A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….a hero named Anakin Skywalker became one of the most feared villains of his time.
Here’s the story, or more accurately the study, of what exactly happened to this amazing Jedi that made him become the ultimate bad guy. If you haven’t watched the Star Wars films, then be warned that this article (and title, for that matter) serves as one big spoiler.
Here are the five reasons why the heroic Anakin Skywalker became the evil Darth Vader.
5. Bad influences
Of all the Jedi and Jedi-in-training (Padawans), Anakin Skywalker is the one that becomes the favorite of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Of course, Palpatine is revealed to be the Sith Lord and he foresees that Anakin will be his Sith apprentice. He even makes sure to always praise Skywalker so that he can easily persuade him when necessary.
Anakin carries the utmost respect for those who consistently praise him while often times showing discontent for those who are actually more positive influences on him because, instead of the consistent praise he seeks, they may offer criticisms. No one is forced to criticize him more than his Jedi Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, thus it sometimes creates an almost unavoidable tension at times between the two (better portrayed in the films than in the Clone Wars series).
Palpatine recognizes and understands that feeding Anakin’s ego is the quickest path to gaining his trust. Skywalker ultimately becomes frustrated with Kenobi, partly because he is not as praiseworthy towards him as Palpatine is, and it thus leads to Anakin building misguided animosity toward his master.
Anakin also has a respectful relationship with Wilhuff Tarkin, mostly because he receives praise from Tarkin, who is another man soon to be decorated in evil. In the brief time they spend together during the Clone Wars, Tarkin ultimately lays the foundation for what will become a strong working relationship in the future, as they will later blow up planets together, collectively killing billons of people. It’s worth noting that it’s technically unknown whether or not Tarkin is aware that Darth Vader is actually Anakin Skywalker, though that doesn’t change Anakin’s respect for Tarkin.
This future dark lord heavy-breathing menace is also influenced by questionable ideals during his life as Anakin, which we’ll examine throughout.
4. Seeking control and power
Anakin strongly believes in himself, but it unfortunately comes at the cost of lacking belief in others. Too many times he disobeys orders that he disagrees with, only respects the Jedi Council if he agrees with them, and simply believes that he knows better than anyone else. Initially, you can’t blame Anakin for having such disapproval for authority when you consider that he was slave on Tatooine. Learning from the Jedi who technically freed him, however, doesn’t seem to have the positive psychological effects on Anakin as it should. His greatest benefit from his years-long Jedi training are the physical aspects, which he greatly excels in. The Jedi do not succeed in preparing him mentally, but this failure is likely due in part to Anakin’s overconfidence in himself.
In Attack of the Clones, Anakin tells Padmé, his eventual wife, that he believes part of a democracy should be that politicians are forced to agree when they cannot. He suggests that one wise man should force them to agree. Padmé notes that Anakin’s idea of a democracy “sounds an awful like a dictatorship.” This ideology becomes a major reason why Anakin doesn’t share the same concern that the Jedi do when Supreme Chancellor Palpatine is granted more executive powers in Revenge of the Sith.
Obi-Wan, deeply worried, explains to Anakin, “The Senate is expected to vote more executive powers to the Chancellor.” Anakin’s response is, “Well, that can only mean less deliberating and more action. Is that bad? It will make it easier for us to end this war.”
Palpatine then begins to completely revolutionize the government, ultimately changing it from the Galactic Republic to the Galactic Empire. Thus, Emperor Palpatine is born and soon by his side will be Anakin Skywalker, agreeing to such an arrangement partially because he seeks both the power of authority and the power of the Sith. He can learn through Palpatine such Sith powers that he was denied by the Jedi. Together, as Emperor Palpatine and Lord Darth Vader, they will rule the galaxy and, as Anakin once suggested, they can force people to agree with them.
3. Arrogance and anger
Near the end of the Clone Wars, even after Anakin Skywalker has proven himself and serves on the Jedi Council, the Council denies him the official rank of Jedi Master. This angers Anakin, who responds, “This is outrageous! How can you be on the council and not be a master?”
This leads to a moment in Revenge of the Sith that perfectly reflects the perspectives of how Anakin and Obi-Wan differ in the way they see the world around them. Anakin expresses to Obi-Wan in private that he is insulted because such a circumstance has never happened before. Obi-Wan, in turn, points out that Anakin should instead be honored because someone as young as him has never served on the Council before. Whereas Obi-Wan sees the positive, Anakin sees the negative, especially when it directly effects his ambitions.
The fact that Skywalker feels held back, if not suppressed, by the Jedi Council, serves as what he believes is justification for his anger. Even though he apologizes to them for his reaction, his true emotions have been exposed. A theme in Anakin’s turn to the dark side is that he believes he is fully in the right to act on his anger.
