- "In the name of the Galactic Senate of the Republic, you're under arrest, Chancellor."
- ―Mace Windu, to Sheev Palpatine
With the Clone Wars reaching its end and the revelation that Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine was secretly Darth Sidious, the Dark Lord of the Sith, Mace Windu and fellow members of the Jedi Council engaged Sidious in a lightsaber duel in the Chancellor's office on Coruscant. Sidious quickly killed Jedi Masters Agen Kolar, Saesee Tiin, and Kit Fisto, but had an extended confrontation with Windu. The duel lasted until Windu disarmed the Sith Lord and knocked him to the floor.
As Windu held the Sith Lord at bladepoint, he was interrupted by the arrival of Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker; although Windu had told Skywalker to remain at the Jedi Temple, he was seduced to the Chancellor's office by the promise that Palpatine could use the dark side of the Force to save his wife, Padmé Amidala, from dying in childbirth, an event Skywalker saw in a vision. Ignoring Skywalker, Windu declared Palpatine and the Sith as a whole defeated, to which Sidious responded by firing Force lightning at the Jedi Master. Windu managed to block the streams of electricity and deflected most it back into Sidious's body, disfiguring the Sith Lord in the process.
Skywalker attempted to convince Windu to arrest the Sith Lord, as he at first intended, but Windu had realized that Palpatine controlled the Senate and the judicial system, and would most likely be acquitted no matter what. Stating that Palpatine was just too dangerous to be left alive, Windu prepared to kill him, while Skywalker desperately claimed that doing so was not the Jedi way and finally blurting out "I need him!" When Windu tried to make the killing blow, Skywalker lashed out at him, severing his lightsaber holding hand and allowing Sidious, who was feigning helplessness, to kill the Jedi Master.
In the aftermath of the duel, Skywalker pledged his loyalty to Palpatine and became a Sith Lord called Darth Vader. The Jedi attempt on his life allowed Palpatine to execute his plan to seize full control over the galaxy. He branded the Jedi as traitors and issued Order 66 to the Grand Army of the Republic, leading to the destruction of the Jedi Order. Shortly thereafter, he declared himself Galactic Emperor and transformed the Galactic Republic into the Galactic Empire, which ruled the galaxy for over two decades.
- "I've just learned a terrible truth. I think Chancellor Palpatine is a Sith Lord."
"A Sith Lord?"
"Yes, the one we've been looking for."
"How do you know this?"
"He knows the ways of the Force. He's been trained to use the Dark Side."
"Are you sure?"
"Then our worst fears have been realized. We must move quickly if the Jedi Order is to survive."
- ―Anakin Skywalker and Mace Windu
Not long after Sidious betrayed and orchestrated the death of Darth Tyranus in the Battle of Coruscant, Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker began experiencing visions of his wife, Padmé Amidala, dying in childbirth. Disturbed, Skywalker sought the advice of Master Yoda; however, Yoda advised him to "let go of everything he feared to lose" which simply served to frustrate Skywalker, as he did not understand what Yoda was trying to say. Palpatine invited Skywalker to a show at the Galaxies Opera House under the pretense of providing him with intelligence on the location of General Grievous. While they sat in Palpatine's private box, he told Skywalker of a Sith "legend," "The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise," emphasizing that Plagueis had discovered way to use the dark side to influence midi-chlorians, an ability which could be used to both create life and cheat death. Aware of Anakin's plight, Palpatine planned to use this revelation as bait to draw Anakin to the dark side. Anakin, desperate for a way to prevent his prophetic visions from coming to pass, questioned Palpatine on how one might learn Plagueis's technique, but Palpatine simply told him that it was impossible to learn it from a Jedi. Later, in the Supreme Chancellor's office, after Skywalker told the Supreme Chancellor about Obi-Wan Kenobi currently fighting Grievous, Palpatine finally revealed himself to be Darth Sidious, a Dark Lord of the Sith. Skywalker was torn between his desire to learn Sidious's power and his duty as a Jedi to turn him in.
