Originally written for Fandom Following.
I don’t know if I’ve said it before, but I am an Anakin Skywalker fan. Not Darth Vader, Anakin “Creeper Stance” Skywalker. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t absolve him of any of his crimes. Anakin Skywalker is a murderer, wife-abuser, and the cause of the downfall of the Jedi Order, these are things I will never deny. However, I’ve come to realize that it was inevitable that Anakin would go to the Darkside. Even without knowing that he would eventually become Darth Vader, it’s plain to see that Anakin never stood a chance.
I know a lot of people hate the second Star Wars trilogy, the prequels, but they are ultimately still canon and the plot holes aren’t so horrendously glaring if you’re willing to make some assumptions. What I really like about the prequels though, is that they take the time to show you that Anakin Skywalker had not one lick of a chance to come out of the experience as a good guy.
And so, if you’ve got the time, here’s two thousands words about why Anakin Skywalker was doomed to be the bad guy.
In The Phantom Menace, Jedi Master Qui Gon Jinn speaks to Anakin’s mother, Schmi Skywalker, about Anakin’s father, and we come to find out that Anakin was conceived by the Force. Any card-carrying Christian would immediately pick up on the Jesus parallels, but we later come to find out that Anakin is not the Jedi Messiah. In Revenge of the Sith, Chancellor Palpatine tells us that the Sith Lord, Darth Plagueis the Wise, could manipulate the Force to create life. Palpatine then looks at Anakin in a way that leads us to assume that he meant Anakin’s birth specifically.
I was made aware of this reveal well before I actually watched the second trilogy, so my immediate reaction was to wonder why anyone ever thought that Anakin would do anything other than go to the Darkside. I honestly thought that Schmi Skywalker had offered up her body as a vessel to the Force gods in some backwoods Church of the Force. Why George Lucas didn’t go with this idea is beyond me, but wouldn’t it have made for a more interesting movie?
In any case, Anakin’s birth being a Sith manipulation had to be a bigger give away than the English translation of the name Darth Vader. Even knowing that the Sith had had such a big hand in the creation of the current Skywalker bloodline should have been a clue about Ben Solo’s becoming Kylo Ren. I’m not saying that Anakin’s and Ben’s defections couldn’t have been circumvented, but it’s not crazy to think that the way that Anakin was conceived didn’t have a hand in how that played out.
His Treatment By The Jedi:
We should have picked up that something was wrong with Anakin when Qui Gon Jinn notices how high his midichlorian count is. The Jedi should have picked up Anakin from a much younger age, but Qui Gon Jinn figures that it was because the Skywalkers were too far from the Republic. I’m beginning to think, and I’m not sure if it was actually said, that Anakin was just being purposefully hidden by the Sith until he was needed.
In any case, the Jedi’s decision to reject Anakin originally was a horrible one on their part. Yes, Anakin was mouthy and way too free-spirited, but, with the right teacher, he could have been tempered. By rejecting Anakin originally, then grudgingly allowing him to be trained by Qui Gon Jinn, and later an entirely too young Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi Council missed out on the chance to hone Anakin as a warrior for good. Knowing that Anakin was so powerful, the Council should have assigned him to a much more seasoned Jedi Master who could have curbed Anakin’s stubbornness.
It didn’t help that the Jedi Council continued to reject and mistrust Anakin while Chancellor Palpatine continuously welcomed the boy from the moment that they met. From their first meeting in The Phantom Menace, Palpatine notes that Anakin is particularly extraordinary. Admittedly, this wouldn’t set off any alarms if you didn’t already know that Palpatine was really Darth Sidious, but when you know that truth of it, it seems like Palpatine is almost blatantly implying that he’s been aware of Anakin for years.
We are never given any glimpse of Anakin at the Jedi academy, but it’s not much of a leap to think that Anakin never quite fit in with the other Padawan, especially if those Padawans took their cues from the Jedi Masters. Faced with that kind of estrangement, who’s really surprised that Anakin trusted Palpatine more?
His Relationship with Obi-Wan Kenobi:
So if anyone should have been able to temper Anakin, and stop him from trusting in Palpatine, it should have been Obi-Wan, right? Right? Wrong.
In Attack of the Clones, Anakin refers to Obi-Wan as the closest thing he has to a father several times. Problem is, Obi-Wan is more like an older brother than a father, and they make a point to correct that in Revenge of the Sith. I get it though: sometimes your siblings can be more of a parent to you than your parents are. However, Obi-Wan got Anakin while he was still a young man himself, and his inexperience with training a new Padawan showed.
Think about it. It was Obi-Wan’s master, Qui Gon Jinn, who was originally supposed to train Anakin. There’s even a scene in The Phantom Menace where Qui Gon Jinn asks Obi-Wan if he thought that taking on Anakin was a stupid idea. Obi-Wan only says that he wouldn’t question his master’s decisions. If Anakin was going to see anyone as an almost-father, it would have been Qui Gon Jinn. Anakin would have probably even been able to get out of Palpatine’s clutches if Qui Gon Jinn had still been the one to train him, but Qui Gon Jinn died very early on.
Obi-Wan took on Anakin in the memory of his dead master. It’s never clarified if Obi-Wan hadn’t done it out of guilt, but it was definitely a far cry from the story about picking Anakin himself that we got in Return of the Jedi. Obi-Wan’s issues with guilt is an essay for another time, though.
