Part II. A Jedi Craves Not These Things

Anakin Skywalker “You don't need guidance, Anakin. In time you will learn to trust your feelings. Then you will be invincible.”

— Supreme Chancellor Palpatine,
Attack of the Clones

When you get right down to it, the question of how Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader is the only reason why the Star Wars prequels are worth doing at all. Suppose Obi-Wan's original historical account had been literally accurate, and a young Jedi named Darth Vader had betrayed and murdered Luke's father. Then there wouldn't be much of a story for Episodes I through III to tell. The Clone Wars and Vader's Jedi slaughter could be exciting fodder for special effects bonanzas, but there wouldn't be any real suspense or drama. Though these tales would be of academic interest to Star Wars geeks, myself included, the details of young Kenobi and the senior Skywalker fighting a pre-breathing-apparatus Darth Vader during the fall of the Republic would be inadequate to sustain three movies on their own terms.

Of course, Vader's revelation at the end of The Empire Strikes Back changed all that. The truth that he was Luke's father left us shocked and anxious to know the whole story of where Darth Vader came from. Return of the Jedi touched on his past but stopped far short of satisfactorily explaining Anakin's history. The prequel trilogy promises a payoff at last, presenting the tragic exposition of how a good and decent man became this now-legendary icon of evil. Anakin's inevitable fall pervades every element of the prequel episodes and is what gives the movies their weight and power. For this reason I agree with the critics who charge that the new movies don't stand on their own as well as the classic trilogy did. The prequels are designed to be appreciated and understood after you've watched the old movies, regardless of the episode numbering.

Episode I introduces us to Anakin as a kind and innocent boy with a compassionate drive to help those in need. Other than the Jedi Council's hesitant rumblings that training him as a Jedi poses danger, The Phantom Menace offers no explicit evidence that Anakin will become an agent of evil. Some might say, then, that it's incumbent on Episode II to play catch-up, and show us a whole lot on how Anakin turns to the dark side. The same people might also say that Attack of the Clones fails to deliver on this duty.

After all, in Episode II Anakin is a proficient Padawan learner — one who complains about his strict teacher and wants to do things his own way, but nonetheless a fine Jedi student. He reunites with the girl of his dreams and she rejects him. He kills a bunch of Sandpeople who murdered his mother. In a moment of crisis, his dream girl confesses her love for him. He has a lightsaber fight with the movie's new villain and gets his arm chopped off. For the big finale, he gets a new robotic limb and secretly elopes with his dream girl. On the surface, it may seem that the plot events don't offer a whole lot in terms of Anakin's journey to the dark side. He goes through some rough spots, but in the end he gets the girl, and it doesn't seem like he's started thinking about exterminating the rest of the Jedi yet.

But Attack of the Clones actually does show us a great deal about Anakin's fall, although it's subtle and understated. Just like the slow collapse of the Republic depicted in the background of the prequels, Anakin's transformation from Jedi Padawan to Sith Lord is a process of gradual deterioration rather than explosive change. You have to read between the lines to recognize it. It's clear that Anakin's motivations and decisions in Episode II set him on the path to becoming Vader, but to see the big picture, you have to look beyond the confines of this one movie and consider its events in the context of the larger Star Wars saga.

In particular, Episode II offers abundant parallels between Anakin and his son. Anakin and Luke confront analogous situations and obstacles in their development, each undertaking a variation on the classical hero's journey of mythological tradition, but their choices along the way bring the Skywalkers to entirely different destinations.

Let's start by looking at the unique circumstances that Anakin Skywalker finds himself in at the outset of Attack of the Clones. He knows he has the potential to be more powerful in the Force than anyone else, even though he still has a long way to go before mastering his abilities. Those around him consider him the Chosen One who will bring balance to the Force, according to an ancient prophecy. In spite of all this, Anakin has plenty of reasons to feel like a second-class citizen, as if life has never given him a fair shake.

Anakin spent the first ten years of his life as a slave, a piece of property with no rights or freedom. Qui-Gon Jinn discovered his talents and freed him, offering Anakin the opportunity to fulfill his potential as a great Jedi Knight, although this meant cutting off the boy's ties with his mother. He was subsequently rejected by the Jedi Order, and Qui-Gon was killed before he could do anything to overturn their decision. The Jedi reluctantly accepted Anakin after seeing evidence of his strength in the Force, and they placed him under the tutelage of Qui-Gon's student, a straight-laced young Jedi who never liked Anakin to begin with. In moving from Watto to Obi-Wan, Anakin essentially exchanged one grumpy master for another. He ostensibly won his freedom in the Boonta Eve pod race, but Anakin has never truly been free.

