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Billy Dee Williams Returns as Lando Calrissian for ‘Star Wars: Episode IX’

His arc is likely to be less feel-good than before, but we should all celebrate the return of Lando.
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By  · Published on July 10th, 2018

His arc is likely to be less feel-good than before, but we should all celebrate the return of Lando.

No matter what you think of Solo: A Star Wars Story, we can all agree that this particular anthology movie universally amplified the already omnipresent love for Lando Calrissian. Donald Glover’s take on one of the coolest, most charming characters in the Star Wars universe is spot-on, reminding us of just why we love Billy Dee Williams in the original trilogy in the first place.

Glover gave us a taste of what Lando was like before the events of the first Star Wars. There’s roguishness, suaveness, and definitely a bit of a cutthroat, self-interested nature hanging over that portrayal that echoes elements of Williams’ own depiction in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. However, tackling the character as an older – and likely different – man is a brand-new beast of an endeavor, especially in the ruthless world of the Star Wars fandom.

That being said, we should all be in high spirits that Star Wars: Episode IX will bring Lando back nonetheless. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Williams is due to reprise his iconic role in the final chapter of the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Like Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill before him, Williams has the chance to put a new spin on a character we all know and love. And frankly, I don’t dread the changes that Episode IX may bring. As a matter of fact, the prospect of them proves to be the most exciting aspect of this reunion.

In the original Star Wars films, we managed to get a glimpse of Lando’s heart. He isn’t necessarily part of the core three of Han, Leia, and Luke, nor did he function as an oppositional giant against our heroes like Darth Vader did. Nevertheless, the character’s true potential lies in his inherent goodness that only seems wrapped up in scoundrel behavior, a true duality that sneaks up on you.

When Lando flip-flopped on his allegiances to Han, Leia, and Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, he did so to protect Cloud City, which he had turned into a legitimate enterprise after putting his smuggling days behind him. He eventually made amends to the trio, but the tension found in his choice to betray Han to begin with provided something palpable to the central drama within the Rebel faction.

We also get context for this in Solo, which showcases Lando’s polarity even in a more straightforwardly fun setting; he may use unscrupulous methods to get what he wants, but in the end, it’ll all be for the greater good. Lando is definitely interested in self-preservation, but he certainly has the ability to love others deeply and want to protect them as well.

Much of Lando’s story post-Return of the Jedi is only covered off-screen in canonical games and books detailing the character’s role as General in the New Republic after the Battle of Endor. The last we hear of him in the lead-up to the rise of the First Order occurs in Claudia Gray’s canonical novel “Bloodline,” wherein he is in contact with General Organa. Still, this barely counts as an appearance in the grand scheme of the book. His status just prior to the events of The Force Awakens remains elusive.

Of course, we could feasibly see a way in which Lucasfilm could take on Lando’s storyline. His enduring connection to the original trio builds an excellent foundation for his return, even if it’ll most likely be filled with upsetting revelations. Han and Luke are both gone (although the latter could possibly Force ghost his way into Episode IX). It just feels weird thinking about an onscreen depiction of Lando without the equally witty Han for him to bounce off of. Carrie Fisher’s untimely death prevented Leia from getting the central storyline she had always been revving up for, too. The friendship between Lando and General Organa exemplified in “Bloodline” would have made for a great substantial onscreen dynamic.

Much like Han and Luke became inadvertent father figures to Rey, Lando just has a lot of growing up to do which may result in a similar dynamic being formed. You know Star Wars, it loves a good father-child relationship anyway, and this wouldn’t be out of place. But the Resistance definitely needs a leader, and Lando is also perfect for that.

Whatever the case may be, both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi have done impeccable jobs in ensuring that the original trio has received fulfilling arcs. This definitely proves promising for Lando’s Episode IX storyline, even as the movie is tasked to wrap up the journeys of Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren as well. In the absence of a solo Lando prequel film – which may actually happen sometime down the line – Episode IX may very well be the character’s time to shine, even if he has to grapple with the deaths of old friends.

All signs point to the fact that Episode IX will round out the Star Wars sequel trilogy in an explosive manner. J. J. Abrams will be back in all his action-oriented glory. He has even enlisted the aid of one of his earliest stars, Keri Russell. With this announcement of Lando’s return, Episode IX just keeps getting better.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)