OpinionTelevision & Film

In Defense of the Scoundrels

I grew up on the original Star Wars trilogy. For a while, Star Wars became a near obsession. I wanted so much to be a Jedi. Star Wars had everything I wanted as a kid, adventure, space ships, blasters, and light sabers.

But there’s also the controversy. Did Lando sell out Han? Did Han shoot first? And if so, were they justified?

Lando Betrays Han

Okay, here’s a little recap. Han Solo flies the Millennium Falcon to the Cloud City in order to solicit the help of Lando Calrissian, a former “friend” from his days as a bad guy. Lando is in charge of Cloud City, which he won from the previous owner in a gambling deal. After a little bit of problems with the authorities (y’know, like being shot at), Han was finally given permission to land. After a brief reunion and introductions between Lando and Leia (and, of course, dissing C3PO), the visitors are taken in by their host only to be turned over to Darth Vader. Han gets frozen in carbonite and shipped off to Jabba the Hutt by Boba Fett, and the others are intended to be used as bait for Luke Skywalker. So did Lando really “sell out” Han?

First of all, let’s take a look at Cloud City itself. What would a city look like if it were run by a scoundrel involved with smugglers and gamblers? Typically, such places would be places which welcome those of like mind. In other words, it would be Mos Eisley in the sky. But that’s not the picture which is presented in The Empire Strikes Back. What we see is a fairly clean operation overall, with no signs of the lowlifes Lando once affiliated with. The logical conclusion is that the responsibility which came with the control of Cloud City changed him and brought out his best. He would have left his dark past behind and become a true public servant.

So then comes Darth Vader wanting Lando to turn over a man whom he remembered as an untrustworthy snake who won Lando’s prized ship from him then left (and probably nearly got him killed at least once or twice), and have his companions used as bait to capture someone else.  In exchange, the Empire would leave him and his people alone.  It’s not like Lando would stop and think that perhaps Han was a changed person as well and trying to save the galaxy, the Empire would betray him, and he should protect Han at the expense of the people under his watch. No, the wisest choice for him, knowing what little he did at the time, was to turn that conniving boy puppy over to Imperial forces and get them out of his hair. He had the entire Cloud City and its people to worry about!

So when Vader began to screw him over, his past as a scoundrel had him prepared to read the writing on the wall very quickly. He did what he could to help Leia and Chewbacca save Han. Failing that, he ordered the evacuation of Cloud City and left, joining the Rebel Alliance. Lando used the Millennium Falcon to fly the others to save Han. He led a battle group to destroy the Death Star, at his own peril, leading from the front and not the rear. He proved himself worthy of the rank of General.

Let’s think about the motivations of all of the “good guys” in the original trilogy. Luke Skywalker wanted adventure and to be like his father. Out of duty to the Force Yoda and Obi Wan Kenobi both served . Leia had a bone to pick with the Empire (you would too if they blew up your entire freaking planet with everyone on it while you watched) and was raised to be in command. Han was in it for the money at first before being sucked in to the cause of the Rebellion (by the hot princess, no less). Chewbacca was apparently a heroic character (according to Episode III anyway) but seemed to have a particular loyalty to Han. R2D2 and C3PO seemed to simply fall into their positions as if guided by either fate or misfortune.

But Lando was different.  He had the most to lose, and he gave it up willingly simply because it was the right thing to do … every single time.  Lando Calrissian was the ultimate boy scout and was the most selfless and heroic of all the main characters.

So you can say Lando sold Han out all you want. But if you thought that made him an untrustworthy character, then you nerd boys owe Lando an apology.

[Editor’s Note: The Sci-Fi Block has a defense of Lando Calrissian here.]

Han Shot First?

Then there’s Han Solo. There seems to be some disagreement as to whether or not he shot first. Most fans seem to think he did, but George Lucas disagrees. He even enhanced the Special Edition to show that Greedo shot first. Let’s think about this.

Being as though Han knew who Greedo was right away, it’s fair to say that Greedo had a reputation as a bounty hunter. But the lousy shot that he fired (at point blank range!) at Han in the Special Edition would indicate that he couldn’t hit the broad side of a Star Destroyer at three paces!  You can’t build a reputation firing like that. If it were a smooth bore black powder pistol, there might have been some excuse for that lousy shot. But it was a plasma blaster for crying out loud! In the original version, only one shot is heard and Greedo goes down like a tauntaun on Mustafar. Therefore, Han didn’t only shoot first, Greedo didn’t even get a shot off! But was Han justified in his actions?

First of all, let’s all understand that, at the time, Han Solo was pretty much a bad guy. He didn’t convert until later. So lacking in a moral code is not just to be understood, it’s to be expected. Secondly, he’s one nasty dude being confronted by another nasty dude.  That rarely turns out well.

Next, consider that some of what Greedo said is just a bit suspect. When Han said that this time, he had the money, Greedo said that if Han handed the money over to him, he might forget he ever saw him. The last time I checked, bounty hunters weren’t involved in collections agencies, they’re only interested in bounties. And if Greedo would forget that he saw Han, then how would he tell Jabba who the money was from? I believe the answer comes later in the conversation. “Over my dead body.” “That’s the idea. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.”

So the way I interpret this is that Greedo, telling Han that his goose is already cooked with Jabba, intends to kill Han for undisclosed reasons. And if he can get Han to turn over any money he already has, then Greedo can take the money and run, after killing Han.  Greedo’s goal is to kill Han one way or another, and he’s gloating over that fact in some weird James Bond villain sort of way.

Studies have shown that the first person to throw a punch usually wins the fight. If Han didn’t shoot first, he likely would have been killed. He couldn’t have transported Luke and Obi Wan to their destination. He couldn’t have helped Luke destroy the first Death Star. He couldn’t have led the team to take down the force field so Lando could take out the last Death Star. In short, the Rebellion would have been completely hosed.

But given what Greedo said, Han would probably be able to tell that the green sucker was up to no good. He would have been able to identify the fact that his life was in immediate peril. His shooting first was preemptive self-defense!

[Editor’s note: here’s one of the few blog posts actually defending the “Greedo shot first” angle.]


So Lando’s actions were selfless and intended to save lives. Han’s actions were intended to save his own life, and in doing so, helped free the galaxy. Although neither one had initially intended to take down the evil Empire, their actions were, nonetheless, justified by their immediate situations.

Now all you haters can knock it off and accept that your jabs are unwarranted and are not of any use other than to make yourselves feel falsely superior and to serve the evil Empire.  So stop it.  Thank you.






Daniel C. Handley

Dan Handley was raised a Trekkie, fell in love with "Star Wars" at an early age, and became obsessed with comic book superheroes. He spent his youth dreaming of how to get real superpowers, starships, and so on.

One thought on “In Defense of the Scoundrels

  • Good argument Dan, I hope it starts a lively debate!


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