The more I think about Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens, the more I come to realize the film asks more questions than provides solid answers.
What happened in the 30 years between Luke’s final appearance in Return of the Jedi and his first appearance in The Force Awakens? Well, you’ll just have wait to find out. We’re only asking questions here.
One of the biggest? What’s the deal with Han Solo? Why’s he so out of touch with everything that’s going on in the galaxy?
Seems to me, at the end of Return of the Jedi, Han and Leia were finally a thing and Solo was digging his role as General. Does a son turning to the dark side really send an old smuggler over the edge? Does Solo’s character arc really include ditching his wife and kid(s) for a Wookie and the life of a scoundrel?
That doesn’t sound like the Solo I know. Not after saving all those cuddly Ewoks. Something else must be going on.
And I think it’s a secret mission.
The Force is strong with these two
Much of the mystery at the end of The Force Awakens swirls around Rey. Rey, the young scavenger from the desert world who doesn’t have a last name and knows way too much about the Force for a would-be sand person.
Rey, who knows a thing or two about piloting, plays Jedi mind tricks on a whim and hands Luke Skywalker his father’s lightsaber on the blustering Irish cliffs of Ahch-to. Who is this girl, what did all those wild visions mean, and how did she get to Jakku in the first place?
Well, the answer to that last question anyway is because she was sent there. And Han Solo was her cab ride.
Here's how it may have gone down.
Luke Skywalker is training a fresh generation of Jedi at his new Jedi academy. Swanky place.
Two of his students are star pupils - strong with the Force - and why shouldn’t they be? They are family, after all, and the Force runs strong in this family.
One is his nephew, Ben Solo. The other, his daughter, Rey Skywalker. (We’ll stick with Rey for now, but it wouldn’t be hard to convince me her birth name is Padme.)
Whoa, wait. Stop right there, you say. Luke is a Jedi. He can’t have a children. He’s sworn to celibacy.
That’s an argument for another time, but let’s just answer it by saying: According to whom? This is a new generation of Jedi. Just as religions evolve in our world, why wouldn’t the Jedi as well? Why couldn't - why wouldn't - Luke make some changes in his Order?
So, yes, Rey is Luke’s daughter. Kylo Ren is her cousin. And the family is about to be torn asunder.
A house, divided
As we learned, Ben shunned his training and turned to the dark side, coming back to his uncle’s academy with his punk Knights to destroy the place.
Though he tries, Luke knows the only one who can defeat Kylo Ren is Rey. That they were truly yin and yang. Maybe Luke is too weakened to take on Ren and all his Knights on his own. Maybe he knows that if he's struck down (or disappears in a more conventional way), he'll become more powerful than Ren can possibly imagine.
Maybe he even foresaw Ren’s betrayal and whisked Rey away to ensure there was "another” who would defeat him one day.
But who could he trust to hide Rey? Who did he know who would understand the inner workings of the Outer Rim’s underworld enough to ensure his daughter, Rey, would be well hidden from Ren and, perhaps more importantly, Supreme Leader Snoke? (Luke’s gotta know about him, right?)
How about his scoundrel brother-in-law? The one who saved him from Darth Vader at the Battle of Yavin, stuck his hypothermic carcass in a dead tauntaun, and protected his sister from his sinister father?
It’s just our secret, bro
Why wouldn't Luke Skywalker ask Han Solo to hide his daughter from the growing First Order, Knights of Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke, as well as the burgeoning Resistance, including his own sister and Rey’s aunt, Leia?
If each trilogy is cyclical - if each mirrors the others - it isn’t a stretch to assume Rey was hidden from the galaxy like her father before her. Just as Yoda, Obi-Wan and Bail Organa hid Luke and Leia - and their identities - so does Luke and Han with Rey.
Luke’s unimaginable request? Han can tell no one about this - not Leia and not Chewie. To save the galaxy, to once more bring balance to the Force, Rey must remain a secret until the time is right. No one can know.
And with a Force-controlled mind-wipe, she must remain hidden even to herself.
Han’s big, fat Correllian sacrifice
Before Kylo attacks the Academy, Han carries Rey to Jakku, not aboard the Falcon, but aboard a non-descript Republic freighter. Something no one would remember or care about if it came sweeping through the quadrant.
He calls in a debt with Unkar Plutt. Plutt will watch over the girl, ensure her survival and her safety or face dire consequences. Whatever Han has on Plutt, it's big. A debt to the Hutts or on the run from the Republic, maybe. Plutt reluctantly agrees.
But it doesn't end there.
Han returns to the Jedi Academy to learn of his son’s treachery. He sees how it’s destroyed Luke - weakened him in some ways. Han feels guilty. After all, it was his son who committed these crimes.
So he dedicates the rest of his life to protecting Rey. It’s a life debt, much like the one that keeps Chewie by his side. Luke reluctantly agrees.
Together they hatch a plan that will keep the First Order at bay and ensure Rey grows into the Jedi she must become.
Before Luke goes into hiding, not out of a reluctance to use the Force, but to give the First Order a MacGuffin to chase, he tells Han where his lightsaber can be found. The original. His father’s lightsaber, given to him by Ben Kenobi. Rey will need it one day.
Han retrieves the lightsaber and delivers it to Maz Kanata for safe keeping.
Then, as the consummate con artist he is, he develops a long con, with the Falcon as bait.
In the “Journey to the Force Awakens” book Smuggler’s Run, Solo tells a bunch of bounty hunters to tell Ducain and the Irving boys that he and Chewie are not afraid of them, thus prompting the thieves to steal the Falcon.
From there, it's not so hard to imagine Han and Chewie setting up a con to get the Falcon to Plutt and Jakku, and out of the hands of the Irving Boys and Ducain. Once there, Han can use the Falcon to monitor Rey from afar.
Maybe even monitor Rey from the same system?
After all, it was awfully convenient that Han was right there when Rey and Finn blasted out of Jakku.
More believable that he was already in the area. Maybe even already on his way to Jakku as soon as Poe Dameron returned with news that the First Order was attacking settlements and Luke's location might be compromised.
An even more tragic hero
If true, this makes Han an even more tragic hero. After all, to keep Rey safe, keep his promise to Luke, and keep the galaxy out of the First Order’s hands, Han had to give up his life with Leia, his straight-and-narrow hero’s image and all the comforts that come with that life.
It also shows that Han had some inkling that bigger events were in motion. Looking for Luke? Of course, because Luke already told Han that when the time was right, Rey would find him.
How should Han help her journey? Make sure the lightsaber is passed down, just as the ‘saber was passed down to Luke. Thus Han takes Rey to Maz.
Keep her safe, deliver her from evil, make sure she takes the steps necessary to find her father.
That was Han’s secret mission.
Maybe we'll see him again
Oh and about that big talk with his son.
If this theory is true, it could mean we'll see Han in action again. Through flashbacks to how the plan was pulled off, we could see Han on Bespin - with Lando - retrieving the lightsaber.
We could see him on Jakku with Plutt, as Rey remembers first arriving there.
We could see him deliver the lightsaber to Maz Kanata. Could see him put his long con into action. Watch him monitor Rey from a far.
And if we don't see Han - played by Harrison Ford - on screen again?
Well, this might make a great novel. Canon, of course.