Anakin Skywalker Compare Anakin in Episode II to Luke in Episode IV. At roughly the same age, the father and son are both ridden with angst and dissatisfaction with their lives. Anakin and Luke yearn for something that's just beyond their reach, each complaining of an "unfair" surrogate father who holds him back and won't let him move on. Luke's escape comes in the form of an invitation to learn the ways of the Jedi, but the same opportunity is what has created Anakin's frustration. The obvious difference is that Luke's family is killed and he feels no desire ever to return to Tatooine, while Anakin leaves his mother behind. Luke is therefore able to discard the past and move forward on his new path of learning about the Force, but Anakin's thoughts remain with his distant family ties. The Jedi code forbids him from seeing Shmi precisely because she means so much to him.

As traumatic as it would be for any young man of Anakin's age to go ten years without seeing his mother, Anakin's homesickness is compounded by the fact that Shmi is still a slave. If he knew that she were living safely and in freedom somewhere, Anakin could much more easily accept their separation. But he has no idea where his mother might be or how she might be doing.

When young Anakin says goodbye to C-3PO in Episode I, he assures the unfinished droid, "I'll make sure Mom doesn't sell you or anything." This is a sublimated expression of his unthinkable fear that Shmi could be the one who gets sold in his absence. Considering Watto's gambling habits and fondness for striking bargains, it's entirely likely that he will end up selling or trading Shmi at some point. As slimy and avaricious as he is, Watto is relatively benevolent toward his slaves. Another owner could be far more inhumane.

As he has grown older, Anakin has had to come to grips with this possibility and been left to speculate on who might be now calling his mother their property, and whether she's even still alive. Despite the gnawing mystery, he has obeyed the Jedi code and maintained his separation, which possibly owes as much to Obi-Wan keeping him on a short leash as to his personal sense of honor. Anakin couldn't even call or write home without his master's knowing, much less sneak off to Tatooine. His only contact with his mother is through the Force, in the involuntary form of the nightmares that have recently been plaguing him.

While Anakin has made an effort to put his past behind him and shows promise of living up to his "Chosen One" billing, he seems to feel empty and unfulfilled. It's interesting to note that he never actually talks about his devotion to the Jedi Order or following the ways of the Force. As a matter of fact, Anakin only mentions the Force one single time in Attack of the Clones, when exchanging "May the Force be with you" farewells with Obi-Wan. Think about that. Every other prominent Jedi character we've encountered is constantly going around saying "the Force this" and "the Force that," "I feel the Force" and "the Force will guide us." But Anakin never speaks in those terms. He's like a priest who never mentions God. Anakin describes his Jedi abilities in direct personal terms, referring to himself as the instigator rather than acknowledging an external source of his power and insight. It seems that Anakin doesn't want the Force to guide him — he wants to guide himself.

Even going back to the moment when Qui-Gon told him he was freed, Anakin didn't say, "You mean I get to be a Jedi?" He said, "You mean I get to go away with you on your starship?" The glamor of space travel held more appeal for him than studying the Force. True, back then he also mentioned having a dream that he was a Jedi, but that was more a childish power fantasy of being able to free all the slaves than a spiritual ambition. As a 20-year-old, Anakin still seems to have no strong inner motivation for wanting to become a Jedi. His reasons for studying in the Jedi Order are imposed on him from outside, rather than emanating from within himself. It's a profession that beats the heck out of being a slave on Tatooine, and something he's good at because of the skills he was born with, and a social position that bestows no small measure of power and respect. Make no mistake, Anakin is still very much dedicated to helping people in need and doing good things, just as he was as a boy. It's just that his morality springs from his own personal sense of right and wrong, and is not dictated exclusively by the Jedi code.

In the interim between Episodes I and II, the bigger influence exerted upon Anakin seemingly comes from his secondary mentor-figure, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. We find Palpatine has kept his promise to watch Anakin's career with great interest, and the two have developed an intimate bond whose depth Obi-Wan and the Jedi Council may be unaware of. Palpatine has offered a compassionate ear for Anakin's frustrations and encouraged Anakin to believe himself superior to the short-sighted Jedi who hold him back. Severely in need of having his ego boosted, Anakin has grown to respect Palpatine as a wise leader whose guidance he will follow more willingly than Obi-Wan's. Palpatine's sympathy and flattery have inflamed his sense of alienation from his Jedi masters, but at the same time, the Chancellor gives him the incentive to train hard and become as powerful as everyone has always told him he can be. That has become a hidden motivation for Anakin to be a Jedi, above and beyond the causes of peace and justice and the will of Force: the promise that one day he'll have the satisfaction of showing all the Jedi who's boss. I will explore the subject of the Chancellor and the Chosen One more thoroughly in Part III. But Palpatine is scarcely the only non-Jedi individual to influence Anakin's development. There is another.

