Vader ROTJ question


Master Member
I saw the OT during its initial release (1977 - 1983). And I never really gave it much thought until now. Please follow my thought process here, it's a little bit convoluted, I know.

(Remember,this all before the 1999 TPM Sith Rule of two, etc)

In TESB, Vader tries to get Luke to join him, and together defeat the Emperor and then rule the galaxy as father and son. I believe Vader was sincere in this scene, and if Luke had surrendered to Vader, then Vader would not have just "delivered" him to the Emperor and risk being replaced himself. Which implies that Vader cannot defeat the Emperor on his own, and he is willing to betray his Master to gain power (or possible just to escape from its grip?)

In ROTJ, We learn early on that the Emperor is aware that Vader desires to seek after Luke. "Patience, my friend" Certainly, Palpatine would have thought that the two of them might team up to overthrow him, right?

Then, Vader realizes that Luke is on shuttle Tydirium (and Luke knows that Vader is present on the Star Destroyer). Rather than stick a tractor beam on the shuttle, bring it in, and capture everyone on board, Vader lets it go so the Rebels can start their plan. Which implies that either Vader was conflicted about what to do (i.e. let the Rebels attack the second death star) or capture Luke now, quickly, and defeat the Rebel plan before it ever gets underway. In other words, Vader seems willing to let the Rebels potentially attack the death star rather than nipping it in the bud right now. Why risk that possibility?

Then, Vader has a guilty conscience and goes back to the death star to personally tell Palpatine that the Rebels have landed on the moon (which Palpatine already knows). When Vader reveals that Luke is with them, Palpatine is surprised that he himself did not sense Luke's presence. "I wonder if your feelings are clear on this matter, Lord Vader" Palpatine has to be a little bit concerned at this point.

When Luke later hands himself over to Vader on the moon of Endor, he offers Vader a chance to join him and change. Vader refuses, and delivers him to Palpatine. Why not team up with Luke, hatch a plan to both attack Palpatine on the death star together? At one point, that is clearly what Vader wanted.

When Luke lashes out at Palpatine with his saber, Vader blocks the blow. Again... why?

Vader seems mostly impotent throughout ROTJ up until the very end. Has he resolved himself to the fact, after the events of TESB, that he cannot take down Palpatine or rule in his place? Wouldn't he have known that, once Palpatine had Luke as an apprentice, Vader would be the first to go? So, by handing Luke over to Palaptine, he was signing his own death certificate.

OK, I need some sleep.....
Good points. I think the conceit in ROTJ is that the Emperor doesn't think Vader would ever betray him in a million years. He is completely blind to the possibility. He thinks he can turn or kill his son right in front of him and Vader's loyalty to Palpy will prevail. He's the master and Vader's his servant, full stop.

But yeah, Vader did flip flop around, didn't he? I agree his ESB father-son thought was genuine but by ROTJ he has indeed accepted his place below Palpy, with only occasional twinges of Luke-inspired doubt here and there. Thus can only bring himself to betray Palpy when the death of his son is happening and it hits him where it hurts.
For me, that conflict is not a contradiction, but genuine conflict...arguably one of the most interesting things about the story (and tragically absent in the prequels).

There's actually a lot of subtext going on there. Also I think the emperor is well aware that Vader is considering betrayal, a Sith has to always be aware of that. But he can always play both sides...Are you and the kid going to team up against me? How do you know me and the kid arent going to team against you? You're the one he has Daddy issues with, not me.

So you have the three way of older and more experienced....young with more potential...and Dad in the middle, maybe the best and worst of both. How's it going to go?

But in any scenario, both are in a position to want Luke to turn. Only then can it play out to see which pairing wins. Even from Palpatines POV...if Luke were to turn, but Vader proved the stronger, having Vader kill his own son would only further cement his place on the dark side...end of inner conflict. If he were to turn, the risk of having him join Vader against the Emperor is mitigated by the fact that he has more reason to hate Vader. Both hate him, and consider him to be weak and unworthy. The only scenario where the odds don't favor the Emperor is what happened: Luke DOESNT turn and Vader sides with him anyway, which the Emperor never considered possible.

