Supreme Chancellor Palpatine

The Power to Cheat Death

When we first watched The Phantom Menace and witnessed Darth Maul being sliced in half by Obi-Wan Kenobi, it was safe to assume that the young Dark Lord had been killed. Yet, as we discovered in The Clone Wars animated series, Maul miraculously survived his horrific bifurcation. Confiding in his training and anger, Maul drew upon the Dark Side of the Force to preserve what remained of him. Though his injuries took a physical and mental toll on him, he was able to cling to life and eventually found himself on the junk world of Lotho Minor. It was on the trash-filled planet where his brother, Savage Oppress, would re-discover Darth Maul. Taking the disheveled and mentally unstable Zabrak with him, Oppress returned Maul to Mother Talzin, a Dathomiri Witch who is, we discover much later, Maul’s mother. In turn, using her dark magic, Mother Talzin restored the one-time Dark Lord to his terrifying form, healing his mental anguish and providing him with new, mechanical legs.

Darth Maul’s return in The Clone Wars opened up a rich avenue of story-telling that has since extended into comic-book form (Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir), another animated series (Star Wars Rebels), and a new novel (Ahsoka). But his return also created intriguing ways of thinking about some of the lore and themes in Star Wars. For example, in a previous post from many moons ago – The Last Sith Lord – I speculated on the possibility that it is Maul, and not Vader or Sidious, who is the very last Dark Lord of the Sith (you can read that piece to see what I had to say). And in this post, I wanted to do something similar, this time considering how Maul’s re-emergence in The Clone Wars forces us to think more deeply about the concept of “cheating death,” a critical theme in Revenge of the Sith and the Prequel Trilogy.

For me, one of the most fascinating bits of lore added in Revenge of the Sith is the Tale of Darth Plagueis the Wise. Recounting the tale to Anakin Skywalker, Chancellor Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious) explains that,”Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith so powerful and so wise, he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life. He had such a knowledge of the dark side, he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying.” Of course, Palpatine also points out that Plagueis’ apprentice (surprise, it was Sidious!) killed the powerful Sith Lord in his sleep, noting the irony that “He could save others from death, but not himself.”

tale-of-darth-plagueis
Chancellor Palpatine recounts the Tale of Darth Plagueis the Wise.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

With the Tale planted in Skywalker’s mind, it is little surprise that later in the film, when Anakin pledges himself to the teachings of Darth Sidious, he begs the Dark Lord of the Sith to help him save Padmé’s life. One will recall that young Skywalker was having premonitions about his wife’s impending death, visions of her suffering as she dies in child birth. And, in response to Anakin’s plea, Sidious remarks that “To cheat death is a power only one has achieved, but, if we work together, I know we can discover the secret.”

Now, it’s obvious that Sidious’ statement – “to cheat death is a power only one has achieved” –  is a reference to Darth Plagueis. However, it’s also true that Darth Maul was able to cheat death. Plagueis could keep others from dying, Maul was able to keep himself from dying. This being the case, it begs the question: is it possible to reinterpret Sidious’ statement to suggest he was talking about Darth Maul and not Darth Plagueis?

This question has rattled around in my brain for some time, although truthfully it is a difficult one to answer in the affirmative. Sidious’ intention when he says this line is pretty straight-forward: to manipulate Anakin into accepting Sidious as his new Master. Since Sidious seems interested in helping Anakin discover the power to cheat death – all for the sake of saving Padmé – it makes sense that young Skywalker would pledge himself to the Dark Lord. Along these lines, it is also worth remembering that after Anakin lost his mother in Attack of the Clones, he vehemently declares that he will become so powerful he will “learn how to stop people from dying.” Given Skywalker’s intense desire to keep his loved ones from death, it is no wonder that 1) Palpatine told Anakin the Tale of Darth Plagueis and; 2) that he offered to help the young man discover the secret to cheating death.

pledge-to-sidious
Anakin pledges himself to Darth Sidious.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

None of this is to suggest, of course, that Darth Sidious and Anakin were ignorant that Darth Maul cheated death; both are well-aware the Sith survived his injuries and is still very much alive. But due to the context of this scene – embedded, as it is, in the Revenge of the Sith and the Prequel Trilogy – I find it unlikely that Sidious was referring to Darth Maul and not Darth Plagueis. Because Skywalker’s motivation is to save others from death – a power he was told Plagueis possessed – there is really no reason to imagine Darth Maul is at the forefront of his mind (or Sidious’) in the scene.

