Han Solo, The Tin Man and Inception

One of the kids was watching Wizard of Oz one day. I happened to pass through the room when Dorothy happened across the Tin Man.

I realized that the Tin Man was essentially in the same situation as Han Solo in carbon freeze. He was frozen in place, but conscious. I’m not going to bother citing all the sources supporting that Han was conscious during his time in carbon freeze, except to say they are there.

Are all the sources for Han’s continued awareness in carbon freeze “off-screen” and therefore subject to question or change? Sure, but it was a part of the original script and nothing has contradicted it so far; per the policy with which fans have been inculcated, if it hasn’t yet been contradicted it’s still valid.

But we’ll get back to all that in a moment.

The Madness Factor

The Tin Man yelps “Oil Can!” through frozen lips when Dorothy discovers him. We don’t know how long he’s been trapped in place, but we can surmise it’s for at least as long a period as when the storm brought Dorothy to Oz. This is fairly ambiguous since we have no real sense of how long it took Dorothy to get to that point on the Yellow Brick Road, nor whether the storm that rained him into imobility was the same that brought Dorothy to Oz.

Anyway, I won’t bother asking at this point why so few people walked the Yellow Brick Road that Dorothy was the first to discover him. If the Yellow Brick Road is indeed the highway to the Emerald City, where one can offer supplication to the Wizard, I would imagine more travellers would be on it to plead their cases to him.

More salient to my point, though, is that we can imagine what the Tin Man was experiencing. He was ultimately isolated yet able to observe the world around him. He was watching the world move, unable to interact with it in any way. The Tin Man was in a figurative Hell.

Han Solo in Carbonite

The Snap Factor

When in such a predicament, the mind will develop one way or the other. It can either snap into madness or, like the Buddha, reach ultimate enlightenment. Time and personal psychological makeup determine which way you go, though I’d think that on a long enough continuum you’d probably waver between both. Not to wax poetic, but some of the most enlightened people have been a little bit off their rocker, too.

So we have to ask the question of how mentally strong Han Solo was. We need to know if his was the type of mind that could surmount the trapped horrors of blank consciousness, an altered state known in our real world to produce dramatic results.

Certainly the early indications in Return of the Jedi are that he has emerged from his carbon freeze with a greater appreciation for life and his place in it. He develops into a hero and a leader in short order. When he believes that Leia is romantically attached to Luke, he does the mature thing and promises to stay out of their way. In short, he seems enlightened.

The Time Factor

However, as I’ve discussed previously, the time between the films in the context of the onscreen story is nebulous. The way they are constructed, Empire and Jedi work far better if they are in quick succession.

For the sake of argument, though, let’s look at the accepted timespan between the films. Fans now “acknowledge” that a year passes. The precise time span, of course, is never stated on-screen. It’s ultimately unimportant to the story.

However, if we accept one year as the timespan, it begs another question about Han’s mental state upon emergence from carbon freeze. In short, I have to wonder if it was in a state of flux.

After all, Han had just started his redemptive arc in Empire. His time in carbon freeze initially must have been horrific. He had just embraced love, and so far as he knew would spend the rest of existence in a permanently-torturous nothingness with only his mind to wander. Sleep means nothing; I imagine he would lose consciousness on occasion, only to awaken to the fresh horror that he’s still encased in his personal hell. That was probably worse.

The Dream State

Being in suspension for that long could easily have led to a sliding madness that masked itself at first. For all we know (so long as we disregard “Expanded Universe” works out there already), Han went more and more off the rails after the events of Return of the Jedi.

Coupled with the sliding madness, allow me to offer the option that he could have lost the full distinction between wakefulness and sleep. Perhaps he saw the events of Return of the Jedi with a modicum of doubt as to whether he was still in the carbonite; it could have taken time for him to recognize them as reality, creating an irresolvable tension with Leia.

In essence, he would devolve into Cobb from Inception, continually checking to see if his experiences were reality. It would take a long time for him to stop testing those boundaries, and those around him.

Han and Luke on the way to the Sarlacc Pit

Personally, I think that would be a really interesting angle that explains his reversion to old habits over time. It’s not that he was incompatable with Leia at a basic level, but that somewhere along the way he went nuts and had to go wandering to work things out. Chewie stayed with him because…well, he’s Chewie.


In short, I think that questions like this are so fun it often leads to my regrets about living in the time of “It’s All Connected.” Wouldn’t it be more fun to wander in our own heads and experience the in-between beats on our own?

Half the fun of a magic forest is getting lost in it, after all.

I wonder what others have wondered about Han’s post-carbonite disposition….

9 thoughts on “Han Solo, The Tin Man and Inception

  1. I want to know where his poop went?

    I ask because this question has been raised by me a surprising number of times in the past two weeks.


    1. He was in suspended animation. I suspect that, although conscious, his physiological needs were slowed to the point of them being stalled.

      Better question: what was it like when he finally had to…evacuate…things once freed?


      1. I’ve had some experience in that regard. I’ve taken meds that took me out for 15 hours. I imagine it’s similar.


  2. I prefer to believe he was not conscious. However, if he were, it would have to be similar to those coma cases where the patient “wakes up” after several months or years and says how they heard everything that went on in the interim.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The physics of Star Wars. How a brain expends energy retaining consciousness in the absence of a renewable source. I’m going to guess…the Heisenberg Compensator. You’re welcome to borrow it, it’s proven very handy for “us.” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. An interesting counterpoint – and as I started writing a response I realized it could be a whole other post. Which it will be now.

      Any good theory needs refinement, right? 🙂


  4. Thanks for the comment! I don’t have any sort of principled stand against EU in general; what I’m frequently going after is the “it’s all connected” mentality. To your point, it doesn’t need to be!

    Sometimes it even surprises and delights me — the only reason it’s become an issue at all, probably, is because of this seeming insistence that it’s all “canon.” I’d be happier if they went back to the idea that it’s just stories within the same universe to take or leave as needed.


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