Star Wars: Mysteries Revealed (Part 1)by Todd King, contributing writer
After nine movies of the Skywalker Saga, there remains a scattering number of mysteries. Often, one film would raise questions and following that, the next film would answer them. Apart from a few lingering details that remain unexplained, most of the puzzle pieces were fit together.
Part of the enjoyment of these stories was finding out those answers as we witnessed the plot unfold. Once we know the answers, we can't go back to a time when we didn't know them; we can't go back to re-experience those revelations like we did the first time. This is why we often share movies like this with family and friends over the years so we can vicariously experience that discovery through them while they experience it for the first time themselves. We want to go through those breakthrough moments again but, sadly, memory and time prevent such travels. Perhaps this is one of many reasons that fans like me watch these movies again and again as an attempt to capture that feeling again of the initial elation when we first encountered these amazing stories and startling revelations.
So, let's do a form of time traveling here. We can't undo and re-create these memories but let's go back to a time when these mysterious began and when we didn't have the answers for them. Back then, we were left in a state of curiosity and anticipation when a new piece of the puzzle presented itself. We had questions. Over time, many of these questions actually got answers. The payoffs varied in their impact but they were all memorable. So, which mysteries got revealed and what was the effect? In what context did the mysteries capture our imaginations? What did we finally get to see?
1. Questions from the Outset
When did this begin? It began with the very first movie, when it was simply called, Star Wars. Upon its initial release in theaters, the film did not have the subtitle, "Episode IV: A New Hope." Even without that subtitle, the opening crawl not only set the stage for the story before us, it offered hints to many things. Here are the first lines:
It is a period of civil war.
Rebel spaceships, striking
from a hidden base, have won
their first victory against
the evil Galactic Empire.
Right away we are in a story where war is already proceeding, there are rebel heroes, and an evil empire. However, there are also events that have already taken place. It mentions that the good guys have scored a win in this conflict so we immediately have hope that the momentum is sustained. But, what was this "first victory"? The following lines in the same crawl say:
During the battle, Rebel
spies managed to steal secret
plans to the Empire's
ultimate weapon, the DEATH
We now know all about that first victory; it is the plot of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story from 2016. But let's go back. This opening narrative appeared in 1977. There were no other Star Wars movies, no sequels, no prequels, just the context of this one movie named Star Wars. The story of these spies is important, but it isn't the story about to be told here. Yet, the fact that the story was mentiond, led us all to ponder what those rebels did to obtain the valuable cargo.
My friends and I thought about such a story during playtime. With our action figures and toy starships we came up with stories of spies sneaking into the Death Star, fighting off Stormtroopers, and narrowly escaping to bring the plans to Princess Leia. These stories were full of laser blasts, force fields, and hyperspace jumps that I'm sure were amazing in our minds. It was good fun, of course, but for the longest time, this story wasn't wasn't told.
When the prequels (Episodes I–III) were beginning production in the late 1990s, I made a guess that Episode III would finally put this tale into action. I was wrong. And when the prequel trilogy ended, with no hope for any future movies, I thought perhaps that the story was best left to my childhood imagination.
But then, imagine to my great surprise, that after the Disney acquisition, Lucasfilm announced that its second film (after The Force Awakens) would finally take that mere mention of a story into a feature film. With Rogue One, 39 years later, we got to see with our own eyes this story that had been only in our minds for so long.
2. The What Wars?
Like the idea above, another mystery was only briefly mentioned in the first movie (1977's Star Wars). When Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi have a moment to talk, Luke is surprised to learn that this bearded man, whom he thought was just "a strangle old hermit," used to be a soldier of some kind. We enter the scene in the middle of their conversation as Kenobi talks about events from the past:
No, my father didn't fight in the
wars. He was a navigator on a spice
That's what your uncle told you. He
didn't hold with your father's ideals.
Thought he should have stayed here
and not gotten involved.
You fought in the Clone Wars?
And that's all it took. Forget that Ben is painting a picture of Luke's father—he does so in order to make Luke curious and know that there's more to the story than his uncle is telling him. But Luke is also interested in the story of Ben who seems to be a fountain of information and a key to the past. Luke asks a fairly innocent question that makes sense to these characters, but to us, it is the tiniest glimpse of an entire legend. What were these "Clone Wars"?
