Given how central to the Star Wars movie story is the fact that Anakin Skywalker is “the Chosen One”, there is a surprising amount of inclarity surrounding it. In fact, the whole thing is so unclear that it possibly could not be messier. Furthermore, nothing has been as much problematised with the arrival of the new trilogy as exactly this one basic tenet: that there was something special about Anakin Skywalker and his destiny.
Let us start with a few basic facts we are going to take as given, otherwise we might just as well spend decades with baseless speculation. Let us assume that Anakin really was meant to be the Chosen One, as certain old Jedi prophecy had foretold. He was meant to “bring balance”. Very well. That is already enough to deal with.
SO WHICH OF HIS DEEDS WAS HE DESTINED FOR?
Now, what did Anakin actually do? He became a Jedi, destroyed the Jedi, indirectly helped the destruction of the Republic, destroyed the Sith, thus helped the destruction of the Empire. He fathered the future generation of Force sensitive children who had crucial role in reforming the Galaxy after the chaos and darkness caused by the Emperor.
And that’s about it.
If we ask which of these deeds are supposed to mark him as special, it can be one of these, or it can be all of these combined (which seems the most likely). But if we look at them separately, each of them presents its own problems and can be disqualified. I am not going to consider anything written in the books or other sources, be they of old canon, new canon or anything else. Many writers had expressed their views, or at least hinted at what they thought the “Chosen One” could mean, but the one thing all these views have in common is that they invalidate each other.
I will start with the last item I have listed: if Anakin was important for fathering Luke and Leia, then Padmé was no less important. Granted, she did not carry on the “midichlorians” (yes, yes, I know what most of you think about that word), but even if we discounted Padmé, “I was the father of somebody important” is hardly a reason to be called the Chosen One. So let’s leave this one out.
Destroying the Empire… well, that can hardly be considered Vader’s achievement, especially given that he had been the one to help bringing it up in the first place. Besides, had somehow the battle aboard the Death Star ended differently, Rebel fighters would probably still have blown the station up and the Empire would have lost. Regardless, temporary political bodies such as the Republic or the Empire are hardly worth prophecies that are hundreds of years old. Governments change, throughout the Republic’s existence there surely had been bad chancellors and good chancellors, times of prosperity and times when things were not so good. And once again, what achievement is it to help restoring a “good” galactic government, if there was one before you destroyed it? And even if we believe the Republic system was corrupt and had to be somehow “purified”, it hardly justifies such drastic measures. No, let’s leave politics aside. Being a “Chosen One” has to do with the matters of the Force.
Destroying the Sith, then. Right. Anakin/Vader actually managed to succeed in doing what the Jedi Order had been trying for thousands of years: to eradicate the Sith. When Darth Vader threw the Emperor into Death Star’s shaft, and he himself was redeemed, the only two living Sith were gone. And because “always two there are, no more, no less”; that was it.
It would have been perfect. A victory for the Light Side, the end of the Dark. If not for the unfortunate case that in Episode VII the Dark Side resurfaces. This time without the Sith, but with Supreme Leader Snoke as the dark mentor and with the Knights of Ren. To be honest, there is nothing wrong with the Dark Side taking on another form. We have seen how the Jedi constantly struggle with the Dark Side, how they balance on the precipice, how the danger of fall is always present. Now, I am not going to open another can of worms here and start about everything that has been said about the Sith and the Dark Side outside the movies, be it canonical or not. None of that really makes any difference. Even in the old canon, the Sith had been only one possible manifestation of the Dark Side, however the greatest and the most dangerous one. In that way, Episode VII is not really introducing anything new. A Jedi can always fall and form an “evil cult” around themselves. The Dark Side itself cannot be eradicated any more and any sooner than all evil could be eradicated from a human (twi’lek, wookiee, gungan…) mind.
But why would then the destruction of the Sith be so crucial in the struggle for the balance of the Force? For the purpose of our discussion, there are only two options: either the Sith, as an order, possess some special quality, somewhere in their teachings there is something so essentially evil that it keeps the Force out of balance as long as they are around. A “normal” fallen Jedi would not be capable of causing such imbalance. If that’s the case, however, then Kylo Ren’s little escapade is nothing to be concerned about and it is only “yet another case of a fallen Jedi”, which may be sad and troublesome, but the Galaxy had seen such events probably many times throughout the millenia. Or, and this is the other option, the Knights of Ren are no different from the Sith. However, in that case, Anakin’s destruction of the Sith was an event the Galaxy had probably also seen many times throughout the millenia: yet another renewing of the balance in the Force, but not any great, “final” one, but merely the kind every generation has to face again and on its own terms.
So how did Anakin fulfil the Prophecy, if he did?
THE BALANCE OF THE FORCE
Some of you have probably thought about it, and some of you probably have heard of the alternative interpretation of the Prophecy. The Chosen One is destined to bring balance to the Force… Right. What do we have? The Light Side and the Dark Side, the Jedi and the Sith. For hundreds of years, there has been an imbalance… an orderful of Jedi, only two Sith. How do we bring balance? We kill all the Jedi except for two (Yoda and Obi-Wan), therefore bringing back balance. Two Jedi, two Sith.
