Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Part VI)
Terrifyingly, today marks the occasion upon which I will officially have recapped not one, not two, not three, but FOUR full Star Wars saga movies. I’m…proud? I guess? I’m also a bit wistful because the amount of Lucas-Era Star Wars films I have left to cover is rapidly dwindling, and while I’m still very much looking forward to what lies ahead for me in Rogue One, I’m doubtful that I will ever get around to the Sequel Trilogy films. What am I going to do when I can’t yell about Anakin Skywalker Movie Content anymore?! The horror! (I guess I can always continue to hold out hope for the Obi-Wan Weeping in the Desert For 2 Hours movie we all know I want.)
Fortunately, I don’t need to contemplate that grim, hopeless future just yet — and, in the here and now, I can savor the fact that today we will be covering a most momentous Star Wars Occasion indeed. Perhaps the most momentous, even! (Yes, even more than Anakin’s Butt, or the Sweaty Ass-Slapping Sparring Match, or the introduction of the Darksaber, if you can imagine!)
Last time, on Maybe Luke Should Have Just Opened a Bakery or Something Instead, Obi-Wan somehow managed to make it through Luke’s Dramatic Early Departure from Dagobah without murdering him or exorcising his own ghost so that he wouldn’t have to deal with anymore of this Skywalker crap (in part, I suspect, because even he knows he loves it), Han Solo’s first time meeting his girlfriend’s dad ended with him frozen in carbonite, and Anakin’s master plan to lure his son into a violent confrontation hinged almost entirely on the fact that, fittingly, some part of Anakin knew that Luke would never be able to cope with the idea of his friends dying and would therefore insist on showing up on Bespin. Maybe this was Anakin’s way of being absolutely certain Luke was his son — “If he’s my boy, he’ll definitely fall for this. I know I would have.”
Just as things wrapped up, Lando had been informed that, contrary to what Vader had told him like 20 minutes earlier, Leia and Chewie were not going to be afforded the luxury of staying here on Cloud City forever, and would instead be taking the Vader Express back to wherever Vader was originally planning on going next (Naboo, for his weekly Padme Cry? Mustafar, for his weekly Obi-Wan Cry? A quick zip through the drive-thru at Biscuit Baron to celebrate Luke’s turn to the Dark Side? Who can say!)
Lando, amusingly, has seemed repeatedly surprised that a horrible partially cybernetic warlord who works directly for President-for-Life Satan would not honor their little agreements here. LANDO: I get that you were in a tight spot and all, my friend, but also come on. IT’S DARTH VADER.
Boba Fett, meanwhile, had headed out with his prized Han Solo-sicle, and Luke — who thought he was having a bad day already — arrived on Bespin so that Anakin Skywalker can make that day even worse. (That is sort of Anakin’s forte, you know.)
I’m not ready, but we’re gonna jump in anyways. Hang on to the closest weather vane!
Recurring Theme: It’s Superdork To The Rescue!
Luke sneaks his way down one of the hallways on Cloud City, Artoo following close behind.
He watches as Boba stalks past with Han’s Frozen Semi-Corpse, and eventually Luke gives himself away and everybody starts shooting and yelling:
Leia, being pulled away, shouts out to Luke that “It’s a trap!”, like, there you go, Skywalker, she’s trying to do you a solid here, but naturally Luke’s not about to heed these words of warning.
Recurring Theme: Anakin Skywalker, Showman
Luke hangs back in the shadows, and then enters into what the script refers to as an “anteroom”, which so does not do this very Extra setting justice. The poor lighting in here alone should have been our first clue that Vader was right around the corner.
THIS SCENE. Oh my God. I just…like, it absolutely delights me that people take this movie, or ANY of these movies, super-seriously. So Luke’s standing there all “huh” and getting his bearings, when all of a sudden the floor lights up with Red Mood Lighting, and when Luke turns around, THERE HE IS:
LOOK AT THIS ASSHOLE. Has Anakin EVER done anything like a regular person? I LOVE THIS DRAMATIC LOSER OMFG. He is really, really committed to his whole Special Destiny Force Child Aesthetic, both before and after becoming evil, I’ll give him that. Go big or go home, right dude? THERE IS SMOKE BILLOWING UP BEHIND HIM, YOU GUYS WHERE DID IT EVEN COME FROM. I refuse to believe the smoke has an actual reason for being there, and even if it does, I don’t care because as far as I’m concerned, Anakin just hauls a smoke machine with him everywhere he goes.