In the first film of the Star Wars saga, we are en medias ras, or in the middle of things, and that means this world that we're suddenly pushed into has a long history. There are events in the past that have shaped the world that we're only beginning to encounter. Ancient texts like The Odyssey began this way, too, where incidents have already happened before the first words of the tale are spoken. Again, as kids, we tried to imagine what was meant by this title. What wars were they? Why was it called clone wars? Who were the clones and how many were there? And of course, what happened? One question we considered that sort of came true was, "Were the clones the origins of the stormtroopers?" It was quite something to see that come about.
Invariably, I thought that the prequels would tell us all about these clone wars and what important events took place during them. The Phantom Menace (Episode I) didn't quite get to that pont. Attack of the Clones (Episode II) showed us the origins of the clones and very beginning spark of the war itself.
You may recall that between 2002 and 2005, Lucasfilm partnered with Cartoon Network and Genndy Tartakovsky to produce an animated series called Clone Wars. It was made into three seasons, where the first two portrayed various battles and skirmishes involving various Jedi characters in short episodes of about 2 to 3 minutes each. It was popular enough to produce a third season of longer episodes, and these came out in the weeks leading up to the opening of Revenge of the Sith (Episode III). In fact, the final scenes of that third season set the stage for the very opening of Sith in much the same way Rogue One's ending lead into A New Hope. These cartoons are absolutely fascinating and I highly recommend watching them on Disney+.
When we reach the time of Revenge of the Sith (Episode III), the Clone Wars were coming to an end when the real sinister purpose of the clones was revealed. But Lucasfilm wasn't quite finished with those Clone Wars—and in 2008, created a CGI-animated series directed by Dave Filoni. With this series of 30-minute episodes and (eventually) seven seasons, we got a much fuller picture of the wars and the events that would shape the galaxy. Even within that series, the episodes didn't get a proper conclusion until 2020, when the series was revived on Disney+ for its seventh season after a long hiatus. All this from what seemed to be a throwaway line by Luke over 46 years ago.
3. How Han Solo got the Falcon
When we first meet Han Solo, it doesn't take long for him to brag about his starship, the Millennium Falcon and so from this beginning, the two things are inexorably linked. However, that idea quickly changed when we learn in Empire Strikes Back that Han wasn't the ship's original owner.
What are you doing here?
Ahh... repairs. I thought you
could help me out.
What have you done to my ship?
Your ship? Hey, remember, you
lost her to me fair and square.
Again another quick line given to simply establish the relationship of characters because of a past event, became a focal point for fans of the story. We learn that not only was Lando captain of the Falcon before Han, but that it changed hands because of some bet in some game. We began to wonder what Han was like back then. How did he meet Lando? What was this game and why did the starship become part of it? We learn that Han was some gambler and built his identity based on luck and probably some deceit. That sounded like a good story. But we learned about this in 1980. We didn't get to actually see this story until 2018's Solo: A Star Wars Story—38 years! In Solo, we finally got to see the circumstances of the infamous Sabacc card games that led to the exchange. These were great scenes between Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and Lando (Donald Glover) that showed their meeting, their unsteady friendship, and their soundrelish tendencies.
All these things made us wonder about Lando's adventures with the Falcon, too, and well, we're about to get those mysteries revealed in the upcoming Lando movie that I mentioned last month!
4. Return of the Sith
When we finally got to see the origins of the Star Wars saga with Episode I: The Phantom Menace, we were introduced to a frightening antagonist, the Sith Lord/assassin, Darth Maul. While his appearance was intimidating, what first interested me about his character was his name. In an instant, it changed something about our previous primary villain, Darth Vader. The name "Darth" was no longer a unique name. In fact, now it was no longer a name, but a title. Darth meant that a person was aligned with the Sith, practitioners of the dark side of the Force. Lord Maul looked ferocious and when we saw his deadly fighting abilities on screen, he was both terrifying and awesome. However, his presence was short-lived and who we thought would be the new antagonist for this new trilogy was gone too soon. From then on, from 1999, we missed him right away and wished he hadn't left. But Star Wars fans had already learned a lesson about getting too attached too quickly to a beloved bad guy. It was like Boba Fett all over again (more on him in a bit).
