The return of Lando Calrissian in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker showcased one of the major problems with the Disney era of the franchise in a microcosm. Sure, it was great to see Billy Dee Williams back in the role after so long and he effortlessly slipped back into playing the character, but in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t contribute much to the plot other than fan service.
Lando may have assembled the fleet for the climactic battle, but you could easily have removed him from the movie entirely, had someone else step in to rally the troops and it wouldn’t have changed a thing about the story. In fact, the legendary smuggler wasn’t mentioned at all in The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi before being parachuted into the Skywalker Saga’s last installment, despite the Sequel Trilogy’s entire narrative unfolding over the course of a single year.
Sure, longtime fans may have gotten a kick out of seeing him back on the big screen, but he doesn’t exactly contribute much to the film, with his contributions even having to be explained after the fact due to confusion about his motivations following his exchange with minor supporting player Jannah.
However, The Rise of Skywalker‘s novelization has fleshed out some of Lando’s backstory to give those invested in the expanded universe an idea of how he’d spent the three decades following Return of the Jedi. In short, after his daughter was captured by the First Order, Lando exiled himself to the desert planet of Pasaana as a means of coping with the grief, essentially becoming a hermit until he was coaxed out of retirement by Rey.
As ScreenRant explains:
In The Rise of Skywalker, Rey, Finn, Poe, and Chewbacca meet Lando on Pasaana, which is where Lando called home over the course of the sequel trilogy. As a means of coping with the immense grief he suffered after his daughter was captured by the First Order, Lando went to the desert world to live a peaceful life amongst the Aki-Aki. It’s unknown exactly how long he spent on Pasaana, but seeing that the Star Wars sequel trilogy only spans a single year, it’s reasonable to assume that’s where he was during The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
It isn’t the most exciting or thrilling of explanations, but it at least adds some stakes and motivation to his arc, when in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker his sudden appearance came across as little more than a transparent attempt to appeal to a divided fanbase.