Why did Senator Padme Amidala die?
[Note: While these analyses owe a lot to others in general, today’s post in particular is pretty much wholly taken from others who did this work and interpretation first. Today’s post is also more emotionally impactful than most.]
Certainly the darkest part of the Prequel Trilogy is the relationship between Anakin and Amidala that ends so tragically. Anakin fails to show trust and exhibits jealousy towards the Senator from Naboo, and so his entire world goes off the rails.
The writing doesn’t depict this as cliche jealousy about Amidala’s affections or anything she actually does. That would fit these themes, but probably go much too far into making Anakin’s fears monstrous and unlikable. So instead it makes his lack of faith even less rational. He believes she shall simply cease to live, no matter what he does to protect her, lacking any empirical basis at all. As he becomes suffused with the Dark Side, lack of trust becomes as much a matter of baseless belief as trust would be for the Light Side. It’s the wrong kind of attachment.
Still, despite the mysticism, Anakin’s actions can be pretty easily read as a jealous husband. In this case, he wants his wife to live forever. And he is willing to destroy the thing she cares most for - the Republic, democracy - in order to push on her this eternal life.
(Neither Amidala nor Anakin ever show much drive for their future children. This is relevant. They do not share the priorities of the audience.)
It’s one Gift of the Magi type of irony for Anakin’s obsession with making Amidala live forever be the thing that led up to her killing her. And that is what most fans expected to happen, and that led up to the scene where Vader force chokes her.
But Lucas chose an even more radical vision.
Medically, she is completely healthy. For reasons we can't explain, we are losing her.
We don't know why. She has lost the will to live. We need to operate quickly if we are to save the babies.
The choke does not kill Amidala. It could have; tactically the scene could be written as her trachea collapsed and she can’t be saved but the children are. But this is not Darth Vader’s doing (even as Sidious blatantly lies and says it is).
She’s taken to a medical ship, and put on life support. And then after giving birth, she dies of no reason at all.
The Med-Bot does not say “her midichlorian levels are dropping rapidly!” or some such scientific-mysticism to align with the way the Jedi were treating the Force beforehand. This goes beyond anyone’s ability to control (Anakin’s) or analyze (Obi-Wan’s). And it foreshadow's Obi-Wan's similar death in Episode 4.
Anakin wanted her to live forever and destroyed her dreams to do it. Amidala chose to escape. And once she did, it was an authentic Force miracle that took place.
This moment is simultaneous with the birth of Luke and Leia.
“Wow Blue, way to rationalize absolutely everything in these movies as being part of some infallible master plan.”
The six movies aren’t perfect and contain some decisions and flaws I disagree with. One of them is Leia Organa ne Skywalker.
Leia is a great character of course, in many ways as key as Luke. In Return of the Jedi she is the slave who kills her master with her own chains (Jabba, and foreshadowing the climax), and she does the most to integrate with the Ewoks.
It just doesn’t make sense that she is Anakin Skywalker’s daughter. Luke is Darth Vader’s son. The movies are full of and entirely about the connection and parallels between these two characters. The galaxy is saved because of Luke’s impossible love for Vader. Vader senses Luke’s presence constantly. They both wrestle with the true meaning of the Force. They both get the same hand chopped off and replaced! I really don’t have room to list the many ways Luke is Anakin’s son to the core of their beings.
In comparison… Leia is some woman over there. He doesn’t notice her Force when he’s interrogating her (and that scene is even creepier with father-daughter overtones.) She certainly has no parallels to her father.
Plus the fairly well done love triangle of Episodes 4 and 5 is retroactively meaningless and icky.
Remember that there’s no mention of Leia being Luke’s sister in Episodes 4 and 5. Yoda mentions “there is another” but in a hand wave so vague that it can only be meant for “in case actor Mark Hamil doesn’t return to the movies”.
So I prefer the following interpretation instead (which is rather far afield compared to most analyses on this blog).
Luke is the reincarnation of Anakin Skywalker, trying to get it right this time.
Leia is the reincarnation of Padme Amidala, trying to get it right this time.
Enough has been said about Luke. But what about Leia?
Like Amidala, she is royalty who intermediates with other tribal cultures. Unlike Amidala, she does so in a much more thorough and cooperative way (Amidala wears the costume of her own handmaid: Leia wears costumes of those she is fitting in with: a bounty hunter, a slave, an Ewok). She fights alongside the Ewoks.
Like Amidala, she has an interest in the lower-class bad boys. Unlike Amidala, she keeps Han in line.
If either Luke or Leia fails to improve on their ancestors/predecessors , they’ll just return back to the Republic and decadence and naive indifference towards the problems of society. But if they get it right, they can break free of the cycle of suffering.
When Luke believes he and Leia are brother and sister, this should be a much more radical vision. Not that they shared some genetic tree - or were drawn to each other as tormented lovers - but that a scruffy nerf herder and a princess like her are brother and sister when they share in the unity of the Force.