Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace (Part III)
Welcome back to another installment of Star Wars, Episode I: Everything’s Probably Gonna Be Fine. When we last spent time with our group of unlikely heroes, Padme, Qui-Gon and Jar Jar had headed out on an expedition in an attempt to buy replacement parts for their ship, which has conveniently been waylaid in the sandy armpit of the galaxy also known as Tatooine (and, again, I would just like to point out that coming here was Obi-Wan’s idea, because of course it was, because you just know he felt some sort of weird Force beacon calling to him, which was probably just Anakin being hungry or sneezing or something.) Later, Qui-Gon failed to charm/mind-scramble his way into securing the necessary parts, and in the course of this unsuccessful shopping trip the group met a towheaded little scamp named Anakin Skywalker, a child prodigy who currently is in possession of more chill than he will ever have ever again in his entire life. (And, probably, his afterlife. I mean, I don’t know for sure, but I am really not willing to buy any version of Ghost Anakin that isn’t currently draped across Obi-Wan’s lap, dramatically throwing a hand back against his forehead while lamenting the state of the galaxy.)
At the end of the last installment, the group had found themselves about to contend with a sandstorm, and short on time to get all the way back to their ship (a ship that contains both Obi-Wan and a gaggle of teenage handmaidens, and if you think he wasn’t getting notes passed to him every 15 minutes or hearing constant giggling behind his back, you have obviously not ever seen Obi-Wan or been a teenage girl. Or boy. Or anyone. Look, I know the handmaidens were brave and smart and could kick your ass, but they are still teenagers and a young Ewan McGregor is right there. THEY’RE ONLY HUMAN.) (YES I KNOW I AM PROJECTING AGAIN.)
Ah, good: not even recapping new content yet and I’ve already checked off a lot of my usual boxes: Dramatic Anakin, Obi-Wan and Anakin being obsessed with each other, my staunch belief that Ewan McGregor is handsome. I’m keeping things fresh over here! You’re welcome, everyone! Aren’t you glad you keep showing up for this quality content? Sure you are.
OK: so with a storm approaching, the gang has taken shelter at Anakin’s house, which is where we pick things up today. Here we go!
When Artoo Met Threepio
Pretty much the second after they walk in the door, Anakin is like HEY PADME COME SEE MY ROBOT. I am confident that this is not going to be even remotely the last time Padme’s going to have to look at a droid that Anakin built. As he drags her off, Artoo goes for a mosey along with them.
Anakin? IS THE CUTEST GODDAMN THING. He is so proud of his robot. Padme, sweetly, tells Anakin that she likes Threepio:
And Anakin? IS AGAIN THE CUTEST GODDAMN THING. He’s so excited that Padme likes him! KILL ME NOW.
He turns on Threepio to show him off some more:
Padme, again, is generous with praise, and Threepio is absolutely touched by this, and I am really tired of Star Wars making me feel ways about imaginary robots but here we are again.
Then, of course, one of the most significant meetings in Star Wars occurs, and I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be dramatic here or anything (yes I am) but if you don’t find this incredibly dorky Star Wars humor endearing at all, you have no heart:
…good one, George. LOL. You know who loves this? Kids. It’s almost as though Star Wars was made for them. *sips drink pointedly*
Obi-Wan Kenobi, In Charge of Security Here
Back on the ship, Obi-Wan is manspreading and listening to a holo from Sio Bibble where he’s insisting that everyone’s dying on Naboo and things are horrible and mostly just freaking out.
As the message ends, he’s all Business and tells the Queen to do nothing:
LOL. Yes, everyone listen to the Junior Assistant Jedi here, who looks like he’s 18. I love that everyone just sort of stares at him, like “ohhhhkay, not sure who put you in charge here, dude, but all right.”
