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Showdown on Coruscant

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"I'd feel better if Yoda were here. Or even Kenobi. On Ord Cestus, Obi-Wan and I—"
"Yoda is pinned down on Kashyyyk, and Kenobi is out of contact on Utapau. The Dark Lord has revealed himself, and we dare not hesitate. Think not of if, Master Fisto; this duty has fallen to us. We will suffice… we will suffice. We will have to."
―Kit Fisto and Saesee Tiin, preparing to confront Darth Sidious[src]

The showdown on Coruscant was a confrontation that took place in the Supreme Chancellor's Suite of the Galactic Senate in 19 BBY. It began after Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker informed Master Mace Windu that Supreme Chancellor Palpatine had revealed his identity as a Sith Lord to him. Windu then gathered a team of Jedi Masters consisting of Kit Fisto, Agen Kolar, and Saesee Tiin, and attempted to arrest Palpatine in his own Suite. Palpatine was at first polite to the group, but when they insisted on taking him into custody, he dropped his facade, lit his lightsaber, and lunged at them in a violent fury. All but Windu and Fisto quickly fell to the Dark Lord of the Sith and the three masters of the Force clashed. Palpatine eliminated Fisto as Skywalker was arriving. Windu, alone cornered Darth Sidious, Palpatine's true identity, as Skywalker arrived in the room.

Skywalker pleaded with Windu not to kill the Chancellor. Sidious fired a volley of Force lightning at the Jedi Master, who deflected it back at him. The electric currents flowing through Sidious exposed the almost reptilian features of his true form. After the lightning faded, Windu raised his blade to strike a killing blow and Skywalker panicked, cutting off Windu's sword hand with his lightsaber. The writhing Sidious then blasted Windu with another torrent of lightning and sent him through the window—to his death—into the streets of Galactic City. Skywalker was ashamed of his participation in Windu's murder and knew that the Jedi would never allow him to remain with the Order; out of options, Skywalker knelt before Darth Sidious and was dubbed his apprentice, Darth Vader. Sidious later labeled this action a Jedi Rebellion, alternatively a Jedi Revolt, with the ultimate goal of taking over the galaxy. With this justification, Palpatine called for the extermination of the Jedi across all systems, beginning the Great Jedi Purge.

Foreshadowing

"No, no, you will die!"
―A hooded figure attacks Mace Windu as witnessed in Yoda's vision.[src]

A version of this showdown was foreseen by Jedi Grand Master Yoda during his experience in the Dark Side Cave on Dagobah towards the end of the Clone Wars. Among other visions, Yoda saw a hooded figure slay Jedi Masters Agen Kolar, Saesee Tiin, and Kit Fisto in quick succession. Soon after, he witnessed the same hooded figure assault Mace Windu with a torrent of force lightning. [3]

Prelude

"He won't give up his power. I've just learned a terrible truth. I think Chancellor Palpatine is a Sith Lord."
―Anakin Skywalker, to Mace Windu[src]
Duel on Coruscant

Four Jedi Masters attempting to arrest a Dark Lord

Shortly after the Battle of Coruscant, Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker had begun experiencing prophetic visions of his wife, Padmé Amidala, dying in pain during the birth of their child. Greatly disturbed by these dreams, he sought the advice of Grand Master Yoda, but Yoda, ever the consummate Jedi, simply told Anakin to "let go of everything he feared to lose." Frustrated by what he perceived to be a completely unsatisfactory answer, Anakin confided his fears to his friend, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Shortly thereafter, Palpatine invited Skywalker to a show at the Galaxies Opera House under the pretense of providing him with intelligence on the whereabouts of General Grievous. While they sat in Palpatine's private box, he told Skywalker a Sith legend, "The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise." In particular, he told Anakin that Plageuis 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 on using 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 merely told him that it was impossible to learn it from a Jedi. Later, in the Supreme Chancellor's office, after Skywalker informed the Supreme Chancellor about Obi-Wan currently fighting General Grievous, Palpatine finally revealed himself to be Darth Sidious, Plagueis's former apprentice and the current 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.[4]

