Part V. Much to Learn, You Still Have

The Secret Wedding “You're studying to become a Jedi. I'm a senator. If you follow your thoughts through to conclusion, they will take us to a place we cannot go.”

— Padmé Amidala,
Attack of the Clones

In my dissertation on The Phantom Menace, I proposed that the dominant symbolic motifs in Episode I were duality and symbiosis. We saw many instances of one person having two sides to his identity, and of two individuals or two groups depending on each other for mutual benefit. Those themes recur in Attack of the Clones to some extent, but a new variation on these ideas has become more prevalent. The thematic pattern most repeated in the story of Episode II involves the playing of roles: knowing your role, accepting your role, moving from one role to the next (or trying to), and the conflict between what your duty dictates and what your heart tells you.

The Star Wars universe is a very regimented place, stratified into various caste systems. Just about every character has a designated social rank of some sort, whether high or low: Jedi, politicians, royalty, military personnel, businessmen, criminals, bounty hunters, slaves, and the lowest of the low, droids. We hardly ever encounter a significant character who is just a plain average civilian, and when we do, he ultimately finds himself elevated to some higher position: Luke Skywalker becomes a Jedi Knight, Han Solo becomes a general in the Rebel Alliance, Jar Jar Binks becomes a representative in the Senate. And there are important rankings within each of the social groups of Star Wars, particularly the ones headquartered on Coruscant: you've got bureaucrats, representatives, senators, and the Supreme Chancellor on one hand, and Jedi younglings, Padawans, Jedi Knights, Jedi Masters, and Yoda on the other.

Changing Roles This is a story where everybody has his or her part to play. And those roles are not fixed; they change over time. It's fascinating to note how the roles and players have transformed from Episode I to Episode II. The process begins at the end of The Phantom Menace, with the ousting of Chancellor Valorum and the deaths of Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul. In accordance with the axiom that nature abhors a vacuum, there is a chain reaction of characters each moving up a notch to fill the vacancies. Chancellor Palpatine takes over Chancellor Valorum's role. Senator Amidala and Representative Binks take over Senator Palpatine's role. Queen Jamillia takes over Queen Amidala's role. Count Dooku takes over Darth Maul's role. Obi-Wan takes over Qui-Gon's role. Anakin takes over Obi-Wan's role. Even though he's the apprentice, Anakin also takes over Qui-Gon's role as the maverick Jedi partner to the scrupulously compliant Obi-Wan.

In less formal terms, you could even argue that Boba Fett takes over Anakin's role as the innocent kid with a dark future, and Threepio takes over Jar Jar's role as comic relief. In my Episode I dissertation, I noted how Anakin and Jar Jar were disregarded upon their arrival on Coruscant, being inconsequential tourists from outside the Republic. But now that these two former non-entities have found enfranchisement in the grand institutions of the galactic capital, each will come to play a crucial role in the schemes of the Supreme Chancellor who blithely ignored them on their first meeting.

The villains in Episode II rely heavily on assumed roles and masquerades. Palpatine is secretly the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, while Count Dooku simultaneously plays the parts of separatist leader and Sith apprentice, leaving some question as to which role, if either, is genuine. Some unknown party, probably one of the Sith, has pretended to be slain Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas. The assassin Zam Wesell proves to be a shapeshifter who uses her abilities to mislead her prey and her pursuers. Like many of the worst threats in Attack of the Clones, Zam seems attractive and "human" on the outside but is grotesque and deadly dangerous underneath the deceptive facade.

Attack of the Clones also presents several instances in which characters' destinies will be determined by new roles they will adopt in the future. Anakin's private meeting with Palpatine presages their eventual fate as master and apprentice. Master Jedi Kenobi will shortly assume the wartime title of General Kenobi, and after that he'll become the strange old hermit Ben Kenobi. The clone soldiers of the Republic will evolve into the stormtroopers of the Empire. Young Boba Fett will grow up to follow in his father's footsteps. Senator Bail Organa, Owen Lars and Beru Whitesun will become the foster parents of Anakin and Padmé's children. And moving even beyond that timeframe, Leia will one day negotiate for peace as a young senator in a time of unrest, like her mother, while Luke will train as a reckless Jedi apprentice to Obi-Wan and Yoda, and find himself tempted by Palpatine and the dark side, like his father before him.

The playing of roles — both legitimate roles and false pretenses — figures strongly in the plot action of Attack of the Clones. In this section I will examine the significance of these various role-playing processes by focusing on five main characters from the movie. This process will bring together disparate threads of this entire dissertation into a sort of climactic whole, and hopefully offer some surprising insights along the way.

Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalker: The Initiates

Since the paths of Anakin and Padmé are so deeply intertwined, it only makes sense to analyze their roles in the story together. We can understand both Anakin and Padmé's development in Episode II in terms of the classical hero's journey, as famously described by Joseph Campbell. The Phantom Menace saw each of these characters roughly fulfilling the first stage of the journey, known as Departure. This is the stage involving the call to adventure, guidance from a supernatural mentor, and crossing the threshold into the unknown. This preliminary stage concludes with a victory which grants the protagonist the mantle of hero. But that's far from being the end of the journey.

