Spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Solo: A Star Wars Story's ending is lot more complex (and surprising) than you may expect. As a basic pitch, the young Han Solo prequel has a simple story - we follow how he met Chewbacca, acquired the Millennium Falcon from Lando, and set himself up in a life of crime before that fateful cantina meeting - but writers Jon and Lawrence Kasdan weren't just content filling in big gaps in Han's story. The film spans over three years of time during the Empire's stranglehold on the galaxy between the prequel and original Trilogy of the main Skywalker Saga, taking a young, surnameless Han from scrumrat on Corellia to Imperial trooper to crime syndicate stooge, and finally, a smuggler making his own destiny.
The backbone of Solo is a crime heist story - after losing a shipment of expensive ship fuel coaxium during a train heist, Han, Chewie and new mentor Beckett must find a way to replace the payload, concocting an elaborate sting of the Kessel spice mines that sees him reuniting with former flame Qi'ra, gambler Lando Calrissian, his feminist droid L3-37 and completing the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs (if you round down) - but where things really kick into gear is the final showdown and big ending.
There's a lot of surprises that come so thick and fast it can be hard to keep up - especially when one of those shockers is the return of a character who hasn't graced the big screen in almost twenty years - and have some major impacts on how you view the Harrison Ford iteration of Han. We're going to break down everything in Solo: A Star Wars Story's ending - you might want to buckle up, baby.
- This Page: Beckett's Betrayal & Han Shooting First
- Page 2: Qi'ra's Final Betrayal & Maul's Return
- Page 3: Winning The Falcon & Meeting Jabba the Hutt
- Page 4: How Solo Changes Han Forever
Han's Plan To Con Dryden Vos
The final conflict begins when Han and co. arrives on Savareen with the boosted coraxium ready for refinement. First, they come face-to-face with Enfys Nest, revealed to not be a vicious mercenary as Crimson Dawn and Beckett believed, but a proto-Rebel cell fighting back against the Empire-enabled gangsters who had decimated their homeworlds (including Warwick Davis' The Phantom Menace character Weazel and one of Saw Gerrera's later allies from Rogue One). This poses a debate for Han, who has been looking for a way out of crime or Imperial rule his entire life: giving up the fuel to Vos solves all problems but leaves him troubled while providing it to Enfys is the right thing but makes him a marked man.
The solution is to con Vos. Han aims to play into Dryden's lack of trust, giving him the coraxium but making him think it's a fake, thus calling out his top men to seize the "real" fuel from Enfys, whose Rebels will promptly pacify, leaving Vos totally unguarded for Solo and his smuggled-in blaster.
However, Dryden reveals he knows he's being played care of one of Han's confidants; the immediate suspect is Qi'ra, previously Dryden's lieutenant, but in steps Beckett who had seemingly ran off to Tatooine for one last job. From very early on, it was established Beckett was untrustworthy - he very nearly left Han and Chewie behind on Mimban and pointedly told Han that he should "assume everyone will betray you, and you'll never be disappointed" - but here the extent of his self-serving motives are seen.
The question of how long this has been going on - if Beckett was always more in with Dryden than it seemed or if this was an opportunistic betrayal only after Han revealed his plan - isn't dealt with purposefully, but a clear answer would change perceptions of Tobias. If he's always been on the take, then most of the film is a play on Beckett's part and that warning of betrayal is a glimmer of compassion coming through. If it's opportunism, then things are more about self-preservation, with Beckett not wanting to be on the wrong side of the Crimson Dawn care of Han as he enters "one last job" (although the indication is he will never actually leave the life). Either way, this moment is a fundamental betrayal of Han's trust and the first of two parallel lessons he was already learning.
Indeed, while Beckett helped Vos out by clueing him in on some of Han's plan, the trap was still sprung: Enfys wiped out Dryden's men and left him unguarded. Here's where Beckett's true nature comes out, with him seizing the opportunity to take the coaxium for himself.
Han Shoots First
There's some big stuff still to go down in Dryden's ship, but as part of why Solo's ending winds up so messy is its thread juggling, let's first look at the resolution Han and Beckett's relationship. Tobias takes Chewie and plans to escape with all the fuel, only to be confronted by Han. Beckett tries to talk his way out of it and engage Han in a gunfight - a smart move given how well-established his blaster skills have been throughout the movie - but Han isn't listening this time and shoots him straight up.
This is the film's rather pointed nod towards the infamous "Han Shot First" controversy that's raged in Star Wars fan circles for over two decades: in the 1997 Special Editions, George Lucas redid the cantina showdown between Han and Greedo to have the bounty hunter fire at his prey before Han landed the killing blow, thus indicating the soon-to-be-hero was only shooting in retaliation (it was subsequently changed for the 2004 DVD release to be simultaneous shot, but the core issue remained). The move was seen as wearing away some of Han's innate criminality and rounding off his soft edges, and quickly became an emblem for all of Lucas' alterations.
