A Complete Deep Dive Into the Source of All My Fandom Problems and Those of the Galaxy Far Far Away: Anakin “Problematic Fave” Skywalker
Patriarch of a long line of temperamental Force users, bless his heart.
While I still firmly believe that it was an early exposure to David Bowie’s iconic role of Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth that initiated me to a path of stan-ing villains and problematic faves for the rest of my fandom career, it really didn’t solidify until I first pressed play on my Prequel Trilogy DVDs when I was around twelve or thirteen—a couple of years after they actually premiered in theatres.
And there he was, the tragic villain to forever doom me to love problematic faves no matter the franchise—Anakin Skywalker, Chosen of the Force, patriarch of the Skywalker line, and source of a good chunk of all the problems the galaxy far far away has ever faced.
Of course, I realize that my visceral love for Anakin Skywalker stems from the fact that I actually first met him as Anakin rather than as Darth Vader and that the fact that I first watched the Prequel Trilogy before moving on to the Original Trilogy inevitably shaped my understanding of him and of the rest of the world in which he lives. Still, that’s how it was for me and now here I am, crying every time I happen to rewatch Revenge of the Sith.
Considering how Darth Vader—played once more by Hayden Christensen, in a return to his iconic Prequel Trilogy role that I had honestly been waiting for ever since middle school—had a truly spectacular run on Obi-Wan Kenobi, it’s time to do a dive into the history of this pivotal character. Arguably the most important one in the entire galaxy far far away, especially considering how everything we’ve seen so far in the three trilogies that have found their way onto the silver screen can be considered the complete story of Anakin, and by extension of the Skywalker family.
Anakin Skywalker in the Prequel Trilogy
The story of the Skywalkers starts in the Prequel Trilogy on the desert planet Tatooine, in the galaxy’s Outer Rim, when Shmi Skywalker conceives Anakin seemingly without a father. Once the Jedi arrive on Tatooine during the Invasion of Naboo, Master Qui-Gon Jinn realizes that he has an incredibly high count of midi-chlorians—I know, I know—making him one of the most powerful beings in the Force throughout the entire galaxy— so much so that Qui-Gon theorizes he might have even been conceived by the Force itself.
Qui-Gon decides to take on Anakin to train at the Jedi Temple—something that the Jedi Council considers even after Qui-Gon’s death at the hands of the Sith Darth Maul. While there are masters sitting in the Council who feel like Anakin is already too old and way too emotional to be taught — truly the understatement of the century—he ends up being accepted, becoming the padawan of Qui-Gon’s own disciple-turned-Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The two go on to form an unshakeable bond for the following ten years, during which Anakin proves himself a great Jedi Knight while also confirming that he is indeed still too bound to his emotions— something that a Jedi should not be. From The Clone Wars series, we also know that Anakin trained his own padawan, Ahsoka Tano, who will go on to fight in the Clone Wars with him and then against him in the first sparks of the Rebellion.
And then there’s the moment when a grown-up but still under attack Padmé Amidala, whom Anakin had met as a child during the Invasion of Naboo, is entrusted to his protection. He returns with her to her home planet of Naboo to protect her and his never-forgotten feelings emerge once more — together with a worrying tendency towards dictatorship, Padmé dearest I know he’s handsome but that whole spiel about how “people should be made to agree” should have raised some serious red flags — and the two ultimately fall in love, marrying at the end of Episode II as the Clone Wars erupt throughout the galaxy.
When Padmé tells him that she’s pregnant, Anakin begins to be haunted by visions of her dying in childbirth—which leaves Anakin weak and open for the taking by Sheev Palpatine, who is secretly the Sith Lord Darth Sidious looking to make Anakin his new apprentice. Palpatine corrupts Anakin to the Dark Side, telling him that he knows of a way to cheat death and relying on Anakin’s growing distrust of the Jedi Council.
