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Considering Canon – The Emperor/Vader Conversation

Considering Canon – The Emperor/Vader Conversation

#starwarscanon: Considering Canon – The Emperor/Vader Conversation in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Please note, this article contains spoilers for Marvel Comics Darth Vader 001-012.

While the current canon content for Star Wars is in its infant stages, various eras have already begun filling in with stories.  Most notably, the time span between Episode IV: A New Hope and Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, has been a playground for various authors.  Looking at Marvel’s Darth Vader series, we will show how a particular scene can be understood differently within the context of canon stories.

Oftentimes when discussing Star Wars, we try to uncover the motivation and thought process behind dialogue and actions.  Let us consider this particular scene from the DVD release of Empire, when the Emperor makes contact with Darth Vader during the Asteroid Field chase.  Underneath, I have written one interpretation of the motivation behind each line considering only the content of the films.

Emperor/Vader

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

VADER: What is thy bidding, my master?
A formality.  Vader knows he is in the full service of his master.

EMPEROR: There is a great disturbance in the force.
The emperor has sensed something strong and powerful, and is concerned. There is probably also some concern about telling Vader the truth, since at this point he doesn’t know about his son.

VADER: I have felt it.
Vader, too, has felt the disturbance.

EMPEROR: We have a new enemy. The young rebel who destroyed the Death Star. I have no doubt this boy is the offspring of Anakin Skywalker.
The Emperor is revealing to Vader the truth. After lying to him on Mustafar, he is not going to be too happy. Also, this supports the idea that the Emperor treated Anakin and Vader as two separate people, so as not to encourage too much attachment between Anakin and Luke.

VADER: How is that possible?
Vader is shocked by the news, thinking that there is no way his child would be alive.

EMPEROR: Search your feelings Lord Vader, you know it to be true.  He could destroy us.
The Emperor sees that Vader is not as upset as perhaps he could be. He encourages Vader to tap into the knowledge of the force to discover that what he is saying is true.  If he appeals to the threat that Luke poses, perhaps that will show him that the only way forward is to eliminate Luke.

VADER: He’s just a boy. Obi-wan can no longer help him.
Vader, concerned that what the Emperor is saying is true, tries to downplay Luke’s abilities, perhaps leading the Emperor away from the idea of pursuing him.

EMPEROR: The force is strong with him. The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.
The Emperor strongly believes that there is a chance Luke could learn to use the force to defeat them.

VADER: If he could be turned, he would become a powerful ally.
Vader has a thought: If he is my son, I’d rather turn him to the Dark Side and perhaps we could overthrow the Emperor together.

EMPEROR: Yes, he would be a great asset. Can it be done?
Emperor also has a thought: Hmm… perhaps this kid could be stronger than Vader. A younger, more powerful apprentice.

VADER: He will join us, or die, master.
Vader, not wishing the Emperor to catch onto his scheme, appears to show his devotion to the Emperor which may include killing his own son.

But wait… back it up… early on in the film, when Admiral Ozzel is examining the probe droid telemetry, Vader exclaims: “That’s it, the rebels are there… and I’m sure Skywalker is with them.”  For years, many have cited this as a continuity error of the continued edits on the film.  Various attempts to explain this dialogue and apparent realization of Luke’s lineage sometimes even got to the point of a “who shot first” discussion.  However, now considering canon content, this scene takes on a whole new life.

Vader006

Marvel Comic – Star Wars: Darth Vader #006

Marvel Comics Darth Vader 006 (Vader, Part VI) shows us clearly that Darth Vader had discovered Luke’s identity as a Skywalker.  He spent the following story arc, Shadows and Secrets, on a quest to confirm that Padme did indeed give birth to a boy.  We also saw in Darth Vader 006 that he had deliberately hidden this knowledge from Emperor Palpatine.

Vader was also struggling to hold onto his position as the Sith Lord, as Palpatine had recruited several enhanced cybernetic beings, telling all of them (including Vader) that he only needed one apprentice, which fits in with the Sith’s Rule of Two.  This scheme to create beings to challenge Vader was hatched shortly after Order 66.  Vader was forced to face them in order to maintain his control and power within the Empire.  While Vader’s whole conversion to the Dark Side was based on faith that Palpatine could show him a better life, it seems that Palpatine valued nothing in their relationship outside of Vader’s raw power.

