Editorial: Star Wars Canon – Is Lando’s Fate Set in Stone?
Star Wars is about stories. We fall in love with the characters, locations, tech, the Force, the action, and more. The list of what first hooked us and what keeps us coming back is endless, but it boils down to story.
Whether it was seeing them play out on the screen/page or creating your own with action figures, the narrative is what hooked us all. Even if you’re a fan of the nuts and bolts of the universe (vehicle cross sections, field guides, galaxy maps) it’s seeing those details in play that makes that information exciting. Canon without story is just a list of fictional “facts” without context.
I’ve talked about canon on a general level, and inconsistencies both unintentional and intentional; now let’s look at a scenario where canon superseded story and why that isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Before his appearance in The Rise of Skywalker, the last time we properly see Lando Calrissian (i.e. not in a vision or flashback) is during the novel Last Shot. In the final pages, approximately three years after the Battle of Endor, we find Lando strolling off arm-in-arm with his Twi’lek girlfriend, Kaasha Bateen:
‘That doesn’t mean I can’t make love last. I’m a hero and a scoundrel, Kaasha, and I always will be. I can’t stop being what I am. But what I can do, what I’ve never done before, is be your scoundrel.’
Kaasha stopped walking, cocked her head at him. ‘Mine and mine alone, Lando?’
‘Yours and yours alone, Kaasha. If you will let down your guard and have me.’
We don’t see Lando again until The Rise of Skywalker, where he appears on Pasaana in assistance to Rey and the team. We are informed that he was with Luke Skywalker on his mission to track the assassin Ochi and a Sith Wayfinder. Lando gives the team information and then they are interrupted by the First Order.
He appears again throughout the film: giving advice to Poe, agreeing to find allies in the core worlds, heroically appearing with the fleet to save the day, and finally talking with former First Order stormtrooper, Jannah:
Where are you from General?’
‘The Gold system. What about you kid?’
‘Oh, I don’t know’
‘Well let’s find out’
That’s it. The film gives us no other context for Lando. Just what we see on screen and that he went on a mission with Luke that was ultimately unsuccessful.
From a Certain Point of View
The Rise of Skywalker novelization and Visual Dictionary paint a different picture for Lando however, one much more tragic:
“Something about the way he said it…“So you stayed here?” she asked.
“Here and there. The desert helps you forget,” Lando said, and sadness tinged his voice. Lando went on: “First Order went after us—the leaders from the old wars. They took our kids.” His gaze grew distant. “My girl wasn’t even old enough to walk. Far as I know, she’s a stormtrooper now.”
“They turned our kids into our enemies,” Lando said in a defeated voice. “My girl. Han and Leia’s son, Ben. To kill the spirit of the Rebellion for good.”
So between one paragraph from the novelization and one from the Visual Dictionary (which quotes the novelization) a beloved character of the original trilogy has one of the most horrific things to occur in Star Wars thrust upon him: his child is kidnapped and he’s lived 20 something years not knowing her fate.
The issue is that the novel isn’t just adding a scene we didn’t see in the film or providing some context for how Lando feels about a situation (the primary role/appeal of film adaptations), it’s adding 20+ years of scenes. It rewrites Lando’s entire life. Without those few sentences Lando’s fate is undetermined, his family and history since Last Shot a mystery. A mystery to fill in with a novel/comic/TV show. Those few lines condemn one of the favorite core characters of the original trilogy to the tragic loss of a child and then pain and exile.
I’m not demanding the story be changed. Of course I want Lando to live this amazing happy life but I don’t disagree with the story line given in the novel, I disagree with the lack of story given at all.
It’s an odd tendency of the sequel trilogy; that most of the original trilogy characters featured get tragic stories tied to them or have tragic endings. Han and Leia appear with a son who has gone to the dark side and both die trying to save both him and the galaxy while Luke has gone into exile for his mistakes and dies redeeming himself. (Even side characters aren’t immune: Admiral Ackbar dies, Wedge Antilles’ step-son dies moments before he arrives, even R2-D2 spends all of The Force Awakens in self-imposed shut down).
This isn’t a critique on the trilogy because, whatever you feel about it, the three main character’s tragedies are given a story. Han, Leia, and Luke’s tragedies are a massive focus of the sequel trilogy. Meaning that approximately $900 million was spent on telling that story while Lando is condemned to a life of tragedy (and all but robbed of any stories in that time period) for the sake of one paragraph in the novelization of the film, not even the film itself.
My guess would be that originally this was a plot point for the movie from an earlier script or even one filmed and cut out (rumors speculate that a lot of footage was cut in the film, additionally no deleted scenes have been released). This is usually where the differences stem in novelizations. However if JJ. Abrams cut out something so revelatory, it is worth wondering whether putting it back into canon is the right choice.
Again, speculation was that originally plans were for Jannah to be Lando’s daughter but that was changed. Whether that’s true or not and regardless of the reasoning behind that change (good or bad) at very least Lando’s story would make sense. We’re seeing the end of a narrative (much like we did with Luke’s story in The Last Jedi) where Lando has lost hope of finding his daughter and through saving the galaxy again and helping the resistance, is reunited with his long lost child, Jannah, who has broken away from the First Order’s indoctrination.
With the reuniting taken away we’re left with no narrative and a hero broken for no story or conceptual reason.
But then, is the novelization as a source even valid?
