Although the past decade has seen a huge growth in Star Wars, the saga is still very much centered on the character of Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader. Much of the drama spanning five decades (in both the real world and in that galaxy far, far away) stems from the actions and decisions of that slave boy from Tatooine.
Anakin Skywalker was, first and foremost, a Jedi. But was this a good thing for him? Much has been made of how he was “rejected” by the Jedi Order, and there are certainly criticisms to be laid at the feet of the Jedi. But the reality, as revealed through the Prequel Trilogy and Star Wars: The Clone Wars, was far more nuanced. Let’s take a look at what the other Jedi thought of Anakin.
The Jedi Council
Anakin’s first official meeting with the Jedi Council took place in Phantom Menace, when he was just a boy. Master Qui-Gon Jinn discovered him on Tatooine and brought him to the Jedi Temple, arguing that Anakin was the Chosen One of ancient prophecy and that his Jedi training should begin immediately. The Jedi Council infamously denied this request and it was only Qui-Gon’s death and his final wish that changed their mind.
It’s fascinating to think what might have happened had Qui-Gon defeated Darth Maul. Would he have broken with the Jedi Order to teach Anakin independently? Or would he have obeyed the Council and left the boy to fend for himself – a rogue, untrained Force user adrift in an unforgiving galaxy?
But the Jedi Council did change its mind, and Anakin Skywalker joined the other padawans for formal training. How did that work out?
Anakin and Yoda
The relationship between Anakin and Grand Master Yoda has never been explored deeply, but there are hints. Yoda was deeply connected to the Light Side of the Force, but his vision was clouded by the Dark Side in those final days of the Republic and he failed to see that Anakin was falling under the sway of Sith Lord Darth Sidious.
Yoda was kind to all padawans and Jedi knights, and in Revenge of the Sith Anakin trusted him enough to come to him with his troubling visions. This trust speaks volumes for Anakin’s respect for Yoda, but did the Jedi Master reciprocate that respect?
Yoda recognized Anakin’s skill in lightsaber combat and as a combat general in the Clone Wars, but these were never things that Yoda valued in a Jedi knight. Yoda saw Anakin’s power, and probably worried about his lack of control, but even so Yoda could see value in Anakin’s unorthodox ways. In Clone Wars Season 6, when Yoda decided to steal a ship and sneak away from the Jedi Council, he purposefully sought out Anakin to get his advice on how to be spontaneous and rule-breaking. Yoda knew that Anakin fell short of the “ideal” Jedi prized by the dogma of the late Republic, but he could still see the value in him – appreciating him for his strengths rather than condemning him for his weaknesses.
Anakin and Ki Adi Mundi
This nuanced view of young Skywalker was not shared by other members of the Jedi Council. Ki Adi Mundi was one of the masters who decided initially that he would not be trained, and throughout the Clone Wars he never seems to warm to Anakin. Even after Anakin proved his worth at the Landing at Point Rain, Master Mundi was indifferent toward him. Ki Adi Mundi seemed far more interested in politics and preserving the existing order – spending effort to appreciate a young Jedi of immense power and potential was apparently beneath him.
To be or not to be… a Jedi Master
Ki Adi Mundi was hardly alone in his indifference to Anakin. Looking at the way Skywalker was consistently treated by the Jedi Council reveals a group of close-minded Jedi masters more interested in tradition and the machinations of the Galactic Senate than the health of their own Order. Anakin held great potential, but because he’d joined the Order under unusual circumstances – and against the will of the Council – they never recognized that he might be the most powerful Jedi in a generation.
Anakin and Mace Windu
Mace Windu was recognized as a great Jedi – the youngest Jedi knight ever promoted to Master. Mace was undoubtedly powerful, but watching his ongoing contempt for Anakin throughout the Clone Wars it’s hard not to think that he felt threatened by this youngster. Yes, Anakin broke rules and yes, he sometimes made mistakes, but he was sincere, loyal and dedicated to the Order. Mace Windu was rigid and unforgiving, even when Anakin came to him and revealed that Chancellor Palpatine was the Sith lord.
In perhaps the greatest mistake made by the Jedi Council, Mace Windu chose not to include Anakin in his squad of Jedi who went to arrest the Chancellor. Revenge of the Sith might have ended very differently had Mace trusted Anakin, thanked him for the information, and included him in the plan. Instead, Windu’s attempt to kill Palpatine was twisted by the Dark Side into a disaster that saw Mace killed, Anakin transformed into Darth Vader, and the subsequent destruction of the Jedi.