In the second stage of heroic progress, the intermediate level called Initiation, the protagonist learns that there is more to life than the supposed glory of being regarded a hero. He moves on to the role of initiate, in search of further knowledge and experience of life's mysteries, which prove to be much more complicated and elusive than he previously believed. The initiate seeks to discover himself and to improve the world around him, but he must endure a road of trials and temptations before reaching the final stage of the hero's journey, known as Return.

Anakin and Padmé Attack of the Clones opens with Anakin and Padmé as eager initiates. Their new roles have transformed their positions in society, thereby changing the focus of this episode as compared with its predecessor. In Episode I, the younger Anakin and Padmé were each victims of the Republic's indifference: a slave and an exiled leader. Padmé went to the Senate for help while Anakin went to the Jedi to begin a new life, and both of them were turned away. Now, in Episode II, Anakin and Padmé have respectively joined the institutions that once shunned them.

This follows the recurring Star Wars motif of people reconciling with ideas and entities that they once opposed, whether for better or worse. It also means that this episode places no focus on the downtrodden common folk of the Republic, of whom there are billions upon billions, since our neglected outsiders from Episode I have now become privileged insiders. I initially felt that Episode II was flawed for taking this turn and excluding the suffering in the oppressed worlds of the Republic from our view. Such story elements would have legitimized the separatist movement in principle, and given us sympathy for the innocent systems who choose to join Count Dooku in forming the roots of the Rebel Alliance.

But then I realized that Lucas, as always, wants to tell the story from the perspective of our heroes. As I suggested at the end of Part I, Lucas is most interested in the personal level of his story, leaving the greater galactic issues as a backdrop. Since our lead characters have now moved on to roles in the power establishments of Coruscant, it makes sense that the story would follow their points of view and leave the disenfranchised victims of Palpatine's regime to our imaginations. We are supposed to remember where Anakin and Padmé came from, and ask ourselves, "Have they forgotten how unjust the Republic is? Are they so self-obsessed in their ivory towers on Coruscant that they don't understand how the separatists have every right to want to get the hell out?"

While Anakin and Padmé have matured and progressed socially, they haven't yet abandoned their youthful ways altogether at the outset of Attack of the Clones. Padmé continues her old practice of using decoys to shield herself from danger until Cordé is killed in the opening scene. In Episode I, her bodyguard switcheroo played out as a harmless trick, but now one of her decoys dies in the line of duty. The tragedy fills Padmé with doubts about the validity of her goals in the Senate and whether she has any reason to be there. Captain Typho reminds her that she can't shun the responsibilities of her elected role and she has to do her duty, just as Cordé did hers.

Later on, when Padmé instructs an unseen person to take her place during her absence, we first assume she's addressing another one of her body doubles, but it turns out to be Representative Binks. I'd be inclined to say that Padmé has now discarded her use of decoys and finally moved beyond her childhood Queen Amidala persona entirely, but that's not entirely true. In his DVD commentary, Lucas explains that Dormé will be posing as Senator Amidala while she is in hiding on Naboo, so Padmé still hasn't dropped that charade. But the decoy issue never resurfaces in the movie beyond that point, so we're left with a de facto impression that she has ceased relying on her lookalike bodyguards to keep her safe.

Anakin, meanwhile, has been chafing over his subordinate role as Padawan to Obi-Wan Kenobi. He believes himself more accomplished than his teacher in some ways, and he yearns to advance to the next level and become a full-fledged Jedi. When Anakin gets the assignment to escort Padmé back to Naboo, he embraces it as a huge opportunity, his first chance ever to do anything on his own as a Jedi or as an adult. Plus, he's anxious to have some time alone with his long-lost childhood crush.

But Anakin's mission as Padmé's protector is complicated by the roles imposed upon the situation. Significantly, Mace Windu orders them to maintain a low profile and travel as refugees. So even though this is Anakin's first opportunity to step out into the world independently as a Jedi, his mandate prohibits him from letting anyone know that he's a Jedi. That effectively squelches the excitement and glamor of his debut mission. Furthermore, he and Padmé have to pose as refugees, displaced commoners with no status in society. Here in the heart of the Republic, where status is everything, refugees and peasants are the most invisible and inconsequential of beings. Anakin has to ride as a passenger in a freighter's dreary steerage hold, instead of getting to fly his own vehicle and impress Padmé with his remarkable piloting skills. In a sense, Windu is ordering Anakin to revert to what he was when he first arrived at the Jedi Temple — an outcast with no role in the social order — rather than letting Anakin progress to a higher level.

