Han Solo was killed by his own son, Kylo Ren, and the seeds for that fateful encounter were sowed when Ben was still a baby. By the time the sequel trilogy begins, Ben has already turned to the dark side, shattering his family in his pursuit of becoming the galaxy's ultimate evil. Bits and pieces of his past are alluded to in dialogue and flashback sequences, but the films simply don't have the time to offer highly detailed explanations of Ben's youth. Fortunately, Star Wars has a presence in other mediums, which allow Lucasfilm to flesh out character histories.
A younger Ben Solo has been a supporting character in multiple canon novels. He is born at the end of the Aftermath trilogy, and in Bloodline (set six years before Force Awakens), it's revealed he's still traversing the galaxy with Luke Skywalker on a quest for the lore of the Jedi. The latest book, Last Shot, is set shortly after Return of the Jedi, taking readers to a time when Ben was a toddler. There are passages in the text that indicate fatherhood wasn't exactly a job cut out for Han.
This isn't to say Han was a bad father per se; he means well and desperately yearns to have a healthy relationship with his son. It's just that he was woefully unprepared for the responsibility. There was a point in his life when Han never thought he'd marry, yet alone raise a child. Author Daniel José Older elaborates on how parenting is what got the better of Solo:
"Two years in and no matter what, nothing he did was right. He brought Ben a play blaster from Burundang and he was encouraging his violent side; took it away and the boy wouldn't stop crying. He tried to replace it with a build-a-space-center set and there were too many small pieces Ben could choke on. The worst part was, it wasn't like Leia was just nagging or inventing stuff to one-up Han; she was right about all of it. So he couldn't even properly resent her for it!"
It's no secret Han had a fairly abnormal youth. Per marketing for Solo: A Star Wars Story, we know he was scamming people on the streets of Corellia since he was 10, and probably never had a father figure in his life until he met Tobias Beckett. Even then, it's not like that was a stable lifestyle, since Beckett was a down-on-his-luck criminal eager to land a big score. It's true Tobias probably had a good heart, but he wasn't "Dad of the Year" material either. Last Shot is an interesting look into Han's psyche, suggesting that his personal doubts may have been a deciding factor in sending Ben off to train with Luke. In The Last Jedi, Skywalker tells Rey Han wasn't entirely thrilled about it, but perhaps he saw it as an "easy" way out of having to constantly look over Ben. Leia, of course, is busy serving the New Republic - and later the Resistance.
"And Han Solo... you feel like he's the father you never had. He would have disappointed you." - Kylo Ren
Last Shot also works at making Kylo Ren a more sympathetic figure. Flashbacks in Last Jedi covered the origins of his entirely justifiable hatred for Luke, and the material in the novel only compounds everything. It's hard to argue Han and Leia were neglectful parents, but they more or less passed Ben off to another guardian. The people who brought Ben into the world (and were supposed to always be there for him) made him someone else's problem. And that person failed Ben when he was at his most vulnerable. It will be interesting to see if other canon materials further detail young Ben's life, but it's clear he feels betrayed by his relatives. Last Shot even makes note of how frequently Han is traveling (since he's so restless sitting around), and Ben is too young to fully grasp why. That could fuel sentiments of anger and frustration as well.
Again, Han loves his family and wants to support them, but his personality isn't the best fit for fatherhood. At times, these Last Shot passages of "bad dad Han" can be comical, but there's an undertone of sadness and regret, especially with knowledge of what ultimately happens. The new canon has made the characters' lives come across as more human, and at times tragic, and this is a brilliant illustration of that. Like many of the books, Last Shot isn't required homework, but reading it deepens your understanding of the movies in many ways.
Source: Star Wars - Last Shot
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019