Even funnier, Vader literally just stands there, saying nothing and breathing like a creeper while Luke saunters his way up the stairs to him. They stand there for a split second posing at each other, and I swear to God they could just as easily have broken into a song-and-dance number together here.
Finally Luke activates his lightsaber, making a pouty little “I’ll get YOU” face, and OH HOW ANAKIN MUST BE GETTING MISTY IN THERE. I’m almost surprised he didn’t pause for a minute to get a quick picture for the Baby’s First Sith Lord Battle page of Luke’s scrapbook.
Recurring Theme: Leia Organa, Yeller of Things
Lando and the gang are relieved of their Imperial escorts as Lando’s own security guys show up in the nick of time. He instructs Lobot to take the Baddies to the security tower and hold them there, and as soon as they head out he turns around and begins to undo Chewie’s handcuffs.
Leia, predictably, is like EXCUSE ME GOOD SIR BUT WTF IS GOING ON, and he’s like “we’re getting out of here”, and she’s like UM AND I WOULD TRUST YOU WHYYYY??? Chewie takes matters, quite literally, into his own hands while Leia continues her Naberrie-Skywalker Indignant Yelling Because How Dare You:
Lando tries to explain: there’s still a chance they can save Han!! The east platform!! Ah yes, “there’s still a remote chance to save your boyfriend” — we all know that one goes over well with the Skywalker crowd, so naturally Leia is like OFF WE GO CHEWIE!, leaving Lando gasping for air:
Boba Fett, Off To See The Hutts
Alas! Han is already being put onto the Slave I, destined for Tatooine. Thank God Vader didn’t have to come along for this part of the plan!
Artoo catches up to the gang as they tear down the halls trying to reach Han before it’s too late, and Threepio is all “OMG ARTOO SO MANY BAD THINGS ARE HAPPENING ALSO NO ONE HAS SUFFERED AS MUCH AS ME”. Again: Threepio is absolutely part of Anakin’s family.
The Slave I takes off before the good guys can intercept it, and I laugh because Chewie does that same largely pointless shooting-at-the-departing-ship that Padme did in Attack of the Clones. Like, they’re pretty much just firing at the target of their ire because they’re mad, and not because it’s likely to actually do anything.
Some stormtroopers show up immediately after that, and there’s some pew-pew-pew:
Recurring Theme: Your Author’s Ongoing Love Affair With Star Wars Dialogue
Back in the Moody Boss Battle Chamber, Luke and Vader are still going at it. Vader remarks that Luke’s learned a lot, and while I know that canonically Luke and Vader have been having Adventures in between Episodes 4 and 5, if you work only off of the movies, this is sort of a very confusing thing to say? How would Vader know if Luke’s gotten better at using a lightsaber? He didn’t use one in front of Vader in Episode 4. Who am I kidding: we all know Anakin’s been Facebook stalking Luke constantly for years now.
Luke replies with the super corny “You’ll find I’m full of surprises!”, like, WHO WOULD SAY THIS. Why is everyone always saying these incredibly dweebtastic things while fighting for their lives? I just love how Star Wars seems to go out of its way to make its own heroes sound like COMPLETE AND UTTER NERDS, which, in fairness, is accurate. Luke loses his lightsaber and ends up tumbling down a set of stairs.
Recurring Theme: The Eternal Obe-Session
Vader, mostly for drama, leaps off the top step and flies down to Luke’s level. He declares: Luke’s destiny lies with him! And you know who knew that was true? Hmm? WANNA GUESS WHO ANAKIN’S NAME-CHECKING HERE? OBI-WAN! Anakin’s all OBI-WAN KNEW YOUR DESTINY LIES WITH ME NOW HURRY UP AND TURN TO THE DARK SIDE SO THAT WE CAN SPEND THE ENTIRE REST OF THE DAY TALKING ABOUT OBI-WAN TOGETHER, SON.
