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When it was revealed that Woody Harrelson was in talks to join the stand-alone Star Wars movie centering on Han Solo, playing “an early mentor” to the fan-favorite smuggler, two competing thoughts immediately came to mind. Thankfully, only one of them was “Please, don’t make Woody Harrelson play Daddy Solo.”
To be fair, it’s neither impossible nor unlikely that could be the case. As Rogue One demonstrated, Star Wars is a franchise that’s steeped in daddy issues, to the point that the excuse can’t be made that it’s all part of a familial saga and therefore unavoidable. At this point, this far into the series with so many movies about fathers, it would be more of a surprise if Harrelson wasn’t playing Han’s father. Does Star Wars know any other way of motivating its lead characters?
Of course, if Harrelson isn’t playing Solo Sr. (a role that should really be played by a CGI Sean Connery, who’d have to reveal that they called the space dog “Han” just for the Easter egg potential alone, let’s be honest), then it raises the question of just what kind of a mentor Han Solo would have anyway. He’d have to be a criminal, of course — how else would Han end up mixing with the wretched scum of the galaxy if he hadn’t been led astray at an early age?
Turns out, the now noncanonical Expanded Universe had a figure that already fit this need: The spectacularly named Garris Shrike debuted in the 1997 novel The Paradise Snare by A.C. Crispin, the first in the series “The Han Solo Trilogy.” As the series title suggests, it’s a three-book cycle that fills in the backstory of Han before he appeared onscreen, with his earliest days dominated by Shrike — a bounty hunter turned space pirate who essentially adopted Han when he was a child and taught him everything he knew. (Again with the father figures.)
Shrike was hardly the charming rogue that Solo would turn out to be; he was a crueler, more evil character whose nature eventually pushed Han away and led to an ill-timed death, just before he could have explained Han’s origins to him. Using Shrike — or a Shrike-a-like, at least — would offer up an antagonist for the Solo movie that involved personal stakes for the hero without having to resort to the familiar threat of the Empire. If only Shrike was available to the filmmakers…
Well, perhaps he is. Although the Expanded Universe has been consigned to the trash can of Star Wars mythology, it’s worth bearing in mind that one character has already “crossed over” into the canonical version of events, with Thrawn being introduced into Star Wars: Rebels in its third season — what’s to stop Shrike following suit? Just as long as he’s not reworked into being Garris Solo along the way, of course.
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