Skywalker thought of killing Sidious on sight, as it was also his duty as a Jedi to eliminate the Sith, but he could not bring himself to kill his friend, who had implied that killing him would drive Skywalker to the dark side. Leaving Palpatine's office, Skywalker quickly went to the Jedi Temple and informed Jedi Master Mace Windu of Palpatine's true identity, though he was greatly conflicted about doing so. Sensing his internal turmoil, Windu sent Skywalker to the High Council Chamber and advised him to spend time meditating upon his conflicted emotions. Windu then took a squad of Masters—the nervous Nautolan Kit Fisto, Zabrak Agen Kolar, and the Iktotchi Saesee Tiin—to arrest Palpatine in his own office.[4]

Sidious had anticipated a showdown, and was well prepared for it; he sensed both the conflict of Skywalker in the Council chamber as well as the approach of the Jedi Masters on board a gunship. Sidious recovered his lightsaber from its resting place within a neuranium sculpture, hiding the hilt in the sleeve of his robe. When the Masters scattered the Chancellor's private guards beyond the office's outer doors, the Sith Lord triggered a concealed recording device—audio only. The Jedi burst into Sidious's private office, where Master Windu declared the Chancellor under arrest. In response, Sidious feigned surprise and mock-pleaded for help, trying to make it appear on the audio recording as though the Jedi were committing an act of undue and unsubstantiated aggression against the seemingly innocent Chancellor.[1] He then angrily reminded Windu when the latter mentioned the Senate will decide his fate that he was the Senate, to which Windu was quick to remind him that he isn't yet.[4]

The duel

"In the name of the Galactic Senate of the Republic, you're under arrest, Chancellor."
"Are you threatening me, Master Jedi?"
"The Senate will decide your fate."
"I am the Senate."
"
Not yet."
"It's treason, then.
"
―Mace Windu and Palpatine[src]
Vaapad

Darth Sidious forces Mace Windu back to the public office.

Accusing the Jedi of treason, Sidious activated his lightsaber and lunged at the group. In a moment of distraction, Agen Kolar was impaled by Palpatine through the abdomen. Saesee Tiin, despite his surprise, 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 two of the four Jedi Masters dead, Sidious immediately engaged Fisto and Windu. Fisto managed to fend off Sidious's initial strikes[4] due to his mastery[5] of a more defensive style of lightsaber combat, but he was cut down mere seconds after the fall of his two compatriots. His entire strike force dead, Windu was left to contend with might of the Dark Lord alone.[4]

Sidious drove Windu back along the corridor to his public office, where Windu rallied and pulled Sidious into a bladelock. Sensing Sidious's incredible power, Windu realized that he had to give himself completely over to Vaapad, his personal Juyo varient, in order to survive. As their battle took them towards the center of the room, Anakin Skywalker's Jedi airspeeder touched down outside. He had meditated on his tumultuous thoughts in the Council Chambers as Windu had advised him to do, 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.[1][4]

As Skywalker sped through the halls of the Republic Executive Building, Sidious unleashed a rapid series of unsuccessful attacks against Windu, and was driven back into the Ceremonial Office by Windu's steady offensive march. For Windu, having given himself completely over to Vaapad, was able to draw on the torrents of dark side energy emanating from his furious opponent like a heat sink. Using Sidious's own power against him, Windu proved able to match the Dark Lord blow for blow, but realized that even his mastery of Vaapad would result only in an indefinite stalemate.[1] Windu guided the battle across the office towards the bay window, which was quickly shattered by their missed attacks. As they moved out onto the wind-blown ledge, Sidious re-allocated some of his energy from the Force-powered speed he was assailing Windu with to a Force-powered grip on the permacrete.[1] The duelists then engaged in a brief flurry of bladework, but Palpatine's slight decrease in speed provided an opening, allowing Windu 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. Darth Sidious had been defeated, and was now at Master Windu's mercy, who held his blade to the Sith Lord's throat.[4] Windu also sensed fear emanating and thought it was the reason for Sidious' defeat. However, Sidious revealed that the fear Windu was sensing was not his own (revealing that Windu was actually sensing Skywalker's fear).[1]

At that moment, Skywalker appeared,[4] convinced that only the powers of the Sith could save his wife's life from the events of his visions.[6]

Skywalker's intervention

"Anakin. I told you it would come to this. I was right. The Jedi are taking over!!"
―Palpatine, to Anakin Skywalker[src]

With the Dark Lord disarmed, Windu again declared that Sidious was under Jedi custody.[4] However, having arrived too late to see the Sith Lord's intent, Skywalker saw only a helpless Chancellor cowering before Mace Windu. Sidious claimed the Jedi were in rebellion, while Windu countered, declaring the ultimate defeat of the Sith.[1]

