In The Force Awakens Maz Kanata says, “Through the ages, I’ve seen evil take many forms. The Sith, the Empire, and now the First Order.” This really made me think about the history of evil throughout the Skywalker Saga.
The evolution of evil through the nine-film saga is truly interesting. From the noble intentions of the Galactic Republic to the sinister evil of the First Order. One thing that remains consistent is Emperor Palpatine, the living embodiment of evil in the Star Wars universe. He’s not really a character within the story but a plague that tries to corrupt everything he touches and his influence can be felt throughout every part of the saga. Like Palpatine, evil in Star Wars evolves and adapts.
The Corruption Of The Phantom Menace
During the events of The Phantom Menace, we see that the high and mighty Galactic Republic is at war with itself. The Republic is in shambles and the Jedi have compromised their values of fighting for the people while sitting high above them in their ivory tower, more focused on the Senate and the politics of their duties. At this point, the Jedi and the Republic have the best of intentions but are vulnerable, this is where Palpatine comes in.
For years he manipulates the Republic and the Jedi until he takes control of the senate and the courts. In his time as Chancellor he allows corruption and under the table crimes to occur in the Senate, more infighting occurs making the running of the Republic almost impossible. This makes the elected leaders lose sight of what’s important, and he begins to cause the Jedi to become weary of their own. Once his plan is complete his perversion of the once-great government is complete and it is transformed into the first Galactic Empire.
Peace And Security
When Palpatine is transitioning the Republic into the Empire he spins his injuries into this manipulative lie to get the people and most importantly the Senate on his side. These actions reflect the attitude the Empire has as well.
This is most prevalent in Star Wars: Rebels where the Empire pushes propaganda and has their own holiday that citizens are forced to attend. Palpatine keeps the Senate around to look good. During the time before A New Hope, the planetary systems in the core of the galaxy are oblivious to the evil of the Empire and the Senate is all but useless. This false sense of self-righteousness is how new recruits join the stormtrooper corps. Palpatine, and by extension the Empire, continues to manipulate its people but now that he has built his Empire he’s ruling over the galaxy with an iron fist while using the excuse of peace and security to make his actions seem justifiable. By the time of Return of the Jedi, many people are fed up with the oppression and mistreatment of the galaxy under the rule of the Empire. Palpatine is defeated but for him, this only means a new beginning for himself and his Sith Empire.
This Is The Final Order
Risen from the ashes of the Empire, the First Order continues the legacy of the once oppressive regime. During the development of the sequel trilogy, one of the biggest inspirations behind the First Order was both the Nazi party and the Neo-Nazi movement. This inspiration is made clear when looking at the fearsome military might of the First Order and their origins.
After the battle of Jakku, key members of the Empire took some of their forces into the Unknown Regions to rebuild and continue the values of the once-powerful Galactic Empire, similar to the Neo-Nazi recruitment and propaganda. Over the years they enslaved people and made them work to build their profits to buy weapons in order to replenish their forces. Then they would test these new weapons on the slaves that they themselves had forced to work half to death. They stole children from their families and brainwashed them into fighting to bring order back to the galaxy.
The inspiration from the Nazi party is shown through their actions but also during General Hux’s speech on Starkiller Base. His behavior, tone, and the setting of his speech have very clear parallels to speeches given by infamous dictators throughout history and the salute of the menacing stormtroopers only adds to this idea. The First Order has no regard for the lives of the citizens of the galaxy and isn’t afraid to show their true intentions. This reflects Palpatine’s actions as well.
When his Sith Fleet is ready and the First Order finally has the upper hand he reveals himself to the galaxy. He’s done playing the long game and is tired of masquerading as the good guy. It’s either join my new empire or die. Ultimately, these actions are what lead to his defeat.
Like in the real world, evil in the Star Wars universe takes on many forms. It is like a plague on the galaxy that only wants to bring destruction, pain, and death to almost everything it touches but there is something just as constant. That thing is hope.
Hope is what formed the Rebellion. Hope saved Anakin Skywalker. Hope is what inspired the next generation like Rey to be a hero. Hope is what brought Luke Skywalker back to the fight. Hope is what brought Ben Solo back. Hope is what stopped the Sith from returning. Like evil, hope changes lives but unlike evil hope can change lives for the better and that’s never been more evident than in the Skywalker Saga.