The Star Wars Deep Dive is a StarWars.com feature that explores themes, motifs, and characters from across the saga.
Mace Windu and Anakin Skywalker were two Jedi always at odds with each other. From the moment they met in The Phantom Menace, they viewed each other with suspicion, distrust, and skepticism. Mace Windu had no interest in training Anakin when he first arrived, and regarded him with distrust through his entire career. Anakin respected Windu’s power, but his trust in the Jedi was slowly shaken, in part due to Palpatine’s machinations. It was never seen more acutely than when Anakin was appointed by Palpatine to the Jedi Council and practically threw a tantrum when Windu denied him the rank of master. As Master Yoda departs to Kashyyyk, Windu confides in the ancient Grand Master of the Jedi order that he doesn’t trust Anakin at all, particularly when it comes to Palpatine.
As their stories bridge together at their respective ends — Anakin in his last moments before succumbing to the Vader identity and Mace before his inevitable death — it’s interesting to see how Palpatine has manipulated them to think they’re both willing to do right and wrong for reasons that are both good and bad.
In order for us to see it, let’s walk through that fateful scene through the eyes of both Mace Windu and Anakin Skywalker.
First, imagine the scene from Mace Windu’s perspective:
Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, who has clung to power far longer than he ought to have been able to, turns out to be the Sith Lord under the noses of the Jedi. The person bringing you this information is none other than Anakin Skywalker and something doesn’t feel right about any of it. But if he’s right, it means dire things for the galaxy. You’re one of the most powerful Jedi ever, and you go to arrest the Chancellor for his treachery in manufacturing both sides of the war. Palpatine proceeds to murder the team you brought with you. In a prolonged lightsaber fight, you’re finally able to disarm the Sith Lord and are ready to pounce. With the Senate and the courts in his control as well as public opinion, he’s too dangerous to be left alive. He’s a Sith. This is what they do.
Palpatine had led the Jedi so far from their own ideals, one step at a time, that you can hardly recognize yourself by the end of the war.
As you’re about to strike the killing blow against the Chancellor, that same distrustful Jedi comes in the room, the same one you ordered to stay at the Jedi Temple. Anakin Skywalker. And he’s conflicted. Killing Palpatine like this isn’t the Jedi way. And he’s right. It’s not. But what else can you do? As a master on the Jedi council, one would hope that the Jedi Knight would listen to your superior wisdom about the Sith and allow you to end this once and for all.
It makes perfect sense.
Now imagine the scene from Anakin’s perspective:
You’ve done what you were supposed to do. Despite your misgivings about the Jedi, about how they drove your apprentice from the order, about how they’ve asked you to do things against the Jedi Code, you still report to them the information they need. Your friend Palpatine, who has always seemed to care about you in a way the Jedi didn’t, is the Sith Lord everyone has been looking for. You’re one of the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy, the chosen one said to bring balance to the Force, and you want a chance to prove yourself by helping bring the Sith to justice. And you’re told no. You’re told that if the information is correct then maybe the other Jedi will trust you. When you sense something brewing and arrive on the scene, you walk into what looks to be an execution. An unarmed Palpatine is cowering in a corner and Mace Windu is threatening to murder him.
Mace’s excuse? “He has control of the senate and the courts. He’s too dangerous to be left alive.”
There is no system in the galaxy on which this is the Jedi way. And you remind your master of that. Palpatine should stand trial for two reasons. First, that’s the way the system works. Second, if he’s dead, he can’t help you save your wife.
So, you remind Mace Windu that it’s not the Jedi way. And you’re right.
When he raises his saber hand to strike, what other option do you have but to react?
If you want to erode trust in an organization, you need to be careful in your manipulations and Palpatine preyed on Anakin in all of the right ways. But his plan also eroded the Jedi in the same way he eroded Anakin’s trust in them.
This is why you have Anakin and Mace both believing, absolutely, that they’re doing the right thing. But Anakin goes about it the wrong way. Cutting Mace Windu’s arm off isn’t any more the Jedi way than killing Palpatine would be. Mace knows the corruption brought by the Sith. Eliminating Palpatine is absolutely the right thing to do. But he’s also going about it the wrong way based on his personal philosophy and dogma as a Jedi. Killing an unarmed opponent who has asked for mercy isn’t the Jedi way.
Mace Windu is doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. Anakin is doing the wrong thing for the right reasons.
There are heroes on both sides and evil is everywhere, indeed.
The conflict between Mace and Anakin in this moment is really the brilliance of Palpatine. He manipulates good people to do the worst things or act in the worst ways. His power in the dark side is to corrupt absolutely. He didn’t just bring about the downfall of the Jedi because of Order 66. He disintegrated everything they stood for and got them to betray their own ways while thinking they were all doing the right thing.