Luke is like “nope” and dramatically (look I’m sorry to keep using this word all the time but even after consulting a thesaurus many a time, I can only tell you that really no other word is as appropriate for the Skywalkers,) throws himself into the carbon chamber.
Vader is like “nice! A freebie!” and flips the switch to start the carbonite-freezing process with the Force. Luke, in response, does a humorously huge Force-jump straight up into the air — at which Vader is like “well, I’ve gotta give credit where credit is due, kid: that was pretty sweet.” I’m pretty sure this is the most fun Anakin has had in over 20 years.
Luke does some more fancy footwork and flips himself around and Force-grabs his lightsaber back. Vader, appreciatively, is like “Heeeeeey! Obi-Wan, who I’m talking about again for completely heterosexual reasons, did a good job teaching you! You’ve controlled your anger!” Well, at least that means Obi-Wan’s at a solid 50% success rate now. Vader continues: now, release your hate! LOL. Sorry. Sometimes this stuff just cracks me up for no specific reason.
Vader proclaims that only Luke’s hatred can destroy him. I mean, OK, I get where he was going with this, but also I think Anakin’s done a good enough job destroying himself already, thanks.
They fight some more, and Vader falls backwards, and I love that Luke just clips his lightsaber to his belt and skips off like “welp, took care of that.”
A Hallway So Nice They Used It Twice
Luke steps cautiously into another room…
…eventually making his way into one of those Cosmic Destiny Rooms Star Wars loves with the spider-web windows:
Vader reappears now, and the two end up in that hallway from Rey’s Force-Fueled Freakout in The Force Awakens.
Vader starts chucking shit at Luke with the Force (the making of for this scene is hilarious because they were pretty much just hurling pieces of the set at poor Mark here,) and one of the flying objects breaks the Spider Web Window.
Vader grips onto a wall as his cape flaps around majestically…
…and Luke goes flying out the window into oblivion, after which Vader goes walking towards the open window. I love that two seconds ago Vader appeared to need to cling to the wall for dear life, and now he’s just like “meh, guess it wasn’t that windy after all”.
Recurring Theme: Out On a Ledge
Luke is dangling over the abyss (it had been a while since someone was last doing so, after all,) and I assume Vader must be feeling full of nostalgia for the many billions of times it happened to him but especially this time:
Recurring Theme: Last-Minute Escape From the Clutches of Doom
After a little bit more running-and-shooting action, Leia, Lando, Chewie, and the droids make their escape out of the building. Lando makes an announcement to the citizens of Cloud City that the Empire’s taken over and that everyone should GTFO, and Artoo gets to have a moment where he hotwires a door so the gang can flee. (Naturally, Threepio yells and freaks out for 99% of this entire scene.)
They manage to jump aboard the Falcon and step on it, stormtroopers firing uselessly at them as they go:
Lando Calrissian, Follows OSHA Standards
Luke is creeping along a platform now, and I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that this is one of the only outrageously gigantic abysses in the galaxy whose precariously-placed platforms actually have guardrails! Safety first here, everybody!
He steps into some kind of computer control room, and then, BAM! Vader Attack:
Recurring Theme: Anakin Skywalker, A Gift From The Humor Gods
Anakin takes this opportunity to inform Luke that he is “beaten”, because it’s “useless to resist” presumably because Anakin is like, such an amazing super badass. He then delightfully urges Luke not to let himself be destroyed like Obi-Wan did. Vader has hardly even said anything in this entire part of the movie and yet this is the third time he’s mentioned Obi-Wan. Please note, while I’m at it, that it’s not like anyone else was bringing him up first. This is all on you, Anakin. WHO AMONG US IS SURPRISED.