Skywalker initially thought to kill Sidious on sight, as another part of his duty to the Jedi was to eliminate the Sith, but as Palpatine was his friend, and had implied killing him would turn Skywalker to the dark side, he did not. After leaving the Chancellor's office, he went to the Jedi Temple and informed Mace Windu of Palpatine's true identity as a Sith Lord. Aware that the Jedi Order could be destroyed, Windu sought to prevent this outcome by leading a team of fellow Jedi Masters, Kit Fisto, Agen Kolar, and Saesee Tiin, some of the finest warriors in the Order, to arrest Palpatine, leaving Skywalker behind. The quartet was fully aware of the enormity of the burden ahead of them. The Jedi arrived into Palpatine's private office, where the Chancellor feigned surprise at their abrupt visit and asked if this meant General Grievous was dead. Igniting his purple-bladed weapon, Windu declared Palpatine under arrest in the name of the Galactic Senate; Fisto, Tiin, and Kolar ignited their own weapons to back him up. When Windu declared the Senate would decide his fate, Palpatine snarled "I am the senate," to which Windu was quick to object by reminding him that he wasn't yet.
- "Are you threatening me, Master Jedi?"
"The Senate will decide your fate."
"I am the Senate!"
"It's treason then."
- ―Sheev Palpatine and Mace Windu
Accusing the Jedi of treason, Sidious deployed his lightsaber from his sleeve and ignited it. With a ferocious snarl that was more animal than human and with a speed that belied his age, Sidious leapt over his desk to land in front of the Jedi. In a moment, Kolar was impaled by Sidious through the abdomen and fell with a scream. Tiin attempted to strike the Dark Lord from behind as Kolar fell, but was cut down as Sidious swung around to slash him across the torso. With half his opponents dead, Sidious immediately engaged Fisto and Windu. Fisto managed to fend off Sidious's initial strikes, but he was cut down mere seconds after the fall of his two compatriots. His entire strike force destroyed, Windu was left alone to contend with the Dark Lord.
Sidious drove Windu back along the corridor to his public office, where Windu managed to pull Sidious into a bladelock. As their battle took them towards the center of the room, Anakin's airspeeder touched down outside. He had meditated on his thoughts in the Council Chambers, and the young Jedi felt as though he could not bear to let Sidious meet his death at the hands of the Jedi; at least, not before teaching Skywalker the secrets of Darth Plagueis to save Amidala from death.
As Skywalker ran through the halls of the Senate Office Building, Sidious unleashed a rapid series of fruitless attacks against Windu, and was driven back into the office by Windu's steady offensive strikes. Windu guided the battle across the office towards the bay window, which was quickly shattered by their missed strikes. As they moved out onto the wind-blown ledge, the duelists engaged in a brief flurry of bladework, but Windu managed to end the bout with a swift kick to the Sith Lord's jaw. Sidious was thrown off balance, staggering back and dropping his lightsaber as he flailed for balance before retreating against the window frame. Sidious was at Windu's mercy, who held his blade to the Sith Lord's throat.
At that moment, Skywalker appeared, convinced that only the power of the dark side could save his wife's from the end seen in his visions.
- Mace Windu: "I am going to end this, once and for all!"
- Anakin Skywalker: "You can't. He must stand trial."
- Mace Windu: "He has control of the senate and the courts! He's too dangerous to be left alive."
- Darth Sidious: "I'm too weak. Oh. Don't kill me. Please."
- Anakin Skywalker: "It's not the Jedi way. He must live!"
- Darth Sidious: "Please don't."
- Anakin Skywalker: "I need him!"
- Darth Sidious: "Please don't!"
- Anakin Skywalker: "NO!"
