“Are you an angel?” — Anakin Skywalker
Before May of 1999, it was hard to imagine Darth Vader having any sort of relationship with a woman that would lead to her having his kids – you know, back when he was a suited-up, mechanical cyborg-man bent on destroying all the good in the galaxy – but watching little Ani meet Padme for the first time was like seeing the hands of fate in motion. He’s so unflinchingly emotive, everything he feels and thinks he says, and right from the get-go he understands Padme is important to him and has no qualms about expressing that. True love, soulmates, Force-bonded, whatever you want to call it, these two are meant to be and their love is so powerful it changes the face of the entire galaxy for generations to come, and in more ways than one. But it’s the genesis of this love, its very own origin story if you will, that we finally get to see in The Phantom Menace and it’s as beautiful as it is heartbreaking.
“There was no father. I carried him, I gave birth, I raised him. I can’t explain what happened.” – Shmi Skywalker
Anakin was a child of the Force itself, made manifest to complete a destiny that was already written in the darkness of the stars. It crafted Anakin, creating every facet of his personality to be the one who bought balance to the warring sides of its supposed-practitioners. It gave him Shmi, a loving, intelligent mother to instill in him the desire and drive to act as his conscious saw fit. It made him a slave, so that he recognized and understood the slow-burning hatred of being controlled and oppressed. It made him powerful enough to attract the attention of those who might otherwise overlook him. And finally, when the time was right, the Force ensured an unbelievably strong, powerhouse of a person came into Anakin’s life at the exact right time.
Fate can be cruel, but it can also be kind.
Now personally, I believe that Anakin was always meant to destroy the Sith and the Jedi, because balance does not mean wiping out one side so the other can become more powerful and be left completely unchecked. Balance means evening out the playing field, or in more drastic cases, wiping it clean to start completely over again. I never understood how the Jedi interpreted that prophecy any other way considering the amount of time they spent meditating and seeking the will of the Force (I mean talk about narcissism am I right) but I don’t want to dwell too much on the subject because that’s another post entirely. The basis of my thought just needs to be explained for the rest to make relative sense.
The Force crafted Ani – knowing exactly what was going to happen later and what he was going to have to do – and there is great cruelty in that, creating something to purposely make it suffer for your own ends. But the Force is neither good nor evil, malicious nor kind, it’s that middle-ground in between that just is. It is the balance. So alongside that cruelty there is compassion, and it is that compassion that brought Anakin and Padme together. Despite the looming darkness of the future, they were given this time to bask in the light. Yes, they would both live incredibly harrowing, painful, and ultimately short lives, but they would also know the greatest joy and beauty that can ever be found in life: love. Deep, everlasting, pure love.
Knowing the death and despair that was to come, the Force provided a short span of years – the calm before the deadliest of storms – to know that they were absolutely loved heart and soul and it all began here in The Phantom Menace when Ani walked into the Watto’s junk shop and found Padme waiting for him. He recognized something in her immediately, and voiced it. He was brave enough to speak out, and Padme was brave enough to reciprocate. Anakin needed to know this love, needed to feel it soul-deep, because only the absolute fear of losing it would ever make him turn so far from the light and reach out instead for the darkness inside him. Even in compassion there is cruelty, and there can be no cruelty without compassion. Balance.
But for now in The Phantom Menace, the scale is tipped in our favor. And in the bright heat of desert-swept Tatooine and jubilant celebration of lush Naboo, we can revel in the triumphant light of hope and blossoming love for as long as we possibly can.