Han Solo. The name alone conjures thoughts of dashing good looks and reckless hooliganism. He played by his own rules, called his own shots, and was supported by the galaxy’s favorite walking carpet. He charmed folks the galaxy over, and then stole from them. Yes, Han Solo was many things, but in The Force Awakens he became the one thing nobody expected: suicidal.
As we are all aware, Han confronts Kylo Ren, aka Ben, aka his son, during the final moments of Starkiller Base. This confrontation is, as Han told Leia, so that he can bring their son home. And, of course, save him from his dreadful emo phase and bring him back to the light side of the wardrobe. So Han sets out with a goal, a purpose closer to home than anything he has done before. Sure, he’s helped kill two Death Stars, saved Chewbacca from slavery, and cut some pretty nice corners while drug smuggling, but this time it’s personal. This time it’s for his son.
Now then, Ben is an angst-ridden teenager. We call all relate. But we can’t relate to being an angst-ridden teenager with a lightsaber. Hell, we don’t even know if Han can; Ben is his only child (that we know of). But Han, like any good parent, is going to give it a try. He’s going to get out there and talk to his son, have a good father-son talk, and hopefully convince his son that life isn’t just a sucky suckfest.
But the talk doesn’t quite go the way that Han had hoped. Ben, it seems, is quite fine being angry and spiteful. Oh, he wavers, but then the darkness calls him with its siren song. Han, in his final moments, sees the darkness calling to his son, and what that call is asking Ben to do. It is asking Ben to kill Han. The Sith do not eschew attachment as the Jedi do. However, they know that attachment must be sacrificed: both ends of the spectrum must be experienced to truly embrace the Force.
Han sees Ben make his choice. Han doesn’t panic though. Instead, Han thinks. And he comes up with a way, the only way, to save Ben from his own choice. If Ben does not act on his choice, then his journey to the dark side will remain incomplete. Han takes away the action from Ben, when it is clear that he made the wrong choice. Han kills himself to save his son from irrevocably falling to the dark side of the Force.