The combination of these things led Vader to the conclusion that he needs to find his son, and together they could over throw the Emperor and rule the galaxy.  This idea is similar to the way Anakin was talking with Padme at the end of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, telling her that they could rule the galaxy together.

Considering this story, the previous scene reads completely differently:

VADER: What is thy bidding, my master?
A formality.  Vader knows he is in the full service of his master. 

EMPEROR: There is a great disturbance in the force.
The emperor has sensed something strong and powerful, and is concerned. There is probably also some concern about telling Vader the truth, since at this point he doesn’t know about his son.

VADER: I have felt it.
Vader, not wanting to give too much away, simply agrees with the Emperor, trying to figure out what he is up to this time.

EMPEROR: We have a new enemy. The young rebel who destroyed the Death Star. I have no doubt this boy is the offspring of Anakin Skywalker.
The Emperor is revealing to Vader that he knows the truth. Does he suspect that Vader has been up to something recently, or is he completely in the dark?  Perhaps the Emperor himself has just discovered the truth.  However, it seems that the Emperor does not know that Vader knows.

VADER: How is that possible?
Vader leads the Emperor to believe that this information is new to him.  However, he already knows all this information.  Plans have to change, and Vader needs to figure out how to continue to chase after Luke now that the Emperor knows about his heritage.

EMPEROR: Search your feelings Lord Vader, you know it to be true.  He could destroy us.
It seems the Emperor believes that Vader did not know the truth.  That’s good.  Perhaps he has been completely engulfed and any remnants of the old Anakin are gone.

VADER: He’s just a boy. Obi-wan can no longer help him.
Vader tries to lead the Emperor off of Luke’s trail.  He would rather the Emperor not get involve, or else it may threaten his plan to take over the galaxy.

EMPEROR: The force is strong with him. The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.
Just like with any force user, the Emperor is threatened by them. Hence the Inquisitors.

VADER: If he could be turned, he would become a powerful ally.
Vader has a thought: If the Emperor cannot be talked out of the threat, perhaps I can convince him that Luke would make a good ally.  That would make it even easier to get them in the same room to destroy the Emperor.  Perhaps the Emperor could be made to think Luke could be an inquisitor or something. 

EMPEROR: Yes, he would be a great asset. Can it be done?
Emperor also has a thought: Hmm… perhaps this kid could be stronger than Vader. A younger, more powerful, apprentice. I don’t want to turn Vader against me, so I better not say much more.

VADER: He will join us, or die, master.
Vader, not wishing the Emperor to catch onto his scheme, appears to show his devotion to the Emperor which may include killing his own son.

Let me know your thoughts by posting in the comments below. You can reach me at jbrame@coffeewithkenobi.com. I can also be found on twitter: @starwarstce.  You can find our coverage of #starwarscanon stories at our YouTube channel Star Wars: The Canon Explained.

There are stories about what happened… #itstrueallofit

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2 Comments

  1. RogueJoe (@RogueLieutenant)
    February 5, 2016 at 08:48 Reply

    The “Skywalker is with them” line is still odd, even in this context. if he was keeping the whole Skywalker thing to himself, why was he just dropping the name in front of other Imperials, who would obviously be more loyal to the Emperor than Vader. i’m sure the Emperor has ears around what Vader’s up to when he’s aboard Star Destroyers and whatnot.

    If Vader spoke the name Skywalker out loud aboard a Star Destroyer, it’s not far fetched to assume the Emperor knew about it, especially if this lead other imperials to talk about who this Skywalker is that Vader was so intent on finding…

    1. SW:TheCanonExplained (@StarWarsTCE)
      February 5, 2016 at 19:56 Reply

      Interesting point. I think we will find more layers to this relationship as the Darth Vader comic continues. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Emperor knew that Vader knew.

      Also, we can see the comic trending towards more of the Empire knowing about Luke. Even in the comics we have agents of the Emperor who work for Grand General Tagge. I wouldn’t be surprised if they find out Luke’s name.

      There are probably many more ways to interpret this scene as well, and I think there will be even more layers added on as canon stories develope.

      Thanks for the thoughts!

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