Star Wars: ‘Profound Tragedy’ Destroyed The Solos Years Before Ben’s Fall
To anyone who is up to date with Star Wars news and rumors, the knowledge that Ben Solo was still Ben Solo well into his 20s comes as no surprise. It also would come as no shock to discover that Leia and Han’s ultimate separation was the result of their son’s fall to the darkside. Now, of course, anyone who has even the slightest understanding of #StarWars would be confused by Han and Leia’s split in a way. What possible plot point could #Lucasfilm deem important enough to tear to shreds one of cinema’s greatest love affairs? Why did Lucasfilm need to make the Solo son the man he became? I think I have an answer.
Leia And Han Were Bad Parents
God, this just keeps getting worse, right? Except, it’s not true. Not really. Interviews released with the Blu-ray of The Force Awakens revealed Kylo Ren’s exact attitude toward his parents. Actor Adam Driver said:
“If you really imagine the stakes of him, in his youth, having all these special powers and having your parents kind of be absent during that process on their own agendas, equally as selfish. He’s lost in the world that he was raised in, and feels that he was kind of abandoned by the people that he’s closest with. He’s angry because of that, I think, and he has a huge grudge on his shoulders.”
But, why taint Han and Leia’s legacy this way — heroes of the original trilogy and long-time fan favorites? Why did this need to be the truth? Well, maybe it’s not as black and white as one might think. Sure, Driver makes it clear that Ben was somewhat the victim of neglect (at least in his own mind), but we are never given a “Why?” I believe there is a “Why?” — a powerful one; one that not only redeems Leia and Han to an extent, but allows the audience to empathize with their actions: The explanation of a “deep and profound tragedy.”
Hidden In Plain Sight
Contained within The Force Awakens: The Visual Dictionary is a paragraph explaining how Han became the man we meet in #TheForceAwakens. That he settled for a time, becoming a “family man” no less, until his life was met with tragedy and he returned (at least in part) to his life as a freighter pilot. We know from Bloodline he remained happily married to Leia until at least six years before the events of The Force Awakens, but it also tells us neither parent is really in contact with their son or Luke.
Pablo Hidalgo is Lucasfilm’s Head of Story Development, and the author of The Visual Dictionary. A discussion on Twitter between Hidalgo and a fan about Adam Driver’s interview led to this:
Understandably, everyone assumes in reading the paragraph about Han that this “profound tragedy” must be his son’s betrayal, since we know of no other tragedy. However, Bloodline shows us Han returned to being a freighter pilot before Ben’s fall, so this can’t be true. Not to mention that the official Star Wars databank reports that Han Solo lost the Falcon “amid more personal turmoil” and the Falcon is already gone by the beginning of Bloodline. There is something else that divided this family. Something that is “by necessity, implication right now.” That means it’s a secret, something latter films are going to acknowledge in time. What other reason would Hidalgo have to make that kind of statement?
What Does It All Mean?
What do we know about this “profound tragedy”? We know it drove Han back to his old life as a freighter pilot. We know Leia immersed herself in her work in response to the event. We also know Kylo feels he was not properly supported in its wake.
We know these things because the timeline Hidalgo has provided tells us that Han and Leia totally discussed this huge, tragic event right in front of us during The Force Awakens, so well hidden we didn’t even blink:
Leia: “That’s why I wanted him to train with Luke. I just never should have sent him away. That’s when I lost him. That’s when I lost you both.”
Han: “We both had to deal with it, in our own way.”
Leia “lost” Han when Ben left, yet their life was supposedly upended by tragedy, not separation. Furthermore, he and Leia are happily married, albeit sometimes at a long distance, once again in Bloodline. Should Ben leaving to train with his uncle be considered a tragedy? No. I would conclude from this then that both Ben and Han left home in response to something else. The Solo family falling apart was a symptom, something “upended” their lives to cause it, they didn’t just fall apart for no reason to facilitate a basis for Kylo Ren as a character. Kasdan is not capable of writing a story that badly.
Consider the “it” in Han’s sentence.
“We both had to deal with it in our own way.”
