On face value, Lando was prepared to turn Han over, but had a change of heart after his friend was frozen in carbonite. But does that mean that Lando was originally going to go along with Vader? I don’t buy this, otherwise, why did he fire the warning shots and try to weird Han out on the landing pad?
I think he was searching for solutions before the Falcon even arrived in the system. The trouble is, because Leia and Chewie assumed a lot, about Lando being a traitor, our interpretation of the scene tends to be a little colored by their highly emotional states. The first opportunity for him to really organize an escape was after the carbon freezing, at which point everyone got excited and distracted by the arrival of Skywalker giving Lando more room to breathe and take back control of the city long enough to initiate an evacuation, free Leia and company and try to rescue Han from some guy named Fett.
We should remember that Lando lost a lot as a result of Han’s connection to Skywalker. He lost his legitimate livelihood, his reputation and free citizenship within the Empire. He knew Han had come to him because of both trust and friendship. Worst of all, he lost that trust and, more significantly, potentially lost the life of a friend. Rather than defy Vader and be executed and replaced with someone else who would comply without imagination or Han Solo’s interests at heart, Lando, a gambler and opportunist, attempted to find alternatives as they arose. The best way for him to do that, and protect his people, was to retain his position as city administrator. That meant he had to play Vader’s game, at least superficially.
Both Lando and Tarkin were the top dogs of projects over which they held total responsibility. If Tarkin had readied his shuttle, while it may have hurt morale, had he actually escaped the Death Star’s destruction he would have lost face and the Emperor’s favor, perhaps also his life! If Lando had openly helped Han escape then it was not only his life at risk, but the population of the city as well. Towards the end of Empire Strikes Back we see Lando calling for an evacuation. Like a captain going down with the ship, an administrator or governor sometimes has to make the best choice from a set of bad options.
From the moment the Empire showed up on his doorstep, I think Lando knew his show was over and he’d have to find his own way out. Han didn’t pick up on the clues Lando gave him, or the bizarre mood swing, the latter of which is the subject for the strip above. We can see that Han is caught off guard by both the cold greeting and Lando’s sudden reversal. I think it was another subtle attempt by Lando to get Han thinking. If only he had tried charades!
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