Superconductingloop

Mace Windu defending himself against Darth Sidious's Force lightning

In response, Sidious hurled a torrent of Force lightning at the Jedi Master. Calling once again on his Vaapad mastery, Windu just barely managed to catch the lightning on his lightsaber and began deflecting it back at Sidious. Sidious and Windu then accused each other of being a traitor to Skywalker as he watched. The redirected current flowed through Sidious, injuring him and deforming his face hideously—though it may have been his true form all along, one shriveled by a lifetime of using the dark side of the Force. He called out to Skywalker for help while Windu pleaded with him not to trust 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 to leave Palpatine[1][4] pretending[7] to be exhausted and frail, lying on the floor. The Chancellor began begging for mercy, and claimed he was too weak to continue fighting. [1][4]

After Sidious ceased his attack, Windu anounced that he had no choice but to eliminate the Dark Lord once and for all. For, having just experienced first hand the true, terrifying depth of Sidious's power, Windu now saw him as too great a threat to the Republic to be kept alive. Skywalker pleaded with him to spare Sidious, stating 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 decision in the Sith Lord's favor. Ironically, when explaining this, Mace used the exact same argument for killing Sidious that Sidious himself gave to Anakin for why Dooku needed to be killed earlier–that Sidious was far too great of a threat to be kept alive. Skywalker further pressed that killing Sidious in cold blood was not the Jedi way. But Windu raised his blade to deliver the killing blow, and Skywalker, reacting in a moment of despair, cut off the unsuspecting Windu's sword hand. Seeing this, Sidious immediately ceased feigning weakness and unleashed a withering barrage of Force lightning at the helpless Jedi Master, also gloating about his unlimited power. After torturing him for a few moments, Sidious used the Force to push Windu out of the broken window, whereupon he met his death on impact with the streets below.[4]

Skywalker had not realized that Sidious was going to kill Windu[7] and fell to his knees in shock at his unwitting participation in the Jedi Master's murder. Sidious congratulated him, telling Skywalker that he was fulfilling his destiny and that he would help him find the secrets to saving Amidala's life. The Dark Lord then admitted in a round-about way that cheating death was a power only his Master had achieved, revealing he did not actually know the secret to stopping death.[4] Inwardly, Skywalker was surprised and enraged by the deception.[1] He then realized that his new master had been manipulating him and the Clone Wars—the galaxy-wide conflict that had been raging for more than three years between the Separatists and the Galactic Republic—since the beginning.[8] However, though his loyalty to the Jedi lingered somewhat, he believed that his role in Windu's death precluded any chance of his returning to them. Furthermore, though Sidious had admitted to not knowing how to cheat death, he believed that joining the Dark Lord was still his best chance to save Amidala. He resigned himself to his fate and knelt before Sidious, swearing an oath to be his Sith apprentice. While he hoped that he and Sidious could discover the secret of immortality together, Skywalker no longer saw his new master as a friend worth defending. Now, the man was merely a necessary evil worth tolerating until the time was right to take his place.[1] Strangely, Sidious evidently lied to Anakin about his inability to save people from death, as he did in fact possess the ability to use midichlorians to re-invigorate the gravely injured or dying.[9] His reasons for lying to Anakin are unclear, though it is clear that, privately, Sidious wanted Amidala dead so as not to have any competition for Anakin's loyalty.[1]

Aftermath

"Safety, security, justice and peace!"
―The chant announcing a new Galactic Empire[src]

Though horrified at what he had done, and what he was becoming, Skywalker knew there was no turning back from his dark path, so he pledged to Sidious that he would do whatever Sidious asked in return for his assistance in saving Amidala. Sidious named his new apprentice Darth Vader and tasked him with the sterilization of the Jedi Temple. Furthermore, to every clone trooper in the Grand Army of the Republic, Sidious issued Order 66; the clones were ordered to eliminate their Jedi Commanders and Generals, and marked all Jedi as enemies of the Republic. The Great Jedi Purge had begun.[4]