In any case, what I’ve been getting at is that Obi-Wan ultimately treated Anakin like he would a younger brother. Anakin was willful and stubborn, and Obi-Wan hadn’t done anything to temper that in the ten years between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. It is quite possible that this was because Obi-Wan felt that he owed it to Qui Gon Jinn to train Anakin when no one else would, and Anakin probably knew that. So while Anakin and Obi-Wan considered themselves more siblings than just brothers-in-arms, the Jedi Council’s mistrust and original rejection of Anakin probably clouded their relationship.
So here’s the thing, I’ve always been of the understanding that the Jedi and the Sith are two sides of the same Force coin. So whenever someone said that the Force was out of whack, they usually meant that it was because one side was much stronger than the other. In the original trilogy, the Sith was in power. In the second trilogy, it was the Jedi. So it only makes sense that the person sent to restore balance to the Force would go to the side not being represented. Right?
In The Phantom Menace, Yoda and Mace Windu have a whole conversation about the Sith, and Yoda pointed out that the Sith had been gone for centuries. In Attack of the Clones, Yoda talks about how the Jedi’s control of the Force was weakening, and a lot of the Jedi were becoming arrogant. Count Dooku even talks about the corruption in the senate that caused him to become a separatist. In Revenge of the Sith, the beginning scroll says that there are “heroes on both sides”, and Palpatine talks about how there’s only a few key differences between the Jedi and the Sith, and everybody wants power. The Jedi had power all throughout the second trilogy and, had it not been for the Force Messiah, Anakin, they would have been able to keep it.
Here’s a thought though: had Anakin not been seduced by the Darkside, and wholesale massacred the Jedi temple, wouldn’t the Jedi have eventually corrupted themselves anyway? You would think that they wouldn’t, but Yoda’s comment about the current state of the Jedi leads me to believe that they would have been toppled eventually.
I think that, when one considers the Force, Anakin was always meant to be the thing that shook up the status quo, and his descendants would be the ones to help balance everything out. It’s just a theory though.
The Manipulation of Anakin’s Emotions:
So Anakin’s biggest issue was that his emotions ruled him, which is a big no-no with the Jedi. Almost like they don’t even want you to be human. That’s fine, except that Anakin is way too powerful, and the Jedi never make good use of their resources to curb that. You know who wants Anakin to be human? Chancellor Palpatine. You know who put the time and resources in to put Anakin on a path that would benefit them? Chancellor Palpatine.
Palpatine sacrificed Darth Maul and Count Dooku to get Anakin Skywalker, you better believer he was going to make Anakin feel some type of accepted.
About ten minutes into Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan and Anakin get into a battle with Count Dooku that ends in Obi-Wan knocked out on the floor, and Anakin being talked into murdering an unarmed Dooku by Palpatine. It is then that we can officially say that it’s too late for Anakin Skywalker. Admittedly, Anakin had done things before this moment that he could not come back from, but it is here that some things really start to click.
When we meet Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace, he’s a curious child at best. A little bit stubborn, a little willful, but the boy wasn’t quick to throw a fit of anger. He loved to pout and he loved his mother, but that was basically it. Then Palpatine comes into contact with Anakin, and we don’t see him for ten years, but all of a sudden Anakin has anger issues. For the most part, it looks pretty natural, especially after Anakin massacres a village’s worth of raiders who had kidnapped and tortured his mother, but Anakin eventually begins to notice that there’s something wrong with him. Earlier on, in Attack of the Clones, we are told that Palpatine has some kind of hold on the other senators, and that’s how he’s stayed Chancellor for so long. It’s a throwaway comment when you first hear it, but it makes a ton of more sense when you watch Palpatine’s interactions with Anakin in Revenge of the Sith.
It’s really somewhat subtle, but Palpatine emotionally manipulated the hell out of Anakin the whole way through Revenge of the Sith. We’re made to think that the big moment comes when Palpatine offers to tell Anakin how Darth Plagueis was able to help his loved ones cheat death, but it’s really a little bit earlier. It’s not the most obvious thing, but Palpatine is just about the only person in the entirety of the second trilogy to use the phrase “Search your feelings”. The phrase is used more in the first trilogy to “validate” seemingly outrageous statements, but I’ve come to believe that it can also be used to employ the Force to get people to be more open to suggestion. Darth Vader uses it to make Luke believe that he was Luke’s father; Yoda uses it to “reveal” that Leia was Luke’s sister; and then Luke uses it to “reveal” to Leia that they were related. Only one of those reveals were relatively concrete before the prequels, but only George Lucas could say it’s impossible to subtly use the Force to manipulate someone’s mind when they’re too distracted to notice what’s happening because they’re searching their feelings for something that you said was true.
I think that, ultimately, what Palpatine did was gradually get close to Anakin over the years to gain his trust, then subtly used the Force to manipulate Anakin’s emotions, then dangled the line about saving Padme because that’s how Palpatine knew that he would get Anakin to completely break rank. Then, once Padme was dead, Palpatine knew that he had Anakin right where he wanted him: alone, vulnerable, and too broken to notice what Palpatine was continuing to do to him.
When I started this piece, I never intended to write 2000+ words on Anakin Skywalker, but I’m pretty happy with how it came out.
Anakin Skywalker had no chance at all to be the Jedi Messiah that he was prophesied to be. His birth was manipulated by a Sith Lord; the Jedi Council mistrusted him; Obi-Wan babied him; Palpatine groomed him; and he was way too powerful to do anything other than destabilize the status quo.
Still, I think that Anakin would have been perfectly happy being Padme’s hero, but I don’t know that it would have been enough. Anakin Skywalker was always meant to be the bad guy. It just fit him too well.
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