It’s not the Jedi way…
The Jedi Code is something that gets thrown around often as a guiding light for the Order, but studying the attitudes of that final generation of Jedi compared to those in the High Republic reveals a subtle but significant change in attitude. Gone is the dedication to balance in favor of a complete rejection of anything perceived to lead toward the Dark Side of the Force. In many ways Anakin’s life was an exploration of what balance could be – appropriate for a Chosen One foretold to bring balance to the Force – but the Jedi Knights, so lost in their dogma, failed to see this truth.
Anakin and Luminara Unduli
Luminara Unduli was a wise and skilled Jedi master, but she personified the hubris of her generation. She arrogantly assumed that she could defeat Asajj Ventress single-handedly and would have paid for this mistake with her life had Anakin’s young Padawan Ahsoka not saved her. Her own relationship with her Padawan Barriss was cold and quite unlike the fiery respect and affection between Anakin and Ahsoka.
Luminara even warned Anakin not let attachments consume him. Her words seemed wide, and echoed the philosophy of the Jedi Order, but history proved otherwise. It was Luminara’s Padawan who bombed the Temple in protest; it was Anakin’s Padawan who survived Order 66 and kept hope alive in the galaxy. And it was Ahsoka’s ability to love and show compassion that empowered her – something she learned from Anakin.
Luminara wasn’t dismissive of Anakin the way Windu and Mundi were. She respected him to a point, but she couldn’t see beyond her own Jedi dogma to fully appreciate him.
Anakin and Shaak Ti
There are very few canon interactions between Anakin and Shaak-Ti, and her presence on the Jedi Council in the Republic’s final days threatens to see her lumped in with the other Jedi masters. In the defense of Kamino, however, she greeted both Obi-Wan and Anakin with warmth and respect, suggesting that she at least accepted Anakin as a capable Jedi.
You are reckless…
One of the most common criticisms made against Anakin was his disobedience and reckless behavior – and this is fair. Anakin was reckless, leading his clone troopers from the front and putting himself in danger countless times. Many Jedi disapproved of this, but their disapproval came from a long-held philosophy of Jedi as peacekeepers and negotiators, not warriors. Anakin, however, became a Jedi knight during the Clone Wars and knew nothing but warfare. We can debate whether Anakin’s philosophy was shaped by the war or whether he was by nature reckless, but there’s no doubting he was the ideal sort of Jedi for his age.
Anakin and Kit Fisto
Kit Fisto seemed to recognize Anakin’s strengths, accepting him for what he was instead of what the Jedi Code said he should be. The two fought side by side in the defense of Prince Lee-Char on Mon Cala, and never do we see the smiling Nautolan express anything but respect for Anakin. Kit Fisto was a renowned swordsman, but he was perhaps most appreciated as a gentle, level-headed Jedi who saw the best in people.
Anakin and Quinlan Vos
There are no canon interactions between Anakin and Quinlan Vos, but I suspect these two rogues would have gotten along famously. Quinlan Vos was another whom the Jedi Council didn’t seem to know how to take, usually sent off on solo missions that were not always in keeping with the Jedi Code. Although they were both outsiders it seems that Quinlan was more able than Anakin to accept his isolation – perhaps an attitude of non-attachment trained into him from a very young age. Anakin joined the Order as a new apprentice when he was older and already “encumbered” with emotional attachment, which might explain his inability to adhere to this part of the Code.
Surely Darth Sidious wasn’t the only one to see Anakin’s potential…
Quinlan Vos is an example of the Jedi Order accepting members who drifted from the purest faith, so clearly they were able to make allowances. It’s clear from Revenge of the Sith that the Jedi Council didn’t trust Anakin, but were there other Jedi who might have steered Anakin away from the charms of Palpatine?
Anakin and Qui-Gon Jinn
Undoubtedly, Qui-Gon Jinn could have been the father figure Anakin so desperately needed. But more than that, Qui-Gon saw potential in the boy for what he was, rather than what the Jedi wanted him to be. Yes, Qui-Gon considered Anakin the Chosen One and therefore would have steered him in a certain direction, but everything we know about Qui-Gon suggests that he would have appreciated Anakin.
