Crime in the Galaxy
In addition to Jabba and Fett, several new (or relatively-new) characters and factions also make appearances in Solo, including the criminal faction Crimson Dawn, Enfys Nest and the Cloud-Riders (who fill the role of an Indian raiding-party in Solo's thematic parallels to the tropes of Hollywood Westerns) and Woody Harrelson's Tobias Beckett; an aging outlaw who serves as Han's mentor in space-frontier criminality and (as fits the characterization) is implied to have lived a colorful life of his own. We're also afforded a look at the daily grind of Imperial soldiers who aren't even considered important enough to get Storm Trooper armor, and the day-to-day workings of the Spice Mines of Kessel.
Probably the most talked-about spin-off prospects coming out of Solo will center on Q'ira, a female lead played by Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke. She's a central figure in Han's story despite never having been heard from before in the franchise, a childhood friend and would-be romantic interest whom he was forced to abandon to escape a life of urchin street-slavery and whom his outlaw ambitions were supposed to be leading him back to "rescue." Instead, she re-enters the story on her own unexpectedly; having "escaped" on her own terms by (seemingly) becoming a feared femme-fatale servant of Crimson Dawn leader Dryden Vos.
Obviously, since we know where Han ends up by the time the main Star Wars Saga gets going, this storyline can't end "happily" for them; and Clarke is indeed saddled with the task of slinking through the second act of Solo: A Star Wars Story practically begging someone to please, please ask her about the Very Dark Secret she's hiding for a third act surprise. At first, it appears she might be "only" more committed to Crimson Dawn than she lets on (perhaps she's the real power, not Dryden?,) and there are signs that she's been through a more interesting life than anyone suspects to get where she is - like, for example, being a master of Teräs Käsi. But it's not until Solo's climax is winding down that the pieces are fully revealed... if only to the audience and not the other characters: Q'ira is actually an interloper into Crimson Dawn from a more sinister entity - an agent of former Sith Lord Darth Maul.
While the notion that Maul indeed survived his apparent death in The Phantom Menace won't be "news" to fans who've followed other canonical tangents of the Star Wars mythos since, Solo marks his first appearance in live-action in almost 20 years. And while the connection between this powerful figure and Q'ira raises plenty of spin-off worthy questions about her alone (is she an apprentice? Is she Force-sensitive? How and when did they become acquainted?) Star Wars fans will almost certainly seize on the prospect of whether this means the iconic Sith Lord will be seen again as the franchise fills in the gaps of its own narrative.
Granted, Maul's ending has already been written in Star Wars: Rebels, and appearances elsewhere have established a rough outline of a life lived on the fringes of the major action between the prequels and that point. But with Ray Park evidently willing to step back into the makeup chair (and Sam Witwer enter the recording studio) it's hard not to wonder where he might appear next, either as a main antagonist or part of the storyline. He would easily fit into one of the aforementioned films, or could he even be worthy of his own feature? Could he be an offscreen presence in the much-discussed Kenobi - and could Q'ira turn up as a potential antagonist (given that Maul and Obi-Wan can't canonically meet again until the events of Rebels)?
All such things are, as ever, speculation. But what becomes noteworthy is that Solo's ability to raise such prospects stands in amusing contrast to the longstanding criticism that such spin-offs innately make the franchise itself "smaller" by repeatedly focusing on a relatively small number of characters repeatedly bumping into each other across the galaxy. In the end, how different or diverse the Star Wars Stories become will be dependent on Disney and Lucasfilm's approach to each new venture, but Solo at least points the way to an emergent bounty of options.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019