Friday, May 25, 2018

Better Call Han

No real spoilers.

I won’t go into spoilers on Solo: A Star Wars Story, though there’s only one thing in it that I think qualifies as a genuine surprise that has any bearing on the rest of the Star Wars universe.

I will say that I think the movie is kind of like the cinematic version of Better Call Saul, and that’s not even something I probably needed to see the movie to know.

Like Better Call Saul to Breaking Bad, it gives us a look at the origins of a character we have come to know as a bit of a rapscallion, when he was less of one. Of course, Han Solo is a lot more of an old softy than Saul Goodman a.k.a. Jimmy McGill, and he undergoes a character arc over the course of the original Star Wars trilogy that Saul does not undergo in six seasons of Breaking Bad.

But there’s the same kind of sense in watching it that this cannot end well.

And not just because Han Solo will one day end up on a bridge with a lightsaber through his stomach.

Better Caul Saul goes to great lengths showing us that the man once known as Jimmy was a good guy. I mean, he was always a trickster and he never met a scam he didn’t like, but he lived his life following a certain moral compass. The people he duped were (almost) always deserving of that usury, or at least the ends justified the means. At the end of the day he wanted to do the right thing for people who deserved justice.

But of course, at some point – a point we have not yet reached in the narrative of that TV show – it all came apart.

It’s a similar situation with Han Solo. Now, Han is not as compromised, morally, when we meet him at the start of A New Hope as Saul is when we meet him in Breaking Bad. He’s a bit more of a genuine hero than an anti-hero, whereas Saul isn’t either – he’s essentially just comic relief. We didn’t know then how much we would love him and how much we would thirst for a whole series devoted to him, which in some ways even surpasses the series from which it span off.

But if things had really “gone well” for Han Solo, we wouldn’t first encounter him in a seedy bar on Tatooine, trying to escape his debts to a gangster and the bounty on his head, shooting first on the bounty hunter who tries to take him back as a hostage to that gangster. Hey, I’m sure Greedo had some kids to feed.

And so Solo: A Star Wars Story cannot really end well for him either, though it remains to be seen if they are going to try to squeeze some sequels out of this material. I won’t give away the ending, but you already know it has to be on some kind of downward trajectory, because of something you might not know: Han Solo might also be described as something of an idealist at the start of this movie. Sure, his charm is rakish and his schemes reckless, but we find out in the first five minutes of this movie that what he’s doing, he’s doing for love. Sorry if you think that’s a spoiler, but it’s in the damn first five minutes of the movie.

So the journey with Han, as with Jimmy, is the loss of that idealism, to be replaced by something more jaded and cynical.

And in both cases, there’s a love driving that idealism, a love that is lost. We don’t know what’s going to happen between Jimmy and Kim (please don’t die) because the series hasn’t gotten that far yet. But she makes no appearance in Breaking Bad, so she’s out of the picture in one way or another. And with Han’s love interest in Solo … again not spoiling anything, but let’s just say you already know Han is single when he first meets Princess Leia.

I just hope Jimmy can live long enough to meet someone, have children, and die of a lightsaber wound to the gut.

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