For years we wondered if somehow Darth Maul could have survived. It didn't seem likely at all but there was still that one problem: we neither got to see him finally perish nor see his lifeless body. Without that concrete evidence, and since we just thought he was cool, we didn't accept that he was really gone.
Then, after 12 years, he was back! If you watchedThe Clone Wars series, season 4 (2011) shows us a second life for Darth Maul. If there was any way to bring him back to life, this series did not take his resurrection lightly and gave us a dark and tense story for his return. And to our delight, he didn't go away as fast as he left in the first place. He had plenty of unfinished business leftover from Phantom Menace all the way into the Rebels animated series. However, his return to live-action came in a most-unexpected place and time.
In Solo, the smugglers always have to answer to someone else. That is usually in the form of a crime boss, like Dryden Voss. There are rival syndicates and the most-feared one mentioned in the film is one called Crimson Dawn. Not only do we find out that group's mastermind turns out to be Darth Maul, but it is named after him because of his evil crimson appearance, which we hadn't seen in the flesh for 19 years.
5. The Great Escape
Similar to Darth Maul's story above, Boba Fett was a beloved character, with barely any screen time, and was killed off too quickly. In live-action, we first met the infamous bounty hunter in Empire Strikes Back but it was his untimely demise in 1983's Return of the Jedi that had fans talking in disappointed tones. He was so cool, so mysterious, and then he went out like a punk in a burping pit.
That pit was the sarlacc creature in the desert of Tatooine. It was the intention of Jabba the Hutt to feed Luke and his friends to the monster but they foiled the evil gangster's plans and avoided the terrible fate of being dropped into the pit and "slowly digested for over a thousand years." In the ensuing battle, the baddest bounty hunter in the galaxy accidentally fell into the pit due to being hit by a stick wielded by a blind Han Solo. In an unfortunate strike, Han managed to break a piece of Boba's jetpack that caused it to malfunction and send him careening into the side of Jabba's sail barge, knocking him out, and tumbling him down into the maw of the horrible beast. His life ended not with a bang, but a belch.
For years, many years, we lamented that Boba Fett not only was gone, but had met his end by sheer chance. We didn't get to see a final showdown between him and Han Solo and we didn't get any backstory about him that would tell us why he had it in for the smuggler in the first place. He was gone with more questions than answers and his legacy only grew in the minds of fans since then.
In comic books, fan fiction books, official novels and such, authors brought Boba Fett back to life in one way or another but none of these were offical canon. Some of them were quite anti-climactic. One notable harrowing story from 1996 called "A Barve Like That: The Tale of Boba Fett" from the novel, Tales from Jabba's Palace, went into great detail about his consciousness while being eaten by the sarlacc and how we finally managed to escape. But again, this was only canon for a while and is now in the Legends side of Star Wars stories. In any case, that was still a gap of 13 years!
Fett's proper and canon return began only three years ago in 2020 with the first episode of season two of The Mandalorian. A marshall of a small outpost on Tatooine suddenly showed up wearing Boba Fett's armor. At that moment, we knew his return was inevitable. In chapter 14, he finally makes a real return, armor and all, and works alongside the Mandalorian. He was back and there was much rejoicing! We always hoped he would be back and here he was, but, there was something still unanswered. How did he escape the sarlacc?!
We finally, finally, got that answer the following year, 2021... 38 years after his initial "demise"! In the first episode of his own series, The Book of Boba Fett, we at long last witnessed his escape from mortality. In a scene right out of our imaginations (even put into words by Ratatouille's Patton Oswalt on the 2013 season 5 episode 19 of Parks and Recreation) Boba Fett came out of death's pit a changed man.
This moment was probably the most-anticipated, most-speculated, most-hoped-for moment in all of Star Wars since the end of the original trilogy. And now, it happened. We saw it. The mystery, like all of these, was now over. We're glad to have seen these secrets come to fruition. But at the same time, we may miss the mysteries. Perhaps not everything needs full disclosure? In spite of that, I'm glad that these ideas came to their conclusions in my lifetime. So many of these mysterious finally got their closures. What other mysteries in Star Wars got their revelations? More next time ...