Immediately, this scene not only atones for that but also brings back some age-old Han trickery; he can't beat Beckett in combat, so uses cunning and knowledge of his opponent to best him another way, linking the lesson he's learned about thinking ahead in Solo: A Star Wars Story to his actions in the original film. However, as Han's first action after firing the shot is to hold Beckett as he dies, somewhat regretful that he's robbed him of retirement, we still get that same sense of a human conscience, echoing what Qi'ra said about him ultimately being a good man. And, speaking of Qi'ra...
Qi'ra Betrays Han
After Beckett leaves, Dryden and Han get locked in a blaster/laser-knife fight that's broken up by the only other person in the room: Qi'ra. Both think she'll side with them, and that's ultimately to her advantage: she recognizes that faith in her is a shared weakness between Vos and Solo, and uses that to betray them both.
First, she turns on Dryden, lulling him into a false sense of security by lording it over Han before engaging in combat with her boss, after a fraught battle stabbing him in the chest with his unpowered-knife. Then, just as over 40 years later Han's son and mysterious quasi-love interest Rey will likewise have a moment of shared ground after one of them has killed their former master before being splintered, Solo and Qi'ra initially seem to conspire to work together: he will get the coaxium back from Beckett while she informs the Crimson Dawn of what happened in their favor.
However, while Han confronts Beckett, she instead moves to leave him behind. In the three years they were apart, Qi'ra has become hardened to the galaxy; she escaped Corellia but not a life of crime, and thus all she knows is cheating your way to the top. Qi'ra evidently still has feelings for Han - she lets him live - but sending him to confront Beckett is really just another form of her playing with her opponent's weak spots; in this case, his innate goodness. This turn was hinted at throughout, by way of her branding most overtly, but also how the camera centered on Qi'ra over Vos in earlier scenes, framing her as the true villain.
Maul Is The Real Big Villain
Of course, that's not the most shocking part of Qi'ra's betrayal (in fact, if anything, what comes next overshadows the emotional resolution for Han). Qi'ra contacts the leader of the Crimson Dawn and, after a lengthy hologram tease, his hood is removed to reveal none other than Maul, the former Darth last seem on the big screen in The Phantom Menace 19 years ago.
Being sliced in half by Obi-Wan Kenobi and tumbling down a Naboo reactor shaft didn't kill the zarabak, who was resurrected in Star Wars: The Clone Wars back in 2012 (which remained canon after the Disney purchase of Lucasfilm). Darth Maul survived his bisection thanks to lightsaber cauterization and spent the following decade in isolation, feeding off pure rage before being brought back into the fray by brother Savage Opress. Together, the pair took the fight against the Sith and Jedi, with Maul getting a rematch with both Sidious and Kenobi. Crucially, he formed the Shadow Collective, an alliance of criminal organizations aiming to destabilize galactic rule. He later returned in Star Wars: Rebels, set in the years leading up to A New Hope, where he interchangeably worked and clashed with the crew of Ghost, all building to one final rematch with Kenobi, who bested him effortlessly in combat. While controversial at first, many fans have roundly accepted Maul's return, with his tragic death - he dies asking Obi-Wan if Luke really is the Chosen One - cementing him as a saga icon.
Maul's Solo appearance takes place between his time on The Clone Wars and Rebels. He's now based on his homeworld of Dathomir, presumably having evolved the Crimson Dawn (likely named after the planets red skies) from the remnants of the Shadow Collective. Yes, Maul's the true head of the mysterious organization behind every event in Solo, and after Qi'ra takes over Dryden's portion of the operation (framing the now-deceased Beckett and Han for the murder), she becomes one of his key underlings.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is clearly setting up more story for Maul and Qi'ra, but whether it's in book, TV show or movie form is currently unclear. If they're part of the film gameplan, though, there's ample opportunity for a return; Crimson Dawn could have a place in any of a direct Solo sequel, the long-mooted bounty hunter movie, an Obi-Wan Kenobi film remaking their Rebels showdown, the recently-confirmed Boba Fett or even a full-on Maul standalone.
Han Wins The Falcon "Fair & Square"
Although Solo is chock full of moments that explain the backstory of key original trilogy moments - from how Han got his last name to where "I know" was first used - the biggest is saved for last: Han winning the Millennium Falcon. This has been an established part of Han's past since The Empire Strikes Back - "Your ship? Hey, remember, you lost her to me fair and square?" - and despite much of the Legends continuity being completely overwritten, the originally stated method - Lando lost it in a card game - has been retained in the new canon.
Solo actually plays something of a trick on the audience with this aspect; Han and Lando's first showdown, which bears all the hallmarks of the classic Sabacc game, has Han lose - somewhat expectedly given how early on the film it occurs. However, the reason why is that Lando cheats. This makes Empire's "fair and square" barb even more pointed, and the eventual winning of the ship in one of the film's final scenes all the more victorious.