From Vader's point of view...The father son thing sounds good, but otherwise just going to have to kill the kid anyway...he's either with me or against me. Vader also doesn't consider Luke not turning as possible...which is why when it happens, it forces him to consider what he had not previously been able to face: his own redemption.

which is why I dislike Ep 3 so much...we replaced that subtext conflict with "I'm kind of Emo and no one understands yeah...let's do the bad guy thing."
Somewhere I read an opinion that, up until the fight in the throne room, Vader had bought - hook, line, and sinker - Yoda's philosophy that once you turn to the Dark Side, there's no turning back. But Luke, after flirting with the Dark Side in his attack on Vader (following Vader's comments about Leia,) turns away from it, proving Yoda wrong. That's when Vader realized he still had a chance.
I like that idea, but Anakin turned to the dark side quite a bit before going full Vader, and he always managed to come back and do good stuff afterwards.

I just don't think he was prepared to let Luke die, he might have been before, when Luke was fighting him on Bespin, but when Luke specifically refused to kill him, that was when he realised he still had chance to do one last good thing in his life.
Remember we're speaking from the POV of the filmmakers around 1982, so prequel refs aren't relevant. ;)

I like Tom's thought. AJTaliesen's makes a lot of sense, too, only I disagree about the Emperor; not because it doesn't make sense (which it does) but because that subtext is pure speculation. No hint of awareness of possible betrayal was ever given in the film. His surprise when it happened (and the mere fact he wasn't keeping an eye on Vader at that moment, just in case) shows that he wasn't expecting a thing.
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Remember we're speaking from the POV of the filmmakers around 1982, so prequel refs aren't relevant. ;)

I like Tom's thought. AJTaliesen's makes a lot of sense, too, only I disagree about the Emperor; not because it doesn't make sense (which it does) but because that subtext is pure speculation. No hint of awareness of possible betrayal was ever given in the film. His surprise when it happened (and the mere fact he wasn't keeping an eye on Vader at that moment, just in case) shows that he wasn't expecting a thing.

Oh you're right. A lot of this is speculation on my part (though I cant take full credit. Others have speculated before). In this case though, I like that it gave me the room to speculate. It actually annoys me when directors come along later and destroy the cool options by telling us exactly what the character thought. I prefer it when they give us a little room to examine them on our own.

One of the best of all time for this is Godfather part 1. How much did Vito know and when did he know it. He said he didn't know that it was Barzini until the meeting, but was his whole reason for going, the hopes of unmasking the guy? Was it just to bring Michael home or was he already working the bigger plan from the moment Tom told him about Sonny? Did he know even earlier that there was still an unknown player and that's why he turned down the Tattaglia deal in the first place that started it? Because he suspected there was another Don involved who hadn't made his move yet?

It's part of what makes the story so elegant, that there's room to speculate on what the main character was thinking. Clearly Vito knew more than was apparent to the audience, so did Michael, but how much, and how soon did they know it?
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Vader is a slave to the Dark Side. That Anakin literally is a slave when we first meet is a metaphor for what comes later. Family is a core theme in the saga, and Vader symbolically is the oppressed son of the seemingly all-powerful father who he secretly wishes to emancipate himself from. Vader says "I must obey," and he truly believes that and attempts to recruit Luke because he can't break free of Palpatine's bonds alone; he doesn't have the Force strength or the emotional fortitude. Luke's love and forgiveness (he is real family) empowers Vader to break Palpatine/the Dark Side's hold.

That's the long, complicated answer. Then short one is that Vader is a screw-up with a good tailor. He doesn't get anything right.

I need some sleep, too.
I think Vader would have teamed up with Luke IF Luke went to the Dark Side. Luke in ROTJ, was offering for Vader to join him, not the other way around. As for the Emperor's knowledge of it, a Sith Lord expects his apprentice to turn on him when the apprentice thinks he or she has become more powerful than the Master. That's the idea behind the Rule of Two, that the strong always survive and the weak are culled. Sidious tells that to Anakin in the opera in ROTS, that he learned all he could from his master then killed him in his sleep.

That's the thing I don't get people complaining about the Prequels, that they can't figure out how the Emperor was more powerful than all the Jedi. It's because all the power of the Dark Side is concentrated into two people. Otherwise someone with 900 years of experience would never be able to be defeated by someone so young (Sidious).
I was just watching that last duel in ROTJ again, and suddenly got a new perspective on part of it.

All this time I took this bit:
Give yourself to the Dark Side. It is the only way you can save your friends
as extortion on Vader's part - "Submit to the Emperor and myself and we'll spare Han/Leia/Chewie."

Now I wonder if he meant "You won't be able to beat me (much less the Emperor) unless you embrace the Dark Side. It's the only way you can win."

How does everyone else read that line?
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