Of even greater import, though, is Padmé's assessment of the roles Anakin is playing. When they are first reunited, Padmé still sees him in the role of "that little boy I knew on Tatooine," causing him much frustration. Soon she comes to recognize that "Ani" has grown up and become a complex and gifted young man, but she stops short of giving him the level of respect — or intimacy — that he believes he is due. In Queen Jamillia's court, Padmé undercuts Anakin's authority by reminding everyone that he's just a Padawan learner, "not a Jedi yet." She invalidates his appointed role as her protector by calling the shots on where they will seek refuge, instead of deferring to him. Anakin's social position is being stripped away from him in all aspects of this mission: in public, he can't let anyone know that he's a Jedi, and in private, people are told that he's not a Jedi.

Padmé and Anakin So what is Anakin Skywalker? Really, he's just a young man in love. With his identity as a Jedi brought into question, all Anakin has left to hold onto is his emotions. Finding himself alone with Padmé at last, even if he can't get her to accept his new role as a Jedi, he hopes maybe he can get her to accept him in a different new role, as her lover. Padmé rebuffs his advances, although her actions make it clear that she has affections for him. Anakin finally drops his pretenses and pours out his heart to her, and Padmé insists that they can't have a romantic relationship. It's not because she doesn't love him, or because they are incompatible as individuals — it's because their roles in society prohibit any involvement.

The morning after that conversation, Anakin resolves that he must go help his mother. Denied from pursuing a mature romantic relationship, he withdraws to the security of his primal role as son to Shmi. On this journey he will not travel in disguise — he will let the world see that he is a Jedi. And this time Anakin will reclaim his role as a skillful pilot and fly his own vessel, instead of passively riding as a passenger. Padmé chooses to accompany him, but she remains cautious, keeping herself disguised in hooded robes.

After the misfortunes that unfold on Tatooine, Anakin is conflicted over his role as a Jedi. On one hand he resents the Jedi Order for blocking him from coming to his mother's rescue earlier, but at the same time he feels guilt for straying from the Jedi path and losing control of himself. Feeling lost and weakened, he decides he must strictly follow the Jedi rules and redeem himself. But Padmé asserts herself at this point and insists that they go to Geonosis. Tired of disguises, she aims to use her role as a senator to seek a diplomatic solution to a crisis, rather than continuing to hide who she really is.

Subsequently faced with execution on Geonosis, Padmé finally drops her remaining pretenses as well. Just as Anakin's role as a Jedi failed him on Tatooine, her role as a member of the Senate has failed her on Geonosis. So Padmé decides it's time they cast aside their social roles and admit their love for one another. This is a simple enough choice for them to make when it seems they're about to die and they've got nothing to lose, but things get complicated again once they survive the immediate danger. Padmé falls from the Republic gunship and Anakin wants to save her, acting on his newly accepted intimate bond with her. Obi-Wan forcefully reminds him that his Jedi role demands otherwise. Ironically, it is Padmé's belief in doing one's duty that convinces Anakin to obey his master, even though Padmé earlier disregarded duty in favor of her personal feelings.

In the end, we see that Anakin and Padmé don't "come to their senses" and recant their admission of love, as if it were simply a hasty declaration made in a desperate moment. On the contrary, they consecrate their bond in a secret wedding on Naboo, accepting the new roles of husband and wife — but only in private. We gather that they have not given up their roles of Jedi and senator, reversing their earlier decision against "living a lie." Indeed, their forbidden marriage represents the larger unsound relationship between the Jedi Order and the Republic.

Arguing earlier that their social roles make them incompatible, Padmé tells Anakin, "If you follow your thoughts through to conclusion, they will take us to a place we cannot go." But they are already living in such a place, in the current sad state of the Republic, where the Jedi and the politicians have long been in bed together. Padmé implies there's a self-evident need for separation between the Jedi and Senate, but considering how the Jedi are kept firmly in the Chancellor's back pocket and incapable of action on their own, that supposed separation is being violated on a massive scale. The secret wedding of Anakin and Padmé personifies the improper, unbalanced connection between the Jedi and the government of the Republic, two unions that will bring about the mutual downfall of all involved.

But all is not lost. This star-crossed romance may spell disaster, but by the same token, it will also yield the bright flame of resistance, to paraphrase the Journal of the Whills, that will cast the light of new truth across a galaxy of oppressed and beaten peoples. The fact is, as analyst Paul F. McDonald observed in his essay When All the Galaxy Was Young, Episode II is fundamentally a story about procreation. In the clone hatcheries of Kamino and the droid factory of Geonosis, we see two different industrial facilities cranking out mass-produced soldiers, using assembly-line processes that are an affront to the natural order. We also see Yoda preparing a new generation of Jedi, children who were taken from their families and raised in the emotionless confines of the Jedi Temple. These clones, droids and Jedi will clash and perish in the forthcoming wars that will transform the Republic into an Empire.

Yet in the midst of the chaos, Anakin and Padmé will conceive their twins, born from a loving relationship between a man and a woman, as opposed to the three artificially spawned combatant factions of the Clone Wars. Although Luke and Leia will be raised in foster families, they will get the opportunity to have normal childhoods and embrace their emotions, developing into complete human beings. Anakin's awakened love for his children is what will redeem him and bring balance to the Force. Parenthood is, after all, the ultimate role and duty that a person can assume in life, and this fact cuts right to the heart of what Star Wars is all about.

