Padmé Didn’t Die of a Broken Heart

by Joseph Tavano

There’s something you missed.

I find it odd that one of the most pivotal and mysterious moments in the Star Wars saga is discussed infrequently, and when it is the case is closed. Some time between 2005 and now the greater part of people who’ve watched this movie have all come to the same conclusion, and all that is debated is if they like this course of events or not.

Of course, I’m talking about the end of Revenge of the Sith, one of my all-time favorite films. I haven’t been counting, but I’ve seen this movie 500 times, and I’m still finding new things to consider. The final hour of this movie is densely packed with information, but it doesn’t hold your hand. Where a lesser film would have wrapped thing up with an expositive voiceover, Revenge of the Sith demands that the viewer watches how things unfold, and then asks the viewer to put the pieces together themselves. Unfortunately, not everyone has put them together the proper way, and that leads to a lot of differing conclusions regarding the anticlimax of the movie.

I’m talking about Padmé’s death, the cause of which has been said by many to be “a broken heart.”

Yuck. Nope.

I’m here to tell you that this theory does not hold up, and I’m going to show you why. Listen to my case, consider the evidence, re-watch the movie, and rethink the flawed broken heart theory.

I. The term “broken heart” is not the droid’s diagnosis.

The only time anyone mentions anything about a broken heart is when Padmé is pleading to Anakin to stop being off-the-wall crazy. It’s an obvious reaction to what she’s hearing: he has admitted to turning against the Jedi order and killing children, siding with Palpatine, and even plotting to overthrow him. Of course she would be heartbroken! But it didn’t kill her. Would that news kill you? Nope. It didn’t kill her. Move along.

NoBrokeyHart01 Padmé Didn't Die of a Broken Heart, Anakin

II. It wasn’t Anakin’s Force choke, either.

In a truly despicable move, Anakin physically hurts his pregnant wife because he thinks she has sided with Obi-Wan to kill him. He uses the dark side to choke her. After a few very intense seconds, he lets her go, and she collapses to the ground. The film makes great efforts to show you she is CLEARLY alive.

NoBrokeyHart04, Padmé Didn't Die of a Broken Heart, Anakin, Obi-Wan, Padme

First, we can see her chest move up and down as she is unconscious on the ground. Second, Obi-Wan discretely checks to see if she’s living before the duel. Third, she talks to Obi-Wan once he is back on board the ship following the duel with Anakin. Anakin did not kill her by cutting off her air supply for a those moments. Such a consequence is completely plausible (not saying it isn’t) but the film makes sure to let you know many times that this did not contribute to her death.

NoBrokeyHart03 Padmé Didn't Die of a Broken Heart, Padme

III. Droids don’t know squat about the Force.

After arriving at Polis Massa, Padmé is immediately taken to the medical ward. She is directly cared for by medical droids, with organic(?) Polis Massans supervising the effort.

NoBrokeyHart07, Padmé Didn't Die of a Broken Heart, Yoda, Obi-Wan, Droid

Let’s get one thing straight for all time: droids cannot feel the Force; droids cannot interact with the Force; droids do not understand anything about the Force unless it is programmed data provided by organics.

Clearly, what is going on with Padme in this scene has to do with the Force. Because Star Wars. With that in mind, let’s review the exact words the droid said to Obi-Wan:

DROID “Medically, she’s completely healthy. For reasons we can’t explain, we’re losing her.”

OBI-WAN “She’s dying?!”

DROID “We don’t know why. She’s lost the will to live. We need to operate quickly if we are to save the babies.”

For reasons we can’t explain, we’re losing her. That reason is the Force! We don’t know why. She’s lost the will to live. As if her connection to the Living Force was severed? Of course the droids would not be able to pick this up!!

No broken hearts here. Look at her face. Does this look like a person who does not want to live? She struggled to keep conscious and talk until the very bitter end. She does not want to go. Her will to live is strong.

NoBrokeyHart08, Padmé Didn't Die of a Broken Heart

So, why does it seem like the Living Force is being ripped away from her, stealing her life force in a vampiric manner? That sounds like a power one would have if they were able to cheat death.

Wait. I’ve heard that phrase before. <gasp!>

IV. “Have you ever heard the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise?”

NoBrokeyHart10, Padmé Didn't Die of a Broken Heart, Palpatine

Yep. By his own admission, Palpatine learned everything his master knew, and killed him only after he could acquire nothing more.

