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The ending of Solo: A Star Wars Story explained

The story of Han Solo has finally been told. From the way he got his ship to the way he got his name, Solo: A Star Wars Story offers up almost everything you've ever wanted to know about the origins of the Star Wars galaxy's most famous ruffian with a heart of gold.

While this prequel accomplishes its goals of spinning a yarn about the smuggler's early days, it doesn't quite bridge the gap between Han's early days and the start of A New Hope. As a matter of fact, the movie ends with a lot of threads left dangling, with some surprising appearances and tantalizing foreshadowing hinting at more story to come. 

After jetting around the galaxy on a hunt for some expensive fuel, the conclusion of Solo comes down to a whirl of double-crosses, with secret agendas revealed and hard-won loyalties betrayed. Han comes out on top in the end, of course, but things do get a little dicey regarding his interpersonal relationships before the credits roll. 

Luckily, we've got some tricks up our sleeve to help even the scruffiest-looking nerf herder make some sense of it all. In short, you're all clear, kid — let's explain the ending of this thing and go home. 

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Trust no one

Solo: A Star Wars Story reaches its climax in the only way a Han Solo movie could — with every scoundrel in the room double-crossing each other.

After accomplishing a time-and-space-bending escape through the dangerous Maelstrom, Han and company make their way back to the yacht headquarters of gangster Dryden Vos, parked in a beachside expanse on the planet Savareen. Their goal for the whole movie has been to acquire a massive supply of refined coaxium to pay off a debt to Vos, coaxium being the magical space goo that serves as both a potent, expensive fuel source and a powerful, unstable explosive.

Before delivering the goods to Vos, Han and friends make nice with the Marauder Enfys Nest, who unmasks herself to reveal that she's a teenage girl fighting on behalf of a nascent rebellion. She's been trying to acquire the coaxium for more noble, anti-establishment goals: Making bombs to wage a guerrilla war against the Empire. 

Something about the arrangement appeals to Han's rebellious streak quite powerfully. Suddenly, the scary, once-faceless bandit seems more deserving of the goods than Vos, so Han hatches a plan to let Nest's Cloud-Riders keep the coaxium.

Han's plan is complicated when it's revealed that Beckett has been in league with Vos the whole time. After consistently warning Han throughout the movie to trust no one, he finally demonstrates why with his ultimate betrayal, absconding with the coaxium — and with Chewbacca.

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Cool, it's Red Skull

After a hectic gunfight fatally compromises Vos and his crew, Qi'ra and Han seem to finally reunite. While Han goes after Beckett and Chewbacca, Qi'ra hangs behind in Vos' yacht — and then things get really weird, really fast.

Plugging the deceased Vos' Crimson Dawn ring into a communication device, Qi'ra hails a familiar hooded figure. It turns out to be someone many Star Wars fans — especially people who only watch the movies — figured they would never see again. Though she was introduced as a top lieutenant to Dryden Vos, it's revealed that her loyalties truly lie with prequel star Darth Maul, improbably back from the brink of death to head up the crime organization Crimson Dawn.

Maul, a Sith lord famous for wielding a dual-bladed lightsaber, fighting theatrically, and getting utterly wrecked in battle, is played in Solo by martial artist Ray Park, who first wore the red-and-black face paint in 1999's The Phantom Menace. This time around, he's voiced by Sam Witwer, who voices the character in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars cartoon series. 

A lot has changed since the last time we saw this horned menace. This is a Maul that's older, angrier, and outfitted with a set of cyborg legs. But how did this happen, where is it going, and why?

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You'll be back?

Last time we saw Darth Maul, he was all over the place. Literally — Obi-Wan Kenobi cut him in half in the climactic final duel of The Phantom Menace, sending him plummeting end over end toward what felt like certain doom.

People who only enjoy the Star Wars movies, as opposed to the wide world of books and TV shows beyond it, are understandably surprised by the left-field reveal that this kitschy character from The Phantom Menace is still alive and well in Solo. As it turns out, Darth Maul actually survived his long plummet down that deep dark shaft on Naboo. Even after being literally split in two, side-to-side right across the navel, the red-horned raging boy without a personality managed to pull himself together.

After keeping himself alive through sheer tyranny of will and getting back on some mechanical feet, Maul went on to have a long and robust life in the Star Wars expanded universe, following in the footsteps of another once-thought-to-be-dead character: Boba Fett.

Now that he's alive again in the movies, what's this disgraced Sith lord going to get up to in the future? There are a couple of possibilities, and not all of them involve Han Solo. 

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Crimson dawning

Based on current contracts with core cast members, it's possible that two sequels to Solo could be produced, though nothing's been announced yet. Should Solo become its own series, it seems natural that it would continue the story of Maul and his Crimson Dawn crime syndicate, especially with Han's friend Qi'ra at his side to add dramatic tension. 

Though Maul only appears in Solo for about a minute, he orders Qi'ra to come visit him on his home world of Dathomir, which is previously unseen in the Star Wars movies. To show her he really means it, he whips out his double-bladed lightsaber — which must've gotten fixed up by the same guy who did Maul's legs, because if you'll recall, Obi-Wan cut Maul's lightsaber in half, too. 

Maul's purpose and ultimate goal is unclear, for now, but there's a couple places his story can go from Solo without Han himself ever having to get involved with it. In the expanded universe, Maul had a long rivalry with Obi-Wan Kenobi, the man who chopped him and half and left him for dead. 

His quest for vengeance against the Jedi Master led to a duel on Tatooine in the Clone Wars series that only one of them walked away from alive. Considering that Disney and Lucasfilm are very much in the process of putting together an Obi-Wan Kenobi standalone movie, it stands to reason that Maul could be making the jump to that installment, connecting the Star Wars Stories together like some black-cloaked one-man Avengers Initiative.