- ―Mace Windu, Anakin Skywalker, and Darth Sidious[src]
With Sidious disarmed, Windu declared again that the Dark Lord was in Jedi custody. However, having arrived too late to see the Sith Lord's intent, Skywalker saw only a helpless Chancellor cowering before Windu. Sidious claimed the Jedi were in rebellion, while Windu countered, declaring the ultimate defeat of the Sith.
In response, Sidious hurled Force lightning at the Jedi Master, forcing him to deflect it back at the Dark Lord. The redirected current hit Sidious, deforming his face hideously yet he continued to uphold the barrage. He called out to Skywalker for help while Windu told him not to listen to the Sith Lord. The electrical current continued to ravage the Chancellor's body, and Skywalker's conflict reached its peak as he watched his friend suffer. Eventually, the lightning subsided, leaving Sidious feigning exhaustion and lying on the floor. The Sith Lord began begging for mercy, saying he was too weak to continue fighting.
After the Sith Lord stopped his barrage of lightning, Windu announced that he had no choice but to kill Sidious, as he saw him as too great a threat to keep alive. Skywalker pleaded with him to spare Sidious, saying that the best course of action was for Sidious to stand trial, but Windu refused, believing that Sidious's influence would sway the Court's ruling in his favor. Skywalker further pressed by saying that killing Sidious in cold blood was not the Jedi way. But, ignoring Skywalker, Windu raised his blade to deliver the killing blow. Skywalker, reacting in a moment of despair, cut off the unsuspecting Windu's sword hand. Seizing the opportunity, Sidious immediately ceased his weakened ruse and unleashed a withering barrage of Force lightning at the helpless Jedi Master. After torturing him for a few moments, Sidious used the Force to blast Windu out of the broken window, plummeting to his death.
Skywalker fell to his knees in shock after Windu's death and how his own actions had contributed to it. Seizing upon Skywalker's emotional turmoil, Sidious congratulated him for taking steps to fulfill his destiny and invited the Jedi to become his Sith apprentice. Skywalker, blinded by his need to save his wife's life, begged Sidious to help him save her. The Sith Lord claimed that together, they could discover the secret to controlling death and saving Amidala's life. Skywalker knelt before Sidious and swore his allegiance to the Sith.
- "The attempt on my life has left me scarred and deformed. But, I assure you, my resolve has never been stronger."
- ―Sheev Palpatine
Sidious named his new apprentice Darth Vader, replacing Tyranus, and tasked Vader with the storming of the Jedi temple. Furthermore, Sidious issued Order 66 to every clone trooper in the Grand Army of the Republic; the clones were ordered to eliminate their Jedi Commanders and Generals, as the Jedi was marked as enemies of the Republic. The Clones hidden biochips then set off and brainwashed them into turning on the Jedi, beginning the Great Jedi Purge.
Vader stormed the Temple, leading the 501st Legion and proceeded to kill nearly every Jedi within its walls, personally killing both masters and younglings alike. The Temple was set ablaze while all of Galactic City watched. Shortly thereafter, Palpatine traveled to the Senate Rotunda and told the Senate of the "Jedi Rebellion" and his actions against it. Furthermore, under the false pretense of better security, Palpatine delivered a speech that declared that the Republic was no more, and in its place was a new Galactic Empire, receiving thunderous applause.
After becoming Emperor of the galaxy, Palpatine essentially disappeared from public life and left most of the Imperial day-to-day affairs to the Imperial Ruling Council. The citizenry of the Empire, as such, began to circulate rumors on his absence that the Jedi assassination attempt not only resulted in Palpatine's disfigurement but too in the death of the sanguine politician that he had once been, having shredded his benevolent persona. The matter of how precisely Windu and his team were killed as well how Palpatine's face was deformed, however, were never settled to everyone's satisfaction, leading Wilhuff Tarkin to correctly guess while not confirm that Palpatine and Vader were Sith Lords.