Vader stormed the Temple, leading the 501st Legion,[10] and proceeded to kill nearly every Jedi within its walls. The Temple was set ablaze and reduced to ruins while all of Galactic City watched. Shortly thereafter, Sidious traveled to the Senate Rotunda and presented the audio recording of Windu's assault on his life as evidence of what he called the "Jedi Rebellion"[1] or the "Jedi Revolt,"[11] an attempt by the Order to overthrow the Republic. The activation of the Jedi Masters' lightsabers was digitally confirmed by Republic agents in the audio recording while the activation of Palpatine's lightsaber was neither recorded nor analyzed. After making his case to the Senate that they needed to take action, Sidious delivered a speech that declared that the Republic was no more, and in its place was a new Galactic Empire.[1]

Sidious would later discover Yoda's survival when the latter arrived at his office in the senate, resulting in a climactic duel between the Sith Master and the Jedi Grandmaster, concurrently to similar duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and the newly-christened Darth Vader.[4]

With Windu's death, some, such as the Jedi Jaina Solo, believed the shatterpoint Force technique was lost. This was untrue, however. Its reputation as a lost art spawned from the rarity of individuals able to perform it, but some like her brother, Jacen Solo, and uncle, Luke Skywalker, learned it by[12] 41 ABY.[13] Her uncle later taught it to her.[12]

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[src]
AlternatePalpyDuel-RotSDeletedScene

The earlier version of the scene had Skywalker present from the start.

This lightsaber duel appeared in the film version of Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith and it remained nameless until Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide identified the duel as the "Showdown on Coruscant" in one of its captions. In the Revenge of the Sith novel, Palpatine spun the duel to prove Jedi were rebelling against the Republic, which was further expanded upon in the 2008 reference book The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia, in which Palpatine called this duel the "Jedi Rebellion." 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 Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi.[4] Ian McDiarmid, the actor who portrayed Palpatine, did not 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[14] his stunt double would not perform[7] from the stunt coordinator, Nick Gillard. As an older man, he was not as dexterous as his opponents and, occasionally, he would be hit over the day's filming. McDiarmid did, however, have some respect towards Samuel L. Jackson's abilities.[15] 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.[14] 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.[7]

In the novelization of Episode III, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, and Shaak Ti all claimed that the arrest team consisted of "four of the greatest swordsmen the Jedi Order has ever produced"—a fact less obvious in the movie since Kolar, Tiin, and Fisto all died within a few seconds of the duel's start. Kenobi further proposed that if Palpatine could eliminate the four Jedi Masters all by himself, then even Yoda and Kenobi together would not be enough to defeat the Dark Lord.[1] In The Making of Star Wars Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas, the creator and ultimate authority regarding the Star Wars universe, responded to the question of whether Mace Windu brought a weak group of Jedi with him for the confrontation with Palpatine by replying that "one would have to be either Windu or Yoda to compete with Palpatine," and that if Anakin had suffered none of his injuries, he could have beaten the Emperor. The same book implies that Samuel L. Jackson sincerely believed that Windu, his character, had overpowered Palpatine, even during the lightning struggle.[16]

According to the screenplay of Episode III, Dar Wac, the Chancellor's Rodian aide, originally had a cameo appearance before the Jedi entered Palpatine's office. This was either dropped or never filmed. Furthermore, the screenplay stated it was Windu who was being forced onto the ledge after the window was broken, which contradicts the novelization.[1] The screenplay also indicates Windu attempted to defend himself with his remaining hand after he was betrayed by Skywalker.[17]

Original fight

George Lucas watching the earlier version of the scene

In the novel, a debate between Palpatine and Windu before the duel reflected that even though the audience knew that Palpatine, as a Sith Lord, was behind everything and was ultimately responsible for the war, the Jedi never had any hard evidence of Palpatine's crime to legitimize their arrest attempt. Even the knowledge of Palpatine's true identity depended solely on the words of an emotionally unstable Anakin Skywalker. Windu also failed to explain why the "philosophical difference" between the Jedi and the Sith would lead to the arrest of Palpatine, which played to the Sith Lord's plan in the secret audio recording, thus undermining the support of the Jedi in the Senate.[1]

Discrepancies

As they were extrapolated by different people, there are several differences between the various portrayals of this duel. The version portrayed in the movie is the sole completely canon sequence.

