Luke Skywalker: Crisis Manager

It’s been a point of contention on this blog as to how “convoluted” Luke’s plan to save Han from Jabba was. I won’t go step-by-step because, if you haven’t watched Return of the Jedi, please go watch the movie and then come back.

Plan “F.”

Some have observed there were a lot of unnecessary layers, especially when he could have just shown up with his lightsaber and kicked a ton of exhaust port.

Of course, that action isn’t necessarily Jedi–like. And that plays into my new thinking on this matter, because I think we need to start drawing the distinction between Luke’s intended plan and his crisis plan management.

Always In Motion, the Future Is

A lot of people forget that Jedi cannot see into the future with any reliability. To presume that Luke knew for certain that his plan would end with the sail barge fight is fooling ourselves.

As a result, Luke was executing several plans in succession, not one ridiculously ill-conceived one.

“Surprise, surprise! It’s Lando in disguise!”

To wit, Lando was planted as a scout. This is really good thinking, as he could let Luke know the strength of numbers, who was armed and how closely-guarded our favorite frozen Corellian was.

The one hitch with that, and I freely admit it, is that Lando should have given some sort of heads-up about the Rancor pit trap. But let’s presume he didn’t want to blow cover until things went down.

Luke may have also misjudged his ability to get at Jabba before the trap was sprung. In which case, he was just rolling with one more piece of the plan going wrong.

And this plan starts going wrong from the beginning. But we’ll fast forward to the key component.

The Lightsaber

Luke is testing Jabba at each stage to see if he can find a peaceful resolution to everything. The lightsaber is not on him for three possible reasons in this scenario, all of which I think make a lot of sense. You could also take two or all three in conjunction with each other.

    They are:

  1. Luke wants Jabba to underestimate him.Think about it. The Jedi have been extinct for decades by that point, at least so far as the public knows. Better to have Jabba believe he’s a crackpot that presents no threat.
  2. He doesn’t want to rely on the weapon as it sends a more-antagonistic signal than walking in unarmed. Sticking to that pacifist ideal, Luke wants to project that he is unarmed and so avoid escalation. As Lucas repeatedly demonstrates unintentionally, pacifism never works.
  3. There’s not a chance they’re letting him walk in to see Jabba with it on his belt. This is the obvious one. No need for explanation.

So, he puts it in Artoo as that last-resort option. He does not know that last resort will be on the sail barge. He likely thought Artoo would be in the throne room (Artoo gets places) and he could get the saber in a pinch if the last negotiations fail. Of course, this opens up the question of why no one ever thinks of searching Artoo since everyone hides vital things in him constantly, but at that point you’re nit-picking.

Dealing With Things Going Wrong

So with this cascading waterfall of miscues, Luke doesn’t count on Leia being captured and displayed in the way she was.

Remember, she sneaks in to Jabba’s palace to get Solo. Jabba catches her, but instead of imprisoning her with Han and Chewie, he chains her up. You could make the argument her presence makes it more difficult for Luke to threaten Jabba with the gun, since he has to take greater care about firing.

Han, Luke, Chewbacca, Lando, and various thugs on the way to the Sarlacc Pit
“Is this the time to tell you that everything I’ve tried to do up to this point has gone horribly wrong?”

R2 isn’t where he expects him to be. Lando is unable to assist, because he wants to make sure Leia is safe once Luke is sent to the Rancor (notice he was positioned to help if things had gone differently). Threepio is useless in a crisis. Han and Chewie are in the dungeons.

So basically, it’s not that Luke had a convoluted plan, it’s that things constantly went sideways and he kept trying to adapt the plan. He should be lauded for adapting in such a way as to guarantee victory. We never get clued in as the audience because like Qui-Gon, Luke maintains an even keel even in the worst storm.

I think all of us, who manage people and/or projects, should admire this.

Lando Calrissian: Unfairly Judged

I started thinking about Lando and his choice to betray Han.

Under those circumstances, can anyone really blame Lando? He had Darth Vader, the second most powerful being in the galaxy, as an uninvited guest making demands.

He showed up in force, certainly with a condition that Lando allow him to land unless he wanted Cloud City turned into a giant fireball.

Lando had to put the good of the many before the needs of the few, or the one. As I understand, my generation has accepted this as the logical maxim of our times.