The events of Attack of the Clones reunite Anakin with the beautiful girl whose stopover on Tatooine changed his life ten years ago, and who will change his life once again. Padmé Amidala will unwittingly play a major role in Anakin's fall to the dark side, if not the instrumental role. It's too soon to say for sure, but even at this point it looks entirely possible that Darth Vader would never have come to be if not for Padmé's intervention.

Anakin and Padmé In many respects, Padmé is Anakin's opposite number. Padmé has an underdeveloped sense of self and is almost exclusively concerned with the welfare of others. Since childhood she has spent her life in public service, going straight from queen to senator, always putting the interests of the people of Naboo before her own. Even though she's now an adult, she's never had a chance to go through a proper adolescence and discover for herself who she is. Padmé keeps her emotions and her personal desires in check, putting duty first. She may have shed the kabuki makeup and aloof demeanor of the Naboo throne, but Padmé retains an internalized defensive wall that shields her inner self from the outside world. Anakin, on the other hand, is possessed by a demanding and impatient sense of self. He wants to do his own thing and follow his impulses, despite being matriculated into an order that frowns on emotion and individuality. Anakin and Padmé each possess qualities that the other lacks, and they gain a sense that together they form a complete personality.

Anakin says he has thought about Padmé every day since they parted ten years ago. Adolescent crushes are among the most powerful forces in the realm of human experience. Believe me, as a former teenage boy I know from experience. In your prolonged reveries about a girl you admired from afar but lost, you can elevate the most common of young women to the grandeur of goddesshood. And Padmé was an extraordinary girl to begin with.

Anakin had this seed of unrequited love planted in his heart before he came to the Jedi Temple, and you can imagine that if they told him when he signed up that Jedi are duty-bound to remain celibate, he would have been too young to understand fully what that meant. At some point in his growth, Anakin had to face the realization that he would never be able to fulfill the emotions Padmé had stirred in him in their brief acquaintance. Not with any woman, and certainly not with Padmé herself.

So Padmé would have developed into a supreme figure of fantasy in Anakin's mind, perfect and unattainable for too many reasons. When they are finally reunited, the reality must be both heaven and hell for Anakin. Not only does Padmé not regard him in the same way that he sees her, but "little Ani" will have a steep mountain to climb before he can position himself as a potential suitor. First he has to convince her that he's no longer the little boy she knew years ago. Then he has to convince her that he is worthy of being her Jedi bodyguard. Finally, he has to convince her that he is capable of loving her like no one else, regardless of his oaths and commitments.

Padmé's presence brings out Anakin's defiant streak of individualism. His personal desire to help Padmé impels him to find out who is trying to kill her before the Jedi Council formally orders them to investigate. Anakin argues with Obi-Wan about what is "implied in our mandate," searching for a loophole that will give him license to act according to his own will. He later uses a similar liberal interpretation of the Jedi code in private conversation with Padmé, reasoning that the Jedi precept of compassion indicates that "we are encouraged to love." This sort of convoluted logic calls to mind the elderly Obi-Wan's insistence that "many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view," which suggests that Kenobi may ultimately learn a lesson or two from his recalcitrant pupil.

From the point that Anakin is assigned to escort Padmé to Naboo, their relationship undergoes a rapid series of fits and starts. Padmé begins to warm towards him during their voyage as refugees, but any intimacy Anakin may have felt they were forming is dashed when they reach Queen Jamillia's court. Padmé tersely points out that Anakin isn't a Jedi, he's merely "still a Padawan learner," and she refuses to let him take charge of her plans. Even with his pride wounded, Anakin later gets the nerve to put the moves on Padmé and steals a kiss, and again she abruptly shoots him down. After that, they lock horns over political views, as Anakin advocates benign dictatorship as a solution for the galaxy's woes. He's being serious, revealing Palpatine's influence on his ideology, but when he senses that this subject matter becomes too incendiary, he lets it drop as a supposed joke. We can see that Padmé is gaining affections for Anakin, even if she doesn't want to admit it.

Anakin reveals the full extent of his feelings in a darkly romantic fireside setting. Critics say they pity Padmé in this infamous scene, charging that Anakin unduly harasses her with psycho-stalker babble about her tormenting his very soul. The scene could play that way if you view it in terms of Dawson's Creek or some other teen-angst drama. But this is Star Wars. The interlude has to be over-the-top and operatic, and wouldn't work if played for "realism." For Anakin it is the moment of truth, when he must open himself up and spill his guts after being trained for ten years to deny his emotions. Padmé squirms and resists not because Anakin is creeping her out, but because she can't muster the same level of honesty with her own feelings.