Also, I’m kind of dying that Vader declares that Obi-Wan let himself be destroyed here. Does he think Obes was phoning it in back on Death Star I? Does he think Obi-Wan had an alternative to dying in that confrontation? Would he have let Obes join the Dark Side at age 59, after a solid and unblemished track record of Lightsiderness, instead of “letting himself be destroyed”? Now there’s an AU for you all: one where Obi-Wan goes through literally all that solitude and meditation and self-sacrifice and Luke-bodyguarding, just to turn around and be like “eh, actually Anakin, you know what? Fuck it, I’m tired, and I miss you, so whatever. Sure, Lord Crazypants: I love the Dark Side. This Death Star have a bar? Let’s grab a drink and then go take an evil nap together. Sorry Luke!”
Recurring Theme: Separation of Arm and Owner
Their fight keeps going, and things are not going too well for our buddy Luke, as he gets pinned to the ground (and, entertainingly, looks like he’s trying to blow out Vader’s lightsaber here):
Vader takes a fateful whack at Luke that famously results in yet another Dis-Arming:
Awww! Now Vader must really be feeling nostalgic.
Luke looks miserable, clinging to a pole — and his life — suspended over the void without any guardrails to save him now. He climbs even further back while Vader’s cape continues to fly around in the wind:
Recurring Theme: Anakin Skywalker, Day-Ruiner
Vader keeps grandstanding: don’t make me destroy you, young man! You don’t understand! We can be besties! I’ll complete your training! I’m way more fun than Obi-Wan was anyways! By the way if you join me we can destroy those who oppose us and we can Finally End This War! ANAKIN FOR THE LOVE OF GOD: for the last fucking time, killing everything in your path and ruining the lives of your loved ones IS NOT GOING TO BRING PEACE TO THE GALAXY. WHY ARE YOU SO INCREDIBLY DIM SOMETIMES YOU TOTAL LOSER. (Yes, I know, this is part of his recruitment speech, but still.)
Luke, like everyone else Anakin has ever tried to pull into the utter flaming trainwreck that is his life in the last two decades or so, is not interested in signing up with Team Evil. He spits defiantly: he’ll never join Vader!
Anakin, looking to turn the tide in his favor AND mention Obi-Wan for a FOURTH TIME IN FIFTEEN MINUTES, makes an observation: Obi-Wan never told Luke what happened to his father!
Luke replies that oh, Obi-Wan told him enough! HAHAHA. My immediate thought was that Luke is like “PLEASE Vader, Obi-Wan already told me a LOT of Very Intimate Details about my dad IT WAS ENOUGH OK I CAN’T TAKE ANYMORE THERE’S JUST SOME STUFF YOU DON’T WANNA KNOW ABOUT YOUR DAD OK????” but that is because I am a ridiculous person.
Luke continues: Obi-Wan told me YOU killed him! and of course, at this, Vader counters with the Ultimate Dramatic Reveal: ACTUALLY, VADER IS LUKE’S FATHER. DUN DUN DUUUUUUN!
Hey, whaddya know, Skyboys: turns out Obi-Wan and Vader are both right in this instance! You’re welcome! *sobs*
Luke Skywalker, Taking It Well
Luke proceeds to take in this information in a very composed and collected manner, as is to be expected. Observe:
Vader, seemingly largely unfazed by the fact that Luke is freaking the fuck out and screaming and sobbing in front of him (I mean, Anakin probably starts every morning sobbing and screaming NOOOOOO in anguish himself, so I guess it’s not surprising,) explains that the two of them can Rule Together. Oh Anakin: still trying to find someone to rule the galaxy with him. He is so lonely. He explains that Luke can overthrow the Emperor! And then they can take over the galaxy and Make Things They Way They Want Them To Be! I love that Anakin gave up on overthrowing Sheev himself pretty much immediately once Padme and Obi-Wan told him to go fuck himself back in Episode 3. I guess you could assume he isn’t able to take that old monster down alone now that he’s been maimed and put in the Suit, but I like to believe that it’s more because Anakin doesn’t wanna have to do all the work himself.