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Me and my Wookiee

After Beckett enlists Chewbacca at gunpoint to help haul the stolen coaxium away for his own purposes, Han sets out after the two on foot. When he catches up, it appears we're about to be treated to a classic quick-draw — but since there are no rules in this galaxy far, far away, Han just blows Beckett away with one shot straight through the heart. Take that, you floppy-haired, brief-tenured, surrogate dad.

The movie ends with Han and Chewbacca being two men truly on their own — one a hothead schmuck in his late 20s, and another a chilled-out bruiser in his early 190s. Lando leaves the planet with the Millennium Falcon the instant he gets back in the driver's seat, and Qi'ra commandeers Vos' yacht to head offworld herself, abandoning Han to make a power play by moving to get closer to Maul. 

The movie made Han and the Wookiee fast friends, but at the end, they really only have each other. Everyone else in their lives has either pushed them out or been pushed away, leaving them as two born survivors with deadly aim, tons of grenades, and the ability to rip peoples' arms off with impunity. It's a beautiful partnership.

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Han shot first, explained

"Mommy, why did the audience start clapping when Han Solo shot Woody Harrelson through the chest?"

"Well, son or daughter, that was a little something we bookish types like to call a metatextual reference — a little something for the fans."

"Fans of Star Wars?"

"Yes, kiddo. See, fans of Star Wars have had it bad over the years. Did you know that in the original Star Wars, when Han was caught at blaster-point by the bounty hunter Greedo, our dashing smuggler got the drop on his assailant by firing his weapon first?"

"That's why audiences liked him."

"Correct. But did you know that in the 1997 Special Edition of Star Wars, director George Lucas altered the movie to make Greedo shoot first?"

"That's bullcrap, Mom."

"I'm sayin'. Since the heavily-altered Special Editions effectively replaced the originals on home video, fans of the series made a point of saying 'Han Shot First,' to make sure it was clear to all viewers that the original versions had Han acting much cooler than the Special Editions did. It was kind of a fan motto."

"Wow, Mom. Your generation really kept the fire going."

"Indeed, homie. Anyway, Solo had Han shoot Woody Harrelson's character out of nowhere as a nod to fans. It was cold-blooded murder, and a total Han move."

"We should watch the original Star Wars on Blu-ray when we get home."

"I've been trying to tell you, child — call Disney, because for some inexplicable reason, we still can't."

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Enfys gon give it to ya

After Chewbacca and Han Solo reunite, leaving Beckett to roast in the Savareen sun, the kind-hearted bandits drag their quarry of coaxium back to the camp of the Cloud-Riders, delivering the valuable supply to former foil Enfys Nest. 

Initially, the big reveal around Nest is that this big bad space marauder is actually a young girl, but the more interesting twist occurs as it becomes clear she's one of the warriors who helps to spark the rebellion that makes up the fourth, fifth, and sixth Star Wars episodes. Her final parting words to Han indicate her belief that he'll find his way to the rebellion one day. Solo shows him rebelling against the Empire for selfish reasons, but the original trilogy shows him becoming a rebel for the sake of others — not just himself. 

Interestingly, Nest is so young that the character could conceivably still be alive in the time of Episode IX, should Disney and Lucasfilm feel like going there. As scary as Nest is for the first chunk of Solo, she really doesn't get to do much once she reveals her true colors. But it's a wide galaxy, and it's a big franchise. If she proves to be a fan favorite, there's plenty of room for her to pop up somewhere.

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Gimme the prize

After Han's crew is pared down by betrayals and deaths, leaving only Chewbacca, the duo makes its way to a new green planet to catch up with Lando, and tie up one last loose end. 

Han greets Lando with a move that will look familiar to fans of The Empire Strikes Back, throwing him off with the threat of a punch before yanking him gruffly into an embrace. While the gesture appeared to be just a spontaneous show of affection in its first appearance, here the move is deployed with purpose, so Han can deftly pick Lando's pockets (or rather, his Taxi Driver-style wrist holster) of the extra Sabacc cards he used to cheat the first time they played together.

Han's dishonorable vengeance allows him to finally win the Millennium Falcon in a Sabacc bet, becoming its sole owner up through the events of Return of the Jedi

Curiously, Han appears to take the Millennium Falcon well after L3-37's mind has been uploaded to the ship's interface, and there's no indication that he ever unplugs her from the ship and gives her back to Lando. 

The implications are disquieting. Not only does Han cheat his way to liberating Lando from his beloved ship (and home), he also appears to steal his best friend along with it. No wonder Lando turned him over to Darth Vader in Empire. That's just the sort of thing that's gonna happen when you get into a flirty, high-stakes prank war like these two.

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A very big gangster

A lot of the surprises in Solo come from the people who didn't show up. Two big figures from the Star Wars series that have a lot to do with Han Solo have almost nothing to do with what goes on here. We're speaking, of course, of the bounty hunter Boba Fett and the crime lord Jabba the Hutt.

Boba Fett isn't even hinted at in the movie, with the only nod toward the character's aesthetic popping up as some Mandalorian armor on Dryden Vos' space yacht. But Jabba is indirectly referenced a couple of times, cuing the character up for a sequel. 

Even though he's not called out by name, it's not a huge stretch to puzzle out who's being talked about when he's brought up. In the final moments of the movie, Han and Chewie prepare for a lightspeed trip across the galaxy to meet "a very big gangster" on Tatooine — and no gangster in the galaxy seems to be bigger or more grotesque than the long-lived Jabba the Hutt.

While we always like to see puppets in these Star Wars movies, that Jabba puppet is a real headache to operate if you want the character to be mobile. Maybe in the next one — if there is a next one — we'll see the space slug get off his butt a little. After all, CGI's come a long way since '97.