After stealing away to another room, though, Obi-Wan is decidedly less confident: even after Qui-Gon agrees that it’s likely a trap (as it always is around here) to trace the call and find out where the Queen is, Obi-Wan worries that they could be wrong:
…to which Qui-Gon is like “welp, no matter what this shit isn’t good”:
Recurring Theme: Bad Guy Team Meeting
Over on Coruscant, the music is getting all Dark and Foreboding and there’s a lot of Loud Evil-Sounding Horn Action going on, so it must be time to check in with the Darksiders.
Sidious and Maul are doing a walk-and-talk out on some kind of an evil patio or something, and apparently they were indeed able to trace the holo-call to Tatooine:
Poor Maul. Here he is, probably thinking this is going to be but a small blip in his career as an Evildoer, when in actuality this little side trip to Tatooine of his is going to be but the first step towards his all-consuming, blinding hatred of/obsession with Obi-Wan. And he’s gonna have to come back there decades later! And die! I’m with Luke here: Tatooine really is the worst.
Sidious tells him to dispose of the Jedi first (and oh what a mixed bag THAT’S gonna turn out to be,) after which nabbing the Queen and forcing her to sign the treaty won’t be hard. You know, this really all seems like a lot of work for one little signature. Sidious should have just forged it and saved himself a ton of time.
Maul is so ready: this will be a day long remembered!
…this is even funnier to me when I consider that the Jedi, later on, are so sure the Sith can’t possibly be back. Like, all this time the Sith have been stewing in their own evil juices, hating the Jedi 24/7 and constantly plotting vengeance, and the Jedi seem to barely even remember that the Sith were a thing. And you know that the Sith play it off like “oh thank goodness those idiots aren’t even thinking about us, this will make it easier to plot our surprise attack” but secretly they’re more than a little put out at being forgotten.
Ha! Kinda seems like that overconfidence could be his downfall or something. I dunno.
Recurring Theme: My Dinner With Anakin
We’re back at Anakin’s house again, and the Skywalkers are chatting with their guests about how slaves are microchipped to keep them from escaping:
Sheesh! Way to keep things nice and light there, Skywalkers!
Padme is like “Slavery? In MY galaxy?” Shmi informs her that the Republic and its laws don’t exist out here in Sand Lake City, another city I just made up.
Anakin, looking to change the topic to something slightly less upsetting and work in some bragging about himself, asks:
Padme hasn’t, but Qui-Gon replies that he has:
Anakin reveals that he’s got some Secret Skillz:
Recurring Theme: You and Me and Dramatic Irony
Qui-Gon, who’s probably had a nosebleed since they met Anakin from all the unshielded Force Waves pouring off of Anakin, states with coolness that…
Anakin, as we know, has already kind of worked things out on his own (trust me, I am just as surprised as you all are):
I know that he’s worked this out largely because of the fact that he knows Qui-Gon has a lightsaber, but I love that this means that Anakin figured out that Qui-Gon was a Jedi almost immediately after meeting him, but it’s going to take him something like 13 years to figure out that Palpatine is a Sith.
Qui-Gon and Anakin just can’t resist getting right to work rubbing some salt in my wounds, because George Lucas always wants me to suffer. I’m including a screenshot of Qui-Gon looking intoxicated in part to take the sting out of this:
THANKS. I mean, I guess I’ll take that both of these guys are actually going to get to live forever, but still. ANAKIN IS STILL GOING TO KILL AN AWFUL LOT OF JEDI FIRST.
Anakin shares that he once dreamt he was a Jedi, and came back and freed all the slaves. I am sad that he didn’t get to do it, but I will take comfort in thinking about how thrilled he’d be to know his daughter was eventually going to dispatch with Jabba the Hutt in the most extra way.
He asks Qui-Gon if they’re there to free him and his mom:
Recurring Theme: I’m Sorry, Anakin, But I Laughed Out Loud At This
Qui-Gon shifts in his seat, before saying this absolutely one-million-percent inaccurate statement:
LOL. OK YES FINE I KNOW HE’S A SMART KID AND HE BECOMES A SMART ADULT IN MANY WAYS BUT ALSO ANAKIN IS THE MOST CLUELESS AND EASILY SWINDLED PERSON EVER.
