The next time you watch the prequel trilogy or Star Wars: The Clone Wars, pay particular attention to Palpatine. When you start tracking the subtle way he guides conversations and popular sentiment, you may find yourself marveling at him. He’s quite impressive in the original trilogy as well, but if you visit earlier periods, you can see his devotion to his twisted plan. Palpatine was a masterful and patient manipulator. Emphasis on the word patient. He put things in motion long before we saw him in The Phantom Menace and carefully played countless people like pianos. His intelligence coupled with his desire for power makes him one of the most formidable villains you’ll encounter in fiction.
Whether you’re pro-Empire or not, you should note Palpatine’s commitment and follow through. He rarely wasted an opportunity to turn the tides in his favor. These six moments were key in helping Palpatine become the Emperor.
Getting Queen Amidala to call for a vote of no confidence.
Palpatine flexes his muscles subtly in The Phantom Menace. It may look obvious to us, but in the context of the film, it’s understandable that Padmé Amidala and others would be taken in. Senator Palpatine hits just the right notes when talking about Chancellor Finis Valorum and the blockade of Naboo. Amidala’s call for a vote of no confidence was an important step in advancing Palpatine’s political position.
Pretending to be attacked by Fives.
At the beginning of the sixth season of The Clone Wars, we see Tup’s Order 66 programming get triggered prematurely. Fives and Shaak Ti push the Kaminoans for answers and eventually discover the clones have inhibitor chips in their brains. Tup’s chip degraded. When Shaak Ti and Fives take evidence to Chancellor Palpatine, he separates Fives to talk to him alone and then pretends Fives attacks him. Palpatine uses the “incident” to make a case for the inhibitor chips and ensures they stay in place for his use and successfully deceives the Jedi.
Putting Anakin Skywalker on the Jedi Council.
Much of Palpatine’s efforts are centered on shaping Anakin into the perfect apprentice. He continually compliments Anakin, insults the Jedi Order both passively aggressively and directly and says they’re fools for not seeing Anakin’s potential, and on and on. His constant stream of praise feeds Anakin’s ego so that by the time Palpatine appoints him to the Jedi Council, Anakin believes he deserves it. Then, when he’s not elevated to the rank of Jedi Master, Palpatine is there to listen. The effects upon Anakin are further compounded when Obi-Wan Kenobi asks him to spy on Palpatine. The Jedi and Anakin played right into Palpatine’s greedy hands.
Telling Anakin about Darth Plagueis.
The opera house scene in Revenge of the Sith has galactic repercussions. Palpatine tells Anakin the story of Darth Plagueis the Wise and hints that the Sith could manipulate midi-chlorians and prevent death (this scene leads many fans to believe Palpatine was responsible for bringing Anakin into existence) and thusly exploits Anakin’s feelings and concerns for Padmé. Palpatine reveals he learned from Plagueis and talks to Anakin about the dark side. He takes Anakin to the edge of a precipice. Which leads to…
Pitting Anakin against the Jedi.
When it’s discovered that Palpatine is the Sith the Jedi have been looking for, Mace Windu takes three Jedi to arrest him. Palpatine plays the scene carefully — as usual — and when Windu has him within reach, Palpatine uses the moment to convince Anakin that the Jedi are trying to take over the government. After Windu dies, Palpatine further squeezes Anakin and orders him to wipe out the remaining Jedi because they pose a threat.
Laying the trap for Luke Skywalker.
As soon as Darth Vader mentions the young Rebel from the Battle of Yavin to the Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back, you can practically see the wheels turning. Palpatine seemed to know who Luke Skywalker was and started planning. He leads Vader to suggesting that Luke should be turned to the dark side and then during Return of the Jedi, he basically waits for Luke to arrive. He leverages Luke’s feelings about his friends — concern and anger — and pits father against son. Palpatine set himself up to win because either Vader or Luke could serve as apprentice, but for once, things didn’t work out as planned.
The list includes just a few of the times Palpatine carefully moved pawns into place to set up his endgame. Which scenes would you add to the list?