Palpatine’s Game of Chess

I was in the process of doing a Vader vs. Sidious showdown post when a thought struck me. Clearly Sidious would win, there’s no doubt. Then how come he didn’t?

The more I write on my blog, the more I realize how much of a master manipulator Palpatine really is. In simple terms: he maintained a double life as a Senator/Chancellor and evil Sith Lord. He slowly watched Anakin’s life progress, took on the role of a second mentor to him, and quietly fine-tuned all the proceedings of the Clone Wars so that he could reveal himself at the perfect moment. And, oh my goodness, so much could have gone wrong but it didn’t. He really knew the virtue of patience and played an amazing game of chess with the entire galaxy.

Hmmm, next move? Bringing the queen down.

Hmmm, next move? Becoming Chancellor, then Emperor.

Palpatine’s intelligence, ruthlessness, experience, Force sensitivity, and lightsaber combat are all near perfect marks. He was the perfect Sith Lord.

I guess I am struggling because I am confused on how he did not see that Vader could, perhaps, turn on him. It’s understandable that between the end of ROTS and all the way up to ESB, Vader was the apprentice he had worked so hard and long for. All his work was paying off as Vader went around killing all the remaining Jedi, helped establish the Empire, and became entrenched in the dark side. Padmé was dead and her child (or so Vader thought) died along with her.

But once you reach ESB, Vader knows his son is alive. Vader discusses his son with Palpatine in his hologram discussion:

What is thy bidding, my master?  

There is a great disturbance in the Force.                                               

I have felt it.                                     

We have a new enemy – Luke Skywalker.                                                

Yes, my master.                                           

He could destroy us.                                               

He’s just a boy. Obi-Wan can no longer help him.                                  

The Force is strong with him. The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.            

If he could be turned, he would become a powerful ally.                                  

Yes. Yes. He would be a great asset. Can it be done?                           

He will join us or die, my master.

palpatine hologramPalpatine is nervous about Luke. He senses that he could be strong enough to destroy both of them. And how does Vader react? He kind of waves his fear away. “Ohhh, he’s just a boy, why worry? And Obi-Wan is dead so it’s not like he’ll get far in his training.” So Palpatine reiterates that he doesn’t want him getting any stronger and Vader says, “Hey, why don’t we turn him to the dark side? He could be an ally?” Dude, you’re dumb. If that happened, Palpatine would take Luke as the new apprentice and you’d be dead (as we saw suggested in ROTJ). FINALLY at the end of the conversation, Vader says that if Luke won’t join them, he’ll kill him.

It just seems like in this entire conversation, Vader is evading the issue at hand and wanting to save Luke. It’s not until the end that he gives in and says he’ll kill him, but only if he can’t turn him to the dark side first.

Warning bells should be going off in Palpatine’s head right now. Either a) he is aware that Vader could be interested in keeping his son alive and is hoping he can trust him enough to do his bidding or b) he has no idea.

I just get this feeling that Palpatine did not sense things until it was too late. Luke does not turn to the dark side and also does not die. In ROTJ, Vader senses Luke is part of the strike force that goes to Endor to disable the shield generator. The Emperor, moving his pieces around on the chess game, knows all about this but does not sense Luke. I think this perturbs him that Vader is so finely attuned to his son (we saw hints of this at the end of ESB when he is calling to Luke and Luke is on the Falcon) that he has to say “I wonder if your feelings on this matter are clear, Lord Vader?” For someone so powerful in the Force, he should be digging deep into Vader’s psyche and soul to see if Vader feelings really are clear. But when Vader reassures him that everything is cool, he then goes to say Luke will come to Vader. All of a sudden, now that he knows about Luke, he knows what will happen next and his chess game is tweaked.

Why would he send Vader to Endor alone? I’ve always felt that the brief scene Luke and Vader had on the bridge was when the chisel started breaking into Vader’s commitment to the dark side. Palpatine should have sent Piett or someone else high enough but trustworthy to bring Luke in. Luke had his chance to start wheedling his way through Vader’s defenses, telling him that there is still good in him.

Luke and Vader

What I love about this whole scenario but what also makes me most confused is that Palpatine thought that Vader was completely turned to the dark side. Anakin was a complete raging river of emotions. Palpatine harnessed that and used it for rage and the dark side, but he should have been more alert when Luke was brought into the picture. I have issues with Anakin and Padmé’s relationship and how it was portrayed on screen, but he did love her a lot. So you’re going to think he’ll be fine when Luke is around? Don’t you remember that the first question out of Vader’s mouth (and he had already turned to the dark side) when he was in his iconic garb was, “Where is Padmé? Is she safe? Is she alright?” If he cared that much about Padmé, you can bet that he would care and love his son.