Anyways. OK, Jinn, whatever you say.
Qui-Gon and Padme explain their predicament:
As Jar Jar adds on that they are also broke and therefore have nothing to buy parts with, Anakin has an idea that will, in part, lead to the end of the universe. I can’t say, to my knowledge, anything I did as a nine-year-old had this kind of impact.
Yes — why, Anakin has a pod! They’ll pretend it’s Qui-Gon’s! They’ll convince Watto to let him race! They’ll win the race, and use some of the winnings to buy the parts they need!
Shmi is NOT on board with this:
Anakin protests: but he loves to race! And they need his help! And Day-Saving is totally his thing!
Shmi replies with an “An-akin…” that is DEEPLY reminiscent of Obi-Wan’s “An-akin”, and now I’m just really, really sad that Shmi and Obi-Wan never got to hang out. They could have commiserated about how they love him but really wish he’d stop trying to get himself killed! They could have chided Anakin in unison! Obi-Wan would have felt so understood! Please, enjoy this Kenobiesque face of total exasperation:
Qui-Gon is all “you listen to your mother, young man”, and they all sigh in despair that there’s no one else who can help them. After a beat, Anakin, the eventual biggest problem in the universe, says this:
Shmi Skywalker, Making Either the Best or Worst Move Ever
Padme promises that they’ll find some other way that doesn’t involve putting Anakin in danger, but, with trepidation, Shmi concedes: there’s no other way available to them. And she knows that Anakin can help them:
…well, I guess we’ll just go with that old Kenobi classic that this is true from a certain point of view.
With the storm apparently over and Anakin’s fate on its way to being sealed, Padme and Qui-Gon have a chat outside on their way back to Watto’s. Uh, hello, Star Wars? What day is it? How much time has passed? Padme is, for the one and only time in her life, unwilling to hitch her wagon to Anakin’s star, protesting that they “hardly know” him:
YEAH PADME. It’d be crazy to go all-in on a boy you hardly know. Or a man, for that matter. Just something to maybe jot down somewhere, if you feel like it.
Padme comments pointedly that the “Queen” would not approve, and Qui-Gon explains that the Queen doesn’t have to know, giving her a pointed glance backward. This is a man who knows more than he is letting on about a lot of things.
Recurring Theme: Let’s Make a Deal
They walk into Watto’s and he and Qui-Gon hash out the terms of this whole podrace thing:
Once again: this all seems like a lot of work. Is there really no way for Qui-Gon to just call the damn Council and ask them to send an Uber to pick them all up? Tatooine doesn’t have phones ANYWHERE? If he can’t get Watto to accept credits, does this mean literally no one else on the entire planet will, so he can’t just trade his credits for something else that Watto WILL take? There’s no Shady Currency Exchange place around here, despite the fact that gambling is apparently a huge deal? This ridiculous scheme where a child prodigy they just met possibly as little as a few hours ago is going to enter a race on a lawless planet, risking not only their ownership of the Queen’s ship, but also the boy’s life, is the ONLY way for them to possibly get the hell out of here? Also, I know this wasn’t part of the story at the time this movie was written but QUINLAN VOS IS HERE. How did he arrive? How is he planning to get home? He has no way to contact the Temple either? He can’t break whatever his undercover character is for 5 minutes to place a quick call to his little green grandpa so that Yoda will send a taxi over or FedEx them some bus tickets? We all know Obi-Wan is his favorite grandkid; Yoda’s not gonna leave him to rot in the desert if he can help it! (Well, except for later when he has no choice. Aaaand now I’m sad again.)
OK! I have officially way, WAY overthought this, because as we are all well-aware the whole point here is that George had to move Anakin from Point A to Point B, and this is Star Wars, where nothing has ever made total sense to begin with. It’s fine.
