Star Wars Finally Delivers Return of the Jedi’s True Ending
Return of the Jedi may end with a celebration, but Star Wars just gave us what should have been the movie's real conclusion.
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi may have given George Lucas’ Original Trilogy a fitting end in 1983, but it was also only the beginning of something much bigger. With the Emperor finally defeated and Darth Vader redeemed, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo lived happily ever after on the big screen, but in 1991, Timothy Zahn’s classic Legends novel Heir to the Empire showed us that there were still many, many more battles and wars to fight beyond Endor.
Throughout the ’90s, other books like The Truce at Bakura by Kathy Tyers, The Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy by K.W. Jeter, and the X-Wing novels by Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston explored what the galaxy was like directly after the fall of the Empire. There was also The Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton, which finally gave Star Wars fans a key moment in the timeline that had been missing: the events that led to Han and Leia getting married four years after the trilogy’s climactic battle.
But that was all in the Legends continuity, which hasn’t been canon since Disney rebooted the Star Wars timeline ahead of 2015’s The Force Awakens. That doesn’t mean the House of Mouse has completely abandoned the era set just after Return of the Jedi, though. In fact, this point in the timeline has been the studio’s main focus since wrapping the Skywalker Saga on the big screen. Live-action series like The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and the upcoming Ahsoka and Skeleton Crew have continued to mine the post-Return of the Jedi era for the current Disney canon, with the tie-in novels following suit.
In fact, one upcoming Star Wars novel is set to explore the Return of the Jedi era in the most direct way yet, telling a new version of Han and Leia’s engagement, except this time it takes place mere hours after the Battle of Endor. From a certain point of view, The Princess and the Scoundrel by Beth Revis could even be read as the missing chapter — or even the true ending — of Return of the Jedi in the way it follows up on so many plot threads set up by Episode VI.
Ahead of the book’s launch in August, Inverse has posted an excerpt that shows the tension-filled moment Han asks Leia to marry him, a scene that takes us back to the Ewok village just a day after the celebration that closed Return of the Jedi. Although the Emperor and Vader might be dead, there’s quite a bit of the Empire still standing in other parts of the galaxy, and the Rebellion is planning its next move. And it’s after a strategy meeting with Chewie and the other Rebel generals that Han decides to pop the question, and Revis writes a beautiful passage about what Han is thinking as he rushes to meet Leia.
“Han had meant it when he’d told Leia he’d exit her life if she wanted. Of course, that was before he knew Luke and Leia were siblings, before he knew a lot of things. But he’d meant his words. He would have left, not for his own benefit, but for hers. Every other time in Han’s life, when he walked away, he did it for himself. But not that time,” Revis writes. “Instead of letting him leave, though, she’d come to him…And Han didn’t know if he could let her go again.”
In the scene, Han feels that it’s now or never. With the Rebellion already planning for future battles, the scoundrel knows that war could separate him from Leia at any time. But even after Han asks Leia the question, Revis shows us that he’s also processing his own self doubt at light speed as he awaits the Princess’ answer.
“Han was sure the same questions flying through his mind were in hers as well. How many people were already discussing marriages and settling down with folk they’d only known in combat? It was a common enough thing — emotions ran high after battle, people felt the need to grasp at life when faced with the death of war. The flip side of fighting was loving, and there was a hell of a lot of energy that needed to be redirected somewhere,” Revis writes.
“This was the part where Han was supposed to tip his chin, laugh, say it was all a joke. But he didn’t. He didn’t flinch as he watched doubt cloud Leia’s face. He stood there, and he waited for her to realize the same truth he knew. They were better together.”
Of course, we all know how the scene must end before we’ve even read it: Leia says yes. The rest of the novel will cover everything leading up to the actual wedding, which also takes place in the Ewok village, as well as their honeymoon on a star cruiser called the Halcyon. (Yes, the same Halcyon that serves as the setting of that very expensive Star Wars hotel.)
In other words, The Princess and the Scoundrel has established that, unlike in Legends, Han and Leia married immediately after the credits rolled on Lucas’ first trilogy, so soon after that one could make the case this event should have been the final scene of Return of the Jedi — a wedding processional meant to evoke familiar imagery of the last scene in A New Hope where Luke and Han received medals from Leia after the Battle of Yavin. As Lucas would say years later while making the Prequel Trilogy, Star Wars is meant to rhyme, like poetry.
The Princess and the Scoundrel is out on Aug. 16 from Del Rey Books.