Star Wars: A Journey Through the New Canon – Part 8: Revenge of the Sith

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A long time ago, a girl’s parents took her to see a science fiction film called Star Wars. On that day, she fell in love with all things Star Wars, even the extended universe that began with Timothy Zahn’s 1991 book, Heir to the Empire. But in 2012, Disney purchased Star Wars and proceeded to erase the majority of the extended universe she had come to know. With much of her Star Wars knowledge no longer applicable, she begins a journey through the new canon. Her goal – to travel the path of the new canon, experiencing as much of the new material in story order as best as she possibly can.

 

Warning: Spoilers

 

Revenge of the Sith (2005), written and directed by George Lucas, marks the end of the Prequel Saga. All the moments in each film, TV series, and book reach their crescendo and reveal the fate of Anakin Skywalker and the resolution of the Clone Wars.

The galaxy has been at war for years. Both sides claim they battle for order and peace. A segment of the population, feeling ignored and disenfranchised, broke away from a bloated Republic run by a corrupt Senate and formed their own government. The Separatists see themselves as rebels, clamoring for freedom. The Republic demands the galaxy stay as one and label the Separatists terrorists who threaten to weaken the Republic for selfish gains.

However, both sides are unaware of the presence of a masterful puppeteer, one who has played the long game to perfection – Chancellor Palpatine. To the Republic, he is a humble man working hard to restore peace and stability to the galaxy. But the Separatists only see Count Dooku, a leader against corruption. They don’t see the man behind Dooku; the one who is Dooku’s master is Darth Sidious, Palpatine’s Sith name.

The turmoil in the galaxy is mirrored in the turmoil of Anakin’s soul. The innocent boy we met in Phantom Menace has grown into a man who questions the ways of the Force, the policies of the Senate, and the actions of the Jedi. This anointed Chosen One is strong with the Force, but his emotions are raw, and his fear of loss often lead him to act impulsively. The Jedi way stresses no attachments and patience, but Anakin violated those principles when he slaughtered the Tusken Raiders because they killed his mother and when he married Padme Amidala.

Anakin has never had the opportunity to learn during a time of tranquility. After he was burdened with the fate of bringing balance to the Force, the Clone Wars began. The Jedi were transformed from being peacekeepers into generals, tasked by the Senate to lead armies of clones into battle. Many see the Jedi as dogs of war, quick to do the bidding of the Senate and betray their role as guardians of the galaxy. Throughout the TV series The Clone Wars, this issue is brought up repeatedly, and even some Jedi, including Anakin, question if they are on the correct path. Anakin’s faith in the Jedi started to crack during the last four episodes of The Clone Wars season five. Anakin’s Padawan Ashoka Tano was accused of murder. Anakin came to believe her and was upset when the Jedi Council abandoned her by kicking her out of the Order. Anakin discovered evidence and cleared her name, but she refused the Council’s offer to rejoin the Order. As she walks away from the Jedi Temple, Anakin’s heartbreak is clearly etched on his face.

Anakin painfully watches Ashoka walk away from the Jedi

 

Revenge of the Sith begins three years after the onset of the Clone Wars. The war has come to Coruscant; Separatist and Republic forces battle above the city-planet, and Chancellor Palpatine has been taken hostage. Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi are on a mission to rescue Palpatine. They find him. Dooku enters, and this time Anakin agrees to fight the Sith Lord together with Obi-Wan instead of charging in like he did in Attack of the Clones. Anakin declares that his powers have doubled since the last time they met, and Dooku senses the Jedi’s arrogance. Dooku knocks Obi-Wan out, leaving Anakin to fight him alone. They duel. Anakin cuts off Dooku’s hand and catches his lightsaber. When Dooku is on his knees, Anakin holds both lightsabers – the blue Jedi and the red Sith – to Dooku’s neck. Palpatine tells Anakin to kill Dooku. Of course, this surprises Dooku because Palpatine is his master. But the Sith crave power, and only the strong deserve to be Sith. Without Obi-Wan’s guidance, Anakin obeys the wishes of the other father figure in his life. Palpatine is pleased at the sight of Dooku’s head rolling away. Anakin is confused; this isn’t the Jedi way. Palpatine tells Anakin that vengeance is natural and reminds his young friend that he has acted as judge and executioner before. There is a glimmer of hope that all is not lost with Anakin when he disobeys Palpatine and insists on bringing the injured Obi-Wan with them.

After crash landing, Obi-Wan and Anakin have a quippy exchange about who has to deal with the politicians. Moments like this have been rare during the Prequel Saga. Anakin is full of rage, anger, and fear, and he is capable of love and compassion. Just as there are two sides battling for control of the galaxy, two opposing forces are warring inside Anakin. Each side is represented by a man: Palpatine and Obi-Wan. Both men influenced Anakin after he left Tatooine, but these relationships developed off-screen, leaving few clues to help us understand Anakin’s descent into darkness. The best way to fathom how a promising Jedi transforms into a Sith is to examine how each father figure teaches young Skywalker how to deal with the possible death of the woman he loves.

Anakin dreams of Padme dying during childbirth. These dreams are similar to the ones he had about his mother. The possibility of Padme dying for any reason triggers his fear of losing those closest to him. Obi-Wan is the sum of all the Jedi teachings, and Obi-Wan instructs Anakin to follow those teachings and obey the Council. While Obi-Wan is an individual, he willingly allows his voice to be joined by Master Yoda and Mace Windu. Yoda tells Anakin that dreams might be premonitions or they could be the manifestations of fear. Giving into fear can lead to the dark side. According to the Jedi, one must meditate the dread away and work on severing personal attachments. Yoda, Windu, and Kenobi offer no viable method of saving his wife. Anakin isn’t satisfied.

