Saturday, October 11, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 78: Han Solo's Last Shot

It's a moment that lives in infamy.  The day the Empire's favorite son was assassinated by a lone gunman.

Everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news.  Fathers tell their sons, sons wonder what it was like to have lived in those times, the great romantic idealism of the day, spoiled by those like the gunman who spent all their time decrying the "despotism" of the establishment.

There's a famous image caught by one of the citizens of Cloud City.  Darth Vader's visit has been the source of much gleeful anticipation all day, and almost as many angry words of protest.  Also wounded that day is administrator Lando Calrissian, caught in the same spray of gunfire as Vader.  Vader's daughter Leia Organa is forever frozen in that image clutching for something that will never be identified in the moments directly following the tragedy.  Today we know the complicated family relationship they shared, but at the time their united image was part of the magic that led to such hope for the future, hope that was snapped in a moment by the assassin Han Solo.

The sequence of events has become legend.  Vader has already been in Cloud City all morning.  He's about to celebrate the occasion at a state dinner attended by Calrissian, Organa, and other notables when Solo is brought in.  Solo is armed with a Corellian blaster, which he pulls out as soon as he catches sight of Vader.  For years Vader had been thought of as invincible, surviving grievous wounds during the Clone Wars rescuing fellow soldiers in the wake of their ship's crippling above the skies of Mustafar.  He is a known adherent to an old religion, but that religion doesn't save him this day.  He puts up his hand as if to stop the gunfire with it, but of course that doesn't happen.  It happens in a split-second.  A recording shows the fateful moment unfold.  Solo shoots, Vader falls.  End of an era.

We'll always wonder what might have been.  The culture wars continue, intensifying in the wake of the assassination and lingering for the next few decades, their full impact still yet to be understood.  There has never been another leader like Vader, though many have tried.  We mourn his loss as if it was yesterday, make him bigger than he was, an icon almost larger now than in his own day.  Some underestimate his impact, consign him a minor role in history.  But the wise know better.  We'll never see his like again.  The truth of Solo's motives will never be known.  There are many who believe the conspiracies still propounded throughout the years, but his subsequent death at the hands of the Wookiee named Chewbacca silenced him long ago.

In the end, we have only the impressions of these events, and the characters within them.  We remember, always.

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