In a fascinating narrative twist, Padmé's dialogue turns the mythological nature of this encounter in upon itself. Her argument against Anakin is to point out, "We live in a real world. Come back to it." Of course, they don't live in a real world. They are characters in a grand mythological epic. Just about anytime a character in Star Wars makes an appeal to being "realistic" or "sensible," it's the riskier course of action that ends up being taken — and ends up being right. Think of Uncle Owen telling Luke he has to stay for another harvest; Luke telling Obi-Wan he can't accompany him to Alderaan; Han telling Luke that attacking the Death Star is suicide; Threepio telling Han the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field; Senator Palpatine telling Queen Amidala it's too dangerous to return to Naboo; Qui-Gon telling Anakin to "stay in that cockpit"; or Obi-Wan telling Anakin, well, just about anything. Star Wars is not about living in a real world, it's about living in a romantic world. Although Padmé may believe she has a valid point from her point of view, we can see in the greater context of the saga that her argument holds no water.

Anakin doesn't buy it, either... until Padmé reasons that if they kept their love a secret, they would have to live a lie. Neither of them is willing to do that. Anakin has spent too much of his life fighting against the denial of his true emotions, and he can't allow the purity of his love to be clouded by secrecy and deception. Padmé's rationality brings his passions to a stalemate, and he accepts that their relationship is an impossibility.

The next morning, Anakin's thoughts return to his mother, after he has his most intense nightmare yet about her. There is certainly some Freudian complex at work here, with Anakin's subconscious seeking solace from his absent mother following rejection from his dream girl. Meditating at sunrise, Anakin must be considering the options before him. Now that the prospect of love is out of the question, he can go back to his proper duty as the senator's Jedi protector. Or he can throw caution to the winds and follow the other dictate of his heart — finding his mother — with Padmé having scuttled his first pursuit of personal desire. Anakin is now convinced that Shmi is in pain and may be dying. Here on his own on Naboo, he knows he has the wherewithal to travel to Tatooine and search for her without Jedi rules and restrictions standing in his way. But doing so would mean not only violating the code and his current assignment, but abandoning Padmé as well.

Anakin's Decision Anakin arrives at his decision. If Padmé had accepted his romantic advances the night before, he might have chosen differently. He might have found the strength of will to adhere to his Jedi duty if Padmé had freely returned his love. But after their decisive conversation by the fireplace, Anakin is emotionally battered and weakened. Without Padmé's love, his mother is the only thing left for his heart to cling to. If he fails to act, he could lose Shmi as well, and then he would be left with nothing.

This crisis closely mirrors Luke's predicament in The Empire Strikes Back when he decides to leave Dagobah. Luke senses Han and Leia in pain across the galaxy and has to choose between them and his Jedi training. The Force gives a Jedi the ability to feel when distant friends and family are in need of help, yet the Jedi code forbids taking impulsive actions on the basis of one's personal attachments. Luke chooses to follow his instincts to help his loved ones despite the protests of Yoda and Obi-Wan. But when Anakin has to make his decision, there are no Jedi standing in his way — only Padmé.

Padmé's response to Anakin's apologetic announcement of his departure proves the depths of her feelings for him. If she were truly offended by his amorous overtures the evening before, Padmé should have been relieved to see him take off on some other mission and leave her alone. Even with the assassination threat, she has enough Naboo security to keep her reasonably safe without him. But she immediately replies that she will leave her hiding place and go with him to Tatooine. It's a generous act of friendship that allows Anakin not to disobey his directive to protect her, but it also shows that in spite of her objections about the feasibility of a relationship between them, she still wants to be with him.

Arriving on Tatooine, Anakin starts his search at Watto's junk shop, where he learns that one of his darkest fears has come to pass: Watto has sold Shmi. You can just imagine the fears Anakin would have had about such a scenario. He must find it doubly alarming when Watto says that her new owner has reportedly "freed her and married her." Think of what horrible circumstances that might suggest. Has some vicious brute turned Shmi into his sexual slave? Is this new owner a man so wretched and contemptible that the only way he could get a wife was to buy one? Has he extorted Shmi into marrying him as the only way to gain "freedom," threatening to sell her into hard labor unless she pretends to love him? It's a situation fraught with potential for abuse and degradation. Anakin knows his mother is suffering, and this new "husband" would be the prime suspect to be her tormentor. Lucas doesn't spell out these concerns, but you can see them written on the grim expressions of Anakin and Padmé. They're definitely not relieved to hear that someone has bought and freed his mother.