Enter Palpatine. He sympathizes with Anakin and pretends to reluctantly tell the tale of Darth Plagueis, a Dark Lord of the Sith so wise and powerful he could manipulate midi-chlorians to create life and to cheat death. Anakin wants to know if he could be taught this power. Of course, he can. All Anakin has to do is be willing to open his mind and to accept that there is more to the Force than the Jedi admit.

The moment Palpatine knows he has successfully tempted Anakin

Anakin’s a man of action, so he is tempted by Palpatine. Sensing he has Anakin on the hook, Palpatine gives Anakin another thing the Jedi enjoys – approval. Palpatine brings Anakin into his confidence; he needs Anakin to be his eyes and ears on the Jedi Council because the Chancellor is concerned the Jedi are not acting as nobly as they should be. However, the Jedi Masters, especially Windu, are not pleased Palpatine has forced Anakin on to the Jedi Council. While he is on the Council, Anakin is not given the title of Master, a rank all members of the Jedi Council have. Obi-Wan refuses to stand up to the Council and insist Anakin be promoted, frustrating Anakin even more.

Because Palpatine understands Anakin’s need for attention, he succeeds where Obi-Wan fails. Obi-Wan and the other Jedi assume Anakin will follow their lead, accept their criticisms, and do their bidding, even if it’s shady. Palpatine told Anakin that he feared the Jedi and others are plotting against him, wanting to take control of the Senate. Anakin doesn’t want to believe it, but he knows the Jedi haven’t been on their best behavior during the war.

Anakin does his best not to fall, but a series of small events trigger his descent into Palpatine’s hands. Obi-Wan and the Jedi Council want Anakin to spy on Palpatine. This is lying, an act that should be beneath Jedi, and is evidence proving Palpatine’s conspiracy theory. Knowing he has the Chancellor’s ear, Padme asks Anakin to convince Palpatine to pursue peace. Anakin is visibly hurt by this request. Padme is the woman he loves, the symbol of all that is right and compassionate, and she too is willing to use him for her own gains. She tries to convince him that her intentions are pure, but he accuses her of wanting Palpatine removed so she and the Jedi can control the Senate. Anakin does the right thing and informs the Council that Palpatine uses the Force. Instead of including him on the best course of action, Windu excludes Anakin. Palpatine told Anakin the Council feared how powerful he could be, and being shut out by Obi-Wan and Windu is more proof Palpatine is correct.

At the end of the fight between Palpatine and Windu, Anakin bursts in. Anakin is ignorant of the facts, but it’s not his fault. Standing over a weaken Palpatine is Master Mace Windu, the man who has been the most critical and untrusting of Anakin. When Palpatine claims that Windu wants to kill him and take over the Senate, Anakin believes the one who has been there for him most of his life, giving him opportunities, sharing information, and placing his trust in him. Anakin sides with Palpatine and tosses Windu out the window.

Anakin is no longer torn. With the gates wide open, his fear, anger, and grief erupt, transforming him from Jedi to Sith. Blinded by the Dark Side, Anakin willingly becomes Darth Sidious’s apprentice and carries out Palpatine’s commands, including the cold-blooded slaughter of Jedi younglings. On Mustafar, Anakin kills the Separatists leaders. Padme arrives and tries to convince him this dark path is wrong, but her argument is cut short when Obi-Wan appears, making Anakin conclude that Padme conspired against him. He chokes her as punishment.

Look how far our innocent podracer has fallen

The volcanic planet of Mustafar is the perfect backdrop for the epic lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin. The erupting lava is visual representation of Anakin’s new worldview: using the dark side can bring peace and justice to a war-torn galaxy, and just as lava hardens to form new land, his powers can forge a new empire to rule all.

Anakin hasn’t been a Sith for more than a week, and he already dreams of being in charge. But his dream is cut short when Obi-Wan severs Anakin’s organic limbs and leaves the man who was the Chosen One, his brother, to burn.

Obi-Wan gets Padme to safety, but they are in hiding because Palpatine has executed Order 66, a command implanted into the Clones telling them to kill all Jedi. Allies of the Jedi, like Senators Bail Organa and Mon Mothma, have been sent into exile or killed. Palpatine spun his fight with Windu from being arrested into surviving an assassination attempt. The Senate, tired of years of war, eagerly ate up the tale and applauded when Palpatine brought peace by disbanding the Republic and establishing a unified Empire.

Palpatine is a Sith Lord, but his real power was playing the long game. He knew how to manipulate the few, rile up a base, and shred democracy before everyone’s eyes. Revenge of the Sith is the best film of the Prequel Saga. While we knew the ending, watching Anakin crack, shatter, and break hurt my heart.

The film ends with two rays of hope. Padme gives birth to twins, but dies from some unknown reason that couldn’t be treated by a medical droid in this world full of advanced technology. Anakin is a Sith Lord now, so Yoda decides the children need to go into hiding.

The girl, Leia, goes with Bail Organa to Alderaan. The boy, Luke, is taken to Tatooine and given to Anakin’s stepbrother, Owen Lars and his wife, Beru.

Wait a minute. Anakin is told by Palpatine that Padme and the babies died, so he doesn’t have an immediate need to investigate the situation, but hiding a baby with his family on his home planet and watched over by Obi-Wan Kenobi might raise a few red flags. They better be careful.

 

 

Up next: Kanan: Last Padawan (comic book)



Avatar ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Michelle Ealey has been a geek for as long as she can remember. She enjoys sci-fi, fantasy, and horror films, TV and books, and she plays a lot of video games. Michelle writes about geeky things and is a co-host on the Starling Tribune Podcast. You can follow her on Twitter, @michelleealey.

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