What Dooku’s Tales of the Jedi arc tells us about the dark side

(L-R): Count Dooku and Mace Windu from "STAR WARS: TALES OF THE JEDI", season 1 exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.
(L-R): Count Dooku and Mace Windu from "STAR WARS: TALES OF THE JEDI", season 1 exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved. /

Sith love their tragedies. (Maybe you’ve heard of Darth Plagueis the Wise?)

And in Tales of the Jedi, we get the latest installment of Sith tragedy: the corruption of Count Dooku, esteemed Jedi master turned Sith Lord.

What’s particularly tragic about Dooku’s fall? It comes about as a result of the once-Jedi struggling to do good. And it presents the troubling question to us viewers: Would we too fall to the dark side given the same series of events?

In “Justice” – the second episode of the series – Dooku and his apprentice, Qui-Gon Jinn, find themselves managing a hostage situation on a remote world. A senator’s son is being held by locals demanding no more than basic human dignity: food, decent shelter, a voice in their government.

Master Dooku finds himself agreeing with those demands, siding against the senator whose son he’s come to rescue. He stands with those who the Republic seems to have forgotten.

“We serve the people of this Republic,” Dooku declares, refusing to be a simple pawn to be played at the whim of callous senators.

Isn’t that what a hero does? What a Jedi does?

Dooku’s negotiation tactics turn violent, aggressive – a trend that continues in the following episode, “Choices.” Again, Dooku comes face to face with the failure of the Republic to serve the real needs of its citizens.

And the Jedi themselves have little stomach – or foresight – to challenge the status quo. Ultimately, they do become pawns of the senate, leading troopers into battle at the Republic’s behest, arming, training and befriending their own killers. The Jedi are the standard bearers of a war that wreaks havoc across the galaxy, that ultimately unravels the Republic and its corruption.

All as Dooku no doubt expected.

But Dooku is the villain. Dooku – despite being right, despite siding with the poor, marginalized, oppressed and forgotten – is the one we say fell to the dark side.

The question Dooku’s Tales of the Jedi arc raises remains: Would we, the viewers, make the same choice, be labeled as disciples of the dark side, embrace the Sith and their tapestry of tragedy?

Here’s one key difference: Dooku abandoned his community – flawed, though they were – in favor of his own counsel. He allowed himself to drift. Rather than continue advocating for his approach, for what he saw to be true and necessary, he abandoned the Jedi Order and the path of dialogue. Cavan Scott’s Dooku: Jedi Lost tells us he returned to his home planet, Serenno, and took up his family title.

One can only imagine the brooding that took place: a man of power and prestige and not a small amount of pride left to rule his own people and think on the many ways he had been slighted by his former Force-wielding friends. It’s likely he found few equals, few to truly challenge his thinking in his newly chosen path.

Pride, power, wealth: Palpatine had an easy target.

Qui-Gon Jinn was the final thread connecting Dooku to the Jedi. But even his death at the hands of a Sith was still seen by Dooku as the result of Jedi inaction. The only difference now was that there was nothing holding Dooku back, no one he feared disappointing, losing.

So, how do we keep from falling to the dark side? The lesson from the Tragedy of Count Dooku the Just is this: Nurture those bonds of community; welcome dissenting voices. Argue, fight, throw up your hands, don’t let injustice go unanswered – but don’t let your pride lead you to think yours is the only way.

That, truly, is the path to the dark side.