Favorite Fictional Characters, #100: Han Solo
In celebration of 100 entries on this list, a selection that proves it's just a list, and not a ranking. Han Solo is a top ten contender on anyone's list, especially those of us who grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy. We all wanted to be the mercenary Corellian smuggler with the iconic ship and the eight-foot shaggy sidekick, shooting bounty hunters (first), seducing princesses, and generally being about as awesome as possible. There's no great secret to Han's popularity. Add Harrison Ford's peak-of-powers casual charisma to a classic reluctant anti-hero, scoundrel even, and it's instant magic.
Without Han, Star Wars would have collapsed under its own groaning self-importance and Luke's whiny angst. Han brought humanity, skepticism, and derring-do to the films. His gruff arrogance and slick smuggler's selfishness were as central to his character as any of his more overtly heroic qualities, such as his courage, his loyalty, or his resourcefulness. Lest we forget, he only helped in the original film to get paid, and he collected. ("Look, I ain't in this for your revolution, and I'm not in it for you, princess. I expect to be well paid. I'm in it for the money.") If he had managed to pay Jabba without the whole Bespin detour and carbon freezing misadventure, would he have stuck with the rebels? Hard to say. The answer would put his basic loyalty and his inherent restlessness at odds.
Trusting that The Force Awakens has been out long enough now that there's nothing to spoil, we all know how it ends for Han. Surprisingly, he lives long enough to be an eminence grise, the nerf-herder looking as scruffy as ever, if grayer, craggier, slower. He still owns the movie from the instant he shows up, which helps explain why they had to clear his piece from the board. If he survived, every film with him in it would be a Han Solo movie. To promote new stars and new stories, they had to make room on the stage. Still, his departure leaves us all that much poorer. After all, we need more scoundrels in our lives.