There’s even more.
Over the course of the past few weeks, RetroZap! has received a flood of emails, tweets, and all kinds of direct messages related to one little article about Padmé’s death.
Thank you so much for all the support. I’m eternally grateful.
But, as I heard from more and more readers, one thing became clear: there’s more to the end of Revenge of the Sith than what was initially written. There’s even more to consider.
I. A Tale of Two Sith
Now that we’ve established that Padmé didn’t die of a broken heart, we have to ask the next logical question: who killed her? While I posited that Darth Sidious used the dark side to steal away her Living Force and used it to breathe life into Darth Vader, there are nuances here that are worth taking a look at.
Namely, did Sidious actively take part in this? Was he actively controlling this vampiric life-stealing/life-giving procedure? Or, was he more like an arcane scientist, who, after carefully setting up all the precise conditions of an experiment, presides over a reaction as it proceeds according to plan.
In short, was Sidious presiding over a ritual of dark arts where Anakin actually killed Padmé after all?
RetroZap! reader Michael Schoenfeld writes:
Palpatine does not kill Padmé; Anakin does.To the best of my recollection, Palpatine never lies…he deceives, but never lies. He told Anakin that he did not know how to bring someone back to life, but with him, they could discover this power. He also tells Anakin, as you quoted, “…you killed her.”
This seems to fit the story to perfection. Anger comes from the Dark Side, only the Dark Side can restore a life, and it was Anakin, in his anger, that killed Padmé. That anger and his connection to Padmé is what allowed him to save his own life…
Insightful, right? Some form of this idea was submitted by many people. It was even discussed by Steve Glosson on Geek Out Loud. And I think it is pretty valid. So, let’s consider:
Palpatine seized a perfect moment to set up a situation where he can finally delve deeper into the dark side of Force and use Anakin to discover new secrets. As Anakin lies maimed on Mustafar, Palpatine sees opportunity. And he puts this fallen Jedi through an excruciating procedure devoid of any relief from bacta tanks or other pain-alleviating technology.
In Anakin, he has a being that’s completely consumed by the dark side at that moment: a person who just hours before killed his friends, killed children, and has nothing but hate for his “brother” Obi-Wan and his wife, whom he believes both betrayed him. Anakin is a perfect vessel for Palpatine to use in his attempt to cheat death and create a more perfect Sith apprentice straight from his master’s vision.
Let’s also remember that on this day, Palpatine eradicated the Jedi and in doing so swung the Force firmly in favor of the dark side. Palpatine was at the peak of his power on this day, which explains why he wasn’t doing this sort of thing all the time.
So, if it was Anakin (the Chosen One) who was unwittingly ripping the Living Force away from Padmé, did he actually survive?
II. Every Breath You Take…
Pablo Hidalgo of Lucasfilm offered up a very interesting tidbit of information on the Rebel Force Radio Facebook page. He indicated that in the sound design of Padmé’s death and Anakin’s rebirth, there was a conscious effort to work with the heartbeats of the two star-crossed lovers. After listening to it, what was uncovered was rather shocking:
Both of their heartbeats stopped roughly at the same time. Both Padmé AND Anakin actually died to bring Darth Vader to life.
Once Vader’s mask is put on and sealed up again, his heartbeat is clearly heard again. The heartbeat stops for a moment, just too much of a moment to be considered natural. In this way, the death of Anakin and the birth of Darth Vader are no longer figurative terms; this was an actual procedure that took place, with Padmé being collateral damage in Sidious’ plan. I have no doubts that this is a clear, yet subtle piece of information that elaborates upon just what horrific lengths were taken to bring Darth Vader to life.
However, there’s even more.
III. Vader’s Leash
We’ve arrived at the point where we know now that the dark arts of Darth Sidious breathed life into Darth Vader through the highly unnatural and simultaneous deaths of Padmé and Anakin. After all you know about the Emperor, do you think he would give life freely?
No. Any life he gives would be enthralled. And it is just so with Darth Vader. We have all heard the poetic phrasing of Anakin being enslaved in his black armor; what if it were literally true?
RetroZap! reader Grant Beecher writes
…In the final film, Return of the Jedi, during the climax of the film, when the Emperor is killing Luke, I feel that this couldn’t be more apparent or important. Vader is at first hesitant to stop Palpatine, struggling to decide between the two. When he does finally kill the Emperor, he receives a healthy dose of force lightening, only to live long enough afterward to speak with Luke one last time. I realize that Vader has all kinds of electronic stuff in his body, but I feel that he would have easily survived that surge. I may be paraphrasing here, but in the following conversation, Luke mentions needing to save Vader, but Vader’s response is, “nothing could save me now.” I think that this makes it obvious to the clever viewer not only that Palpatine’s presence was crucial to Vader’s survival, but also that VADER KNEW ALL ALONG that the Emperor was keeping him alive with the Force. So when he chooses to save Luke at the end of ROTJ, he is literally and knowingly sacrificing himself for his son.
Do you really think a little electricity is enough to bring Darth Vader down? Does he really look that fragile? He may be an egghead at the end, but Anakin was TOUGH. A few seconds of Force lightning just isn’t enough to bring the Chosen One down.
But, the death of Darth Vader makes much more sense when we understand that the life force he was given was suddenly severed by the death of Darth Sidious.
You know, it was like he lost the will to live–right? NOPE.
Darth Vader dies under the same circumstances as Padmé; his Living Force was ripped from him by the master that was always pulling his strings–Sheev Palpatine, Sith Master Darth Sidious, the Emperor of the First Galactic Empire!
Of course Palpatine would do this; it’s the perfect way to ensure his Sith apprentice would NEVER overthrow him! It would mean certain death for the apprentice as well! Indeed, the Emperor was unbelievably cunning. So, the next time you are watching Return of the Jedi, consider that Luke witnessed the same dark arts at work that killed his mother so long ago, brought Vader to life, and also took that life away.
Joseph Tavano is the owner and editor in chief of RetroZap. Born just months before Luke found out who his father was, he has been fortunate to have had Star Wars in his life as long as he can remember. Growing up just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, he can remember substituting sticks for lightsabers and BMX bikes for speeders. He loves comics, retro games, vintage sci-fi paperbacks, and maps. Though an accomplished drummer, he doesn’t crave adventure (as much) any more, and prefers his old haunts in Salem, Massachusetts, where he resides with his family. Buy him a glass of whiskey and he’ll return it in kind.