In 4 ABY, Vader's son Luke Skywalker defeated him in the Battle of Endor, but refused to kill him. The Emperor proceeded to torture Luke for his defiance, which, in turn, led Vader to intercede for Luke. The ensuing struggle between master and apprentice ended with Sidious' destruction, but Vader was critically damaged in the process. Having sacrificed his life for his son, Vader made peace with Luke before passing into the Force as Anakin Skywalker.
In the years following Anakin Skywalker's redemption and death, Luke embarked on a search for Jedi knowledge and learned about Windu's life, including his failed attempt to arrest Palpatine. Holding Windu in high esteem, Skywalker concluded that had it not been for his father's intervention, Windu would have likely succeeded in defeating Palpatine.
Behind the scenes
- "This is where he makes the pact with the Devil. This is the very Faustian pact of trying to do something that he shouldn't be doing."
- ―George Lucas in the Revenge of the Sith commentary
The Duel in Palpatine's office appears in the 2005 film Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith. This duel explains some—until then—unknown aspects of the Star Wars universe. It explains how Darth Vader, an antagonist from the original trilogy, joined the Sith and why Palpatine's face is deformed in the 1983 film Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi.
Ian McDiarmid, the actor who portrayed Palpatine, didn't enjoy filming these scenes. As a Shakespearean actor, filming high-speed sword fighting did not appeal to him. He had only about five days to learn the choreography his stunt double would not perform from the stunt coordinator, Nick Gillard. As an older man, he wasn't as dexterous as his opponents and, occasionally, he would be hit over the day's filming. McDiarmid did, however, have some respect for Samuel L. Jackson's abilities. The film's producer, Rick McCallum, was worried about how the scene would turn out because of this, but was very happy with the final result. On the other hand, Windu's actor, Samuel L. Jackson, had been waiting for this scene since he was hired. One of the requests he made during negotiations for the part was for his character to die spectacularly at the end and not die "like some punk." While promoting the movie on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Jackson revealed his request to Conan O'Brien, who joked that perhaps Mace Windu would meet his death by slipping on some soap in the shower. During shooting, Jackson and the crew joked about having Windu surviving the duel and returning for a post-credit scene.
The duel went through several changes during production. One of the earlier versions of the scene had Anakin Skywalker present in Palpatine's office from the beginning, witnessing the fight between Palpatine and the Jedi until entering to succor Palpatine from Windu's will. This version of the scene was filmed on July 15, 2003 at Fox Studios in Sydney, Australia on Stage 7. However, the shoot was difficult as the gloves worn by the Jedi Knights made it difficult to grab the lightsaber hilts, leading to the scene's reshoot on August 27, 2004. Another version of the duel had Windu coming and fighting alone with Palpatine, as both Saesee Tiin and Kit Fisto were meant to be killed on Mygeeto and Saleucami during Order 66. Rather than being thrown out the window, Windu just fell the ground dead after receiving Palpatine's lightning in this version.
According to the screenplay of Episode III, the Chancellor's Rodian aide Dar Wac and two members of the Senate Guard originally had a cameo appearance before the Jedi entered Palpatine's office, in which they would have tried to stop the Jedi only to be Force pushed into the walls by them. The screenplay also indicates Windu attempted to defend himself with his remaining hand after he was betrayed by Skywalker.
- "Oh, my God! I look like I have a scrotum for a face! What am I supposed to call myself? Darth Syphilis?! If you'd made up your mind five seconds earlier, we could've ruled the galaxy and maybe I could've gotten laid one more time before I die!"
- ―Lament by Palpatine in Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III
The duel was parodied in Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III, in which Palpatine rants about his deformed face.
Notes and references
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Shattered"
- Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith
- Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel
- Kanan 1
- Star Wars: Galactic Atlas
- Star Wars Helmet Collection 15 (Highlights of the Saga: Palpatine Unmasked)
- Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi
- Star Wars: The Secrets of the Jedi
- The Making of Star Wars Revenge of the Sith
- Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith: Illustrated Screenplay