Palpatine: A Villain through the Ages

Fresh off my Star Wars binge, I am very much still in a Star Wars mood – so what better time to talk about my favorite character that appears in all three trilogies: Sheev Palpatine. Now I’m not one to unhealthy obsess over the villain of the story – I mean I didn’t even like Loki – but I can’t lie, Palpatine has been one of my favorite characters for a long time now. Not in spite of his evil and conniving nature – but because of it. He tricks a whole Galaxy into doing his bidding all by the power of his own subtle political influence. And at the end of the Prequel trilogy this mastermind has won so thoroughly that the Heroes have to go into hiding for twenty years. When the light side does win a victory over good old (or would that be bad old) Palpatine, it’s in the form of the next generation, rather than the original heroes rising up and beating back the dark side. And even then, they don’t manage to kill him.

I could go on and on like this until the end of the post, but since that doesn’t exactly sound entertaining – here’s something completely different. As I’ve already mentioned Palpatine is one of the few characters that carries over into all three trilogies. However unlike say characters like C3PO or R2D2 – Palpatine does not have a consistency to his portrayal. Yet as we can observe, unlike Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader – this lack of consistency to Palpatine’s characterization stems not from extensive character development but, rather a shift in the direction of each trilogy. What do I mean? Well, let’s take a look at all three of them – and I’ll lay it out.

Prequel Palpatine – is a subtle, politically savvy politician, who just so happens to also be a dark lord of the Sith. His plan to control a galaxy through fear and a phony war is brilliant and well thought out, and when at last our heroes catch on to what he’s doing, this dark lord of the sith is sufficiently powerful enough to either turn them or overpower them. If we were to look at this from a more Meta angle we might say that this, more controlled and subtle Palpatine, reflects the tightly plotted nature of the prequels. Who, even if you didn’t enjoy them, you have to admit were the most planned out – plot wise – of all three trilogies.

Original Palpatine (or rather ‘The Emperor’ since I don’t think I heard him referred to Palpatine once in the entire original trilogy) – is at the height of his power and influence. He builds giant space stations, that blow up planets and reigns with a steel grip around the Galaxy. He is also, I’d like to point out, at the height of his madness. All subtlety is gone out the spaceport, and replaced now with the slow creeping decay of a man that once had to think for his power, and now has no need for that at all. This version of Sheev Palpatine we might say, represents the Original trilogy’s more … and there’s no way to say this without it sounding like an insult … simplistic morality of war. This Palpatine doesn’t have to be subtle in his evil nature, because the Original Trilogy’s civil war didn’t spring from the manipulation of politicians, but rather their obvious corruption. Luke doesn’t have to feel bad about blowing up the deathstar, because it blew up Alderaan.

Just a brief WARNING, before we go on – this next park may contain major spoilers.

Sequel Palpatine – is an entirely different creature, from both previous incarnations. A rotting corpse hidden within the unknown regions of the Galaxy, relying on Darth Stupid – yes, that’s what I call Kylo Ren – to bring his granddaughter home, so he can take possession of her body. I think that’s his plan, it’s not clear. Whatever the case, the whole plan feels less impressive than controlling the Galaxy through a phony civil war and blowing up planets. It’s also quite notable that unlike his earlier incarnations, Palpatine only appears in the last movie of the Sequel Trilogy. Sure they claim he was controlling everything from within the shadows, but even knowing that supposed fact, we feel none of his presence in the other two films. Ultimately, this Palpatine’s plan feels more improvised than the other two, possibly reflecting the sharp directional twists and turns the Sequel Trilogy is known to demonstrate. Is the force all about the Jedi and the Sith, or does it belong to anyone? Is Rey in love with Finn or Kylo? Who knows, and who cares, it’s romantic love in the Star Wars Universe, it’s not like it would last anyway. I don’t mean to cut down a series of films that I enjoyed, but I can’t help but note that the inclusion of Palpatine in the final film – and only the final film – gives this incarnation a feeling of being shoved in at the end to please the nostalgia of hardcore Star Wars fans. Which…is something that possibly reflects the shift of power between fan and creator in our age of social media – for not since Jaja Binks has fan reaction so impacted the direction of a character.

So there we have it, three trilogies, three men with the face of Palpatine – and everyone has a favorite. For me, it will always be the prequels – what can I say I was raised on them, they’ll always have a special place in my heart. But what about you, what’s your favorite version of old Palps? Do you enjoy the genius of the Prequels? The Dark side’s living incarnate of the Originals? Or the nostalgic corpse of the Sequels? Comment down below if any of them particularly calls out to you. If you’ve enjoyed this little exploration of my totally not creepy obsession on the most evil character in Star Wars History, make sure to follow the Wee Blog if you haven’t already. Also check me out and follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook and Goodreads. And sign up for the Wee Mailing List, for all new content. Stay vigilant, get plenty of Sun and, until next time my Wee Readers, may the force be with you.