In the climactic battle of the second episode, Anakin follows through with a plan of attack that puts a lot of men at risk, leading to a few casualties. He’s not yet so arrogant, however, as to not change his strategy when it doesn’t seem to be working. He actually listens to Ahsoka’s warning (and I love that he does, as their relationship continues to strengthen) and comes up with a new, brilliant plan on the fly that saves the day. However, even afterwards, he mourns the men who died under his command, which leads the Kaminoan to proclaim that he is a most “curious Jedi.” Again, his compassion is to his credit, but the greatest irony is that that same sense of compassion will set the stage for his fall, when, in Revenge of the Sith, his desire to stop death–which he first voiced in Attack of the Clones–will lead to disastrous results. Ultimately, if Anakin had his way, he would combat the very laws of nature itself in order to set things right, as he sees them, and in Episode III, when he comes to believe that he might actually have that opportunity, it nearly destroys him.
And the seeds of this destruction are laid in what seems to be a minor scene in which Palpatine has a heart-to-heart with Anakin, suggesting that he listen to the Jedi Council and return at once. What’s so fascinating about this is how it again demonstrates Palpatine’s brilliance. By showing kindness and even paternal worry for Anakin, he is gradually setting the stage for Anakin to eventually become his apprentice. He is making himself available to Anakin as a friend and mentor, and one who seems to understands him as the Jedi never will. Part of him certainly does want Anakin to leave the area, because he doesn’t want him to get in the way of the Malevolence, but what’s so genius about his behavior is that, even if Anakin doesn’t listen to him and even eventually leads to the ship’s destruction–which he will–it ultimately plays into Palpatine’s grander scheme of gradually persuading Anakin to think of him as a father figure.
Jumping ahead to “Destroy Malevolence,” the final episode in the trilogy, in which Grievous’ attempt to kidnap Padme doesn’t end up working out so well for him, Anakin has a number of wonderful interactions with his other father/brother figure, Obi-Wan, who as usual might be perturbed by Anakin’s unorthodox methods but at the same time is so used to them, and so used to them turning out for the best, that he practically shrugs and goes along for the ride, in his effortlessly cool Obi-Wan way. Anakin’s plan is lovely in its simplicity–fly right ahead, dock on the ship itself, climb aboard, and rescue Padme–which nicely recalls Han Solo’s later method for evading the Imperial Star Destroyer after the Falcon in Empire Strikes Back, as well as points to Anakin’s usual M.O. His plans tend to be very straightforward but are also often very effective because of it.
Meanwhile, while Senator Amidala does require Anakin and Co.’s help in getting off the ship, she is no damsel in distress. At no point once her ship is pulled by tractor beam into the Malevolence is she ever actually a hostage. She immediately eludes capture, along with C3PO, and succeeds in blowing up some droids along with her ship, and continues to hide aboard the Malevolence, until finally catching up with Anakin and R2.
The action scene in which they meet up, trying to reach each other whilst each on top of a different speeding train, recalls their climatic factory scene in Attack of the Clones, particularly when it ends with C3PO getting whisked off into danger by another train. Unlike any of their meetings in the prequel trilogy, however, Anakin and Padme’s reunion is devoid of any awkward romantic dialogue. For the first time, their love feels natural and unforced. The moment where she trusts him enough to jump off the train, so that he can catch her and draw her to him with the Force is particularly lovely.
They’re actually very sweet together, though, in defense of Attack of the Clones, the characters didn’t know each other very well at that point, and Anakin in particular was attempting to woo a woman who he loved since childhood after having absolutely no preparation or guidance for how one does such a thing (since Jedi aren’t allowed to have romantic relationships), and meanwhile she was dealing with burgeoning attraction for a guy she had previously thought of as a tiny little boy, whereas at this point, they are secretly married and much more comfortable and in tune with one another. I love how they end up working together to sabotage the Malevolence, and how Padme later mans the guns while Anakin flies the ship.
- There’s a great moment of character continuity in which Anakin makes note of the fact that he used to build droids, and now he just takes them apart, referencing his childhood and the fact that he built C3PO. There’s also a sad undercurrent to the line, both due to the fact that this once innocent kid is now fighting in a war, and due to the dramatic irony that his life will continue to be one characterized by destruction, rather than building. Significantly, he will also, as we know, become “more machine than man” himself.
- Threepio and Artoo’s interactions in the third episode are so very spot-on. This is one of the countless examples of how flawlessly the series picks up on the threads from the films, utilizing them cleverly but also imaginatively. This doesn’t merely retread a typical Threepio/Artoo plot from the films but instead builds on what we know of their relationship in new, creative ways.
- I keep forgetting to mention, but just as in Revenge of the Sith–though it happens even more often here, making it feel more prominent–it feels so stupendously strange to see our heroes standing on the bridges of ships that will later be used as Imperial Star Destroyers. We’re subtly reminded in each one of these moments what the future will hold, and of course, the greatest irony for Anakin is that, though he is a hero now, he will continue to spend his life aboard these ships, as Darth Vader.
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