Star Wars is famous for its villains, but what’s a villain without a rivalry? Feuds like those between Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul, Darth Vader and General Tagge, and Han Solo and Boba Fett raise the stakes for all the characters and leave us breathless wondering who will truly win out in the end. In this week’s Jedi Council, the masters of Dork Side of the Force have convened to discuss which rivalries are our favorites.
Elaine Tveit: My favorite Star Wars rivalry is a little sketchy, as my primary source for it comes from a few lines by Palpatine from Revenge of the Sith, and a Legends book by James Luceno. I’m talking about the rivalry between Darth Sidious and his master, Darth Plagueis, the presumed “father” of Anakin Skywalker.
There’s no doubt that Plagueis is a canon character; Palpatine recounts “The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise” to Anakin and how he was killed in his sleep by his apprentice, Sidious. The details of the relationship, however, come from Luceno’s Darth Plagueis, a Legends book that could easily fit into canon with a few minor changes.
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The gist of it is as follows: For years, Sidious and Plagueis manipulate the Republic and the course of events to place Palpatine in power, by which the Sith hope to gain ultimate control over the galaxy. Meanwhile, Plagueis is plying the depths of the Force, trying to discover the secret to controlling midichlorians and achieving eternal life (in retort to his efforts, it is implied the Force created Anakin Skywalker). Then, one night, after Palpatine has gained the Chancellorship of the Republic, he gets his Sith master drunk, and, in a Shakespearean twist, murders him. Thus, their alliance ends, and Plagueis’s knowledge dies with him.
What intrigues me about this rivalry is that it’s between two extremely powerful, evil, machinating beings, each so skilled and conniving that it’s difficult to determine who would have one if the fight had been equal (if Plagueis hadn’t been in a stupor, in other words). It’s on the level of the feud between Palpatine and Yoda, only those two were polar opposites in the Force, one light, one dark. We may never know which one was truly the more powerful dark sider, Sidious or Plagueis, but there’s no doubt that their relationship and rivalry had galactic consequences.
Ani Bundel: Let’s go old school. Best rivalry in my book, hands down, is Lando vs Han. Let’s review shall we?
- Ships: Both at one time owned the Millennium Falcon. Han won it from Lando on a bet. Clearly, this makes Han the better gambler, or at least the luckier gambler. Lando, on the other hand, seems to be the better pilot of it, as seen in Return of the Jedi.
- Women: One gets the sense from Lando that fighting over women has been a thing he and Han have been doing from time immemorial. In fact, I don’t think Lando’s actually that interested in Leia, except that Han is so totally head over heels for her, and so therefore watching Lando flirting with her drives Solo nuts. One can maybe conjecture that taking the Millennium Falcon from Lando may not have been the only thing Han won.
- Con man: Han got a ship. Lando got an entire city.
But just because we see Han take the ship and the girl at the end of the original trilogy doesn’t automatically make him the winner of this rivalry. After all, Lando is definitely the better scoundrel. He’s working for the empire when we meet him and no one realizes it until the end of the movie. Not that he’s turning to the Dark Side. There’s no clear black and white good vs evil here. It’s more of a politician’s realism of which side butters the bread. Lando is an oily scoundrel the way politicians are oily scoundrels. That’s light years more scoundrel than Han could ever be, or would ever want to be.
But then again, Lando is cool the way Han could never be cool. After all, can you really see Han ever being given the run of a city? Exactly.
I’ve always enjoyed watching the sneaky conniving ways of the Imperials in the movies. Their portrayal as cowardly and power-crazed fear merchants cleverly disguised their fear and anguish of being responsible for so much terror and death throughout the galaxy. The conflict within the ranks was high, as well; the inner workings of the giant Star Destroyers and oppressive destructive machinery seemed to be oiled by the greasy rivalries between the ranking officers.
The Emperor himself encouraged this behavior, wanting only the most cold-hearted sinister members in the highest ranks, pursuing his endeavor to create an Empire built on fear. Very much a Dark Side trait, as we all know.
The rivalries that I like only last a few minutes on screen, but they are delightfully sinister in their operation. Captain Piett and Admiral Ozzel seemed to be at loggerheads over their hunt for the Rebellion, and ultimately Vader decided Ozzel was as clumsy as he is stupid, putting Piett in charge with a Force Choke. Not the first time he’s used this method to prove a point as Admiral Motti found out when talking bad about the Force directly to Vader’s face. A ballsy move, you’ll agree, but not one without consequences, and one of the most iconic moments of the saga.