Story Geeks blogger and longtime Star Wars fan Ashley Pauls digs deeper into her favorite franchise with the “Women of Star Wars” blog series, taking a look at the character journeys of the major female characters in Star Wars and examining their impact on pop culture.
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Whatever it takes to survive…
1. Who is Qi’ra, and what characteristics define her?
Qi’ra remains a bit of a mystery, at least to me. We’ve only seen her in one film, “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” and we get small hints of her past and her relationship with Han. We know that, in some ways, she’s like Rey and Jyn Erso — she’s a survivor who’s had to grow up on her own, fighting to stay alive from day to day. She doesn’t really have a positive mentor figure in her life, though the film’s intro indicates that she and Han have a very close relationship built on genuine affection and trust.
After Qi’ra is captured and she and Han are separated at the spaceport, the next time we see her is on Dryden Vos’ “party yacht,” for lack of a better term. We can tell that something about her has changed, though we can’t quite put our finger on it. Han is still hopelessly in love with her and sort of misses all this subtext, but as audience members we’re not really sure if we can trust her anymore.
She’s hiding a secret, that much is clear. Even though she’s dressed in fancy clothes and surrounded by wealth and luxury, she’s still very much a prisoner fighting to survive. The film’s twist ending reveals that she’s a far more cunning strategist than Dryden Vos gives her credit for…though whether she’s ultimately a villain is up for debate.
2. What are Qi’ra’s biggest hopes? What are her greatest fears?
At the beginning of the film, both Han and Qi’ra’s biggest hope is a fairly simple one: they want to escape from the Corellian underworld and build a better life together. Their greatest fear is being separated from each other, which ends up happening at the beginning of the film.
Later, we see Han and Qi’ra’s goals starting to diverge. Han has been clinging to this hope of reuniting with Qi’ra for so long, but she has maybe moved beyond this. She’s playing a much more dangerous game now, with much more powerful players, and even though she once may have wanted to run away with Han and explore the galaxy, she no longer feels free to do so. For most of the film, her biggest hope is to simply survive and her biggest fear is facing the wrath of Dryden Vos. In the end she does outsmart him, but the film seems to indicate she is still far from free.
3. What is the biggest challenge that Qi’ra faces, and how does she overcome it?
Qi’ra grew up lacking many advantages that other characters in the Star Wars universe have had, like a loving family, a safe home, and even enough food on the table. To me it’s inspiring that she doesn’t give in to despair, and that she genuinely cares about Han instead of just trying to fend for herself (at least at first). She’s clever and determined, and these traits help her survive in circumstances that are in no way ideal.
In a sense, Qi’ra does find success in the film, although leaving Han and Chewbacca behind and allying with Darth Maul wasn’t quite the path I hoped she’d take. It’s interesting to see a character accomplish goals that we know are wrong; yes, Qi’ra triumphs over the odds and beats a worse villain, Dryden Vos, but how much of herself does she have to lose in the process?
4. What is Qi’ra’s biggest fault and/or moment of failure in the series, and how does she learn from it and grow as a character?
Qi’ra’s biggest fault — and it’s one I can’t even really blame her for — is that by the end of the film she seems to prioritize survival above all else. Like, the system has finally gotten to her, and she’s lost some of that light and hope that she used to have (and that Han still has, however much he might like to brand himself as a “scoundrel”).
The more I’ve thought about Qi’ra since the “Solo” movie came out, the more complex of a character she seems to me. If you just look at her actions on a surface level, she seems like more of a villain. She kills Dryden Vos and betrays Han, seemingly taking Vos’ place as Darth Maul’s new ally.
Yet, I believe Qi’ra is ultimately a tragic character. I’ve heard fans argue that Qi’ra’s hand is basically forced throughout the movie, and I tend to agree. Maybe she felt she had to contact Darth Maul and take Vos’ place in the Crimson Dawn syndicate if she wanted to survive. If she fled instead, Maul may have come after her and tried to kill her (and Han, if she stayed with him).
I would have loved to see her break the cycle and find freedom from a life of crime, but that can be so hard to do when you’ve grown up in a world that teaches you to only look out for your own self. I don’t know if we’ll be getting any “Solo” sequels or not, but I would love to see Qi’ra’s character explored further, after the events of this film. Does she continue to drift towards the darkness, or does she find her way back to the light? It’s a bit sad to think that we might never find out.
5. What about this character portrayed as female stood out? Did she break any ground or does she feel more like a compilation of female character tropes?
I feel like Qi’ra could have easily become a stereotypical “femme fatale” type character, and I’m glad that the film gives her some layers beyond that. True, she does have some common fictional “femme fatale” traits; she is Han’s former love interest, and she loves expensive, stylish clothes (although, to be fair, who wouldn’t want to sneak into Lando’s closet to try on some of those amazing capes?). Yet, there’s always a flicker of sadness in her eyes, hinting at deeper struggles beneath the smile she’s always wearing. Though she plays her role in the criminal underworld very well, some part of her will always wish she could have lived a simpler, quieter life.
I don’t think Qi’ra is obsessed with power in the same way that many movie villains are. Maybe she does enjoy having a little more power, but that’s understandable after she was a victim for so many years. Even though I wanted her to find happiness outside the criminal underworld, I appreciate that the film allowed her to be a complex character, giving her an ambiguous ending and leaving room for us to debate the motivations behind her actions.
6. What does this character teach us about women in the real world? Are there lessons we can take from the screen and translate them into real life?
The main lesson I draw from Qi’ra’s character is that a person’s background does influence them, and we should have compassion for how someone’s past experiences may be influencing their actions today. A painful past doesn’t excuse a person’s bad behavior, by any means; “wrong” is still “wrong,” regardless of motivations. Yet we also need to respect that a person may be going through challenges that we can’t immediately see, and we should do what we can to help them overcome their challenges and choose a better path.
Han Solo is an example of a character who comes from a difficult background but ends up becoming a hero. He has a few (major) road bumps along the way, but in the end he chooses the path of helping others and putting their needs above his own. As mentioned before, we may never find out what ultimately happens to Qi’ra, but I’d love to think that in the end she finds a way to help the Rebellion and become the best version of herself.
Looking for more Star Wars? Check out our podcast on Leia’s Character Journey. Also, check out all our Star Wars content, including our popular podcasts digging into Luke Skywalker’s and Han Solo’s Character Journeys, and the concept of Reylo.
Next up in the Women of Star Wars: Padmé!