The Solo movie just broke out a major reference to an old video game from the 1990s.
Spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story follow!
Now that we can all breathe a sigh of relief in the knowledge that Solo: A Star Wars Story is an exciting addition to the galaxy far, far away, we get to move on to the best part of a new Star Wars movie’s aftermath: hunting for minutia from the lore that makes a surprise appearance. Solo definitely doesn’t skimp on those references and easter eggs, but I wanted to highlight the one that made me just about jump out of my seat when I heard it.
During Han and his gang of thieves’ Coaxium heist on Kessel, Qi’ra is separated from the group and locked into a room with one of the mine’s administrators. As is the case with most plans involving our beloved flyboy, things quickly go awry and the crew’s cover is blown. Qi’ra immediately dispatches the administrator with a flurry of slick martial arts moves. When L3 asks how she knew how to fight like that, Qi’ra reveals that Crimson Dawn crime lord Dryden Vos instructed her in the ways of a martial art known as Teräs Käsi.
While first mentioned in Steve Perry’s Shadows of the Empire novel, Teräs Käsi is probably best known for its inclusion in LucasArts’ 1997 fighting game Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi. The game’s “plot” centered around Darth Vader hiring a, ahem, master of Teräs Käsi to assassinate key members of the Rebel Alliance, but really, the whole game’s just an excuse to pit your favorite Star Wars characters against each other in mortal… fighting matches.
So what exactly is Teräs Käsi? For details, we look to Legends continuity, the Star Wars stories stripped of canon status after Lucasfilm’s sale to Disney. At the time of the sale and with few exceptions, all that was left as canon were the films and the The Clone Wars animated series; Rebels and most everything else Disney has done with Star Wars since is considered canon. Teräs Käsi (Finnish for “steel hand”) is a fighting style created by the Followers of Palawa, an ancient order who studied the Force. But the Followers of Palawa weren’t Jedi, and in fact warred with them, leading to the decimation of their homeworld. They developed Teräs Käsi in order to fight back against the Jedi, and mastery of the martial art afforded a user superhuman speed, near precognitive reaction times, and even the ability to close one’s mind off to any Jedi or Sith mind tricks.
Let’s be real here: whether you’re nostalgic for it like me or not, Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi sucks. And I don’t mean it hasn’t aged well, I mean IGN gave it a 4.0 when it came out and, in the review, suggested renting the Special Edition trilogy would be a better use of your time (yikes.) We’re talking about a game where Darth Vader can hit Boba Fett impersonator Jodo Kast with a lightsaber without killing him, then shock him with a storm of force lightning. But to play devil’s advocate, it did also let you play as Mara Jade, the stone-cold badass of an Imperial assassin who went on to become a Jedi and marry Luke Skywalker.
Though Qi’ra’s mention of Teräs Käsi is the first time it’s referred to by name outside of Legends canon, it actually isn’t the first time we’ve seen it used in the movies. According to Star Wars: The Last Jedi Visual Dictionary, Supreme Leader Snoke’s Elite Praetorian Guards were trained in Teräs Käsi and used it in their battle against Rey and Kylo Ren onboard the Supremacy. This tracks with Teräs Käsi’s original purpose: to let those who weren’t Force-sensitives stand a chance in a fight against a Jedi or Sith…. you know, for all the good it did those guards…
Intriguingly, there’s a famous Force user who used Teräs Käsi techniques in combat, at least in Legends continuity: Maul, the former Sith lord renowned for his grace and speed in battle. With the jaw-dropping reveal in Solo that Maul is the leader of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate, it seems plausible that the fierce Zabrak would train his acolytes to be able to stand up to any foe, especially Jedi not executed during Palpatine’s Great Jedi Purge. After all, who better than Maul knows the price of letting a Jedi get one step ahead in battle?
It’s been a few years now since Disney Order 66’d the Expanded Universe, and with it some fan favorite elements of the galaxy’s lesser explored characters and time periods. Things like the re-introduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn through Star Wars Rebels and Teräs Käsi’s inclusion in Solo are welcome reminders that the filmmakers and the Lucasfilm Story Group members enjoy those long-gone facets of the franchise as much as fans do, sometimes even enough to bring them back from the Unknown Regions of the past.
For more on Solo, be sure to check out all the Easter eggs we found, our review of the film, or our deep dive on what the movie’s big surprise means. Or watch the Solo cast take our ultimate Han Solo quiz!