Vader vs. Palpatine

Hello everyone and welcome to Monday Star Wars talk. As usual, we’ll be delving into issues in that galaxy far far away, and today I want to delve into who is the ultimate villain of the saga. Is it Vader, or his master, Palpatine?

To answer this question, we need perspective. Both of them are instrumental in ruling the galaxy. Both have tremendous command of the force and both are willing to do anything to get the job done. Plus, they both keep each other on their toes, whether it’s Palpatine testing Vader at every turn or Vader trying to acquire an apprentice to overthrow his master, the similarities between the two are remarkable.

The difference, of course, is that only one of them gets a well rounded story. Palpatine is simply evil, plain and simple. There’s no hint of the light side in him, and no hope that he can be stopped by anything other than brute force. Vader, on the other hand, is a man broken and haunted by his past yet unable to escape the trap he is in. The saga allows us to watch Vader grow from a young child to the twisted Sith Lord he becomes, and that gives him a presence onscreen like few others.

So, knowing that Vader can be good and Palpatine is not, does that give the win to Palpatine? I don’t believe so, and I’ll explain why. While Palpatine is the author of all the evil in the saga, he isn’t the one the audience connects with. Part of the reason Vader’s story is so tragic is because we can see why he behaves the way he does. We expect Palpatine to be evil. Vader is making a choice to be, and that’s ultimately what I believe makes him a better villain. While Palpatine’s presence is magnificent and his portrayal is top notch, Vader edges him in the mind of the audience. Not to mention, it is Vader who puts our heroes through hell directly, as he is the face of the empire in the films he is in. As powerful as Palpatine is, it is Vader that is still the most recognized Star Wars villain around.

That’s my two cents anyway. Feel free to let me know if you disagree. I’ll talk to you guys next week.

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