December 20, 2019

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

An old fan favorite makes a surprise appearance in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and no, we’re not talking about Emperor Palpatine. (Though he shows up too.) Han Solo reappears in the movie to have a heart-to-heart with his son, Ben Solo (a.k.a. Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren).

Harrison Ford’s appearance is surprising both on a textual and meta-textual level. A Han Solo cameo was unexpected within the plot of the film because unlike Luke or Leia, Han was not a Force user and would not be able to bring himself back as a Force Ghost. Instead he appears a manifestation of Ben’s imagination.

Ben and Rey are facing off when Leia communes with her son. Ben stops fighting Rey because he feels Leia, and Rey stabs him. Rey then uses Force healing to suture Ben’s wound. Ben, meanwhile, can feel his mother dying. Rey takes off in Ben’s ship and leaves him behind. Ben then gazes moodily into the sea, when he turns around to see his father, Han Solo.

He and Han replay the conversation they had in The Force Awakens before Ben murdered his father. “I know what I have to do, but I don’t know if I’m strong enough to do it,” Ben said at the time. In that moment, Han thought that Ben meant coming home and returning the the side of the Light. In actuality, Ben meant killing Han and thus severing himself from his heritage and the Jedi. In The Force Awakens, Ben held out his lightsaber to Han only to stab him with it.

This time, Ben makes a different choice. He repeats the same words and asks for his father’s help before throwing his lightsaber into the sea. Han then disappears.

But fans who follow Harrison Ford’s comments off-camera will likely be more surprised that Ford agreed to appear in the movie at all. Ford has said, over and over again, that he thought Han should have died in Return of the Jedi and that Abrams essentially fulfilled his wishes by finally killing him off so he would never have to appear in a Star Wars movie again. It’s unclear how Abrams cajoled Ford into returning for one last scene in one last movie.

Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com.

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