Once Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side is well and truly complete, Palpatine names him Darth Vader and has the clone troops active throughout the galaxy execute the infamous Order 66—the Great Jedi Purge. Darth Vader himself carries out this order, putting the Jedi Temple on Coruscant to the torch and executing all its inhabitants, including the younglings.
Darth Vader then travels to Mustafar, where he’s supposed to exterminate the Separatists and eliminate all resistance to Palpatine’s rise as Galactic Emperor. On Mustafar, though, he’s reached by Padmé and Obi-Wan, who have both learned of how he turned to the Dark Side— believing she has betrayed him, Anakin strangles Padmé with the Force and then duels with Obi-Wan. Cue “Duel of the Fates”.
At the end of the duel, Anakin is left for dead by Obi-Wan—who had the high ground—on the shores of one of Mustafar’s lava rivers. Anakin is then found by the Emperor, who saves him by turning him into an armored cyborg—the “true” look of Darth Vader that we all know and have known ever since the Original Trilogy. At the same time, Padmé is giving birth to their twins on Polis Massa—before dying herself. The twins Luke and Leia are then separated, with Obi-Wan bringing the boy to the family he has left on Tatooine and Leia being adopted by Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan.
Anakin Skywalker in the Original Trilogy
Throughout the Imperial Era, Darth Vader enforces the Emperor’s rule as his Commander-in-Chief. He hunts for the few surviving Jedi, clashing once more with both Ahsoka and Obi-Wan, as we’ve seen in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series. After his last fight with Obi-Wan—where he let himself be killed by Vader to rejoin the Force—and the Battle of Yavin, which brought about the destruction of the Death Star and the first significant victory for the Rebel Alliance, Vader learned of the existence of Luke Skywalker and decided to turn him to the Dark Side with him.
The two meet again in The Empire Strikes Back, where they duel throughout the air shafts of Cloud City on Bespin—where Vader cuts off Luke’s sword hand just like Count Dooku has cut off Anakin’s on Geonosis in Attack of the Clones. And then iconic-ness ensues when Vader reveals to Luke that he did not kill his father as Luke believed— but that he is his father. Their final encounter happens during the Battle of Endor when Luke faces both Vader and the Emperor—determined not to join the Dark Side but instead save his father from it.
And that’s exactly what happens, even if not in the way Luke might have expected it. Witnessing the Emperor torture Luke with Force lightning dragged back what remained of Anakin Skywalker, who turned on the Emperor and killed him. This means that Anakin really was the Chosen One who brought balance to the Force, just as the prophecy had foretold. In his final moments, he made peace with his son and joined the Force, appearing to Luke as a Force ghost together with Yoda and Obi-Wan.
Anakin Skywalker in the Sequel Trilogy
The true last act of Anakin Skywalker happens during the Sequel Trilogy, throughout which his memory—of when he was Darth Vader—has been evoked time and time again by his grandson, Ben Solo-turned-Kylo Ren. While I do not like one single frame of that mess that was The Rise of Skywalker, I did love recognizing Anakin’s voice joining in with the ones of all the Jedi who urge Rey to stand and fight during the Battle of Exegol—even though why would Anakin talk only to Rey and not to his own misguided grandson truly is beyond me.
The death of Ben Solo, once again returned to the Light Side of the Force to help Rey, truly put an end to the Skywalker bloodline and Anakin’s legacy—at least in the movie canon, since the Expanded Universe takes on a completely different direction at the end of the Original Trilogy.
All and all, the storyline of Anakin Skywalker falling into Darth Vader before rising up to the Light Side once more remains one of the most beautiful and compelling narrative arcs I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing—just as iconic as Luke’s while being its exact opposite. His fall is gut-wrenching, just like all good Greek tragedies should be, and his redemption feels both satisfying and bittersweet. And now that I’ve written all of this I feel like I need to go watch the final scene of Return of the Jedi and bawl my eyes out when Force ghost Anakin finally appears, at peace.
(source: Wookieepedia; featured image: Lucasfilm)
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