Palpatine already knew how to influence the midichlorians to create life and save people from dying.

So, as Anakin was dying from his wounds on Mustafar, the Emperor siphoned the Living Force from Padmé and brought it to Anakin. Thus, she died as he was reborn as Darth Vader.

(FYI–don’t talk to me about his Darthness being conferred earlier in the film; this was just a title. When he rose in the black suit, Darth Vader was an entirely new persona for the being inside.)

But wait–none of this is part of the film! I am reading into it a little bit! I am making conclusions! Yes, exactly. The brilliance of this film is making you think deeply about the nature of the Force. There is nothing in the Star Wars canon that conflicts even remotely and plenty of evidence–by Palpatine’s own words–that support it.

(For the few years before the Darth Plagueis novel was made Legends, there was much more evidence that also supported this, but let’s stick with just the film for now.)

V. “I sense Lord Vader is in danger.”

NoBrokeyHart06, Padmé Didn't Die of a Broken Heart, Emperor

But how can Palpatine affect Padmé when she’s all the way on Polis Massa?

Even while battling Yoda, Palpatine can feel something is wrong with Anakin all the way out on Mustafar. On this day, the Emperor is at the height of his power. The dark side is strongest, completely blinding the Jedi, who are effectively fighting against a rising tide. Palpatine is having the best day of his entire life. If he is aware of Anakin on Mustafar, he is completely capable to affecting Padmé on Polis Massa.

VI. “She was alive. I felt it.”

NoBrokeyHart09, Padmé Didn't Die of a Broken Heart, Emperor, Darth Vader

Darth Vader rises disoriented from the excruciating ordeal he has just been through. He was set aflame, only to be reconstructed in a torturous procedure. The only thing keeping him alive, surely, was the influx of Living Force from Padmé by way of Palpatine’s dark arts. It is no mere coincidence she died at the precise time the procedure was over.

The first thing Vader does is to inquire about Padmé. It’s not that he was unconscious–the movie makes it clear that he was awake through the entire procedure–it’s that he could feel her in the Force, and once the procedure was over he could not. He knew all along that his choke didn’t kill her. He is worried about this person he means to possess, and fears the worst.

PALPATINE “Lord Vader, can you hear me?”

VADER “Yes master. Where is Padmé? Is she safe? Is she alright?”

PALPATINE “It seems, in your anger, you killed her.”

VADER “I–I couldn’t have. She was ALIVE–I FELT IT.”

{Palpatine knowingly smiles}


The evidence is there. Anakin felt that she was alive, and then could not. Palpatine smiles in satisfaction. And here lies is the most damning evidence in support of my case–the one irrefutable fact no one can deny…

VII. There’s no other way Palpatine would know what’s happening to Padme.

Padmé was taken to a secret location, hidden from the Emperor and Vader. Palpatine was pretty busy in the events following his duel: he picked up Anakin and rebuilt him. If he wasn’t killing Padmé from afar, why oh why would he be aware of her death? There would be no news of it so suddenly; it had only happened seconds before he told the news to Anakin. This is the lynch-pin of Palpatine’s whole plan, the part that would enslave Vader forever in his despair. She had to die–right then–or else Vader would never truly be committed to the Emperor.

This movie and the subsequent movies also show that neither Vader or the Emperor knew anything of her location, or of the birth of Vader’s children. The Emperor’s power was at its height, but not omniscient.

The fact that Palpatine knew about Padmé’s death is the one big, huge giveaway that he was involved and that SHE DID NOT DIE OF A BROKEN HEART!

Once this deciding piece of evidence is given away by the film, the rest of the details previously shown to you all fall into place. But, don’t take my word for it–watch the movie. It’s all there. This is less of a theory than it is just a close watching of a film with many, many layers to uncover. I’m just going with the facts, here.

So please, please(!)–stop talking about murderous broken hearts in Revenge of the Sith. The film deserves better treatment than that, and you deserve to watch this classic one more time.

Part Two: There’s Even More

Padmé didn't die of a broken heart, Padmé

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

NoBrokeyHeartsII, Padmé didn't die of a broken heart, Padmé

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…

NoBrokeyHeartsII_02, Padmé didn't die of a broken heart, Padmé

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

NoBrokeyHeartsII_03 Padmé didn't die of a broken heart, Padmé

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.

NoBrokeyHeartsII_04, Padmé didn't die of a broken heart, Padmé

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.


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