A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a very special love existed between a scoundrel and a princess that changed the way many of us looked at love stories. No longer did the princess have to swoon over the good-hearted young hero. Instead, she could have the heart of a rogue, a smuggler who was completely beneath her social standing.
He still captivated her.
She loved him.
Whether she would admit it or not.
I’m talking, of course, about Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo, in Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. A love story, wrapped in the middle of a galactic war, where one of the most famous love confessions was spoken.
Princess Leia said, “I love you.”
Han Solo simply replied, “I know.”
I swooned every time I saw Empire Strikes Back. My girlfriends and I would even have moments of silence for “The Kiss,” as we called it.
Han and Leia fought, harassed, teased, and made each other miserable, all while fighting the Empire to bring freedom back to the galaxy. So it should have been no surprise that they did fall in love.
And as Return of the Jedi ended, I knew when Leia reversed that famous line back to Han, they would be together forever.
So when word came that Episode Seven, The Force Awakens, was being released, my girly squeals went into overdrive. I had to know how their relationship ended up.
As thrilled as I was that I was going to see more of Han and Leia, when this image came out in the trailer for The Force Awakens, my first thought was “That doesn’t look like a happy Princess Leia.”
Unfortunately, I was right.
I have to give credit to the writers of Star Wars The Force Awakens, because as a romantic (I write romances, of course I’m a romantic) I was thrilled that this relationship was a pivotal part of the story arc. It was done in such a way that I believed, without a doubt, that Han and Leia behaved like I would have expected them to behave, both on screen, and in the thirty years between ROTJ and TFA.
They loved each other.
They got married.
They had a son named Ben, who could use the Force. Leia had her twin brother, Luke Skywalker take Ben to train him in the ways of the Force.
And Ben, with a singular decision, ripped his family apart.
Ben turned to the Dark Side.
What made Ben make this decision is unclear from TFA, but his choice destroyed his family.
Unfortunately, this happens to many families when a member--especially a child--gets involved in a dark world like drugs or gambling. Han and Leia, like many parents, are left blaming each other, not knowing how else to deal with their grief, because it’s more than just death of a child. It’s the not knowing.
They don’t know what happened to their child.
Han and Leia went their separate ways. Han went back to smuggling. Leia returned to the Resistance against the First Order, a remainder of the Empire that Leia, Han and Luke had fought thirty years before. Neither Han or Leia know for certain if Ben is alive or dead--he changed his name and wore a mask--at least until Han saw him.
When Leia’s Resistance fighters save Han, it brings Han and Leia together for the first time in quite a while.
Han’s first words to Leia were, well, very Han-like.
“You changed your hair.”
“This is the same jacket,” Leia told him.
“No it’s not.”*
It’s obvious from the moment they are together on screen that they still very much love each other. As the movie progresses, it’s shown that they were torn apart by something bigger than their love--their grief.
And in The Force Awakens, they find the courage to put the pieces back together. To forgive each other for past mistakes, and try to move past this thing that drove them apart.
Even wrapped in war, Han and Leia were able to find some resolution in their relationship, something I think they both needed.
They needed to forgive each other, and move on.
And I think they did. As best they could, of course, with a war around them, new bad guys and monstrous world-destroying weapons.
It’s Star Wars.
But there’s still a little romance thrown in.