Jango Fett: The All-Father of Moral Ambiguity

It was a stroke of brilliance for Lucas to position a new character as both the genetic template of the Republic's clone army and the father of Boba Fett. He certainly didn't plan it that way from the beginning. Lucas has always said he created Boba Fett simply because he needed a bounty hunter to pursue Han Solo, and he never envisioned the character having any deeper significance. Boba's unintended popularity has kept him in the forefront of Star Wars consciousness over the years, and when Lucas needed a bounty hunter character to be the ancestor of the Imperial stormtroopers, he thought, what the heck, let's tie this character in with Boba Fett. Lucas says he always had some vague idea that Boba was connected to the stormtroopers, and this plot development let him confirm that relationship.

The Jango Fett character serves as a nice gesture of fulfillment to those fans who have venerated Boba Fett on what were previously rather scant grounds, but Lucas's evocation of the Fett legend represents more than simple pandering. Boba Fett originally made such an impression on us primarily because he was the Star Wars saga's most accessible embodiment of moral ambiguity. And moral ambiguity is what the creation of the clone army in Episode II symbolizes.

The mass media's descriptions of the enduring appeal of Star Wars almost unfailingly cite the saga's supposed black-and-white morality, where it's crystal clear who's the good guys and who's the bad guys. This assessment always makes me wonder if those journalists have ever actually watched all the movies. While it's superficially true of A New Hope, with its clear-cut dichotomy of evil Empire and freedom-fighting Rebels, such a simplistic view of the saga goes right out the window with the complications that emerge in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The real point of the story is that we all possess both good and evil inside of us, and we each have to make the personal choice to do right or wrong.

Of course, this message is played out most powerfully in the father-son relationship between Vader and Luke, but that dynamic is fraught with thorny psychological issues that the audience has to work through and overcome. This poses an obstacle for the casual viewer, and for children. As a 10-year-old at the time Episode V was released, I myself chose to believe that Vader was lying about being Luke's father and trying to trick him. But the movie brought us another character whose shades of gray were much easier to latch onto, in the mysterious bounty hunter Boba Fett. Even though he worked for Darth Vader and Jabba the Hutt, Fett was officially affiliated with neither the Empire nor the Rebellion. He was his own man, selling his loyalty to the highest bidder. His undefined morality, coupled with his colorful weapon-loaded armor and bad-ass demeanor, lent him a "cool" factor that few other Star Wars icons could match. Even us kids suffering denial over Luke's parentage had no trouble embracing Fett's equivocal nature and naming his action figure our favorite.

Jango Fett and Boba Fett In creating Jango Fett, Lucas has transferred that accumulated store of moral ambiguity and antihero appeal to the father of the clones. The prequels present much more morally complicated era, full of tragically flawed heroes and decoy villains, so Lucas needed some extra element to make us focus on the particular ambiguity surrounding the clone army. If the genetic template had been some anonymous new character, we would immediately identify the clones too one-sidedly as evil characters, based on their resemblance to Imperial troops. But seeing that the clones share the same heritage as Boba Fett, we grant them a sort of neutrality, and maybe even a measure of "coolness" by proxy.

As I described in Part IV, everything on Kamino is neutral and amoral, disturbingly so. Jango provides the one element of humanity in the Kaminoans' antiseptic world, proving that they can't just whip up human clones in a laboratory without human involvement. So we associate the clone army with alien aloofness as well as the wholly human mercenary nature possessed by Jango Fett and the adult Boba Fett. In short, we have to understand the army being grown in the hatcheries of Kamino as a manufactured tool, not inherently good or evil. Despite the connotations we place on their familiar white armor, the clones possess no moral value until some commanding authority deploys them into action, for one purpose or another.

It must also be noted that here at last we learn the hitherto secret origin of Boba Fett: he was rogue clone developed at the same time as the first armies of the Clone Wars. Aside from tying together some loose threads of Star Wars mythology in a geek-pleasing manner, this plot development also provides us with an interesting father-son relationship. As I noted in Part IV, Jango and Boba can't help but serve as a counterpoint to Vader and Luke. Despite being a ruthless bounty hunter, Jango shows every sign of being a loving father having a healthy relationship with young Boba, certainly in comparison with the dysfunctional Skywalkers. This adds an emotional depth to Jango and shows that he's not simply a cold-blooded mercenary. The overtly masculine characteristics of his persona are complemented by feminine aspects of child-nurturing. He's no saint, but at least Jango is a multi-faceted human being. The Kaminoan cloning process wrings that humanity out of his DNA to spawn emotionless soldiers devoid of the feminine principle. Boba Fett has no mother, whereas Anakin Skywalker has no father. The troubled respective destinies of these two characters reflect, among other things, the lack of masculine/feminine balance in their unorthodox conceptions.

Still, the question remains: why did Jango want an unaltered clone to raise as his son? Lucas offers no answer, probably because he thinks the reason is self-evident: Jango wanted to be a father. We can only presume that biological or sociological difficulties prevented him from conceiving a son in the normal fashion. After all, Star Wars is essentially a fable about the value of parenthood, and when Lama Su characterizes Jango's wishes as "curious," Lucas is probably having a laugh at whatever inhuman mentality would render such a judgment on the paternal instinct.