Watto remarks to Anakin, after Qui-Gon leaves, that he thinks Anakin’s friend is foolish, and Anakin gives him an excellent scowl as the scene is wiped away:
Recurring Theme: Everyone Hates Tatooine
Later, Obi-Wan, on Hour 72 or whatever of his exile on the ship, is comm-ing to Qui-Gon and fretting yet again:
Why, if this plan fails, Obi-Wan, you’ll never meet Anakin! And think…how…bad…your life would be…if that happened. Yes. Bad.
Obi-Wan notes that, should they fail:
L O L. VERY FUNNY, GEORGE. You see, Obi-Wan will be stuck here for a very long time. After Anakin goes crazy and kills everyone and destroys everything Obi-Wan ever believed in and leaves him a crying, broken, hollow shell of a man. It’s…it’s just really funny, is all. I’m…having a good time.
Qui-Gon reminds him that it’s too dangerous to call for help. YEAH, MAYBE FROM THE SHIP I GUESS (even though as we already know, Ancient Evil Inc. has already traced the call), BUT AGAIN: ARE THERE NO OTHER PHONES ON THE ENTIRE PLANET?! It’s not like Sidious has tapped the wires of every single phone in the whole galaxy. They’re Jedi, can’t they just sneak into some crime lord’s den and place a call? As if I believe for one hot second that Hondo Ohnaka isn’t here right now. They could steal his pirate phone, or trade him Obi-Wan’s friendship for 5 minutes of cell coverage! If they need to make a quick buck, why not have Kenobi go brush some banthas for a farmer or something? He loves animals, and they love him! Hell, just send Obi-Wan to a cantina for the evening and have him flirt with everyone there until he charms his way into some cold hard cash. If they throw Vos into the mix they’d probably have enough money in like 20 minutes! YOU HAVE SO MANY OPTIONS HERE, JINN, GET CREATIVE.
Recurring Theme: There’s Something About Anakin
Ah! Well, turns out maybe Qui-Gon’s not all that keen to think outside the box here anyways, because…
…yeah. He’s right, you know. There is something about Anakin. I hope someday one of us finally figures out what it is.
My favorite part about this bit is that Qui-Gon says this, in a very weary and concerned way, and then immediately HANGS UP ON OBI-WAN. WHO DOES THIS?! That is the weirdest fucking thing to say and then hang up. If I’m Obi-Wan, and I’m on the other end of that call, I’m like, “…wait, what? You mean the 9-year-old upon whom our entire stupid plot here hinges? What about him? What’s wrong with him? Is he OK? Are you OK?WHAT DO YOU MEAN, MASTER? HELLO??”
Recurring Theme: Hilarity Thy Name Is Star Wars
Shmi steps outside, and she and Qui-Gon chat about Anakin and what a good kid he is as they watch him. Qui-Gon observes that Anakin has “special powers”, and Shmi confirms this.
Qui-Gon is like “oh yeah, he can see shit before it happens, that’s totally a Jedi trait”. LOL. Look, I know that the Dark Side clouded their vision or whatever during this era of galactic history, but I am sorry. The Jedi are often REAL hit and miss on knowing what’s going to happen next. See also: the next decade and a half. Boy were they embarrassed!
Qui-Gon notes that the Force is insanely strong with Anakin, and asks Shmi who his father was. At this, Shmi drops one hell of a bombshell:
…and I am going to just plop in this rant I’d written earlier about this, because let me tell you: this whole thing cracks me UP:
Every so often I recall that Anakin Skywalker was fathered by the actual Force and it entertains me so greatly, and not just because the idea that Anakin was sired by Pure Concentrated Drama Itself sounds incredibly accurate.
Like…is this a thing that happens in the GFFA? Qui-Gon seems kind of surprised by it when Shmi tells him about this, sure, but it’s not like he’s like WAIT WHAT?! WHAT DO YOU MEAN “THERE WAS NO FATHER” LADY ARE YOU OK DO YOU HAVE HEATSTROKE RIGHT NOW DO YOU NEED TO LIE DOWN?
