Detect Alignment: Darth Vader

There are few villains more iconic, frightening, or layered than the man formerly known as Anakin Skywalker. A supreme example of a character arc that dances across the alignment spectrum, the once-renowned hero of the republic- and chosen one -who befell a tragic turn to the dark side of the force, remains a nuanced enigma of anger, remorse, and ultimately redemption. In light of this darkness, unmasking Darth Vader is a challenge worthy of the inaugural edition of JADE's new series: Where we take some of the most essential characters from literature, film, TV, and all other forms of media pop culture, and and we break them right the f down for your discerning pleasure.

To truly understand and appreciate our favourite characters on the level they deserve, we must decipher the coding which governs their souls: The inner set of morals, desires, and passions that fuel their rise into the echelons of legend -yet remain hidden in the shadows to those on the outside. In the case of Darth Vader, Yoda is apt in surmising how clouded the boy's future is when a young Anakin is first brought before the Jedi Council by Qui-Gon Jinn.Yet even the Grand Master of the Jedi Order still eventually agrees to train the young boy of prophecy, ignoring his own supremely lawful better judgement, and setting events in motion that will shape the galaxy's destiny for thousands of years to come.

Now, as a Jedi Knight just merking ALL of the droids during the height of the Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker usually operates on the fringes of what could be considered “lawful” conduct. Very quick to grow impatient and angry, the hasty and self-assured “chosen one” frequently embraces a chaotic methodology in completing his objectives -often-times exploiting all the combustible elements of a given situation - before using his incredible skill and ability to manipulate them to his advantage. This reckless behaviour leads his Master -Obi-wan Kenobi -to regularly express concern regarding the increasing arrogance of the young Jedi.

When Anakin finally falls to the dark side and becomes Darth Vader -And prior to losing the fierce lightsaber duel against his former master on the volcanic shores of Mustafar (due largely to his own arrogance)- the young Sith Lord's chaotic nature is still consuming him: Vader's dark-side turn is largely influenced by his inability to control the fear of loss - and is fuelled by his desperate and frantic attempts to gain greater power in order to prevent it no matter the cost. It's only after killing the love of his life does Vader's personal alignment shift to mirror the calculated, menacing breathing of the respirator now keeping him alive.

But we aren't just talking about the fall from good to evil here - or the move into darkness from light. We're talking about a complete overhaul of Anakin's operating psychology once he turns. Gone largely are the free-spirited tactics of the incredibly powerful Jedi Knight, replaced by the more precise, patient, and ruthless dictates of a confined Sith Lord completely devoted to the teachings of his dark master. To pinpoint Darth Vader at the height of his career as Palpatine's prize is to examine a broken man clinging to the alignment of Lawful Evil. Here are some of the ways Vader channels it to become the Empire's deadliest enforcer:

Dedication - Darth Vader is a savagely efficient killing machine. Though he loses a great deal of his force potential when his limbs are severed by Obi-wan- and he is horrendously burned- Vader eventually becomes accustomed to his brutally uncomfortable mechanized suit after enduring an excruciating rehabilitation period. He is able to combine the suit's strengths with his own remaining force power, and re-emerge as one of the deadliest weapons in the Imperial Arsenal. It is only the resilience offered by a fierce adherence to the code of the Sith that pushes Lord Vader to adjust to his now drastically-reduced capabilities. By this point, he has noting left except devotion to Palpatine, and does whatever it takes to keep his master on the throne -and uphold order in the post-republic government structure.

As the quintessential Lawful evil personality, Vader sees committing murderous acts (such as hunting down the remaining Jedi after the purge) as part of a duty to his master. “You don't know the power of the dark side of the force” becomes this Sith Lord's mantra, and he consistently demonstrates a faith that far surpasses any notion of an “archaic religion.” Lawful Evil is arguably the most dangerous alignment because it represents methodical, intentional, and fanatical raison d'etre. If Darth Vader is hunting you down, you're already dead.

Hierarchy- Very characteristic of those aligning with lawful evil is the willingness to operate within a hierarchy -in order to increase their power over others. Though LE characters would like to rule, they are willing to serve. Vader knows that in his mechanized state, he would never be able to overthrow the Emperor on his own -choosing instead to remain a snake in the grass, waiting for the right opportunity to bite. Though not technically cannon, the training of Starkiller as a secret apprentice -before betraying him to Darth Sidious upon the dark lord's discovery- is a great example of the search for a powerful tool to overthrow the Emperor (while remaining unable to break free of Palpatine's grasp) prior to Vader's discovery of Luke Skywalker.

At his core, Darth Vader cares about tradition and order, but not about freedom, dignity, or life. (His own included.) Racked with remorse and guilt over the death of Padme, Anakin surrenders the last of himself to the dark side of his self hatred, and becomes a devoted agent of evil. He may play by the rules, but it's without mercy or compassion. This is probably the only reason why Vader is willing to take orders from Tarkin- instead of just ripping out the Grand Moff's spinal cord- and executing all of his subordinates for their disturbing lack of faith. 

Vengeance- Though hopelessly enslaved and devoted to Palpatine following his loss on Mustafar, Darth Vader never forgives his master -whom he ultimately blames for the death his wife, Padme Amidala. Vader realizes that he must align his chest pieces perfectly before attempting to strike down Sidious, yet the notion of vengeance remains etched in the back of his mind. For it is failing to avenge a loved one that is a cardinal sign of weakness to a Lawful Evil entity- and one which must be rectified if they are ever to find some semblance of peace.

Revenge as a driving force aptly explains Vader's fanatical obsession with finding Luke Skywalker, converting him to the dark side, and overthrowing the Emperor to reign as father and son. It's the thought of vengeance that keeps the mechanized Sith Lord locked up in his ordered state of darkness, but ironically enough, it's also what brings him back to the light. Unable to witness his son being executed at the hands of his slaver, Darth Vader chooses to sacrifice his own life by murdering Darth Sidious, avenging his family, and finally bringing balance to the force as the prophesied chosen one.

When we think of Darth Vader as one of the most iconic movie villains in history, it's hard to see past the terrifying stature, menacing voice, and the haunting gasps for air which are synonymous with impending doom. And yet, when we unmask the terror and disarm the monster, we are left simply with a damaged soul desperately clinging to the order he so lacked in his youth. Vader remains a deeply stratified character surviving beneath the black-iron prison he's confined to, but we're confident we've provided the thorough analysis required to cast light on the shadows of Anakin Skywalker. Let us know what you think of Darth Vader's alignment, and stay tuned as we continue to explore the true forms of the characters who grip us the most. May the force be with you all.

Written by: Jeff Clive

All images sourced:
Detect Alignment: Darth Vader Detect Alignment: Darth Vader Reviewed by JADE Gaming on 2/18/2019 02:05:00 pm Rating: 5

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