Jango plays out his importance on Geonosis, where he leaves behind his role as all-father of the clones to take up his role as servant and bodyguard to Darth Tyranus, a.k.a. Count Dooku. Jango capably defends Dooku during the initial Jedi onslaught, but when he faces Mace Windu in the battle arena, with his jetpack malfunctioning, the Jedi Master effortlessly decapitates him. Jango thus ends up being killed moments before the clone army arrives, and this timing of events is significant for two reasons.

First, even though we witness the tremendous military might of the clones, we also see the mortality of the man who served as its template. Jango Fett is one man who can be killed by a single opponent. Even if the clones are mere replicas of this fallible individual, their vast numbers give them almost invincible offensive capabilities. It also feels portentous that Jango is slain by a Jedi, considering the likelihood that the Jedi will ultimately turn against the clone armies in combat. Windu may be able to kill the original host, but the Jedi will be hard pressed to dispose of all his progeny so easily.

Which brings us to the second and more vital reason why Jango had to be killed before the Republic army arrived: so that he wouldn't be forced to go into battle against his children. Several promotional photos for Attack of the Clones depicted Jango standing at the front of a clone regiment, implying they're a united force of baddies that Jango is leading into action. Of course, that's not the way things turn out. As I have elaborated upon in Part I and Part IV, the clone army's arrival on Geonosis is designed to be a disconcerting event that leads us to question who's fighting whom and why. Lucas wants us think this through for ourselves, and so he's trying to maintain a delicate balance while all the carnage unfolds. If we saw Jango taking up arms against his own clones, it would suddenly be too obvious that something is wrong here. Lucas needed to get Jango out of the way and make us forget about him momentarily during the thunderous opening raid of the clone army. At this point we're supposed to focus on the surprise of the Jedi fighting on the side of the clones, avoiding the distraction that Jango fighting against them would have posed.

Jango's death also sets up a classic character motivation for Boba Fett: child witnesses parent's murder and grows up seeking vengeance, following personal code of justice, scarred for life. Boba symbolically takes up his dead father's helmet and will indeed assume Jango's role as the galaxy's most fearsome bounty hunter — as compared to Luke Skywalker, who is spared from knowing about his own father's tragic downfall at such a young age. Having the benefit of maturity when he learns the truth, Luke is able to resist taking on the mantle of his father's black armor, and instead chooses his own path. It also helps in thematic terms that Luke is a true son, and not literally a clone of his father.

C-3PO: The Breakdown of Diplomacy

Much maligned and unappreciated though he may be among Star Wars aficionados, C-3PO is an indispensable element in the saga's fabric. Considering how the classic trilogy was practically told from the point of view of Threepio and Artoo, the diminished role of the droids in the prequels has come as a disappointment (or perhaps a relief) to some observers. Aside from the widely bemoaned revelation that he was built by Anakin, Threepio didn't get much to do in Episode I, and he only turns up in the second half of Attack of the Clones. But this time out, the protocol droid gets to make much more out of his limited screen time. Now we begin to see that Lucas does have meaningful roles for the droids to play in the prequels, rather than sticking them in the story's periphery out of nostalgic obligation.

By this point it's clear that Threepio undergoes a memory wipe at some point between the two trilogies; otherwise, he would remember Tatooine, the Skywalker and Lars clans, and other experiences that he revisits in the classic trilogy. In this simple respect, Threepio serves as the audience's surrogate in the inverted chronology of the saga. During the classic trilogy he never knows any more than we do about historical events, even though he has experienced them firsthand. Everything is as new to him as it is to us. After Episode III is complete and the entire story is laid bare, we'll still be able to look at the amnesia-stricken droid's perspective in the original films as preserving the viewpoint of the original audience.

Anakin constructs Threepio as a protocol droid meant to assist his mother. Many have commented on the unsuitability of using such a droid for labor in a junk shop, just as Owen Lars would later deny any need for "etiquette and protocol" on a moisture farm. We can rationalize Anakin's actions by surmising that used protocol droid components were all he had to work with, and being a child at the time, he may not have realized that Shmi would rather have a droid programmed for more practical duties. At any rate, Anakin created a droid with talents and abilities that could never find fulfillment in the backwater world of Tatooine. Threepio would have to leave home and find his destiny in the stars — in other words, the prissy protocol droid has to embark on a hero's journey, believe it or not, just like the Skywalkers do.

C-3PO Threepio's unlikely path to personal fulfillment begins when Anakin reclaims him in Episode II and takes him along on the adventure to Geonosis. Presumably as a result of his exposure to Padmé's realm of politics and diplomacy, Threepio will go on to discover his function in etiquette and human-cyborg relations that he was always meant to perform. As a matter of fact, we have already seen Threepio successfully complete his hero's journey. In A New Hope, he reluctantly accepts the call to adventure. In The Empire Strikes Back, he undergoes stressful trials and discoveries, then dismemberment and rebirth. In Return of the Jedi, he experiences a mock apotheosis into a godlike being with "magic powers," who grants a boon to his community by enlisting new allies in a time of need.

