I was thinking the other day and my thoughts turned to Han Solo.
As shocking as that may be, it was primarily in the context of his character arc. Han goes from well–travelled, roguish (drug) smuggler to noble leader in love with a princess. Not a bad journey, even if some fanboys prefer to remember their Han in the permanent Mos Eisley Cantina of their dreams.
But another aspect of his character arc that gets overlooked is the transformation from atheist (for lack of a better term) to believer.
In Star Wars (A New Hope), while watching Luke learn the ways of the Jedi from Obi–Wan Kenobi, Han famously intones,
Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, and I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen *anything* to make me believe that there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything. There’s no mystical energy field, controls my destiny. It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.
Kenobi smiles, Luke blocks three shots from the practice drone without his eyes, and Han chalks it up to luck. Obi–Wan’s reply is still one of my favorite movie quotes of all time, “In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck.”
And though Han sees Vader and Obi–Wan fighting with lightsabers (no Force powers on display), and Luke make a “one&ndashin–a–million” shot, to someone like Solo, this is all still attributable to skill sets he just might not have.
Vader Does Nothing to Help the Cause of Faith
In The Empire Strikes Back, Han seems to be always just outside the realm of belief. As Obi–Wan fades, he rides through that exact spot Vader never displays Force power on him.
You could argue that he absorbs energy blasts—re–established as a Force power in Attack of the Clones—and that could be a demonstration of the validity of the Force, but that could be attributable to Vader–s armor/suit capabilities, from Han’s point of view. (As a matter of fact, I’d be surprised if a majority of “us” didn’t take it as such.)
He tortures Han, he freezes Han, but he never exerts Force power on Han.
That Magic Moment
Han completes his journey in Return of the Jedi.
As tempting as it is to say that Han’s faith forms at the Sarlacc Pit, he’s still functionally blind at that point. Luke does terrifically awesome stuff, but Han never actually witnesses it. Han was blind and didn’t actually see Luke’s heroics at the Sarlacc pit. He had to hear about them, though he was right there.
His moment of conversion is in seeing Luke behave non-violently.
As they are strapped to logs, being prepared to become a feast, Luke orders Threepio to tell the Ewoks that he is going to become angry and will use his “magic” if they don’t release his friends. Strangely, the Ewoks ignore an order from their golden god and Luke uses the Force to lift Threepio into the air and have him scare the heck out of the fuzzy Munchkins.
It’s this moment that Han witnesses. This is where he sees for the first time that Luke does indeed have some sort of mystical power: a moment of peace and benevolence. I’ve always thought that kind of cool.
But Han completes his arc after that: he is gentle and kind with Leia when she needs support. He is willing to listen to others when it comes to how to break into the bunker (and arguably, this alternate plan saves the day). Before he knows that Luke and Leia are brother and sister, he is willing to give her up for the sake of her happiness.
Did it all have to do with his finding faith?
Yes, it did. Han Solo learned how to have faith in others than himself and Chewbacca. So while many fans may prefer to think of the bare–chested rogue from the cantina, or the asteroid–avoiding hotshot escaping Hoth and unfortunate plot devices, I like my Han well–rounded.
Still cocky, still smirky, but more willing to believe in something bigger than himself.