Am I to assume that Anakin went to classes at the Temple and learned about the Force and was like “oh, well, I know all about that, because the Force knocked up my unsuspecting mother and that is how I was spawned into existence”? Or did Shmi pretend that Anakin had had a regular, non-incorporeal-entity father that just like, died or left or whatever because she wasn’t quite ready to be like “so anyways I literally have zero idea where you came from or what impregnated me with you, so you might wanna just like…make a note of that like for medical records and whatnot”?
What the hell did Anakin’s CLASSMATES make of this? Did they think he was lying? Or was half the class like “oh yeah, same here”? Does the Force get around? Or was this truly a one-shot deal, triggered in part by whatever Force bullshit Plagueis was messing around with during his whole alleged “using the Force to create life” thing? Or did the Sith accidentally create like half the Force-sensitives in the galaxy by repeatedly causing unsuspecting people they didn’t know to get pregnant from a great distance away?
I have so many questions about this, Star Wars. So many. All of them ridiculous.
So yes: Star Wars wasn’t weird enough to begin with, so Virgin Birth it is! Shmi asks Qui-Gon if he can “help” Anakin.
LOL. Again: me neither. Can anyone really help Anakin Skywalker, though?
Recurring Theme: Anakin Skywalker, The Hero With No Friends
Anakin shows off his pod to a bunch of kids who seem initially mildly impressed, then basically just resort to dragging him about how he’ll never be able to pilot it and blahblahblah.
Poor Anakin. He’s just not a popular guy. At least he had Kitster!
After some Jar-Jarian antics….
…they all decide it’s time for Anakin to give the pod a test:
Success! Everything’s coming up Anakin!
Shmi looks on at this scene, and even though she doesn’t say it, I’m going to presume her inner monologue was “…I have a bad feeling about this.” Me too, girl.
Recurring Theme: Wacky Star Wars Science
Oh good, another thing in Star Wars that nobody’s ever complained about! It’s nighttime now, and Qui-Gon is hanging out on the patio at Chez Skywalker. You know, they might be slaves but their house actually seems pretty nice? They even have a veranda with a sweet view!
Anakin has a little heartwarming moment with Qui-Gon:
…well, if by “see”, you mean “enslave and destroy”, you’re gonna put in a pretty solid effort, Skywalker. (Sorry.)
Qui-Gon helps Anakin with a cut he has, and sneaks in a little bit of medical testing without consent. That’s…maybe not great? Let’s, uh, let’s just tell ourselves he at least told Anakin’s mom in advance, because she too was more than a little curious about what was up with the child she somehow gave birth to.
Shmi calls to Anakin to get his ass in bed:
Yeah, stop giving blood samples to your weird old Space Wizard friend and go to sleep already! I hate when I have to yell at my kids about that.
Qui-Gon explains that he’s checking Anakin’s blood for “infections”, which I suppose could also be true. Anakin seems totally unfazed by this (Anakin has never been especially good at knowing to ask relevant follow-up questions, such as “Why does an old man want to take me to a bar when I am twelve years old?”, or “Do you actually know how to save someone from dying (please provide specifics)?”, or “Why did you have this life-support suit and built-in cape ready so quickly?”), and scampers off to bed.
Qui-Gon asks Obi-Wan to test Anakin’s blood sample, which apparently he can text-message to him across the desert? OK.
…oh, it turns out Anakin’s infected all right: he’s infected with a terminal case of the Force!
- That blood test was FAST holy shit;
- Everyone just knows Yoda’s midi-chlorian count offhand? Does he brag about it? LOL. Is this like the Jedi version of an SAT score?
Yes, turns out that Anakin’s gone ahead and wrecked the curve for the rest of the Order: no Jedi has a count that high!
…yep, nothing to be alarmed about! Whatever this kid is, it’s definitely normal! Shmi, having been eavesdropping, looks a little unsettled, as one might be at hearing that their child is possibly a deity:
Recurring Theme: Maul, On His Way to Ruining Obi-Wan’s Day
Under cover of night, our friend Maul arrives, looking fab-u-lous:
He does a little recon, then sends out some probe droids to check things out for him. DUN DUN DUUUUUN!