So the point of this whole rambling post is: how did Palpatine not factor in Vader’s possible love for his son in his plans? Someone as intelligent and organized as him would not have a backup plan at the very least? I understand that he was hoping Luke would kill Vader and take his place…but seriously, he should have factored in all possibilities. And one of those possibilities would be that Vader would not let him kill his son and would save him by killing Palpatine.

luke vader rotj

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Scene it on Friday – ROTS Scene #100

palpatine anakin tcw-2

Gosh, I cannot remember this scene at all.  Did it even happen?  It sounds vaguely familiar, but I’m not as knowledgeable on the Prequels as I would like to be…especially lately.  I feel like somehow, in the last year-ish, my Prequel knowledge has been slowly slipping away.  Often I’ll look at scenes like this thinking…did this happen in the movie?  Which differs from the Original Trilogy, where I will know immediately whether or not it was in the movie.

Either way, look at the manipulation of Palpatine.  There’s a track on the ROTS soundtrack called “Padmé’s Ruminations”.  Hauntingly, beautiful piece by Mr. Williams, but they should also have a track called “Palpatine’s Manipulations”.  Haha.  That would be fabulous.

Tangent.

I don’t get Palpatine’s line of “We can only hope that the Council didn’t make a mistake”.  I can see it’s manipulative, but is it because he is just letting lines drop here and there to try to plant seeds of doubt in Anakin’s mind?

Okay, I cheated here and went ahead to the next scene.  The next scene is DEFINITELY deleted, which makes me think this one is too…and I’m not going crazy.

In the following scene, Palpatine says there are rumors in the Senate that Kenobi is not fit for the assignment (going to Utapau to kill Grievous) because his “mind has become fogged by the influence of a certain female senator.”

Ah-ha.

Okay, it’s making more sense now.  He wants to have Anakin believe that Obi-Wan is two-timing him.  OH SHNAP.  This is slightly frustrating for me, because a lot more in ROTS is making sense now.

I was so confused when I watched ROTS for the first time and saw Anakin’s jealousy over Obi-Wan and Padmé at the end of the movie.  He was beside himself with rage and choked Padmé when he saw that Obi-Wan had come with her to Mustafar.  I attributed it to the fact that at this point, Anakin had fallen to the Dark Side and was just cray cray.

But now it’s making a little bit more sense.  Palpatine had been sowing the seed of distrust within Anakin for a while.  Gosh…sometimes I really disagree with the scenes Lucas cut out!  I know that, in the end, this is Anakin’s story and the movie was long anyway, but this really shows the complicated intricacies between Anakin and Palpatine.  It’s not like Anakin just *poof* went to the Dark Side.  It had been slowly building up in him like the volcanoes on Mustafar (great symbolism when Padmé comes to see him on Mustafar, by the way).  His doubt of the Jedi, his growing distrust of Obi-Wan, Padmé bringing up that maybe they are “on the wrong side”..it’s all there, and the root of the problem is Palpatine.

Palpatine, dude, you are tricky.  You don’t work outright with fear and deception like Voldemort, at least, not right now in the Prequels.  But your underhand molding of Anakin into your perfect apprentice is formidable.

But you forgot one thing.  The same thing Voldemort forgot.  Love undoes all your hard work.

palpatine anakin tcw

EXTERIOR: CORUSCANT-CITYSCAPE-CHANCELLOR’S TRANSPORT-DAY 

The Chancellor’s Transport races through the city and heads for the Senate Office Building landing platform. Waiting on the landing platform is a LONE JEDI. The Transport lands, and CHANCELLOR PALPATINE emerges with FOUR ROYAL GUARDS and MAS AMEDDA. The FOUR ROYAL GUARDS move off in another direction as PALPATINE greets ANAKIN, who has been waiting for him.

PALPATINE: Well, Anakin, did you see your friend off?

ANAKIN: He will soon have Grievous’s head.

PALPATINE: We can only hope the Council didn’t make a mistake.

ANAKIN: The Council was very sure in its decision.

They exit the landing platform.

“Not As Certain As Being Left Behind…”

I recently read Kelly’s post on not breaking your word a few days ago and now I can’t stop thinking about friendship.  What set me off on my maniacal thinking spree, and you can see from my comments on her post, was the relationship between Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Now, I know I’m a Tolkien Purist and I’ve come to admit it on this site, though I was in denial for a long time.  But overall, I loved what Peter Jackson did with the Lord of the Rings movies.  I think he did a great job.

The one thing that extensively pissed me off (other than the elves coming to save the day at Helm’s Deep, but that’s for another day) is a minor change he made to Sam and Frodo’s relationship.  Sam is the most loyal friend to Frodo and when he made the promise to Gandalf that he wouldn’t leave Frodo’s side, he meant it.

sam and frodo travel

There are tons of scenes in the movies that exemplify this, but there is one scene that strongly contradicts it.  In Return of the King, Gollum frames Sam by making it look like he ate the last of their food and Frodo gets so angry that he tells him to leave.  And Sam leaves.

What?  In the books, Sam never left Frodo’s side.  NEVER. Frodo treated Sam like dirt at times, due to the Ring, but Sam still saw Frodo through to the very end and never once turned around.  I love that perfect model of friendship.