Anakin and Plo Koon
Apart from Obi-Wan Kenobi, perhaps the Jedi who most appreciated Anakin was Plo Koon. This old master interacted with Anakin and Ahsoka many times throughout the animated TV series, and every time he spoke with gentle respect and wisdom. He had a special connection to “Little ‘Soka” as the Jedi who first brought her to the Temple, and he probably spent extra time getting to know Anakin when his Togruta charge was assigned to the brash young Human.
Plo Koon did something many other members of the Jedi Council didn’t – when he first interacted with Skywalker he extended him some basic respect. He might not have fully agreed with Anakin’s plan to attack Malevolence by taking a shortcut through a nebula, but he supported Anakin throughout the battle and gave him full credit when due. Just as Plo Koon valued the clones under his command, he valued Anakin as a unique and gifted individual – one who certainly needed advice and direction at times, but unique and gifted nonetheless.
Maybe Jedi should form attachments…
In Attack of the Clones, young Anakin tried to explain to Padme that Jedi are encouraged to love. He was wrestling with his own feelings and, frankly, doing some philosophical gymnastics to justify them, but perhaps more than anyone Anakin understood that love should be the basis of the Jedi Code. Not just the romantic love that he was feeling toward Padme, but love in all its forms.
Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi
At the end of Phantom Menace, as Obi-Wan held his fallen master in his arms he probably disliked Qui-Gon’s dying wish that he train Anakin. But over their many years together it’s clear that Obi-Wan loved Anakin as a brother, fully appreciating his tempest of a padawan. Training Anakin was a trial in its own right for the young Obi-Wan, and he probably smirked with un-Jedi-like glee when Ahsoka showed up and it was Anakin’s turn to struggle with a headstrong, talented apprentice.
Over the years Anakin did many questionable things – slaughtered Tuskens, married in secret, tortured prisoners – but Obi-Wan never lost trust in the inherent goodness of his friend. Even as the Dark Side consumed Anakin, Obi-Wan felt that there was still good in him, striving right to the end to bring him back.
And after Darth Vader was lost to the Dark Side, Obi-Wan sacrificed the rest of his life to watch over Luke Skywalker. Obi-Wan could have given up at this point, accepting that the galaxy was lost to Emperor Palpatine and the Dark Side – but his attachment to Anakin extended to the next generation and to protecting his son Luke. Was there a sense of duty? Yes. But above all it was love that motivated Obi-Wan through the dark years.
Anakin and Ahsoka Tano
Of all the Jedi in Star Wars, perhaps the one who understood Anakin the best was his padawan, Ahsoka Tano. Pretty much everyone questioned the decision by Yoda to assign this promising youngling to such an unpredictable and unproven Jedi knight, but Yoda felt that becoming a teacher might ground young Skywalker and help mature him. It worked, but Anakin’s influence on Ahsoka was very different from what the Jedi Order would have wanted.
At first, under Anakin’s tutelage Ahsoka learned to be impulsive, rebellious and to use her lightsaber as a first option. But as she grew and matured she learned caution, obedience and serenity better than most – perhaps because she’d seen the chaos that came from always charging in. But what Ahsoka learned most was to seek truth, to question everything, and to make up her own mind. When she was framed for the Temple bombing and thrown out of the Order to stand a “fair trial” before the Republic, Ahsoka had the courage to break from everything she knew and find her own way in the galaxy.
Years later, Ahsoka once again faced her former master (now a Sith lord) and her first words spoke of her ongoing love and compassion. Vader was consumed by the Dark Side but Ahsoka could see what not even Yoda could sense – that there was still good in Anakin. Even Obi-Wan warned young Luke that Vader was “twisted and evil” and under the absolute command of Palpatine. Only Ahsoka could see the truth, because of her attachment to him. And it was through attachment that Luke also reached his father.
Don’t underestimate my power…
In The Last Jedi, Master Luke Skywalker said that it was time for the Jedi to end. He recognized the Order’s failure to stop Palpatine, blinded by its own hubris, and he saw that a successful future needed balance in the Force. Luke gave voice to this profound truth that his father instinctively knew but couldn’t vocalize, impeded as he was by the dogma of the Jedi and the seductive lies of Palpatine.
Anakin Skywalker was the most unappreciated Jedi in history, and had more members of the Order embraced him like Obi-Wan, Ahsoka and Plo Koon, he could have led the Jedi into a new golden age, rather than spearheaded their utter destruction.
Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning, best-selling author and ghostwriter of science fiction and space fantasy series. His newest novel is coming in Spring 2024.