from anyhow? It’s not like they had any access to Alderaan bank accounts at that point. (Ouch.)
Being kinda broke is what makes Han take on that smuggling job. You know the one. With the incident where he got boarded by Imperials, which led to dumping lots of spice and owing lots of money to Jabba. And because Han pissed off the smuggling world with the Ylesia job, it’s not like he has friends to spot him anymore. This famous incident is also the reason why Han and his beloved ship “make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.” Of course, this has long been considered an error in the original Star Wars script; a parsec is a measurement of distance, not time. So here’s the awesome retconned explanation: the Kessel Run is a terrifying shortcut through space that requires you dodge a lot of black holes. It is not a consistent path—you can make different hops to get through it. The less distance you require to cross the thing, the more skilled of a pilot you must be.
So when Han brags about how fast the Falcon is by talking parsecs, what he’s really saying to Obi-Wan is “I am a better pilot than anyone you’ve ever met. Speed comes from skill, not soupy engines, old guy.”
You’ve probably guessed by now that there’s no way Bria Tharen can survive this whole thing. It’s not like Han’s liable to start up a shiny new royal relationship with one rebel princess if she’s still working nearby. He loved her first. Bria has troubling run-in with Boba Fett first, where he almost collects on her bounty. Luckily, Lando sort of saves the day by being an all around genuine guy. But then Bria gets a brand new mission to Toprawa where she and her team are arguably responsible for turning the tide of the Alliance’s war against the Empire—she recovers the Death Star plans and gets them transmitted to Tantive IV. She never finds out just how important those plans are, however, because her Squadron is cornered by Imperials. She takes her poison pill before anyone can gets hands on her and what she knows.
Though Fett is not responsible for her death, he does something impressively honorable when she passes; he had promised her that he would get word to her father when she died (which he certainly didn’t have to do, even when he was going to be responsible for her death) and he does just that. He finds Han on Tatooine and gives him the news, telling him to pass it on to her father. Again, Fett, you are proving you incorrigible soft spot where strong-willed ladies are concerned—I don’t even have to try anymore. And though it could be read as a knife-twist to Solo, it’s also offering Han closure. Of course, Fett would insist that he was just following up on his agreements.
Dammit, Fett, you old softy.
This news comes right before Chewie grabs Han and drags him into a certain cantina. They’ve got a run coming up that could get them the money they need to pay back Jabba. Some old guy and a farm boy.
And just like that, Rebel Dawn segues beautifully right into A New Hope. Now you know why Han was so moody when he met Ben and Luke—he’d just gotten the worst sort of news. Now you know why he was keen to stay back from the Alliance. Why he kept rolling his eyes at everyone and trying to push them away. The road from A to B and eventually to the C we get by Return of the Jedi, it’s all laid out in sharp relief. It takes a certain innate sense to tie all those knots together and have them stand out in such a perfect pattern. A.C. Crispin had a gift with stories like these, absolutely. Looking back on them in her honor has been a blast.