After a quick reunion with Threepio at the Lars homestead, Anakin is anxious to find out if his mother is safe and whether she's living with these people of her own will. It turns out that Anakin doesn't have much opportunity to investigate the purity of Cliegg Lars's motives, because before he can learn why his mother is there, he learns that she isn't there. Tusken raiders abducted her a month before, a timeframe that coincides with the start of Anakin's nightmares about her, and she has been given up for dead.

Hearing Cliegg's story eliminates whatever suspicions Anakin harbored about the man who bought his mother, as Cliegg wins Anakin's respect for losing his leg and yet still wanting to continue the search for Shmi. Anakin may be less ready to embrace his new stepbrother. When Owen asks Anakin where he's going, Anakin spits, "To find my mother," half-suggesting that the able-bodied stepson has shirked his duty by giving up on her. Of course, a Jedi is more capable in this sort of situation than an ordinary person, and Anakin intends to do everything within his power to rescue his mother, whom the Force tells him is still alive. Confidently leaving Padmé with the "good people" of the Lars family, Anakin speeds off across the barren desert on a desperate rescue mission.

Anakin soon tracks down Shmi at a Tusken village where she has been bound and tortured nearly to death. The published background materials explain that she is the victim of a Tusken rite of passage, which requires young Tuskens to torture a living being for a prolonged period as part of achieving adult status in the tribe. Anakin frees her, but it's too late to save her. In her final moments of consciousness, Shmi recognizes her son and says how proud she is of him. She doesn't waste her strength describing her ordeal or condemning her assailants. "Now I am complete," she whispers with a peaceful smile. Anakin begs her to hang on, but she knows her time is up. With her last breath she struggles to say "I love you," but she dies before she can get the last word out.

At this moment, Anakin has lost everything. First Padmé spurned his love, and now his mother has been taken from him. His vaunted talents as the "Chosen One" and his dedication to the Jedi Order have not been enough to save him from losing these two things that are most precious to him. Anakin has a number of options before him. He could silently remove Shmi's body from the village and leave as undetected as he entered. He could approach the Tuskens and diplomatically denounce their brutality, attempting "aggressive negotiations" to convince them to cease such heinous acts in the future. He could find the individuals responsible and apprehend them for the local authorities to prosecute, or possibly challenge the murderers to a duel of honor.

But Anakin chooses differently. He ignites his lightsaber and furiously slaughters the entire Tusken village — men, women and children. He uses his Jedi abilities to overpower and destroy a society of normal beings, punishing them all for the crime committed by some unidentified perpetrator among them. Anakin's actions may seem somewhat justifiable to us, since we can imagine how we would feel if a parent or loved one were tortured to the point of death. And the Tuskens are hostile savages as a whole, at least from our perspective, so doesn't seem as wrong as killing a village of "civilized" people. But the problem is that Anakin is not one of us. He belongs to a higher order of beings who are sworn never to abuse their superior abilities. This is not the Jedi way of peace and justice and mastery over anger. This is vengeance and genocide and complete surrender to anger.

While Anakin has grievously violated Jedi principles in favor of his own emotional impulses, he has not yet broken free from his inner sense of morality. After returning to the Lars homestead with his mother's body, Anakin's grief is mixed with guilt. At first he fumbles for a scapegoat, immaturely blaming the "jealous" Obi-Wan for not letting him prevent his mother's death. But then he has to take responsibility for his own actions.

Anakin's Confession For the second time in Episode II, Anakin entrusts Padmé with a painful emotional confession. He recognizes that his massacre was morally wrong, regardless of what the Tuskens did to Shmi and all the rage he felt. In his vulnerable state, it makes sense that Anakin would seek reassurance in the strictures of the Jedi code. The only thing he has left to cling to is his membership in the Jedi Order, an identity that offers him power at this time when he feels so powerless. He seeks comfort in the "Chosen One" mantle that the Jedi have foisted upon him, promising Padmé that someday he "will be the most powerful Jedi ever."

The fact that his Jedi career is now of utmost importance to him serves as a primary source of Anakin's remorse over the Tuskens. Essentially, he's realized that being a Jedi is the only thing in life that has value for him anymore, and he's just about blown that, too. Padmé tries to comfort him by noting that his anger is a normal human response, but he corrects her. "I'm a Jedi," Anakin says. "I know I'm better than this." He is a superhuman being with a sworn responsibility to avoid being "only human." If he loses his identity as a Jedi now, he will be nothing.