The Perils of Adaptation
Novelizations of the movies have always been an important part of Star Wars; adding depth and value to the films. They are also incredibly tricky when it comes to where they stand in canon. Officially, they are canon:
However, the caveats to that are endless. Firstly, they are canon only to the extent that they align with what they are adapting:
The clarification is because numerous differences appear between the novelizations and the films they’re based on.
Return of the Jedi claims Obi-Wan and Owen Lars are brothers, The Empire Strikes Back has Han say something other than his iconic ‘I know’ to Leia’s ‘I love you’, Revenge of the Sith show’s Yoda and Qui-Gon force communicating for the first time (conflicting with when they communicate in the sixth season of The Clone Wars), and the original is a whole other story.
The most recent sizable inconsistency was in the The Force Awakens novelization:
“Uh, hi,” the pilot mumbled. “I’m Poe.”
She nodded slowly, searching his face and finding that she liked it. “I recognize the name. So you’re Poe. Poe Dameron, the X-wing pilot. I’m Rey.”
“I know.” He smiled back, a little more at ease. “Nice to meet you.”
We see in the The Last Jedi though that Rey and Poe don’t meet for the first time until the end of that film. Lucasfilm Story Group’s Pablo Hidalgo was asked on Twitter about this and, being the patient man he is, answered:
So Novelizations, by their very nature, are already in a canon grey area. Both the The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker adaptations were released months after the film, as opposed to concurrently, maybe in an attempt to prevent these pre-release issues.
Hidalgo makes the compelling argument that Poe and Rey’s meeting deserves to be seen on screen by a wider audience rather than the much smaller reading audience. He notes ‘given the stated nature of film novelizations’ essentially calling out that the adaptation medium is fallible by nature. He then clarifies something very important:
He reaffirms the strength of the canon. He isn’t dismissing all novels because films will receive more attention, he’s drawing attention to the fact that novelizations are adaptations of the film with bonus scenes that aren’t beholden to canon as original stories are. Hidalgo then reaffirms the worth of novelizations and why they don’t just cut all a film’s deleted scenes from novelizations:
I say all this just to demonstrate that novelizations (and comic adaptations) are an unreliable form of canon and are ancillary reading material to provide context and at most provide insight into characters internal feelings and thoughts at certain moments. They can provide scenes we don’t see in the movie, but I believe the caveat should be that the scene is proven to have happened. For example, The Last Jedi comic adaptation shows Admiral Ackbar’s last words to his crew before his death. This is adding context to something we know happens in the film: Ackbar’s death.
The difference here is context, the novelizations provide depth to existing plot points and character beats, not create them. Especially not to the extent that it creates Lando’s plot.
Even if you subscribe to the simplest of canon tenets: that they ‘are canon when they align with what is seen on screen’ that translates to them being canon for as long as needed and a malleable source that doesn’t need to be questioned but also, don’t need to be obeyed.
Even if we look solely to The Rise of Skywalker visual dictionary (which was written by Hidalgo himself), reference/guide books are by their very nature meant to collect information from sources and provide a visual representation of it. The role of them is to clarify, not create. These type of books are secondary sources to the story driven primary ones. They tell us interesting tidbits about character’s equipment or the ships they fly. They don’t create big stories themselves.
Additionally, they’re already a minefield for canon inconsistencies (see here and here). Understandably, because the more zoomed in on details something is the easier it is for contradictions to happen, and these types of books are all about details. Even if they were flawless though it still stands: reference books aren’t a pillar for big canon changes. This isn’t about going back to the Expanded Universe’s tiered system of canon, it’s about establishing the differences between a primary source and a secondary source.
Return of the Scoundrel
Now this is Star Wars, so eventually (hopefully soon) we’ll get a fully fledged story of Lando and his life (one with an ending not just more details). Whether it’s in a novel, comic or, if the planets align, a tv show.
It could show what Lando was doing between Last Shot and The Rise of Skywalker or what happened after he left with Jannah to find out where she’s from. However, regardless of the medium or the time period one question remains: is it beholden to the facts stated in the novelization of the The Rise of Skywalker, when they are already such an unreliable source for canon and generating story ideas isn’t their prerogative?
Regardless of your opinion of J.J. Abrams the conclusion is the same. If you support him, this is something he didn’t want/consider important enough to put into his film. If you’re not a fan of his then you don’t want something with his influence affecting a character who, by purely looking at the film, made it through without damage.
If the Story Group do decide that Lando’s daughter being kidnapped and his hermit life on Pasaana is canon then a post-Rise of Skywalker story is needed for closure. Han reconnected with Leia, found a protege in Rey and got to see his son one more time; Luke got to redeem for his mistakes by teaching Rey and saving the Resistance; Leia taught an apprentice in Rey, a leader in Poe, and died helping redeem her son. The smooth-talking, Sabaac playing, Falcon flying baron-administrator of Bespin, who destroyed the second Death Star and rallied the fleet to Exegol deserves a conclusion, or at least to have his story told.
However, if a creative came along with a good idea for Lando’s story that didn’t match the novelization and Visual Dictionary….well…nothing has been set in stone yet.
As always, may your universe be canon and the Force be with you.
Alex Newman is huge Star Wars fan and loves to keep up to date with the canon. He’s also loved movies for as long as he can remember. He’s a massive Disney and superhero fan but will watch anything. He’s worked at a cinema, a comic book store and at Disney World but is currently working in radio in London!