He later walks in on Jedi Master Mace Windu trying to kill Palpatine. Even though Anakin knew Palpatine was the Sith Lord and he was actually the one who informed Windu as such, Anakin believes that Palpatine should be arrested and have a trial. Since Windu disagrees and since Anakin needs Palpatine alive for reasons we’ll explian later, Skywalker saves Palpatine, helping kill Windu in the process. The circumstances easily help Palpatine convince Anakin that the Jedi are the enemy and that they are trying to overthrow the Republic. He tells Anakin that they must be destroyed.
With Palpatine’s further manipulation, and in an attempt to protect the galaxy from the future influence of the Jedi, Anakin walks into the Jedi temple and kills all the Jedi he sees, including the Padawan children. He relies on his fury and newfound hatred for the Jedi to help himself validate such a horrendous act. It’s not the first time he killed innocent children, either.
Three years earlier, Anakin dreamt of his mother dying while being held captive and thus tried, but ultimately failed, to save her. Understandably, he quickly built anger for the Tusken Raiders who were responsible for her death. That anger exerted itself in the murder of the entire encampment of Tusken Raiders, including women and children, as Anakin spared no one in his revenge. He ultimately confessed this to his soon-to-be wife (who apparently didn’t see this as a serious red flag) and goes about his merry way fighting as one of the good guys in the universe.
Toward what becomes the end of the Clone Wars, Anakin dreams of his pregnant wife soon dying in childbirth, bringing back the reality of the dream he had of his mother. His fear of this actually happening causes him to make a decision that secures his path to the dark side. In a cruel twist of irony, it is then his own anger that contributes to her death.
In Revenge of the Sith, Yoda tells Anakin, “The fear of loss is a path to the dark side.” This statement, meant to be a warning to him, sadly becomes prophetic instead.
Most Star Wars fans will say that Anakin’s turn can be pinned down to his desire to save his wife Padmé. Of course, as you can probably see by now, it’s not that simple. However, that desire can be argued to be the strongest personal reason for his turn. Such a desire is fueled by his fear of losing the one thing he loves the most. That fear leads him to make one very foolish decision.
As the Supreme Chancellor, Seev Palpatine tells Anakin Skywalker that a Sith Lord discovered the power to prevent someone from ever dying. Later, when Palpatine reveals himself to be a Sith Lord, he tells Skywalker that he can teach him such Sith powers if he becomes his apprentice. This proves too irresistible to Skywalker, who desperately wants to prevent the death of his wife. Of course, Skywalker already feels that Palpatine is something of a mentor to him, so this is not a far-fetched moment ⏤ until Palpatine then claims that he hasn’t personally discovered the power himself but that he believes, with Anakin’s help, they can discover it together. At this point, Skywalker should have realized that he’d been fooled, yet he seems totally fine with this revelation (which some might see as the most laughable part of the script).
1. It’s his destiny
When Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn crosses paths with a child named Anakin Skywalker, events follow that make him believe that Anakin is the Chosen One. It’s believed that said Chosen One will “bring balance to the Force.” What does that even mean? In short, it simply means that Anakin was “meant to destroy the Sith,” as Obi-Wan says.
After being trained for several years by Obi-Wan, it’s apparent that Anakin becomes fully aware of how his abilities often exceed those of many Jedi. This, combined with constantly being called the Chosen One (a prophecy that has existed for an extremely long time in Jedi circles), indirectly lead to some of Anakin’s previously noted emotional issues. For instance, he becomes arrogant and, when he is not recognized or treated as a dude that’s supposed to be the Chosen One, grows angry.
There is a great diversity in the portrayal of Anakin Skywalker between the films and the Clone Wars series. Hayden Christensen doesn’t shy away from portraying Anakin as annoyed, angered, and overconfident (as the script offers). However, Anakin is portrayed as a much more fun and fairly happy character in the Clone Wars series. Despite this head-scratching decision by the Clone Wars creators, Anakin still shows his arrogance, but just in other ways, mostly reserving them for disobeying orders (which is often laughed off since he’s almost always proven right for disobeying them).
Ahsoka Tano, Obi-Wan’s Padawan that Anakin ends up being responsible for, is entirely a creation of the Clone Wars series, which was made after Revenge of the Sith. After years of fighting by Anakin’s side, Ahsoka leaves the Jedi Order, and the severing of this relationship between teacher and student ultimately serves as another reason for Anakin’s turn.
Also in the Clone Wars series, Anakin dreams of his future as Darth Vader, which only helps solidify that it is indeed his destiny. Even the Chosen One prophecy actually proves true. In Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader destroys Emperor Palpatine who, of course, is the Sith Lord. George Lucas has even stated that this act proves that Anakin is the Chosen One.
Disney did decide to resurrect the Emperor, showing him being kept alive by machines but, even in this Disney version of the storyline, the damage from Darth Vader proves to be too much to overcome, as portrayed in Rise of Skywalker.
In short, Anakin goes on to kill countless people, but he is also responsible for killing the Sith Lord, so it’s all good! It would appear that the Force works in mysterious ways.