This theory is super-appealing in its simplicity, it fits, and it even resonates with Yoda and Mace Windu’s concern in Revenge of the Sith that the prophecy might have been misinterpreted. The Jedi, in their arrogance, presumed that bringing balance meant restoring the Light to its full strength. What it meant was simply bringing balance to the amount of light and darkness.
There are, however, pitfalls which disqualify this theory as well, in my opinion. Some of them are the same ones that disqualify the earlier ones, too. Once again, I am disregarding all extra-movie canon and non-canon, because cases of “there is an equal amount of Jedi and Sith” had happened before according to them, and nobody made a great fuss about it.
Chief problem with the theory is this: the theory presumes “the amount of members of the Jedi Order” equates with the Light Side and “the number of Sith” equates with the Dark Side. But everyone can see that after Palpatine’s victory, the Force was far from being in balance. The two Jedi had barely enough influence and power to create a small speck of light in their huts in swamp/desert, whereas the Dark Side truly reigned throughout the Galaxy, indirectly influencing practically every living being inside the Empire. This is not balance, this is heavy imbalance. One Vader would eventually help to fix… but like we have said, he was only setting right what he himself had messed up.
CLEANSING AND RENEWAL
Let’s take one more step forward and pick up on that, then. What if there had been inherent imbalance in the way the Jedi had been handling things, in the way the Sith had managed to spread their black tentacles throughout the society. Everything in the Galaxy was shiny on the outside, like the old Republic itself, but rotten on the inside. Paragons of Light were refusing to forgive the simplest trespasses to their Order’s members, yet unable to fight the evil slowly turning the society bad from within. The Empire would not have come to existence had there not been popular support for it, for one reason or another. The Jedi were eager to pick up the weapons and fight a tangible, visible “evil”, which somebody (Palpatine) had painted in front of them: “This is your target.” This target was the Separatists, led by Count Dooku, a rogue Jedi, therefore a physical manifestation of the Dark Side – their real enemy. But their real enemy was never a person, neither Dooku, not even Palpatine. Not even the Sith. It was the Dark Side itself, and the Jedi had managed to forget about it. As soon as Palpatine was ready, he had caused his apprentice, Darth Maul, to “at last reveal themselves to the Jedi” – and the Jedi became so distracted with hunting down the actual, physical Sith that their efforts on healing what needed to be healed around them were severely weakened.
But what about the Chosen One, in this case? Was he the catalyst? And was it really necessary to have the whole Jedi Order butchered in order to restore the balance? Maybe. In any case, in this scenario, at least if we take all of Anakin’s great accomplishments together and consider them a part of the prophecy coming true. And how the story continues after the balance has been restored is the matter of the newest trilogy, then.
THE MISHANDLED ONE
For the sake of completion, I am offering yet another alternative explanation. Also for the reason that even the explanation above does not really convince me 100%. But who are we to try to understand fully the mysteries of the Force, right?
Let us then ponder a different scenario. There was a prophecy. Anakin was the Chosen One. The Jedi Order learned about this and tried to keep tabs on him. But they had failed. Maybe even partly because of demanding too much. Anakin was meant to bring balance to the Force – whatever that meant – but Palpatine got to him first. He had thwarted the Jedi’s attempt to groom the one who would bring balance and instead, he brought his dark reign. Anakin was never meant to become Darth Vader. He “was meant to destroy the Sith, not join them.”
This isn’t really an innovative thought, but it is often omitted. I think most of us tend to think in the terms that a prophecy has to come true, otherwise it is not a prophecy. Some try to bring up the “Vader eventually killed the Emperor” or “well, there were two Jedi and two Sith” as a kind of “save” for the prophecy to be fulfilled, in one way or another. But what if, in this particular setting, that simply was not the case?
What if Anakin’s story was a tragedy – the way it actually was meant to be, if we trust George Lucas’s way of presenting it. That is also why nobody ever talks about “the Chosen One” in the Empire era films. Because there was, ultimately, no Chosen One. Anakin was meant to bring the balance, but he never did, because he had failed – or rather, he was forcibly prevented from it. Darth Sidious saw him, Darth Sidious knew about this, Darth Sidious knew he had to prevent him from fulfilling his destiny – so he offered him a different destiny instead. The Force did not manage to overcome Palpatine’s scheming and make the Prophecy come true in any way, not even by Palpatine’s eventual death and Vader’s redemption. That is why we are still waiting for balance. This is why “the Force needs to awaken”.
The explanation that the Chosen One had actually been in no way special in the global scale, that maybe he was destined for something, but thanks to the Council’s failure and Palpatine’s machinations he had never fulfilled his destiny is a dark, dark possibility, but it is another potential perspective. I am not convinced of it “objectively” either, but it provides food for thought. It does not diminish Anakin’s greatness in personal level. He still was a hero, but a hero of his personal story, of his own redemption arc, instead of being the Hero he could have been.
But if so, then it means: the Force is still waiting…