In his brief remarks at Shmi's grave, Anakin makes what is perhaps his most intriguing statement in Episode II: "I wasn't strong enough to save you, Mom. But I promise I won't fail again." What does he mean by that? Where was his failure? No amount of additional strength would have helped him save Shmi's life at the time he arrived, unless he's wishing for some supernatural ability to "stop people from dying," beyond any powers we've yet seen the Jedi exhibit.

It makes more sense to assume that Anakin feels that if he were stronger, he would have come to Shmi's aid earlier. If he had taken off for Tatooine as soon as he started having dreams about her being in distress, he might have rescued her before her injuries became life-threatening. But he didn't come then because it was against the Jedi rules, and he didn't have the strength of will to break them. Remember that Luke came to the aid of his friends on Bespin immediately, rather than enduring his visions for a month. In that sense, Anakin's weakness prevented him from saving his mother. Of course, this line of reasoning flies in the face of Anakin's renewed conviction to be a "good Jedi," and he's left feeling stuck in a no-win situation.

But it gets even more complicated than that. Why stop at Anakin's failure to respond to his recent nightmares about Shmi? After all, he left her a slave on Tatooine, and in ten years he never came back to secure her freedom. It must eat away at Anakin's soul to know he betrayed his childhood promise to come back and free his mother and all the slaves on Tatooine. He followed the Jedi code and left Shmi in chains.

Of course, it wasn't slavery that led to Shmi's death, and that's the kicker. When Shmi convinced Anakin to depart with Qui-Gon, she told him, "Son, my place is here. My future is here." And she was right. Her destiny was to find freedom and happiness with Cliegg Lars. As a lifelong slave, Shmi had probably never experienced a true romantic relationship until she met Cliegg, and the words he speaks about her prove the strength of their marital bond. As dearly as she must have missed Anakin, Shmi was content with her new life. She had a loving husband and stepson, and she knew that Anakin was fulfilling his potential in life as a Jedi, even if he couldn't be with her.

If Anakin had kept his promise and come back to free her before Watto sold her, he would have denied her those years of happiness as Cliegg's wife. Anakin could have set her up in a nice little apartment on Coruscant and visited her every Sunday until she died of old age, but she would never have had the chance to find her own destiny. Even with Anakin's company, she probably would have remained alone with her free will unfulfilled. Who's to say Shmi wasn't better off staying on Tatooine, even if it did lead to her premature death? Before we learned about Cliegg Lars, it seemed indisputably right that Anakin should have gone back to free her from slavery. But now we have to weigh the value of the life Shmi found for herself. It's no longer a such a simple matter to say whether the Jedi were wrong to prevent Anakin from intervening in his mother's fate.

Shmi's Funeral Somewhere in that complex equation Anakin judges himself guilty of being insufficiently strong to save his mother. We can't say where exactly he thinks his failure lies, or whether he even knows himself. Even though Anakin clearly wants to place the blame for Shmi's death on his own shoulders, you have to wonder whether he wouldn't have gladly prevented her from ever being freed by Cliegg. He may be unwilling to acknowledge the short span of happiness Shmi found for herself, focusing only on the tragedy that he might have averted by blocking her from going down that path. But trying to second-guess the random forces of chance and think through every "what if" will eventually drive you crazy... unless you think you can summon up complete control over the universe, like some sort of all-powerful Chosen One.

After Obi-Wan's message gets relayed from Artoo to the Jedi Council, Mace Windu orders Anakin to stay put on Tatooine and continue protecting Padmé. For once, Anakin is willing to accept a non-adventurous directive from his Jedi superiors. Anakin's emotions must be urging him to help Obi-Wan, but he is forcing himself to follow proper conduct. The consequences of his recent act of defiance weigh heavily on him, and he tries to atone for his missteps by getting back on the Jedi path and doing as he is told.

But Padmé coerces him into doing otherwise. Her ever-present dedication to helping others takes over, as she reasons that they are right next door to Geonosis and she can use her clout as a senator to petition for Obi-Wan's release. She tells Anakin she's going to help, and just as when they left Naboo, he can continue to obey his orders to protect her as long as they stay together. His silent grin recognizes that Padmé has rationalized a way for him to help Obi-Wan and be a "good Jedi" at the same time. This is another example of how Padmé's presence makes Anakin feel complete.

This decision is also a pivotal moment for Padmé, one that mirrors her decision to return home and fight in The Phantom Menace. As a senator, Padmé has found herself relinquishing much of the autonomous strength she mustered as the young Queen during the blockade of Naboo. Now, at another critical moment when help is needed, she reclaims her sense of personal empowerment that has been left dormant. Her experiences with Anakin are helping to awaken her inner self. The two of them are symbiotically enabling each other to go on the forbidden journey that they both want to undertake.