But that's getting way ahead of ourselves. Let's go back to Threepio's original "crossing of the first threshold," as portrayed in his strange adventures on Geonosis. After Anakin and Padmé disembark from their starship in search of Obi-Wan, Artoo wants to follow them and offer assistance. Threepio belittles Artoo's heroic intentions by asserting their respective roles: Threepio is programmed to understand humans, whereas Artoo is merely a mechanic, unqualified in such matters. But the droids have come to a juncture where conventional roles begin to change. Artoo will once again prove himself a hero in ways exceeding his astromech parameters, while Threepio will be transformed from a protocol droid into something else.

Reaching the precipice overlooking the battle droid factory, Threepio expresses his distaste for the industrial panorama: "Machines creating machines. How perverse!" This seemingly absurd remark resonates because it mirrors exactly what Obi-Wan must have been thinking when he toured the Kamino cloning facility. Lama Su had no sensitivity for how a human might feel upon seeing human clones grown in hatcheries, just as we wouldn't give serious consideration to how an intelligent robot would regard a mechanized robot factory. Threepio's observation also presents his biased view that it's wrong for droids to be manufactured by machines, because after all, he was handmade by a human being — the "natural" way! Threepio cherishes Anakin as his maker, his father/deity figure, and finds it regretful that these droids will have no living maker to call their own. Of course, this corresponds closely to the unnatural parenting of the clones.

After Artoo nudges him headlong into the factory he finds so appalling, Threepio lands on a conveyor belt and is promptly decapitated. The robotic assembly line welds his head on a battle droid body and a battle droid head on his body. Threepio's two divided selves end up unwillingly deployed with the rest of the droid army against the Jedi.

On the surface level, Threepio's split-personality exploits seem like nothing more than silly comic relief, and perhaps too distracting and frivolous amid this otherwise dead-serious conflict. Granted, he probably spouts a couple too many horrible puns during his ordeal, but that quibble aside, the drafting of Threepio into battle droid service is deeply meaningful. Far from being pointless or out of place, this subplot actually reflects and amplifies the key issues of the larger story.

When Threepio's head is fused onto the battle droid body, his first remark is, "I'm so confused." As several complex plot threads converge toward the movie's climax, the audience is burdened with mounting questions about the opposing characters and their motivations: who's right, who's wrong, who's lying, who's telling the truth, what's going on here? We're supposed to feel overwhelmed and uncertain, and once again Threepio serves as the viewers' representative, voicing our confusion.

Threepio the Battle Droid Involuntarily charging into the fray, Threepio insists that he's "programmed for etiquette, not destruction." This statement reflects the shift in political affairs in the Republic, as diplomacy and negotiation are abandoned in favor of military force. As the embodiment of a plowshare beaten into a sword, Threepio represents the failure of Padmé's movement to prevent the formation of an army. The instruments of peace and justice in the Republic are now readying for war. Despite Mace Windu's earlier insistence that the Jedi are not soldiers, the Jedi find themselves spontaneously serving as field generals in command of an army they've never even seen before.

It's also significant that Threepio's head is separated from his body and the two parts of him become independently animated. This represents the schism between rational thought and emotional impulse, a central motif of the Star Wars saga and the key obstacle that Anakin and Padmé confront in Episode II. The division of Threepio's self leaves him in control of neither side of his identity. Even though he voices horror at his violent actions, he is helpless to stop himself. His predicament symbolizes the danger of isolating the id from the superego and letting one side or the other run out of control.

Representing the idea of the good person turned bad, the divided Threepio foreshadows the fate of Anakin, his maker. Like Threepio, Anakin will lose part of his identity and transform into a villain; furthermore, Anakin will suffer dismemberment and find the remnants of his body fused with a hideous robotic form. Anakin's golden mechanical prosthesis at the end of Episode II even resembles Threepio's hand. In this context, Threepio's accidental outburst of "Die, Jedi dogs!" changes from humorous to chilling, since that's a threat that the transformed Anakin will actually carry out.

In the end, Threepio is spared from the junkheap of fallen battle droids by the intervention of his faithful astromech counterpart. Artoo diligently reunites Threepio's head with his body in the middle of a treacherous battlefield, reconstituting the protocol droid's severed identity to functioning wholeness. This little scene bears comparison to Luke's redemption of his father, reviving Anakin Skywalker's lost self and bringing back his humanity. Both acts demonstrate the persevering power of hope and compassion to heal and restore, even in the darkest times.

Not bad for a silly comic relief routine, huh?

