Earlier this week, I was hanging out a local New York City neighborhood pub with a couple of friends and the bar started playing Return of the Jedi on one of its televisions, as this bar often does. Now, The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite movie of all time (and, this may come as a shock, my favorite Star Wars movie, too) but I may be more fascinated by Return of the Jedi, and not in a good way. It’s a movie where a lot of character decisions make almost no sense. (We’ve already been down the road that the Empire had many chances to kill the Rebels in this movie and just decided not to for some reason.) But, on this night earlier in the week, a question was asked that at the same time put everything about this movie in perspective and no one could properly answer. That question is:
If Luke’s plan to rescue Han from Jabba had worked perfectly, what would that plan have been?
Seriously, no one could answer this question. (And this wasn’t a group of Star Wars slouches either; frequent Star Wars author Jason Fry was part of this group.) So let’s kind of go through what does happen in the opening act of Return of the Jedi, character by character, and see if it makes any sense.
C-3PO and R2-D2: They are the first characters we see show up at Jabba’s palace. R2-D2 plays a recording of Luke Skywalker who states that he’d like to bargain for Han and, as a gesture of goodwill, gives Jabba C-3PO and R2-D2 as gifts. So now, right off the bat, C-3PO and R2-D2 are captured. And, yes, Luke knowing that Jabba would turn down Luke’s offer for a bargain was probably part of his plan. But I do wonder what would happen if Jabba had said, “Oh, this is a good deal. Yes, I accept these droids and you can have Han Solo.” What would Luke have done then? I think, in good faith, Luke would have had to just leave C-3PO and R2-D2 behind. And we would have gotten a scene with a forlorn Luke telling Leia, “Yeah, I really misjudged Jabba. He seems nice.”
Lando: Lando is already working as a skiff guard when Return of the Jedi opens. I’ve always wondered about his interview process. I can only assume Lando had to interview with someone higher up, like Bib Fortuna.
Bib: “So, you want to be our new skiff guard?”
Lando: “I do.”
Bib: “You look familiar.”
Lando: “Nope, I’m just a resident of Tatooine looking for a job.”
Bib: “Do you like the musical styling of the Max Rebo Band?”
Bib: “Well, you’re hired. Head downstairs past the dungeon and Rancor pit and we can get you set up with a uniform and a helmet mask.”
Anyway, even though Lando is there, he doesn’t really do much until later in “the plan” except let us know he’s there.