Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a monumental cinematic event that featured the long-awaited returns of classic trilogy heroes Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia. However, their friend Lando Calrissian wasn’t even mentioned in the film, and that’s something the sequel trilogy should look to change as it moves forward. Played by the suave and cool Billy Dee Williams in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Lando became an integral figure in the franchise, eventually playing a huge role in the Rebel Alliance’s victory at the Battle of Endor. For that reason, many were surprised when Williams wasn’t part of the nostalgia wave a couple years ago.
In retrospect, it’s arguably difficult to find a spot for Calrissian in Episode VII that would have seemed like a natural fit. That movie had a lot on its plate and needed to introduce a new generation of characters that will carry the series forward. As tempting as it might have been, J.J. Abrams couldn’t get bogged down in trips down memory lane; Leia’s role was quite minimal, and Luke had a cameo at the very end. Squeezing Lando in there too could have come across as forced, and a brief appearance a la Admiral Ackbar would have disappointed many. As frustrating as Lando’s absence was, it was understandable from a certain point of view.
Unfortunately for Williams fans, it doesn’t look like The Last Jedi has a spot for the scoundrel either. There is a bevy of rumors concerning Rian Johnson’s upcoming film, yet none of them are about the Cloud City administrator. Lucasfilm could have a surprise up their sleeve, but if Williams were involved with Episode VIII, odds are his appearance would have been reported by now. Even the tiniest roles in a Star Wars movie become public knowledge months before the film actually premieres, so it would appear audiences are going to be left wondering whatever became of the old smoothie. Hopefully, it’s a question the next installments answer in some capacity.
Lucasfilm’s story group has to walk a fine line between taking the series in new directions and embracing the legacy elements that made the property what it is. If something from the previous films is to be included in a new production, it has to make logical sense for the story at hand. At the same time, there are multiple ways to address Lando’s fate; Williams doesn’t necessarily have to come back for a physical on-screen appearance. A simple line of dialogue or two that explains what happened to Calrissian could suffice, and at the very least let viewers know why Lando isn’t still with the people he was partying with on the forest moon. As trivial as it might seem with Rey’s heritage, Snoke’s identity, and another raging war sweeping the galaxy, Lando Calrissian is a dangling narrative thread that some can’t help but notice.
It’s not like Disney’s new canon has tried to push Lando into the background. The character was the star of his own comic series, has appeared in Star Wars Rebels (voiced by Williams), and shows up in a few of the novels. Donald Glover is going to star as a young Lando in next year’s Han Solo spinoff film, so the creative team knows how beloved Calrissian is. The fact that he is still being featured in the various materials is evidence Lucasfilm would include Williams in a new movie if there was a proper spot for him. The actor has even said he would happily reprise his iconic role if he was asked, but it doesn’t seem like he’s received any calls just yet. On one hand, the studio’s restraint to overload the modern films with familiar faces should be commended, but it’s nevertheless strange Lando has been shortchanged in the sequels thus far.
Either Episode VIII or Episode IX should make mention of Lando for the simple reason that the character deserves some sort of sendoff. Han Solo died trying to bring his son back home. Luke and Leia’s ultimate fates are up in the air for now, but by the trilogy’s end, audiences will know how the Skywalker twins’ stories ended. Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, and Kylo Ren could very well go beyond Star Wars 9 (if rumors are to be believed), though fans shall see how this particular chapter of their lives comes to a close when 2019 rolls around. If all three of these new episodes leave Lando in the shadows, it’s a mystery that will continue to linger – especially as people marathon through the entire saga and point out that a hero of the Rebellion was dropped with no reason provided.
Of course, there are other channels to provide curious parties with a more comprehensive picture of what happened to Lando. Earlier this year, Jar Jar Binks’ tragic fate as a street clown was revealed through the novel Aftermath: Empire’s End, so theoretically Calrissian could be featured in another book that details his future. Still, that would be underwhelming. Jar Jar is still widely seen as toxic, and is a character the movies wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole; a novel was the only way to bring him back. Lando is a fan-favorite, and Williams’ return to the saga would be celebrated around the world. As this new conflict escalates, both the First Order and the Resistance will try to expand their ranks and gain an upper hand. If Leia is in dire need of some aid and Luke remains in isolation on Ahch-to, placing a call to another old friend wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. Lando’s probably still a good pilot and has seen it all.
If nothing else, bookending the young Han Solo film with scenes of Harrison Ford and Williams reuniting could be touching.