A couple weeks ago I rewatched The Empire Strikes Back, a movie I’ve probably seen more times than any other movie. It’s just a movie that, for me, I see from a new perspective almost every time I watch it. The thing I always find so fascinating about it is the sharp contrast from the last scene of the original Star Wars to the opening scenes of The Empire Strikes Back: We jump from a literal victory ceremony to the Rebel Alliance living on an ice planet being attacked by frozen ice planet bears. It’s such a great way to signify, oh, things have changed without actually explaining to the audience that things have changed.
But I’m truly fascinated by the role of Han Solo on Hoth. I’m convinced, as presented in 1980 and not counting any more recent canon, he’s not a true member of the Rebel Alliance at this point and seems to be more of a freelancer who is just there “helping out.” (I’ve written about this before, but he’s referred to as “Captain” because he’s the captain of the Millennium Falcon, he wears no military gear like everyone else, and seems to just be able to leave anytime he wants.) At times, to the people actually in the Rebellion with a military rank, he seems like the equivalent of “your boss’s friend who is kind of a jerk,” but you have to humor this person or your boss will get mad. And the more I watch this movie the more I’m convinced people in the Rebel Alliance find him very annoying. And here is a list of proof:
1. I’ll See You In Hell
Okay, this one is pretty obvious, but let’s just start here. Yes, this is a heroic moment for Han, but then he has to confirm everyone’s suspicions about him by yelling at some more Rebel soldier who was just giving sound advice. Han confirms that Luke hadn’t checked back in for the night, so Luke still somewhere out there in the cold as night swiftly approaches. Han asks about taking a Snowspeeder, but is informed they aren’t adapted to the cold yet. He informs everyone in the room that he will take a Tauntaun to find his friend. This is when a Rebel soldier gives Han good advice that the Tauntaun will freeze to death before the first marker. Han ignores this, and saddles up anyway on the doomed beast. Then as an added “eff you,” tells the wise soldier, “I’ll see you in hell.”
What? Why? There’s no way this wasn’t talked about later in the commissary. “Look, I was just trying to tell this guy what would happen. Who does he think he is anyway? What is he even doing here to begin with? Why do I have to wear military fatigues and he just waltzes around in pirate gear? Screw him anyway.” Anyway, guess what, Han’s Tauntaun froze to death just as he was told.
2. Could Be A Speeder? One of Ours?
If this were a trial, this might be exhibit A. Some strange transmissions are being picked up at Echo Base, which, as a viewer, we know is from an Imperial Probe Droid that were sent throughout the galaxy in search of the Rebel base. Han, who seems to be just hanging out at the base with nothing much to do, decides to stick his nose into the conversation and starts barking out his theories, based on nothing, with the expert technician who actually knows what he’s doing. This is kind of a remarkable scene, because Han starts suggesting that the transmissions could be from one of the Rebellion’s own vehicles. The technician, who doesn’t have time for any of this nonsense, just abruptly cuts Han off and says, “No.” Not, “Hm, I don’t think so.” Or, “Well, that’s a good guess but we don’t have any speeders out there.” Just a flat-out, “No,” delivered in a tone that reads, “Please leave me alone and why are you here anyway?”
3. It’s A Good Bet The Empire Knows We’re Here
Oh, speaking of that prior scene … then it gets worse. Han decides, on his own, with no actual order from an authority, to go investigate the transmission. It’s almost like Rebellion leadership decided, “Well, I guess we can’t really stop him. He just hangs out here.” So Han and Chewbacca go out to investigate and come across an Imperial probe droid looking for any proof of the Rebels whereabouts. So the big plan Han and Chewbacca have is for Chewbacca to yell at it, then Han shoots it, forcing the probe droid to self-destruct. Now, yes, the probe droid would have eventually found proof and probably already had the proof. But Han could have just let it be, then warned the base and maybe given the Rebel fleet a bit more time to evacuate. By just “shooting it,” that left little to doubt about what was going on there. I bet there were many conversations that went something like:
“Wait, we have to evacuate? What happened?”
“Oh, would it surprise you to learn that Han Solo was involved?”
“Ugh, that guy. Why is he even here anyway? What a loser.”
4. I Can Arrange That
Look, I love the exchange between Han and Leia in the corridors of Echo Base. It’s what makes The Empire Strikes Back a great movie. But just for a second, take yourself out of watching it as a viewer and put yourself in the shoes of the numerous Rebel soldiers who have to make their way around Han and Leia arguing in the hallway. Look at how annoyed everyone looks:
There’s no way they aren’t all thinking, “What the hell? This is how these two spend their time?” Which just adds to the gossip around the base that Han is just a derelict who, while everyone is just trying to do their best and fight the Empire, he’s getting into love spats with one of the leaders of the Rebellion. Han is literally making a huge scene in a hallway while people are trying to save lives. Honestly, if I were in the Rebellion, I would hate Han Solo: This jerk who just wanders around the base wearing his civilian clothes causing trouble for everyone.
5. I’ll Come Right Back And Give You A Hand
Sneaking this one on here, but the Millennium Falcon is a big starship that is falling apart and is taking up some prime parking real estate inside Echo Base. Again, if I were a Rebel pilot trying to find a space for my X-Wing or my Snowspeeder, I would be very annoyed room has to be made for someone’s personal smuggling freighter who just seems to be hanging out on the base causing trouble. Not to mention anytime he needs to know something he starts screaming, “Deck officer! Deck officer!,” and starts ordering people around even though it seems like he doesn’t really have the authority to do that.
6. I Have A Price On My Head
Has anyone noticed General Rieekan doesn’t look too upset when Han tells him that he has to leave? Rieekan makes absolutely no argument as to why Han should leaves, kind of smiles, and basically says, “Oh, darn the luck. Well you know owing money to someone is a terrible thing, so I think you’re right to want to leave and pay that off. You’re a good fighter, but don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.” Never once does Rieekan say, “Well once you get that debt paid off you’ve always got a place here in the Rebellion. Nope, Rieekan acts like they will never see each other again and seems totally fine with that outcome. And then Leia is standing there with a look on her face that reads, “Well … maybe this is for the best.” Which then instigates the argument the two have out in the hallway. I have no doubt anyone around who heard this conversation between Han and Rieekan sighed in relief, “Oh finally.”
In the end, this is all better for us, the viewer. Because in Return of the Jedi Han finally takes the title of general in the Rebellion, and I assume is better liked. But it makes for a far less interesting version of the character.
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