Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the Dark Side of the Force is essential to a lot of the Star Wars franchise. His story is central to both the original trilogy and the prequels.
Sure, there were plenty of things in play well before Qui-Gon Jinn rescued Anakin and insisted on his Jedi training. However, most everything in the films can be traced back directly to Anakin as he becomes a powerful Jedi and is then lured in by the power of the Dark Side. In fact, George Lucas himself has collectively referred to the first six Star Wars films as “the tragedy of Darth Vader.”
But Anakin didn’t join the Dark Side of his own volition. He was seduced by Chancellor Palpatine and his empty promises of what the Dark Side could do for him. And ultimately, Palpatine–who was secretly Darth Sidious–succeeded in convincing Anakin and kicking off his well-concerted plan. However, while certainly influential, it is not the Sith who are to blame. Most of that blame can actually be placed squarely on the shoulders of the Jedi Council.
By now, I’m sure all Star Wars fans are aware of who the Jedi Council was. This body of Jedi Masters governed the entirety of the Jedi Order. You could find them in the Jedi Grand Temple on Coruscant. It was here that they worked with the Galactic Senate in an effort to maintain peace and justice in the Republic.
Eventually, their efforts to maintain peace and justice are what led to them getting involved in the Clone Wars. They were essentially fighting for the Republic in the war even though the Jedi supposedly preferred peace.
Of course, we know now that the entire conflict was part of Darth Sidious’ grand plan. He sparked the Separatist Crisis himself and drew the Jedi in. The entire thing was orchestrated, instigated, and eventually resolved by Sidious, unbeknownst to the majority of those involved.
Darth Sidious did all of this because he was gunning for the Chosen One to become his new apprentice so they could wipe out the Jedi (and certainly did plenty of scheming to see it happen). But even still, the Jedi Council themselves made it pretty easy for him to achieve that goal. So while Obi-Wan may consider Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side as his greatest failure, I think the blame actually lies with the Council as a whole.
Technically speaking, Obi-Wan Kenobi was the only Jedi willing to train Anakin Skywalker. But that being said, Obi-Wan was not the best choice.
Obi-Wan certainly made the best of a bad situation and was keeping his word to honor Qui-Gon’s dying wish. However, Obi-Wan had only just achieved the rank of Jedi Knight. He himself was a Padawan just days before taking on his own apprentice, making him inexperienced and unsure of his training ability. To make matters worse, he had just lost his own Master. Obi-Wan and Anakin were more like brothers than they were master and apprentice.
Had Qui-Gon Jinn not been struck down by Darth Maul, things might have turned out much differently for Anakin. Qui-Gon, who was convinced Anakin was the prophesied Chosen One, would have likely been a much better teacher for him. He would have been the father figure that Anakin desperately needed. Qui-Gon also differed greatly from the rest of the Jedi Order in terms of his beliefs and philosophies and had a much better understanding of the balance of the Force. He would have been able to help Anakin confront his fears and deal with his emotions.
Anakin was too old to become a Padawan by the Council’s standards. If a kid didn’t start training at a really young age, it was impossible for them to forgo any attachments – like Anakin’s attachment to his mother. Whether or not this is some crazy brainwashing is a topic for another time!
Maybe I’m crazy here, but it is basically impossible to have zero attachments or emotions. The Council’s rules set Anakin up for failure. He deeply cared for his mother, Padme, and Obi-Wan, and that is 100% normal. Instead of trying to force him to repress his feelings, they should have instead focused on helping him confront his issues and use them to his advantage. Part of Anakin’s power came from his fierce loyalty and his passion to protect those he loved.
Their rules concerning attachments and emotions are part of the reason why they never approved of Anakin to begin with. When Qui-Gon presented Anakin to the Jedi Council, they deemed him too old to start training. They sensed fear and anger in him and told Qui-Gon he was not allowed to train him.
While I understand their reasoning, the problem is that the distrust continues into Anakin’s adulthood – well after they allowed Obi-Wan to train him. No matter what he did, how many people (including other Jedi) he saved, or how powerful he got, they never gave him an ounce of approval. They refused to accept that he was one of them. So from the time he was a small child, that was all he knew. Everyone in his life held him at arm’s length.
Despite the fact that no one trusted him or gave him any approval, he still proved himself a thousand times over. We know from the prequels that he even saved Master Obi-Wan’s life several times (nine times to be exact, because “that business on Cato Neimoidia doesn’t count.”). He completed missions that the other Jedi could only dream of accomplishing, like defeating Dooku and bringing home the chancellor. And he did all of it at a pretty young age when compared to his contemporaries.
So what did they do? Nothing. He was never granted his Master status, despite meeting the criteria, thanks to his poor relationship with the Council. They literally refused to give him what he deserved, the only thing he ever strived for. It was unfair, to say the least.
On top of that, they went ahead and allowed Anakin to sit on the Council without making him a Jedi Master. While I don’t think Palpatine had any authority to force Anakin onto the Jedi Council, the Council went ahead and allowed it anyway. It made Anakin the first and only Council member to not be a Jedi Master. Anakin saw this as insulting, and I can understand why.
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While the Jedi Council was busy basically slapping Anakin on the wrist for having regular human emotions, they completely overlooked his deteriorating sanity as he mentally spiraled out of control. You mean to tell me that not a single person on that Council noticed that he was losing it?
Obi-Wan seemed to be the only Jedi who cared or even noticed in the slightest. Anakin even went directly to Master Yoda for help, and Yoda gave him nothing except a spiel about how death is a part of life.
Of course, no one managed to figure out that Anakin had secretly started dating Senator Amidala or that they were married and living together, either. For folks who can sense someone’s feelings from the other side of the galaxy, they sure were blind to what was right in front of them.
As if everything else wasn’t enough, they went ahead and asked him to spy on Chancellor Palpatine, too.
They basically told him, “Hey, I know we don’t trust you, we refuse to let you be a Jedi Master, and we’ve never given you an ounce of approval… but do you think you could spy on your friend for us?”
This was one of the final nails in the coffin, for two reasons. First of all, Palpatine had filled the father-figure role for Anakin after none of the Jedi could (or would) do that. He trusted Palpatine; through Anakin’s eyes, the chancellor was the only person looking out for him. While the Jedi distrusted him, Palpatine gave him advice and attention. And while we know that the chancellor’s power was growing out of control, Anakin just didn’t think he was as bad as the Jedi kept saying he was.
The other reason? Asking Anakin to spy on Chancellor Palpatine was against the Jedi Code that he had been raised to abide by. Was Anakin placed on the Council by Palpatine to spy on them? Yeah, that’s probably part of it, among other reasons. But Palpatine doesn’t adhere to the Jedi Code, and the Council does. So the same people who refused to trust him are now asking him to do something untrustworthy.
The entire thing made Anakin question the Jedi Council, and in a way, made Palpatine look like he was right. It left Anakin confused about who he could believe and trust and torn between his loyalty to the Council and loyalty to the Senate.