Recurring Theme: Fuck With Fate
The next day, in a holding area/garage type thingy, the gang is preparing for this year’s Boonta Eve Classic, a day that will live in infamy. Watto and Qui-Gon are shit-talking a bit, and Watto reveals that even though he has faith in Anakin…
…he’s betting on Sebulba.
Qui-Gon, Up to Something, counters:
I honestly wonder how often Qui-Gon came back from non-Republic worlds with randoms he picked up/rescued from slavery/whatever. I feel like this is not the only time he pulled something like this. Yoda and Mace just wait back in the Council room, drinking heavily, to see who Jinn’s brought home this time, knowing that it’s not a matter of if.
Watto isn’t willing to part with two slaves, though, so Qui-Gon suggests:
If it lands on blue, Qui-Gon can have Anakin…
…fate indeed — Qui-Gon, sneakily, sways things in a certain direction, using the Force to make the cube land…
Watto is displeased, but vows that it won’t matter:
Anakin arrives, and Kitster spills the beans to Padme that Anakin’s never actually finished a race:
LOL. I love how Anakin always has these friends who believe he’ll be able to do something (win a race, hold his temper in check, not lose his shit) despite the fact that he’s never been able to do it before. He is really good at getting people under his spell, I’ll give him that.
Qui-Gon is like “yes! Of course he will!” and Padme’s face is priceless:
This poor girl. Seriously. I have a migraine on her behalf.
Recurring Theme: Anakin Skywalker, Best Star Pilot in Galaxy According To Totally Unbiased Source
With that, it’s Race Time! As with all Long Action Sequences of Star Wars, I’m not going to break it down for you beat-by-beat here, so let’s cover the highlights.
We meet some of the racers, and Anakin himself gets an introduction:
Shmi says her goodbyes:
Sebulba subtly sabotages Anakin’s pod, then swings by for some shit-talking:
Anakin, making an amazing Classic Anakin Sass Face, throws some insults back:
Qui-Gon loads up his tiny charge and gives him some Jedi Advice:
I feel like I can’t let this moment pass without pointing out that I wouldn’t worry about Anakin thinking too much.
…and finally, Jabba himself shows up to drop the metaphorical checkered flag:
As things get underway, Padme is like “hey BTW I still hate all of this plan” and Qui-Gon pretty much just tells her to cram it, and she’s like “get bent, Space Merlin”:
Anakin runs into engine trouble right out of the gate and things look grim:
…but of course, eventually he gets things righted and he’s off, and the next huge chunk of time could really just be called “Ben Burtt Has a Field Day and George Lucas Likes Fast Cars”:
Swish! Swoosh! Zoom! You guys know the story: Anakin uses his Jedi Reflexes and so on, and ends up besting Sebulba for the win, and boy is everyone happy!
…except for Watto, who is pissed, and Jabba, who fell asleep and has to be awakened.
Anakin gets thanked by Padme, a moment that I’m just going to go ahead and assume he spent the next 5 years of his life, minimum, obsessing over, and, adorably, getting kissed by his mom and making that face my youngest makes when I fuss over him.
“Aww” is right! The cuteness!
So: Baby Anakin! He’s made of the Force! He won the podrace that will allow his friends to get off Tatooine (in some cases, temporarily!) His mom is proud! Qui-Gon is proud! Padme is proud! He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s not a slave anymore! And now he’ll get to become a Jedi if he wants to! AND, as if his day couldn’t get any better, he’s gonna get to finally meet Obi-Wan. This kid doesn’t even know what he’s in for (and hilariously, neither does Obi-Wan.)
With that, we have covered a LOT of runtime, and I have written a LOT of words, so that’s all for today! Come back and see me again next time, when Anakin will get to say one very significant goodbye, another very significant hello, and the gang will travel to Coruscant, where they’ll meet up with that nice old man who’s always helping them with stuff out of the goodness of his heart. Yes, the wheels are well and truly in motion now, friends! Thanks for reading!
The next entry in this series hasn’t been published yet.
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