Nevertheless, I am still open to and intrigued by the possibility that Sidious was thinking of/referring to Darth Maul when he says “to cheat death is a power only one has achieved.” But I am not going to force the issue, in part because I have a lot of other things to say about cheating death and will be doing more posts on the topic. If, someday, a light turns on in my head and I figure out a way to make it work then I will be sure to share it with y’all. Otherwise, perhaps one of you will find a way to work it out in the meantime. 


More posts on the topic of cheating death:

Cheating Death: The Dark

Transcending Death: The Light

Bow to the First Order

I could talk at length about a number of scenes in The Force Awakens, but one scene that really stood out to me in my first viewing of the film is when General Hux, played by Domhnall Gleeson, addresses an assembly of First Order soldiers and officers on Starkiller Base. With a massive First Order flag behind him and a sea of white armor and black uniforms spread out below him, General Hux delivers a charismatic speech lambasting the Republic and “loathsome” Resistance.  I was immediately captivated by what Hux was preaching, drawn in by the raw hatred bleeding off of every perfectly annunciated word as he railed against a Republic “regime” that “acquiesces to disorder.” I could easily imagine the soldiers and officers in attendance feeling empowered by their commanding General, their resolve to make the galaxy “bow to the First Order” strengthened.

It hardly needs to be said but this scene gives off some pretty intense Nazi-esque vibes, the setting visually reminiscent of a Nazi Party rally with General Hux playing the role of Adolf Hitler. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Domhnall Gleeson prepared for this particular scene by watching videos of Adolf Hitler speaking, given how closely Hux imitates Hitler in demeanor and oration.

Salute
General Hux (foreground) receives a very Nazi-esque salute from his soldiers, left arm raised with a fist, once his speech concludes.  
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Hux isn’t just mimicking Hitler, though. Oh no, he is also mimicking another Chancellor we are all familiar with: Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Recall the scene in Revenge of the Sith where Palpatine gives an impassioned and empowering speech to the Senate about the “Jedi rebellion” and the physical scars he received from the Jedi. He then follows this with a chilling declaration:

In order to ensure the security and continuing stability, the Republic will be re-organized into the First Galactic Empire!

While the context of General Hux’s speech is different than Palpatine’s, both none-the-less mirror each other in an important way: by calling for the end of the Republic. Using his authority as Supreme Chancellor, Palpatine proclaims the formation of the Empire, washing away the Republic even though he does not, at that point, disband the Senate. On the other hand, Hux vehemently and viciously exclaims more than once that the end of the Republic is nigh, which comes to fruition when Starkiller  Base is used to destroy Hosnian Prime, the planet hosting the current session of the Republic Senate.

Two charismatic and authoritative figures declaring and then executing, in their own ways, the same outcome – the death of liberty and democracy.

But while Hux parallels Palpatine in declaring an end to the Republic, this shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that the two individuals are exactly the same, or that the organizations they represent are perfectly comparable. Frankly, even though the First Order was born from the remnants of its Imperial predecessor, they are not the same thing. Both share some obvious similarities, like the use of Stormtroopers, Star Destroyers, and TIE Fighters, but the two entities have much different motivations and goals. And this is precisely  why this short scene is so critical to the film – Hux might be inspiring his soldiers with his harsh words, but he is also speaking to you and I, giving us direct insight into the First Order and how it stands apart from the Galactic Empire.

Honestly, what better way for the film to teach us about this mysterious organization, the new villains in the Star Wars universe, than by allowing us all to participate in a secret gathering on their secret base?

So, what did YOU think about this scene? About General Hux? About the First Order?  


This post is part of the Star Wars ComLINKS series. Check out more Star Wars ComLINKS over at Anakin and His Angel.

swcomlinksbanner1