Anakin Skywalker, Zero For Four
Luke takes in Vader’s offer, and a calm comes over him: he looks at Vader one last time, and lets himself go tumbling into the void below. Yes, Anakin’s having a great day: his son chose to end it all rather than hang out with him. This also means that Anakin has now failed to recruit Padme, Obi-Wan, Ahsoka, AND Luke — so, pretty much the only people in the entire universe he’s ever cared about save for his mother — for his crazy schemes (and I don’t wanna speak for Shmi here, but I’m pretty confident she wouldn’t have been interested in taking Anakin up on the Dark Side, either.) NOBODY LIKES YOU ANYMORE, ANAKIN. I CAN’T IMAGINE WHY.
Luke Skywalker, Hanging In There
Luke ends up sliding down a long garbage chute-type thinger:
…and ultimately winds up clinging to a weather vane.
His lightsaber gets away from him (Obi-Wan’s gonna kill him), and we watch it disappear for forever because obviously everything that disappears in this universe stays gone for good. (At any rate, if they ever did show Anakin’s lightsaber again they’d surely have to give a decent explanation about what happened to it and not just have it show up thirty-plus years later in some random new character’s basement inside some kind of pirate treasure chest without any further information AGHHHHH LOOK I’M SORRY BUT I AM STILL JUST SO IRRATIONALLY ANNOYED BY THIS OK.)
Recurring Theme: Help Me Obi-Wan Kenobi
Luke, compelled by genetics, reaches out into the Force and begs Obi-Wan to help him. Old Ben, possibly because his ghost is preoccupied with flirtatiously haunting people somewhere (because you know he would,) ain’t taking Luke’s calls.
Luke tries someone else on Force gChat: Leia! Leia, fortunately, is actively online, and has a Force Moment:
She insists that they have to go back: she knows where Luke is!
As the Falcon goes back to save our little Jedi Sunshine, Vader asks for his shuttle so that he can have a private place to cry and wail about how no one’s life has ever been worse than his and he doesn’t deserve any of this (he does.)
Recurring Theme: It’s Not My Fault…
Lando spots Luke out there dangling, and Team Rebel shows up and scoops him out of the sky to safety:
Leia makes sure to get in yet another ill-advised smooch with Luke (though this one is a lot less of a Thing than the one were subjected to earlier and more of a “thank God you’re alive” kind of a deal,) after which Luke sort of flops back half-dead.
Back in the cockpit, Leia’s like “OK, we picked up the Jedi, now let’s hit the road!” That is, because of course obviously the hyperdrive was successfully repaired, right? RIGHT LANDO?!
…LOL. Yeah, as Leia facepalms, Lando goes off into a tizzy about how it’s not his fault!!! They promised they repaired it!!!! I love that everyone in Star Wars is like this.
Chewie is furious and shoves Lando away as he makes his way out of the room.
At the same time, Vader is chit-chatting with his guys all “…you guys totally disabled their hyperdrive, yeah? SWEET. Prepare for a boarding party, and set your weapons to stun!” Yes, Luke’s not about to get out of that Father-Son Imperial BBQ that easily.
Recurring Theme: Long-Distance Dedication
On the Falcon, Chewie is trying to fix things and Threepio, mostly back in one piece now, is like “why didn’t they go into hyperspace yet?!” Artoo informs him that the hyperdrive’s been deactivated, and Threepio’s like NUH UH HOW WOULD YOU KNOW, and just…OMG.
So then Vader and his dudes start drawing closer and please enjoy yet another visit from our friend the script, who would like us all to know that Vader is so jazzed at getting another shot at his Join The Dark Side Spiel that he’s basically hyperventilating:
Anakin GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF.
Vader says Luke’s name, and from his bed on the Falcon, Luke is like “…the hell?”
Recurring Theme: It’s All Obi-Wan’s Fault!
Vader is like “You. Son. Hang with me. I swear it will be THE BEST, look how much fun I’m obviously having being evil all the time.” Luke’s first instinct, of course, is to try to find a way to pin this mess all on Obi-Wan, lamenting why Ben didn’t tell him The Great Big Secret.