Arriving on Geonosis, Padmé tells Anakin that she's in charge and she wants to seek a diplomatic solution. "Don't worry," Anakin quips. "I've given up trying to argue with you." But this is more than just a wisecrack — it marks a profound change in their relationship. When Anakin earlier regarded Padmé as a fantasy figure, he was compelled to assert his dominance and prove that he was no longer the little boy she once knew. Remember how it rankled him when Padmé asserted her authority over his in Queen Jamillia's court. But things are different now that he has come to know her, respect her, and love her as the complete human being that she is, and not simply his "dream girl."

Padmé's hopes of diplomatic negotiation prove to be fruitless, as she and Anakin stumble into the Geonosian battle droid factory and end up getting captured. They are accused of espionage and sentenced to be executed along with Obi-Wan. Before they are carted off to the execution arena, Padmé finally opens her heart to Anakin. He has bared his soul in two confessions to her, and now it's her turn. Padmé admits that she loves Anakin, and her denial of her emotions has been killing her inside ever since he came back into her life. She thought it necessary to hide her feelings because a romantic relationship would ruin their lives. Now that they are going to be killed, she has to tell him the truth.

Anakin and Padmé Padmé's behavior in this unconventional courtship is very much like what her daughter will later go through. Leia is also driven by a political career, occupied with leading her people in a time of galactic turmoil instead of pursuing personal interests. She buries her emotions under a cold, no-nonsense facade, although Leia leans toward being more of a sharp-tongued smartass than her mother (and she probably gets that extra spunk from her dear old dad). Leia refuses to admit her feelings for Han Solo to herself, much less to him, until they are taken captive and threatened with separation and possible death. Chained and surrounded by malevolent forces in a hellish industrial nightmare setting, Padmé tells Anakin she loves him in almost exactly the same desperate circumstances that led Leia to speak her heart in the Bespin carbon-freezing chamber. Except, of course, her beau isn't cocky enough to reply "I know."

In the execution arena, Padmé proves as capable of defending herself from the three deadly monsters as the reunited Jedi duo. It's as if coming clean with Anakin has energized her self-reliance and determination. Soon Mace Windu's Jedi assault team and a battalion of battle droids swarm into the arena and all hell breaks loose. As Padmé fires off a blaster, Anakin makes a crack about her supposed diplomacy. She throws back that this is "aggressive negotiations," repeating a term Anakin formerly applied to Jedi tactics. This joke again indicates how the two have spiritually bonded, or even melded, each borrowing traits from the other.

After Yoda and the clones arrive, Anakin and Padmé end up riding with Obi-Wan in a Republic gunship on the trail of Count Dooku. A sudden blast causes Padmé to lose her balance and fall out of the open vehicle, tumbling across the sandy Geonosian terrain. Anakin wants to put the ship down, but Obi-Wan orders it to keep after Dooku. Anakin continues arguing that they have to help Padmé, with Obi-Wan threatening to have Anakin kicked out of the Jedi Order. Again, it's the same difficult choice that led Anakin to go find his mother and led Luke to leave Dagobah. This time the debate gets very intense, with Obi-Wan yelling indignantly over the noise of the gunship and Anakin prepared to throw his Jedi membership away for the sake of Padmé.

Shrewdly, Obi-Wan manages to defuse the situation in probably the only way possible, by asking Anakin what Padmé would do were their roles reversed. This stops Anakin's outrage dead in its tracks, as he acknowledges with that she would do her duty. The piece of Padmé that Anakin now carries inside him tells him to go along with the Obi-Wan's orders. In this instance, his love for Padmé gives him the maturity to see the wisdom of the Jedi way. Later on, those same feelings are most likely going to help turn Anakin against the Jedi.

The two Jedi confront Dooku in his secret hangar just as he is preparing to leave the planet. Obi-Wan coaches Anakin that they need to move on him with their lightsabers in tandem, but Anakin charges him alone. Dooku quickly dispatches him with his Sith lightning. In Star Wars tradition, the aggressor in a fight almost always ends up losing, sooner or later, and this especially applies in the history of lightsaber duels. Anakin is punished for following his aggressive instincts rather than letting Dooku strike first. He also shows a diminished ability to cooperate with Obi-Wan now that Padmé has become his new partner.

