Being an ongoing series wherein CSW host and presenter Brian holds forth on news of the day, idle thoughts, and such like.
Winning the Battle and Winning the War
The Greatest Power of Vaapad
One of the most pivotal moments of the entire Star Wars saga takes place in Episode III, Revenge of the Sith. The fight between Obi Wan and Anakin is momentous, of course, but only slightly less important is the confrontation between Supreme Chancellor Palpatine and Mace Windu. You of course recall the scene: Palpatine is sitting in his office and Mace Windu enters, flanked by Agen Kolar, Kit Fisto, and Saesee Tiin. Windu challenges the Chancellor and demands the Chancellor surrender. Of course, we know how that goes.
This is a controversial moment for Star Wars fans which never fails to trigger a discussion. So, let’s discuss. You may have seen (and test me if you haven’t) discussion in forums anywhere on the holonet; the argument of who wins the fight between Mace Windu and Chancellor Palpatine. So pursuant to that debate, let me say first and foremost that I believe Palpatine wins. It seems very hard to me to argue that the man who dies at the end, whose Order is murdered and whose temple is burned to the ground while the man who lives rules the Galaxy for decades, is the winner. However, people argue it every day. But let’s look at the circumstances of that fight.
Earlier in the film, when Palpatine reveals himself to Anakin, he does so explicitly knowing that Yoda and Kenobi are off planet. He knows that the senior Jedi on Coruscant is Mace Windu. This is important. Because he knows Anakin will not idly stand by and let the Jedi confront Palpatine without being there, Palpatine knows that Anakin will be there whether or not he is ordered to remain behind. And when Palpatine does reveal himself, it is Palpatine who mentions the Jedi reaction to this news, suggesting to Anakin he must report this. Palpatine does not want Anakin to keep this a secret. Far from; he needs Anakin to report it.
That’s important because Palpatine needs Anakin to choose between him and the Jedi. And he stages the fight because Windu will be the one to confront Palpatine. Windu, who has stood in Anakin’s way ever since Anakin first set foot on Coruscant. Windu, who didn’t want Anakin to be trained. Windu, who didn’t want Anakin on the Council. Windu, who didn’t want Anakin to be granted the rank of Master. Windu, who at the very last refused to even let Anakin be a part of an arrest, when it was Anakin who discovered that the arrest needed to be made. If not for Anakin, Windu would still be blind to the Sith Lord sitting at 500 Republica. And Windu has shown Anakin none of the respect Anakin thinks he is due. Meanwhile Palpatine has been an avuncular father figure to Anakin from the very beginning. Since he was a child first come to Naboo, Palpatine has been watching his progress with great interest. All along it has been Palpatine who Anakin confides in, who encouraged him and treated him like a favored child, the way he felt he should have been treated by the Jedi. If it were Kenobi or Yoda or really any other Jedi in the Order doing the arresting, Anakin’s decision would have been uncertain. Which is why Palpatine kills the other three instantly. He needs Anakin’s choice to be between Jedi and Sith, but he wants that choice to be between the Jedi whom Anakin most hates and Palpatine.
It’s not about killing the Jedi, it’s about sealing Anakin’s fate to the Sith.
Palpatine’s fight takes place when he wants, when Windu is the one who will be leading the arrest team. It takes place against whom he wants, because Windu is the only Jedi Palpatine wants Anakin to be forced to choose. The man who has always helped Anakin, or the man who has always hindered him, and nothing less than the fate of Anakin’s true love hangs in the balance.
Lightsaber or not, that fight was never even in doubt. Because Windu may have disarmed Palpatine, but as we know, taking his lightsaber away is not taking away his threat. Palpatine himself disdains the very use of a lightsaber. What was Windu’s next step? Call a time out while he cuffs Palpatine? Say “okay I disarmed you, you have to come along quietly now?”
It is a strange power Windu has. He appears to be the only person in Star Wars lore who can lose a fight so badly that he and all his friends die, betrayed by their own ally, their temple razed and all their teachings confiscated or destroyed, their very existence called into question and their great deeds forgotten, and people still claim he won.
And that’s the funny thing about being a Sith. Palpatine probably wouldn’t mind you saying he lost. He got everything he ever wanted out of that fight. The Jedi doomed, the Empire forged, and his new apprentice bound to him. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if you write down that he lost. In fact, he’d probably suggest you throw a party to celebrate Windu’s win. Invite all the Jedi.
Invite the younglings as well.