Yoda: The Captain of the Sinking Ship

Finally, let's look at the various roles Master Yoda plays in Attack of the Clones. Episode I prompted some discussion that Mace Windu might be the leader of the Jedi Council, or at least Yoda's equal in rank. The subsequent film lays to rest any such notions, as it here becomes apparent that Yoda is the Master. Repeatedly throughout the movie, characters make proclamations about Jedi skills with phrases like "rivaling Master Yoda," "as wise as Master Yoda," "even more powerful than Master Yoda," and so on. We're meant to understand Yoda as the supreme figure among Jedi, the benchmark by which all others are judged.

Yoda and the Jedi Younglings Episode II depicts Yoda in his role as teacher of the youngest Jedi students, a function of his that has been alluded to but never shown before. In this capacity we see the return of Yoda's whimsical, childlike persona previously seen only when Luke first encountered him on Dagobah. The Jedi have reversed our conventional tradition of placing the wisest scholars in charge of completing a student's education at the graduate level, by giving Yoda the kindergarten class. This isn't a sign of Yoda coasting on light duty because of his seniority, either — it reflects the Jedi emphasis on controlling emotions and developing self-discipline from a very early age, which would require great pedagogical sophistication. There is a poignance to the scene of Yoda and the younglings that most viewers may not realize. Considering that the great Jedi purge awaits in the very near future, none of the children we see training here will live to be adult Jedi.

Aside from his young pupils, Yoda also has a duty to serve as leader of the Jedi Order as a whole. More than any other Jedi, he seems to comprehend the magnitude of the dangers that currently threaten the Republic. Yoda is certain that the Sith are out there plotting some massive scheme in secret, and he has identified their efforts to cloud the Jedi's abilities with the dark side. No other Jedi is powerful enough to catch glimpses through the suffocating blackness, as when Yoda senses Anakin's turmoil on Tatooine. (Yoda is also the only one to sense the accompanying protests of the late Qui-Gon Jinn, whatever that may portend.) In the classic trilogy we saw Obi-Wan and Luke detecting pain and death from across the galaxy, so we know this "disturbance in the Force" sensitivity is an ability any Jedi worth his salt should possess. But not even the revered Mace Windu can feel the ripples of the massive trauma befalling Anakin. And both he and Yoda are blind to the clone army on Kamino until Obi-Wan exposes it.

Windu proposes that they therefore inform the Senate of their weakened abilities, but Yoda opposes making such a disclosure. Yoda reasons that they have their hands full with the covert threat from the Sith and don't need to alert other enemies to their vulnerability. The cover-up is an ominous decision, since the Jedi Order's missteps so far in the prequels have stemmed from their ignorance and overconfidence in the face of Sith deception. At this pivotal juncture, Yoda rules that the Jedi shall engage in deceptions of their own. The Jedi have heretofore done what they felt was honest and right, even if they were unknowingly wrong, but here we see them deliberately choosing the path of untruth. It seems likely that this decision will come back to haunt Yoda in Episode III.

Actually, this may not be the only secret that Yoda and Windu have chosen to keep to themselves. Consider that at the opening of Episode II, Obi-Wan is the only living Jedi who has faced and defeated a Sith Lord, and that Sith Lord killed the Jedi who was Obi-Wan's master and Anakin's mentor. Consequently, you would expect that Obi-Wan and Anakin would carry a strong awareness that the Sith are still at large, posing an unseen threat. But they never mention the Sith, never considering them as suspects behind the assassination attempts and conspiracies they are investigating. The simple reason for this may be that Yoda and Windu have never shared with anyone else their conclusion that Qui-Gon was right about Darth Maul being a Sith Lord. We see them discussing the Sith only in private until Dooku spills the beans. Maybe Obi-Wan and Anakin don't realize that they have in fact encountered the Sith, and have no clue that the Sith are now plotting in the dark. Obi-Wan's blank reaction to Dooku's revelations suggests that he may not have even contemplated the "extinct" Sith since his master mentioned them ten years ago. If this is true, Yoda and Windu's secrecy has already contributed to the decay of the Republic.

Even amid the revelations about the clone army and the separatists' conspiracies, the Jedi remain passive until the Senate grants Palpatine his "emergency powers." By the stroke of his hand, the Chancellor then authorizes the use of the ready-made clone army, making it a sanctioned tool for the Jedi to exploit against the separatists. Yoda elects to take possession of the army personally and lead it into battle on Geonosis. It seems out of character for Yoda, who has always preached against aggression and war, to so abruptly accept the role of field general for this grand military force that has materialized out of nowhere. But there may be more to Yoda's decision than is immediately apparent.

In Yoda's climactic confrontation with Count Dooku, the Jedi Master of course takes on another unfamiliar role, that of hand-to-hand combatant. Here at last Yoda enters into a classic Jedi duel, finally adopting the mantle of "great warrior" that Luke's imagination conferred upon him during the character's introduction in The Empire Strikes Back. The respective roles of the adversaries take on prime significance in this battle between aged masters. Dooku seeks to demonstrate that he has become more powerful than any Jedi by defeating the Jedi Master universally recognized as the greatest. Yoda quickly proves Dooku's overconfidence by showing that his own mastery of the Force is second to none, whether Jedi or Sith. Any attempt to harm Yoda by using the Force against him is utterly foolish, and the diminutive Jedi Master capably holds his own in lightsaber combat.

