People rag on this one, but I’m here to show all y’all just how awesome the writing. You think I’m lying, but seriously, my current re-watch has FINALLY won me over on this one. It used to be my least favorite film in the series, but my opinion has turned around a bit. So let’s do this!
It’s a good one.
Episode Number: 2 — Released: 2002 — Production Number: 5
The Dark Side
The reason why I would always get hung up on this one is Anakin is such a dangerous personality, and yet no one seems all that bothered by it. Sure, Obi-Wan expresses his concern to Mace Windu at one point, but Anakin is so obviously unstable that Obi-Wan should have taken much more drastic action.
The answer is, of course, Palpatine.
This is really his movie.
When you realize that literally everything that happens is the result of his manipulations, you get a sense of just how POWERFUL Sidious is, and how completely brilliant his plan to not only put the Sith back in power but to make that power a force to be reckoned with.
I’ll go into that in more detail in a bit, but the main point is that Sidious is an AMAZING villain, and I never really understood that fully until now.
Plot, Plot, Who’s Got the Plot?
What makes me most happy is realizing that so much of the movie is packed full of red herrings leading you away from what’s really going on in the same way that Palpatine is leading everyone where he wants them and away from the secrets he’s not ready to reveal.
When this first came out, I remember everyone obsessing over Sifo Dyas. Obviously, he was going to be CRUCIAL in the next film, right? There were folks online who posited that Sifo Dyas was really Sidious in disguise or that Sifo Dyas was not dead and was actually an alias for Dooku. The theories ran wild (kind of how now everyone feels like Snoke has a secret identity that they’ve figured out). But ultimately, Sifo Dyas was explained in the Clone Wars as just an actual human Jedi who commissioned the clone army.
He’s the reddest of herrings, and it’s wonderful.
ALSO, the whole plot to murder Padme is another huge red herring whose purpose is to lead Obi-Wan to “accidentally” stumble onto this secret clone army (even though its existence has been deleted from the archives, so no one else accidentally found it before the time was right). Then Obi-Wan can tell the Jedi, and when Palpatine tricks Jar Jar into voting FOR the creation of this army, so that when Sidious sets up the pieces for a big confrontation on Geonosis, the weakened Jedi have no choice BUT to accept the Clone Army from the Kaminoans.
The only upside is we get to see Obi-Wan going all Noir Private Eye as he tracks down Jango (who’s amazing and one of my favorite characters).
So, basically, Sidious had Tyranus hire Jango Fett to hire Zam to “almost” kill Padme (Jango knew the ship was a decoy but Zam didn’t) so Palpatine could suggest that Obi-Wan come protect her. And then have Zam try to kill Padme again so Obi-Wan could foil the assassination and then Jango could kill Zam with the sabre dart that would lead Obi-Wan to Kamino (because Obi-Wan’s connections would give him special knowledge that the Jedi archives couldn’t) so that the Jedi would use the clone army when Sidious started a galactic war.
It’s like there are strings attached to everyone and Palpatine is tugging on them.
For a moment, I wondered if Palpatine knew that Anakin was unstable and had problems with attachment when he suggested that Anakin escort Padme to Naboo to keep her safe. If that’s the case, then his foresight is pretty incredible because he knew he’d later be able to use Padme to manipulate Anakin into joining him. If not, it was just a happy accident that Palpatine later exploits.
But I feel like Palpatine had a hand in pushing the Tusken Raiders to capture Shmi so Anakin would begin slipping to he dark side.
Maybe just a wild theory, but like…Palpatine is amazing, so…
Anakin gets a really bad rap in this one. I think Hayden Christensen is fantastic. It took a while for me to warm up to him because his character is so awkward, but like that fits.
He’s an ex-slave who had to leave his mother behind (in slavery) so he could gain enough power to come back and free her. He had friends as a little boy, but he had to give up all those friends and spend ten years learning about the Force and being told that he has to take things slow while his mother spends ten years in slavery (so he thinks). His obsession with getting what he wants grows throughout the years because I bet he spends a lot of time assuming he can just leave the Jedi and go get his mother someday. But then he realizes that the Jedi are treated with respect and are in control of their own destinies.
Remember, as a slave, he was property and was ordered around. He accepted it because he didn’t know anything else but once he realizes that he doesn’t have to be treated as “slave scum” (to quote Sebulba), it’s obvious that would mess with his head.
At first, she’s just an object of desire. She was the only girl he ever felt much kinship with as a kid (remember the other kids just mocked his podracer and never thought he could win anything) so when he’s sequestered away from the Jedi, going through adolescence and having to deal with volatile emotions that, were he younger when he joined the Order, he would have been taught to control, he fixes on Padme.
It’s absolutely an unhealthy fixation, and when he meets her, he comes across as a total creep because he never thought he’d ever see her again. He had her on a high pedestal and when he finds himself with power and some influence, he realizes that he can possess her.
When he’s away from her, he’s clever and brave and strong and charmingly impulsive, but when he’s around her, his psychological shortcomings come to the surface. It’s only his Jedi teachings that allow him to kind of keep a handle on his feelings and agree with her when she says they can’t ever be together because it would jeopardize both of their professional lives (even though she’s a fixer and she wants to fix him just as much as she wants to fix the Republic).
If Palpatine weren’t in the picture, stroking Anakin’s ego and reminding him how much of a victim he still was, I think Anakin and Padme could have had a very healthy relationship.
Oh Yeah, and the Jedi
And atop all of this, we have the Jedi who one would assume would be able to see through all this deception, but Sidious is so powerful that he’s able to cloud the entire Order’s minds and keep them from seeing what’s going on. Yoda comments early on that the Dark Side is clouding everything, and then later that the Dark Lord of the Sith is keeping them from seeing what’s really going on, and even with their knowledge that a Sith is out there, they still can’t pin it on Palpatine who should be practically RADIATING dark side energy.
So, when the Jedi all charge headlong into that insane awesome battle at the end, they’re ALL being moved like chesspieces on a board by Palpatine who is literally starting a war and controlling both sides so he can be given more power to stop that war.
Like, oh my god, Palpatine is completely bonkers brilliant.
The only one who seems to suspect anything is going on is Yoda, but even he can’t figure it out. It’s like he gets the barest hints of ideas when he’s around Palpatine, but he can’t quite pin it down.
This movie is brilliant. It takes a long time to see it because there’s so much misdirection, but definitely give this one another chance. And yes, Anakin and Padme’s romance is awkward. It’s SUPPOSED TO BE. It’s not a healthy romance. Padme falls for Anakin as a rebel and as someone she can fix and Anakin is too immature and possessive to ever be able to give Padme any kind of fulfilling relationship.
And yet they get married!
The final shot of this movie is so great because it should be this sweeping romantic finale in which they’ll be happy ever after, but he becomes so possessive that he turns to the dark side to handle his paranoia that he’ll lose her, and she is so trapped by her feelings for him (and later her devotion to the fantasy that they’ll be able to be a family in the fiture) that she doesn’t run screaming from the room when she has a chance.
They’re both completely doomed…but look how happy they look right at this moment.
I will probably go through the Clone Wars series at a later time, but I really want to just binge watch the entire series right now. Sadly, I have other things to do.
But seriously, give this one another chance. Don’t pay attention to the surface stuff. Pay attention to the gears grinding beneath everything. This isn’t just the tragedy of Darth Vader. This is the tragedy of how paranoia and fear can be exploited by those in power to remove people’s freedoms. Srsly.
So, bye bye for now!
Next week, we’ll be looking at Revenge of the Sith!