My pal Paka has a great point about The Empire Strikes Back:
Okay, so The Empire Strikes Back ends with the heroes failing miserably. They win, but they do so failing. Han basically dies, keeping Chewie from losing his temper and getting Leia killed in the process. Luke basically suicides but he doesn’t join the Dark Side. And Lando, I’ve realized, gives up everything rather than being a nice little stoolie.
Think about this for a bit. Han has nothing to lose other than his life, two friends, and a ship which has already been impounded. Luke would lose his ethics at the price of very probably helping Vader kill Palpatine and at some point killing Vader and becoming Emperor himself. It makes me grind teeth to realize that Leia is sort of The Obligatory Woman and doesn’t really get a character moment like that. Lando loses the most. He’s been hoping this whole time that if he plays nice with the legal authorities (and note here, he’s one of three Black guys you ever see in that universe, so he’s the minority made good in a system run by crusty white rich people), they’ll let him have his business and his friends can make bail, and then the deal gets worse and worse and worse. Lando could potentially accept worse and worse and worse and he’d still come out of it with a retirement plan, health care, stock options, and enough income to keep himself in Colt 40 and awesome capes for the rest of his life. Things which he probably didn’t have quite that much of before when he was Lando scraping by on gambling. And boom, it’s all gone because being Lando freaking Calrissian is at the end way more important to him.
Lando Calrissian has always complicated the Star Wars universe, and that’s a good thing. I like Paka’s reading here quite a bit.