Lando had a smaller role in Solo: A Star Wars Story than expected, and based on how he and Han leave things, it's not inconceivable they won't see each other again until Cloud City. Although that doesn't mean this is the last we'll see of Donald Glover's Calrissian: Kathleen Kennedy has already hinted that a Lando standalone film is on the way, and with so many different aspects crossing over in the anthology films - both a Boba Fett and Obi-Wan movie would inhabit a similar era - there's plenty of other ways he could turn up.
Han & Chewie Fly To Tatooine - And Jabba the Hutt
Speaking of where those other Star Wars spinoffs are going, everything looks to be converging on Tatooine. Before his betrayal, Beckett tells Han there's a gangster on Tatooine looking to put together a crew for a job, one he alleges will be his last score before heading home. Han initially turns it down, but after both Beckett and Qi'ra reveal their true colors, he and Chewie decide to take up the opportunity.
To near certainty, this gangster is Jabba the Hutt, who has already been alluded to throughout the film via the Hutt Cartels and their rivalry with Crimson Dawn. Of course, there are many Hutts in that corner of the galaxy, so there's a small chance it's another giant slug - perhaps Gardulla, former owner of Anakin Skywalker glimpsed in the background of The Phantom Menace - but the obvious suggestion is the crime lord Han has a long tussle with.
However, that doesn't mean Han and Chewie are flying off to head straight to the Mos Eisley cantina. Solo ends approximately ten years before the original Star Wars (give or take), meaning there's a lot of ground to be covered before we get to their reintroduction in A New Hope. Han has to earn his reputation as "a good smuggler" (Jabba's words) and then undo all that goodwill by dumping a spice shipment when getting pinned down by Imperials, directly leading to a death contract being put out on him. All of that is perfect fodder for a Solo 2 (along with how the Falcon reaches her final state).
Page 4: How Solo Changes Han Forever
Han Is The Same Person At The End Of Solo - But His Worldview Has Changed
Solo may have a sprawling galactic story that involves more double-cross twists than an Ocean's movie, but it is from the first frame to last fundamentally about exploring who Han is. Indeed, one of the most striking pieces of imagery in the film is the bookended focus on the gold dice: present in the Star Wars movies since 1977 and given emotional weight by The Last Jedi, we open with Han hanging them on the dashboard of his boosted speeder and end with them placed in their destined spot in the Falcon cockpit. Right here is a visual cue that for everything he's been through, our protagonist is in fundamentally the same place as he was at the start... although that's not quite true.
What Han wants is definitely the same. Fitting of a movie called Solo, he is looking for somewhere to belong: a family or tribe to call his own. What's changed is his understanding of that objective. Early on, when pressed his key desires are to escape the slums of Corellia and fly across the galaxy with Qi'ra - solid, clearly defined representations of the greater feeling - but through his experiences in a used-future galaxy ruled by an authoritarian dictatorship on the brink of war and infected with corrupt gangsters, he learns that such idealism - even idealism of a scoundrel's way of life - can't be viable. He discovers through tough experience and betrayal that the right place wasn't with Qi'ra or Beckett (a stereotypical love interest and mentor figure respectively, yet ones who both betrayed him).
It was his unexpected, unconventional friendship with Chewie that really mattered - they helped each other out of pure compassion, and later the wookiee left his people to be with his rough-and-tumble young friend - and in recognizing that is how he finds his contentment in himself. The Han we met at the start of Solo is very much the same person with the same purpose we leave at the end, but how he's achieving that has been altered by the journey.
Solo: A Star Wars Story Changes Han - For The Better
All of this is part of a bigger shift made by Solo in the perception of Han. This was inevitable from a storytelling standpoint to a degree, sure - whereas for the original trilogy he was a cool guy to Luke's ever-relatable pure hero and in The Force Awakens the done-good mentor, here he's the closest he's ever been to a true protagonist - but Solo: A Star Wars Story doesn't just have the change be a perspective one. Ehrenreich's Han is more relatable in an ingrained level than Ford's establishing appearance was, with clear fallibilities and desired not-yet-hidden by a veneer of coolness, and a heart all too readily bared.
We see this best in the calm conversation with Qi'ra before making the move against Dryden, the deciding point in their relationship where the complete infeasibility of a future together - to this point Han's prime motivation - falls apart. She is, as already discussed, lost to a life of crime - she never escaped it - but also recognizes that Han would never be able to do what she's going to because he is, at heart, a good man. He can't quite accept that reading, trying to make out that he really is as brutalized as those who've surrounded him on past adventures, but this theory is proven unavoidably true when she betrays him - the only way she escapes is by taking advantage of Han's better judgment.
Right here is both the core of Han's arc and why it doesn't contradict what came before: the constant doublethink of the "Han Shot First" backlash. Han has, and indeed always has had, a balanced callousness and wholesomeness to him. That's what makes him a cool hero rather than embittered anti-hero. He will both shoot and ask questions first depending on circumstance, and it's why Alden Ehrenreich is able to so embody Han without going close to Ford imitation. In Solo: A Star Wars Story, Han doesn't need to accept that he is a hero: that comes a decade-or-so years later. At this point in his journey, it's just about accepting he is himself.