If we accept that the “good of the many” outweighs all other considerations, I submit you must conclude that there is no wrong in his decision to betray Han.

Counter Arguments

Many would ask about Vader altering the deal at whim during progressive conversations. I agree this proves Vader’s untrustworthiness and highlights that you cannot make a deal with the Devil since he will always change the terms.

However, supplement this information with the idea that Vader may have felt the need to alter the deal because he could tell that Lando wasn’t fully committed. His emotional ties to his friends were threatening to overcome his rational sense to let the Empire have whomever it wanted.

Generational Hypocrisy

Lando had to weigh whether to warn his friend against his mandate to protect and preserve the lives of thousands. He had a commitment to protect the proletariat Ugnaughts whose labors powered the city.

If my generation has such a commitment to the idea that a minority weighed against the benefit of the many is no weight at all, then our collective anguish over Lando’s decision is hypocrisy at its finest.

Our collectivist moral structure dictates that Lando commits a great wrong when he reverses course and frees the hostages. These were renegades of the state, guilty of treason and sabotage.

Look at the great pandemonium and presumable loss of life that the people of Cloud City endured thanks to Lando changing his mind. It was already too late to save his friend, even.

Even Jim Kirk, in Star Trek III, risked only a small group of people to rescue their friend. In the process he arguably saved the galaxy by keeping the secrets of Genesis from a commander who wanted to use it as a weapon.

Lando instead leaves behind a people that had trusted him as their wise leader for his own sense of worth. He betrayed everyone on that floating city.

If we stay within what we preach as a generation, then Lando doesn’t go from heel to hero, he goes from saint to devil.

The Friendship Factor

What changes it for people is that he is Han’s friend. That’s what makes it wrong.

For someone like me, Lando is in the wrong not just because he’s Han’s friend. He’s wrong because he has chosen to betray someone at all.

Let’s remove Han from the equation. Say instead it’s a random person turning to Lando for help. The Empire asked for this person to be turned in for whatever reason.

They got no trial or due process, and it’s pretty well known what the Empire does with prisoners by that point. You don’t get the reputation as an authoritarian regime without earning it.

A regime like the Empire persecutes those who openly defy or disagree with it. It doesn’t kill everyone, but it leverages bureaucracy against any target of their wrath. They can impose mandates and reward only those who mind their place. Occasionally they can seek to obliterate a political/institutional foe as an example. Just ask Alderaan.

My point is that it should plant a seed of doubt in anyone’s mind about the wisdom of “turning over” someone to them. It shouldn’t make a difference if it’s Lando’s friend or not.

So I submit that the only reason the now–grown fans of the series even object to Lando’s betrayal is because it was their beloved Han Solo. This highlights the baseline of hypocrisy and exposes our general tendency toward selective outrage.


When Lando betrayed Han, it was wrong not because it was Han, but because it was wrong in principle. This idea of rationalizing the sacrifice of someone else for the sake of a perceived good is destructive.

If you think they’ve done something wrong, tell them you won’t shelter them. If necessary, call authorities. It’s not your job to enforce the whims of the state unless they give you a gun and a badge.

Another Unanswered Question from The Empire Strikes Back

Pursuant to the resurrection of the entire series, the next film to enjoy some scrutiny is the venerable, must-never-be-questioned-as-the-best Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back.

Once again, I know that this is dangerous territory in which to be. After all, we know that the Lord Himself came down from Heaven to give us this most perfect of films, and the wisdom of a muppet.

So here it is. Another of my big unanswered questions from The Empire Strikes Back.

Why Not Kill Everyone Once Luke was At Cloud City?

Seriously, once Luke was at Cloud City, Vader’s big goal was accomplished. What was the point of taking the princess, Chewie and Threepio back to his ship? Han is frozen, the token extra gets his line delivered, and they know Luke is there.

Just drop them right then and there. Instead of this elaborate, incompletely-explained chase to make Luke go up the wrong elevator, kill them all and have Luke follow the frozen Han to the unfathomably-complex fake…room? Closet? …However the Heck Luke got to the carbon freezing chamber.

The group of people you’re using as bait have an annoying habit of escaping and screwing up your plans. Just kill them.

There are a million possible explanations outside the obvious “for dramatic effect” explanation, but I want to see what ideas float to the top of the dream pool here.

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