The lightning-toasted Padawan is out of commission until Dooku prepares to deal a death blow to the wounded Obi-Wan. Anakin leaps back into action to save his master. Obi-Wan tosses his lightsaber to his student, and Anakin briefly assaults Dooku with two blades until Dooku knocks one of them away. Since two-handed lightsaber combat is presumably an unfamiliar skill for Anakin, you could say that this part of the battle represents his juggling of Jedi training and romantic involvement. He's got his hands full with two different commitments, and he's probably not going to keep them coordinated for very long before one or the other is knocked out of his grasp.

As Anakin and Dooku continue fighting, Dooku doesn't banter with Anakin as he did with Obi-Wan. Dooku earlier tried to tempt Obi-Wan to join him and ridiculed his "disappointing" fighting skills, but Dooku seems to find Anakin not even worth the effort, being too young and inferior. You'd think Dooku would at least acknowledge Anakin's reputation as the "Chosen One," if only to scoff at him. Perhaps his Sith master, having plans of his own for young Skywalker, has mandated that Anakin is off-limits for taunting and tempting... but not, apparently, for maiming.

Dooku ends the duel by slicing off Anakin's arm. Obviously the resonance here is with the iconic moment of Vader cutting off Luke's hand. Lucas has described that scene from The Empire Strikes Back as being a Freudian castration scene, representing a man's anxieties over confronting his father. Likewise, Dooku savagely emasculates Anakin. In psychoanalytical terms, Anakin is punished for his forbidden dalliance with Padmé. The greater severity of Anakin's dismemberment compared to Luke's shows that he is on the road to losing much more of his humanity than his son ever will.

Master Yoda hits the scene in time to save Obi-Wan and Anakin and send Dooku packing. Dooku's escape comes as something of a surprise, since we know each of the Sith apprentices in the prequels must be eliminated to make way for Anakin. Unlike Darth Maul at the end of Episode I, Dooku will not yet be defeated. This plot development recalls Boba Fett's departure with the frozen Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back. As our heroes fire ineffective blaster rounds at the fleeing spacecraft, we can't believe that the bad guy is actually getting away. Dooku's elusiveness underlines the increasing power of the dark side, which not even Yoda has enough strength to overcome.

Padmé runs into the hangar to embrace the wounded Anakin. She risks revealing her feelings for Anakin in front of Obi-Wan and Yoda, but clearly the couple will be more discreet about their relationship after this immediate crisis has passed. Anakin gets assigned to escort Padmé home to Naboo, and the two decide to elope, their wedding witnessed only by Artoo and Threepio. They had previously ruled out keeping their relationship a secret, because neither of them wanted to live a lie. After the events on Geonosis, they must realize that living in denial of their love would be an even bigger lie.

Anakin's Hand Their marriage will be an unconventional one, since they won't be able to tell anyone or get to spend their days together, at least not for the time being. But their nuptial vows give substance to their personal bond that will sustain them while they live in separation. A wedding should be a joyous occasion, and the ceremony takes place in an idyllic setting with Padmé a vision of beauty, but this union is terribly tragic. We know that the couple's future will be anything but happy. The carefree frolicking they have enjoyed in this episode is just about all the romantic intimacy they will ever be allotted. Their lives are about to be torn apart by war, anger and hate. The only visual cue to the darkness ahead is Anakin's new mechanical hand. Unlike Luke's flesh-covered prosthesis, Anakin's is bare golden metal, like the hand of a droid. It marks the beginning of a process of injuries and reconstructions that will leave him "more machine than man."

Despite its inhuman appearance, Padmé tenderly grasps the mechanical hand of her new husband. She loves him unconditionally, faults and all. Anakin has not deluded her or shielded her from his dark side — she has seen his weaknesses and accepted that they are part of him. In fact, it's fair to say that she is attracted to Anakin's flaws. She has always been drawn to helping those in need, and in Anakin she has found a man who needs her worse than anyone ever has. Things would turn out very differently had Padmé rejected Anakin's flaws and ordered him to change his ways. But in the act of accepting him, she has become the enabler of his dark side. In Episode III, we will learn the extent to which his transformation into Darth Vader is attributable to Padmé's love.

Of course, it would be wrong to pin the blame entirely on Padmé. She is only the catalyst, and the responsibility for Anakin's fate rests more in his own hands, and in the changing political climate in the galaxy. This section of my dissertation has focused on the events of Attack of the Clones from Anakin's perspective; Part III will consider things from the point of view of the Sith conspiracy. This will help us see that Anakin's journey toward his destiny is not entirely about "falling" to the dark side. In many respects, Anakin simply stays put while the rest of our heroes realize that they are fighting on the wrong side.

III. Dangerous and Disturbing This Puzzle Is
Unraveling the mysterious plot of the Sith.

The Shroud of the Dark Side
Cinema