Masters and Padawans

The duel sheds light on the nature of Yoda and Dooku's past relationship. In the earlier scene in Obi-Wan's prison cell, Dooku reveals that Qui-Gon Jinn was once his apprentice. During their lightsaber battle, Yoda addresses Dooku as his "old Padawan." At this moment we apprehend a thread of teacher-student relationships that connects the major Jedi characters of the prequel era: Yoda trained Dooku; Dooku trained Qui-Gon; Qui-Gon trained Obi-Wan; Obi-Wan trains Anakin. The chain of masters and Padawans passing down Jedi knowledge from one generation to the next is broken only by the intervention of the Sith. And it's illuminating to compare the instructional lineage of the Jedi to that of the Sith.

The Sith The Jedi method is built upon the principle of personal growth, entrusting each apprentice with the responsibility to become a master in turn. From what little we know of the history of Sith Lords, on the other hand, the position of Sith apprentice doesn't offer much opportunity for advancement. Sidious is the master of Maul, and the master of Tyranus, and the master of Vader. We see Dooku tempting Obi-Wan and Vader trying to seduce Luke, each Sith apprentice insinuating that he will overthrow Palpatine, but no servant ever succeeds in becoming the master. In the short term, this distinction proves to be an advantage for the Sith, since it allows Palpatine to carry out his singular dark vision of galactic conquest. But in the greater scheme of things, the Jedi's system of reliance on the younger generation allows them to recover from a near extinction and produce a new champion who helps defeat the aging and stagnant Sith master.

The battle between Yoda and Dooku sets a precedent for an estranged Master and Padawan to face off in lightsaber combat, a pattern that Obi-Wan and Anakin will repeat in Episode III and Episode IV. Finding himself too evenly matched with Yoda, Dooku manages to escape by causing a huge crane to crash down toward the injured Obi-Wan and Anakin. Yoda immediately puts aside his weapon and uses the Force to push the enormous object safely away from his fallen comrades, giving Dooku the chance to get away. We intuitively feel that Yoda made the right choice, but did he properly follow the Jedi code?

Remember that just moments earlier Obi-Wan lectured Anakin against saving Padmé rather than stopping Dooku. But here Yoda saves Obi-Wan and Anakin at the expense of letting Dooku go. The Jedi code forbids attachment, and surely that rule applies to Jedi colleagues as much as prospective lovers. We know that Yoda later tells Luke that he must sacrifice his friends if he honors what they fight for. The proper Jedi thing to do, then, would be to remain focused on Dooku and let Obi-Wan and Anakin be crushed to death. But Yoda chooses not to do that. And looking back at his arrival on Geonosis, Yoda's first order to the clones is to create a perimeter around the surviving Jedi and rescue them. It's fair to say that Yoda shows attachments to his fellow Jedi and lets these feelings influence his actions in the face of duty.

I take this as evidence that the Jedi philosophy is flawed and dysfunctional. It's a code of conduct that looks great on paper and is easy for masters to inculcate upon their Padawan learners, but it doesn't always work in practice. The Jedi code is far too restrictive to allow its followers to meet the challenges of the real world with the proper balance of rationality and emotion. Surely the wisest and most powerful of the Jedi must see that.

Yoda's Warning And I believe Yoda does. His closing statements on Coruscant show that he has no illusions about the Jedi Order's deeds on Geonosis. Obi-Wan and Mace Windu believe they scored a narrow victory, but Yoda knows that the influence of the dark side has now enveloped the Republic. Yoda is fully aware that their actions in the first conflict of the Clone Wars have helped the galaxy turn the corner from democracy to dictatorship. But why did he consent to lead the clone army and lend them the support of the Jedi if he knew it was wrong? My feeling is that Yoda understands that the Jedi and the Republic are doomed to drag each other into ruin, and there's not much he can do about it.

The little hints are there in Yoda's behavior throughout the movie: his suspicious eyeing of Chancellor Palpatine in the opening conference; his remark that the Jedi have become unjustifiably sure of themselves, "even the older, more experienced ones"; his decision to withhold the Jedi's waning powers from the Senate; his choices to lead the clone army on Geonosis and spare his Jedi friends there. Unlike practically everyone else, Yoda seems to have a fairly good idea of what's really going on, although if he is, he's gripped by a fatalistic inability to take decisive action against it. Yoda may recognize the sins of the Jedi, having reached the dire conclusion that their order deserves what's coming to them.

Or perhaps, being the consummate teacher, Yoda has left it up to his subordinates to put together the pieces of the puzzle and determine for themselves whether the Jedi are worthy of salvation, while he sits back and grades them on what they have learned. The master holds his tongue until one of his students characterizes the battle of Geonosis in the most inaccurate possible terms, at which point he drops his instructional detachment in exasperated disbelief, and speaks the truth that no one else can see.

The shroud of the dark side has fallen.

VI. Our Own Counsel We Will Keep
Favorite moments and personal observations.

The Shroud of the Dark Side