Throughout the battle, the lightsaber hilt Palpatine uses alternates between his own and Skywalker's due to the fact that he was originally going to use Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber against the Jedi. Skywalker was scripted to be present throughout the duel at first, but the battle was re-choreographed at the last minute and Skywalker was instead scripted to arrive at the exact moment Palpatine lost his weapon. Skywalker's lightsaber hilt remains visible in some shots of the finished film though, making this one of many lightsaber bloopers found throughout the Revenge of the Sith movie.[7][18]

In the novelization of Episode III, there were a few differences from the film's interpretation. Windu contacted Grand Master Yoda before and after receiving the truth from Skywalker: both the members of the arrest team and their action were approved by the Grand Master. During the engagement, Windu sent Saesee Tiin and Agen Kolar to the Chancellor's desk to block the way to the door. Firstly, Sidious tricked Tiin by asking him to read his mind to establish if the Chancellor was truly a Sith Lord, then used the distraction as a chance to behead the unsuspecting Iktotchi. Kolar barely had time to absorb the scene before Palpatine pierced the lightsaber blade through his head, causing Kolar to drop his lightsaber and collapse. After that, the remaining two Jedi fought Sidious. Kit Fisto was beheaded from a sudden strike of Sidious's blade. Fisto's death was not described first-hand—instead Skywalker found Fisto's head on the Chancellor's table with the Nautolan's typical smile on it.[1] The movie scene was originally scripted that way as well, but George Lucas decided it was too violent, and thus changed it. In the novelization, there was a thunderstorm outside during the duel. Also, Anakin Skywalker arrived much earlier, and was able to watch almost half of the epic lightsaber duel between Windu and Palpatine,[1] instead of just after when the Jedi Master knocked down Sidious, as shown in the movie. Skywalker's arrival is also different; instead of landing his speeder on the landing deck, he brings it to hover outside the window of Palpatine's private office, smashes the window with his lightsaber and jumps through. During the deadly fight, Skywalker could sense the Force darken within the Chancellor's Office. Windu was not limiting himself, as the Jedi usually did, he was channeling all his power and rage into his Vaapad combat style, a form of lightsaber combat requiring the user to relish the fight and use their will to win, in order to enhance their abilities. Also, in the novel, Sidious "demonstrates" his lightsaber before they begin battle,[1] while this does not occur in the movie.[4]

Maceslammed

Mace Windu being slammed into a wall by Palpatine's Force push

The comic version of Episode III kept the idea of Palpatine slamming Windu into a wall with a powerful Force push,[19] which was stated in the screenplay,[17] but absent from the movie.[4] The novel altered the scene to Palpatine attempting to push Windu out of the office after the Jedi Master had broken the window.[1] In the comic version, Skywalker arrived right at the moment the office window was broken. Instead of Palpatine's jaw, Windu kicked the right palm of the Sith Lord and knocked away the Sith's lightsaber himself, and Skywalker ignited his blade right after Palpatine applied Force lightning. After Skywalker attacked Windu, it showed Palpatine throwing Windu out of the office window with another Force push, instead of hurling him out with Force lightning.[19] Also, in the movie, Windu had a violet blade, Fisto green, and Kolar blue,[4] but in the novelization and comic, Kolar had a green blade.[1][19] Tiin wielded a green lightsaber in the movie,[4] but a blue lightsaber in the comic.[19]

In both the novelization and the comic, the entire duel took place in the Chancellor's public office only, instead of beginning in the Chancellor's private office as seen in the movie.[1][19] The novel showed that Palpatine could activate the recording device hidden within his office book, on his desk.[1] In the comic version, his private chamber contained a holoprojector instead of a desk.[19]

In the video game adaptation of Revenge of the Sith, instead of severing Windu's arm, Skywalker calls Windu a traitor to the Republic and engages him in a duel through the office and outside platform. As they duel, Windu attempts to dissuade Skywalker from his course but the enraged Jedi will hear nothing of it and stabs the Jedi Master, knocking him out of the window and to his death. In the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS versions of the game, when arriving to stop Windu from killing Palpatine, Anakin fought some Separatist droids that were inside the Chancellor's suite before dueling Windu as in the other versions.[20]

The junior novelization omitted the entire fighting sequence between Palpatine and the Jedi. Instead, it portrayed that period of time solely from Anakin Skywalker's point of view; Skywalker left the High Council Chamber to retrieve his speeder, and then entered the Chancellor's office, seeing Mace Windu holding an unarmed Palpatine at blade point.[21]

This entire scene was omitted from LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game, although it was originally going to become a level.

In Popular Culture

"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[src]

The showdown was parodied in Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III, in which Palpatine rants about his deformed face.

Appearances

Non-Canon Appearances

Sources

Notes and references

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