Caution: spoilers for The Clone Wars, Rebels, and Tarkin ahead.
“And my attack on the Temple was an attack on what the Jedi have become: an army fighting for the dark side, fallen from the Light that we once held so dear.” –Barriss Offee
The Jedi Order. Peacekeepers and guardians of the Old Republic. For many generations, this monastic group stood as a bastion of hope for myriad sentients throughout the galaxy. However, this time of relative peace and justice was not to last.
In today’s entry, I’d like to discuss the fall of the Jedi Order and the various factors that led to its destruction by the Sith. I’ll try to go into as much depth as possible (hopefully) without scaring off or confusing newer fans.
Reason #1: Sheev Palpatine (Darth Sidious)
There’s no getting around this. Palpatine is pretty much the reason for (nearly) all of the following causes of the Order’s annihilation. Darth Sidious’s existence was the culmination of hundreds of years of Sith planning and it was because of his machinations that he was finally able to take revenge on the Jedi.
The Legends novel Darth Plagueis is no longer considered canon, but it is still an excellent read that shows how the Sith pulled the strings that led to the fall of the Republic and the Jedi. (Note: The canon novel Tarkin by the same author mentions some concepts from the Plagueis novel meaning that at least some of the story is still canon.)
Reason #2: War
Palpatine was smart. He knew the Jedi had been in power for centuries and that the Sith (because of Darth Bane’s Rule of Two) were outnumbered. They would lose badly in open confrontation against ten thousand Jedi. So he set up a Morton’s Fork for them in the shape of a galaxy-spanning war.
The Jedi were presented with two unfavorable choices: A: The Jedi do not get involved in the Clone Wars and let the Republic deal with it. Unfavorable outcome: Millions of innocents die and the public accuses them of not protecting the citizens of the Republic. B: The Jedi join the war against the Separatists, trading their status as peacekeepers for the mantle of military leadership. Unfavorable outcome: The public grows tired of the extended war and loses faith in the Jedi. Some even accuse the Order of being warmongers.
Ultimately the Jedi chose option B, and sure enough, the public (as seen in TCW) began to distrust the Jedi. In choosing to involve themselves in warfare, the Jedi lost the support of the people who once adored them. Rumors of Jedi corruption began to spread. Palpatine fanned the flames of distrust and more Jedi continued to die in battle.
As death and political corruption began to seep into the fabric of the Republic, the dark side of the Force strengthened.
Reason #3: Jedi repression
This point is a little more difficult to flesh out because I don’t want to stereotype an entire group made up of different individuals and species (who might have different ideas or beliefs.) Instead I think it’s wiser to turn to the Jedi Council and its teachings for this particular failing.
The Jedi Code forbade attachment. While I understand why they believed it was dangerous (love and passion can lead to other emotions like hatred or anger if not tempered by wisdom), forbidding Jedi from all emotional attachments seems like a very knee-jerk way to prevent your members from falling to the dark side.
One of my favorite quotes about Jedi relationships comes from the Legends video game Knights of the Old Republic:
“Love doesn’t lead to the dark side. Passion can lead to rage and fear, and can be controlled… but passion is not the same thing as love. Controlling your passions while being in love… that’s what they should teach you to beware. But love itself will save you… not condemn you.”
Jolee Bindo fell a bit more on the “grey” side of the Jedi moral spectrum, but he was absolutely right. You can’t make human (or any sentient) emotions disappear by endlessly reciting the mantra “there is no emotion. There is peace.”
We don’t have to look much further than Anakin’s example to see how this particular Jedi fallacy worked out.
Reason #4: Jedi arrogance
(I know I warned you about spoilers before, but if you have not seen the fifth season of The Clone Wars, do not read the following segment.)
Do you see those faces? The ones that punch me in the feels every time? The ones that spell “the Jedi Order failed us in a huge way?” This scene proved to me once and for all that an animated work could be just as powerful as a live-action work.
The final three episodes of TCW season five show Anakin’s Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, framed for a crime she did not commit (bombing the Jedi Temple.) The Council refused to believe her, stripped her of her title and military rank, and turned her over to the Republic courts to be tried. If not for Anakin discovering the identity of the one truly responsible (Ahsoka’s friend Barriss Offee) she would have been executed.
Despite committing terrorist acts, Barriss falls squarely into the trope “extremist was right” in her confession speech. Here’s the full quote:
“I did it. Because I’ve come to realize what many people in the Republic have come to realize. That the Jedi are the ones responsible for this War. That we’ve so lost our way that we have become villains in this conflict. That we are the ones that should be put on trial, all of us! And my attack on the Temple was an attack on what the Jedi have become. An army fighting for the Dark Side, fallen from the Light that we once held so dear. This Republic is failing! It’s only a matter of time.”
That speech still gives me chills when I hear it. It even touched a nerve with Palpatine judging by his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reaction. She did horrible things and turned to the dark side, but it didn’t change the fact that she was right!
Afterward, the Council’s apologies to Ahsoka were hollow at best (e.g.”The Force works in mysterious ways. You passed your trials and can become a Knight.”) She rightly refused to return and left the Order, shattering her Master’s faith in the Council forever.
Ironically, this decision saved her life when Order 66 was initiated, but I can’t help but wonder if she’ll blame herself for Anakin’s fall during their inevitable Rebels reunion. Another topic for another post.
Reason #5: Jedi complacency
The Jedi hadn’t fought a Sith Lord for approximately one thousand years. They wrongly believed their enemies to be extinct and as such, were not truly prepared for their resurgence.
Reason #6: Jedi Temple location
Another short point. In Tarkin, it’s revealed that the Jedi Temple was erected over the site of an ancient Sith shrine. The Jedi (wrongly) assumed that they’d neutralized this location, but its dark energies continued to seep into the Order, weakening them further.
When the Emperor transformed the Temple into his own Imperial Palace, he often retreated to this shrine to meditate and ponder the nature of the dark side.
Conclusion: There’s absolutely no way I can cover every reason the Order fell, but it did and the repercussions for the galaxy were huge. The Empire expanded unchecked, crime lords exploited innocents, and it was a dangerous time to be born a Force-sensitive.
As we’ve seen in the trailer for Rebels S2, Imperial Inquisitors would descend upon anyone found to have this gift regardless of age. If these “children of the Force” could not be recruited, the Inquisitor’s job was to exterminate them before they could become a threat to the Emperor.
That’s all for now! Thanks for reading.
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“Never give up hope, no matter how dark things seem.” –The Wrong Jedi Episode moral