Ask yourself: Do you know what event this “it” refers to? Or, do you just think you know? The assumption we make is that Han speaks of Ben leaving home as the event, that Han and Leia were contending with that. But, this feels stilted when you question it. It feels like it’s not quite responding to Leia’s previous comment. I would argue instead that he’s validating Leia —that he’s saying he understands why her response was to send Ben away to Luke, and he doesn’t blame her for the result. Why would they have to “deal” with that anyway? That would imply Ben leaving was something so awful it damaged the family in such a way that Han felt the need to remove himself (at least for a time). It makes no sense.
Consider instead that the “it” refers to this elusive, profound tragedy; that Leia withdrew as as result and focused on her work, with little time for her family; that she sent their son away to cope, believing it was best for him to be away from her and Han; that Han left soon after, perhaps needing some time for himself in that moment, too. We know Han returned home for periods, and that he and Leia continued to love each other and their son unconditionally. So, we are led to question: “What kind of suffering could cause such great pain for this family that no amount of affection for each other could repair the damage done completely?”
Han: “I went back to the only thing I was ever any good at.”
This tells us, given the context, that Han feels he failed as a father. He left his old life to become a family man — a father — and when that failed he went back to smuggling. This is the line that informs us beyond a doubt, given that the timeline in The Visual Dictionary informs that Han returned to shipping after a “profound tragedy,” one that Leia and Han are discussing — an earlier, shared misfortune, not the day Ben became Kylo Ren.
What kind of truth could reconcile all pieces of this puzzle? More than that, how could this be made relevant to the plot of the sequels? Sure, it’s compelling, but how can it be so necessary to the story that it has to be kept under wraps in this way?
The Lost Solo Child
What kind of tragedy destroys families forever? Loss. What kind of tragedy strains marriages, driving even a steadfast pairs like Leia Organa and Han Solo apart? The loss of a child. Truly, the loss of a younger Solo child would explain everything. Leia and Han’s withdrawal, grieving selfishly in a way that ostracized their son. Ben’s own suffering combined with contempt for his parents for dispatching him when he needed them, especially since it’s implied he was still a teenager at this point, breeding hatred, helping pave a path to the dark side. Han’s belief that he failed as a father, because he couldn’t protect that child or Ben, destroying his confidence in who he believed he could be.
What else was happening in the Galaxy when Ben was in his late teens, the point at which this “profound tragedy” is reported to have taken place? Who fits the age and description of what that younger Solo child could be, and when they would have disappeared? Well, when Ben Solo was around 15 years of age a little girl with no name and no memories turned up on Jakku, named herself after a rebel pilot (Dosmit Ræh) whose helmet she found in the sand, and told herself every day that her family would come for her. Rey’s family must have loved her a lot for her to be able to sustain that hope for so long.
We never find out who Rey’s waiting for because Rey herself doesn’t know, this is something that’s been implied multiple times. Rey’s Survival Guide even seems to confirm this:
“I don’t know how or why I got here. But I know it was a mistake — and somebody out there will make things right, someday. That means I need to wait for them.”
In the commentary for The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams specifies Rey was “taken” from her family, and this certainly makes the most sense. Rey has to stay on Jakku because she has no memories nor clue of who her family is, nothing to guide her to them. The galaxy is so vast she would never find them if she left. So she sits on the sand and she stares at the stars and she waits for over a decade, hoping that her family has clues to her whereabouts and is searching for her.
How poetic is it then, that by the end of The Force Awakens Rey has left all the members of the Solo family behind her, just as Maz Kanata unknowingly predicted. Rey takes one last look back at the Millennium Falcon, where her adventure began, where she began, before beginning to advance up the steps toward Luke and her destiny.
Rey was taken from the Solo family — Rey was taken away and it destroyed them.
“Stick with what’s on screen. What’s in the story. No tweets. No interviews. No me. No them.”
I do not always agree with Pablo Hidalgo, but these words of wisdom on how to approach the press for Star Wars are, in my opinion, words to live by. Despite all the rebuttal this theory gets it lives on because it does have true merit. The Rey Solo theory was the theory everyone accepted going into The Force Awakens because it made the most sense, and continues to make more sense than it should, considering how hard the cast and crew are trying to debunk it without actually saying the words “Rey’s not a Solo,” of course (Non-disclosure agreements and all that). The truth is, nothing said outside of The Force Awakens is set in stone; no quotes from the actors, no line, or a spin-off novel.
Anything can be true from a certain point of view. The only thing that can never change is the content the whole world witnessed. All that matters is what The Force Awakens tells us, and this is, unequivocally, what it told me.