Photo Credit: [Star Wars: Return of the Jedi]
6. Vader kills the Emperor to save Luke
When I saw the Star Wars prequel trilogy in theaters, I remember wondering what the point was. At best, I considered the three films to be a mixed bag. I was impressed with the special effects and I enjoyed a handful of scenes.
However at that time, I found the story of Anakin Skywalker’s downfall to be uninspired. But in the years since then, I’ve reevaluated the first three installments of the Star Wars saga.
Despite some of George Lucas’ shortcomings as a filmmaker, I’ve come to see Anakin’s story is quite poignant. A lot of that poignancy comes from how the prequels inform Darth Vader’s decision at the end of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
In the film’s climax, Luke journeys to the second Death Star to face Vader and the Emperor. After beating his father in a lightsaber duel, Luke is offered the chance to take his place at Palpatine’s side. Luke refuses and is electrocuted for his impudence. After a brief eternity, Vader turns on his Master and throws the Emperor to his death.
Throughout this pivotal moment, Vader never says anything. And because he’s wearing his life support armor, his expression is hidden from the audience. So why does he betray Palpatine in the end?
Is it because his Master was willing to discard him so cavalierly? Was it because he felt pangs of sympathy for his son? Or did he do what he did because he was inspired by Luke’s words to be a Jedi Knight one last time?
In the context of the original trilogy, I think Vader’s actions can be attributed to the first two reasons. But when considering the context of all six original Star Wars films, Vader kills Palpatine to correct Anakin Skywalker’s greatest mistake.