The first act of Return of the Jedi featured Han Solo’s rescue by his friends from the clutches of the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt. Luke, Leia, Lando, Chewbacca, and the droids each arrived at Jabba’s palace either individually or in pairs. Not that Star Wars fans need a reminder, but eventually Leia freed Han from the carbonite. However, Jabba then threw Han in a dungeon and kept Leia by his side in her iconic outfit. Luke showed up and the rescue moved into its final stages. A question arises: was Han’s rescue a well executed plan or the result of improvisation by Luke, Leia, and the others? Although there isn’t a definitive answer, an analysis of the scene suggests Han’s rescue was the result of a well-executed plan with some improvisation thrown in. This two part blog post will analyze the steps of the rescue plan and evaluate how much went according to a plan, and what they left to improvisation.
The Droids – Phase One of the Rescue Plan
After Darth Vader’s arrival on the second Death Star, the movie cuts to R2-D2 and C-3P0 on Tatooine. They are on what might generously be described as a road to Jabba’s palace to deliver a message from Luke Skywalker to Jabba the Hutt. Once they arrive, it is clear that C-3P0 had no idea what Luke’s message was. Artoo presents Luke’s message for Jabba as a hologram. Threepio reacts with surprise and shock that he and Artoo were just given to Jabba as gifts.
If the presentation of Artoo and Threepio as gifts were part of a plan, what purpose did it serve? For one, it got them both inside the palace. If they just delivered a message, then afterwards, Jabba would expect them to leave. Artoo’s presence is critical later. Although Threepio has an unfair reputation as untrustworthy with secrets, his lack of knowledge and surprise helped sell later developments in the plan. Jabba’s minions assign Artoo to the sail barge while Threepio becomes Jabba’s new interpreter.
Boushh and Chewbacca – Phase Two
The next phase of the plan involved Chewbacca and Princess Leia. They arrive at Jabba’s palace in disguise. Leia disguises herself as Boushh and Chewbacca is a bounty she captured. After an infamous negotiation over the bounty and the appearance of a thermal detonator, Jabba comes to terms with Leia/Boushh on the bounty while the guards drag Chewbacca to the prison. Clearly, this is part of a larger plan. They needed Chewbacca in the dungeon. Leia’s presentation of Chewbacca insured he would get there. Jabba recognized Chewbacca on sight. Absent some elaborate disguise, the mighty Wookiee was not sneaking into the palace.
Threepio doesn't seem to recognize Leia in her disguise. He clearly knows who Chewbacca is. During the negotiations, he pleads with Leia/Boushh to accept the bounty of 35,000 credits. He seemed genuinely worried. Again, it seems like the others left him out of the plan.
Leia’s presentation of Chewbacca as a bounty also had the benefit of garnering some trust. She earned some respect from Jabba, and he permitted her to stick around. This also permitted her the opportunity to free Han from the carbonite. More on that in a second.
Lando – Already Embedded
One should not forget Lando. During their conversation on the trip to Jabba’s, Threepio casually mentions that Lando never came back from Jabba’s, and thus proved he knew very little if anything about the rescue plan. Of course, Lando never came back. He instead infiltrated Jabba’s palace as one of Jabba’s henchmen and security personnel. There isn’t a canon resource that details how he did this, but it likely required a more elaborate scheme requiring more screen time than George Lucas and the creative team had time for. Regardless, Lando reveals himself to the audience with a shrewd look sufficient enough to convey he was undercover at Jabba’s.
Leia Frees Han – The Plan Goes Awry? – Phase Three
Once she earned Jabba’s trust as Boushh, Leia bided her time. Under cover of darkness while Jabba and his minions slept, Leia crept back into the throne room. Once there, she went about freeing Han from the carbonite. After freeing Han, she reveals herself as Leia and then says she has to get him out of there. She never gets the chance.
Unfortunately, circumstances dictated the escape attempt as a noisy one. The carbonite striking the floor made sufficient noise. The thawing process all generated light, heat, and more noise. Either Jabba caught wind of Leia’s rescue attempt, or the attempt drew his attention. Or, Jabba simply sniffed out the rescue attempt. After all, he hid behind a curtain and one of his minions held a hand over Threepio's mouth. Perhaps Threepio knew Leia was Boushh.
Either the master plan was for Leia to make a break for it with Han, or they expected to be caught. Assuming for the moment Leia really intended to make a break for it, what would she have done once she got out of the palace? True, she and Chewbacca had to get to the palace somehow, so they might have had a vehicle stationed nearby. But, viewers don’t know this. It is unlikely Leia and a blind Han would have went for it on foot in the dark across the desert.
Also, if that were the case, what would become of the droids and Chewbacca? Surely Leia wouldn’t leave them behind. Perhaps Lando would have rescued them. However, that might have been a tall order. Regardless, Leia becomes Jabba’s enslaved companion. Jabba sends Han to the dungeon.
Chewbacca and Han Reunite
After the guards deliver Han to the dungeon, they place him in a cell with Chewbacca. Reunited, the pair begins to catch up. Audiences can only understand one half of the conversation. However, Han translates enough of Chewbacca’s growls that more evidence of a plan emerges. To Han’s astonishment, Luke is a Jedi Knight. He also has some sort of a plan. Han is incredulous and writes it all off as delusions of grandeur.
Despite Han’s doubts, he is now where Leia, Luke, and the others need him. Chewbacca already has a life debt of sorts to Han and is fiercely loyal. Undoubtedly, Chewbacca’s primary concern would be protecting him. Chewbacca also has the opportunity to inform Han of some of the plan in the relative “privacy” of their prison. The conversation also establishes the next step in the plan: the arrival of Luke Skywalker.
At this point, the setup is complete. All the pieces are in place. Everything is ready for Luke’s entrance and negotiation with Jabba. That is where part one ends, and part two next month begins.Powered by Sidelines