He was GETTING to it, OK Skywalker? He even talked to Qui-Gon’s Force Ghost about it when you went back home to go find the charred corpses of your aunt and uncle! He didn’t know he was going to die like 45 minutes later, and also let’s be real here: if anyone’s going to know to use a light touch and ease your way in when delivering unpleasant information to a Skywalker, it’s going to be this guy. One time Anakin was told that all living things die and he eventually proceeded to set the entire galaxy on fire in response. Obi-Wan knew he had to approach this thing with care!
Also if you wanna be mad at someone about the fact that your dad is Darth Vader, I suggest taking that ire directly to the source, Luke. There wouldn’t BE a Big Darth Vader Secret to KEEP if there wasn’t a Darth Vader to begin with, ANAKIN.
Recurring Theme: Hero Droid
Luke heads over to the cockpit, looking terribly beaten up and upset, and some TIEs start shooting and everything is looking Very Bad Indeed for our friends.
Fortunately for them, they have a robot with them who specializes in helping out the Naberrie-Skywalkers when they’re in a jam (which happens OFTEN.) Artoo gets to work on the hyperdrive (while Threepio yells and flails his arms at him, standing on his one attached leg):
At the critical moment, the ship lurches into hyperdrive:
PLEASE KNOW HOW VERY DELIGHTFUL I FIND THE FACT THAT ANAKIN WAS FOILED BY HIS OWN DROID HERE. Like, how perfect is this? Anakin’s life story, post-fuck-up, is basically just that every one of his friends and family united together to thwart him at every opportunity. Didn’t matter if they were still a teenager, or if they were a droid, or if they had actually already died, or even if they had to go through a portal in time and space to do it, they were going to STICK IT TO THIS GUY UNTIL HE GAVE UP AND DUNKED SHEEV INTO OBLIVION. It’s like they all decided that Anakin Skywalker was going to destroy the Sith even if they had to drag him into it kicking and screaming.
Aaaanyways, Vader watches them disappear and he’s all sad or angry or wistful or his usual combination of all three. He shuffles off all “…well, shit“, possibly because he’s realized he’s dealing with a Jedi Doofus that is as stubbornly loyal as he used to be and it’s dawning on him that he’s got his work cut out for him. And here Anakin thought just showing up and dropping the results of Luke’s paternity test on him while making sure his cape billowed a lot was going to be enough to seal the deal.
Recurring Theme: Skywalker Repair
The Falcon is docked at some Rebellion cruiser, so that it can drop off the Skytwins. Lando and Chewie, still in the cockpit of the Falcon, are getting ready to head off in the direction of Return of the Jedi. Luke tells Lando that they’ll meet him at the rendezvous point on Tatooine, and because this is Star Wars, “Tatooine” is randomly pronounced differently this time for no reason. Just keepin’ us on our toes, I guess.
While Luke is sitting there talking to Lando, a medical droid is finishing up building his new hand. Evidently, New Hand Technology has come a long way in just a few decades (or at least Fake Hand Covering Technology, since we know what Luke’s hand looks like later. Unless Luke’s robotic hand got sliced off again at some point, and the hand he has in the Sequels is like, some retro-throwback model he requested so that he could look more like his dad.)
Lando assures Leia that they’re going to find Han, and she looks sad, but brightens up as Chewie howls and he and Lando set out. She then, in the proud tradition of her people, walks over to the window to stare wistfully, and John Williams thoughtfully cranks up the volume on the soundtrack for us. Luke, surely not wanting to be left out of a good ol’ fashioned window-staring, joins Leia (and the robots their parents loved so much they literally invited them to their wedding) to get a gaze in himself:
The Falcon flies off into space, the music goes Full Drama, and then, right on cue, it’s time for the Iris Wipe and subsequent Acknowledgement of the Nerds who made this silliness:
…did we make it? WE MADE IT! Four movies down! I hope you enjoyed this edition of Luke Skywalker’s Neverending Personal Destiny Quest. Thanks so much for joining me — and I’ll see you all next time, when, no matter which direction I go, we’re gonna end up on Tatooine yet again. (You can wait in the car, Anakin.)