Long before he fought with the Rebellion, and long before he was betrayed by Lando Calrissian, Han Solo was smuggling coaxium for Dryden Vos, a big shot gangster in the Crimson Dawn. If you’ve seen Solo, you know how his early smuggling adventures end. For long time Star Wars fans, the ending of Solo is actually just the beginning for the legendary smuggler.
Throughout Solo, there are plenty of references to A New Hope, the film that cements Han Solo as one of the coolest characters in Star Wars. But there’s one reference in particular that bridges an important gap between Han and arguably the most notorious gangster in the galaxy: Jabba the Hutt.
Near the end of Solo, before Han and Tobias Beckett hand the coaxium to Vos on Savareen, the smugglers are confronted by Enfys Nest and the Cloud-Riders. Nest reveals they need the coaxium for the Rebellion, and that handing it to Vos would be a grave mistake.
Han eventually hatches a plan to help Nest, deceive Vos and get their money. Beckett ultimately decides not to help Han, prompting him to leave Savareen, but not before telling Han about another job being put together by a “very big gangster.”
This gangster just so happens to operate out of Tattooine, a desert planet where we first meet Han in A New Hope. Han pops up in a Mos Eisley cantina, where he encounters Greedo and, more importantly, Obi-Wan and Luke Skywalker.
While Solo doesn’t namedrop Jabba the Hutt, it’s pretty easy to put two and two together. It’s an important reference because Han eventually forges a pretty significant relationship with Jabba in the original trilogy. Their relationship isn’t a good one by any means, but Solo provides a breadcrumb for how they link up in the first place.
Employed by a crime boss
When the first trilogy hit, Jabba didn’t appear until 1983’s Return of the Jedi, where we see him in one of the best scenes in Star Wars. But his presence looms large long before that, as the mention in Solo proves.
When the special edition of A New Hope was released, we find out that Han owed Jabba a large sum of money after a job gone wrong; it was actually this dispute that forced Jabba to send Greedo after Han, in which the two duel in the Mos Eisley cantina.
Han tells Jabba that he’ll repay the debt—with interest—after successfully delivering Obi-Wan, Luke, R2-D2, and C-3PO to Alderaan. Jabba agrees to Han’s terms and parts with a threat:
“If you fail me again, I’ll put a price on your head so big, you won’t be able to go near a civilized system,” Jabba tells Han.
Their exchange, although later added by George Lucas when A New Hope was re-released in theaters, captures their working relationship very well. It’s not all that different between the relationship between Beckett and Han in Solo; it’s very business-like, but there’s a mutual respect.
Han winds up getting embroiled in the Rebellion and helps destroy the Death Star, in which he is awarded a medal for heroism. But things take a dark turn in The Empire Strikes Back.
After escaping from an Imperial attack on Hoth, Han goes to Cloud City on the planet Bespin, where he encounters Lando Calrissian. It’s there that Han is betrayed by Lando and captured by Darth Vader and Boba Fett. Han is then placed in suspended animation via carbon freezing and handed over to Fett, who delivers him to Jabba as a trophy.
It’s not until Return of the Jedi Han is released from suspension by Princess Leia, who infiltrates Jabba’s palace disguised as a bounty hunter. His escape leads to, as I mentioned, one of the best scenes in Star Wars history, and the death of Jabba.
All of this happens well after Solo takes place. But, in showing us Han’s past, it’s cool how one small reference can open up Han to the larger world of Star Wars. However, little does Han know that Beckett’s lead on a job will spark what will become the biggest adventure of Han’s life.