Of course, my thoughts turned to Star Wars and I was curious to know if any of the friendships in Star Wars could pass the Sam/Frodo test.  And I realized that, wait a minute, there are not many friendship relationships throughout the saga that are not impaired by romance.  (N.B. I would love to go into Ahsoka and Anakin’s relationship, but I try to stick generally to the movies in this blog)

The closest relationships that passed the Sam/Frodo test were Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan and Han/Chewie.  Sure, Obi-Wan and Anakin were good friends, but they would not have stood the Sam/Frodo test because Anakin did something like betraying his best bud and murdering a bunch of people.

Out of both remaining friendships, I am leaning more towards Han and Chewie for passing the Sam/Frodo test.  Chewie Chewie hanhad a life debt to Solo, so in a way he was kind of forced upon him.  Sam was required to follow Frodo and stick by him on orders from Gandalf.  Where Han went, Chewie went.  Their quest was to help rid the galaxy of the Empire, whereas Sam and Frodo had to rid Middle Earth of the One Ring.  When Han was put into carbonite, Chewie fought to keep him “alive”, but Han asked him not to start a fight that he knew they would lose, but instead to protect Leia.  This order is different from the one Frodo gave to Sam in the ROTK movie.  Whereas Frodo’s order was said out of hatred because he thought Sam betrayed him, Han was giving Chewie an order to stay behind out of love for both him and Leia.  Different motives, big difference.

Even though Han and Chewie come close and pass the Sam/Frodo test, I’m not sure their relationship has the extra oomph that Sam and Frodo’s has.  A big difference is the fact that throughout 2/3 of LotR, we see Sam and Frodo interact by themselves (okay-Gollum showed up, but I’m not counting him), but other characters constantly surround Han and Chewie, so we don’t exactly know the depth of their friendship.  It’s much too…well, “real” for that extra level.  It’s Sam/Frodo taken down to our everyday lives.  They bicker at times and get frustrated with each other, but they still bounce ideas off of each other and lean on one another to help get through the tough times.

But the more I thought about different kinds of loyal friendships, the more I got to thinking: am I Samwise Gamgee to any of my friends, my ultimate idea of friendship perfection?

I think I was, once.  Similar to how Frodo and Sam lived near each other, I grew up in the house next to a girl who was adopted at age 7 from Brazil.  Our parents basically forced us upon each other: she needed a friend her age that could teach her English.  Our friendship grew exponentially after the first year of language struggles to the point where I could tell her anything.  Her parents moved her to a more “Brazilian friendly” (their words, not mine) community when we were 14 because they thought she was not making enough friends in our hometown.  In her new community, the Brazillians rejected her because she could no longer speak Portuguese and the Americans rejected her because she didn’t fit in with them.  At age 16, she tried to kill herself and was hospitalized.  At 17, she dropped out of high school and left her adoptive parents home swearing never to talk to them again.  At 18, she was a stripper and living with a guy where all they did was smoke a bunch of pot.  By 21, she had cleaned up a little and was no longer a stripper, but nevertheless had trouble holding a job and still was not talking to her adoptive parents.  At 23, she had found a new boyfriend and was moving to Rhode Island to be with him.

I have no idea what happened to her after that.  I stayed close with her all the way up until the end.  She was my Frodo, and I wanted to stick it out with her no matter what.  Because at the end of the day, though we seemed so different, my loyalty to her and our friendship was unparalleled.

But from ages 21-23, I was engaged to my now husband.  I told her I wanted to marry him before we were even engaged.  Somehow, I just knew he was the “one” for me.  Her reaction, however, was not what I expected.  She said, “But there’s still so much we need to do together.  How can you get married so young?”  I told her we could still do stuff together; being married wouldn’t make a difference.  I thought I had pacified her fears and insecurities.

Once I was engaged, I asked her to be my bridesmaid and she accepted graciously.  She was going to be first in line after my sister.  And then 6 months before my wedding, she stopped contacting me.  Last I talked with her, she was moving to Rhode Island.  I called her cell so many times, called her sister (the only person from her family she still kept in touch with), emailed her, called her ex-boyfriend…but all to no avail.  She does not have facebook, so that was no help either.  Eventually she changed her number and the cell number I would call said it was disconnected.  To this day, though, I still have that number in my phone and refuse to delete it.  I keep hoping that maybe she will reach out again and find me.

Did she think I was betraying or leaving her by getting married?  Did she just not have enough money to pay for being my bridesmaid?  Did she think that we were now on two different life paths and felt it better just to cut me off?  Maybe all of these answers, maybe none.

Since then, I have never felt the Samwise loyalty that I felt towards her for any of my other friends.  The closest person wouldfrodo and sam mount doom probably be my husband, and even that’s different since it’s a romantic relationship.  My friendships now reflect a galaxy far, far away, more than those in Middle Earth.  I don’t think it’s sad that my friendships are now closer aligned to those in Star Wars, because I love the real relationship between Chewie and Han.  But I do mourn the strength and bond of my former Middle Earth friendship that I have never experienced since.

“It would be the death of you to come with me, Sam,” said Frodo, “and I could not have borne that.”

“Not as certain as being left behind,” said Sam.

“But I am going to Mordor.”

“I know that well enough, Mr. Frodo. Of course you are. And I’m coming with you.”