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That Time Darth Vader Hid in a Closet Giggling While Han Solo Thought He Was Home Free
Cloud City and the unknown depths of Darth Vader's sadism
People who don’t write often wonder where we writers get our ideas from. It’s actually not the ideas that are the problem. Ideas are everywhere. The problem is deciding which one has legs and which will just lay there limp while you try to locate a heartbeat. Part of becoming a better writer is being able to suss out the contenders from the pretenders before you do any actual writing.
Or, to paraphrase and misquote “Spaceballs” at the same time: Your ideas are as big as mine. It’s how well you handle them that matters.
I generate a lot of ideas while I’m writing other things. I don’t know why, it’s just how my brain is wired. I posted recently about a gonzo Lord of the Rings theory that popped into my head while I was writing a different piece for /Film. And that brings us, in a roundabout way, to the topic at hand. Star Wars.
If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you’ll know that Star Wars is never far from my mind. Frankly, it’s sort of a miracle that I’ve written 3 newsletters already and none of them had anything to do with it. Well, this injustice can go no further.
Recall, if you will, the events of “The Empire Strikes Back,” aka, the greatest Star Wars ever. Han Solo is flying around in his busted up jalopy, trying to make the jump to lightspeed but the Millennium Falcon is toast. The Empire is chasing him with half an armada. Star Destroyers for days. Han’s chutzpah and his total disregard for probability is the only thing keeping our heroes from capture. They brave an asteroid field, land inside a cave that’s totally not a cave, and fool the Empire with a hyperspace head-fake so convincing that even Darth Vader bites. Alas, the bounty hunter Boba Fett has seen this show before, and sniffs out the Falcon as it drifts amid a Star Destroyer’s garbage. (Among the Empire’s many faults, let’s add a disgusting lack of empathy for the environment.)
Han thinks they’re safe and plots a course to Bespin, where his old “pal” Lando is running a mining operation. Since the Millennium Falcon is inoperable, it’s going to take some time to fly there at sublight speeds. Boba Fett tails them and presumably radios Vader to give him the heads-up. We don’t know how much earlier Vader arrives at Bespin, but he gets there early enough to a) scare Lando into making a deal and b) set a trap. And then he probably waits in his Dark Side sauna.
Here then, is the premise of this article: Why in the blue blazes does Vader wait so long to spring his trap? They could’ve stormed the landing pad once the Falcon was powered down. Or kicked down the doors while Han and Leia were getting cleaned up. Darth Vader himself could’ve taken them all out himself, easy as you like. He’s Darth Freaking Vader.
You have to assume at least some of this is caution. Captain Solo has proven to be a particularly slippery adversary. But once he’s not in the Falcon, he’s just an ordinary guy. Well, ordinary-ish. And, again, Darth Freaking Vader.
The only other explanation—in fact, the only logical one—is that Darth Vader is a sadist who finds humor in letting his prey dangle and twist for a while before they realize they’re on the hook. It kinda makes sense, even. Since he extinguished the Jedi, Darth Vader hasn’t seen a decent foe in years. You think your 9-to-5 is boring, but you get to go home at the end of the day and watch Netflix. Vader lives his dead-end job. There’s no advancement in sight. No friends. No challenging work. He probably doesn’t get invited to the company potluck, either.
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I imagine he’s had to make up little games to entertain himself. Stuff like: Which of my subordinates will I Force Choke today? Otherwise he’d go crazy. This theory isn’t actually too far out in left field. In “A New Hope,” Vader lets the heroes escape so he can track them back to the Rebel base. It’s basically the same thing.
So: back to Bespin.
Han arrives at Cloud City. Takes in the sights. Takes a shower. Has a drink or three. Ogles Leia behind a smirk, probably. All the while, Vader cools his heels. For all we know, he’s in the very next room, eating popcorn and watching on a security camera like it’s an episode of Big Brother. Once Han and the others are in Cloud City, there is no escape. They’ve stumbled into Vader’s web and they don’t yet see the enormous black spider waiting for them.
But still Vader waits. Why? Again, he must draw some secret measure of satisfaction or even pleasure from drawing it out.
Finally, the time has come to reveal himself. Does he storm into their chambers? No. Vader sits at the head of a long table. In a mockery of hospitality, the table is even set! He arranges for Lando to bring Han and the others to him. There’s something even crueler about having them walk into the trap of their own volition. And having Lando deliver his friends over, ala Judas Iscariot, is an inspired touch.
It’s devious and dastardly. Darth Vader doesn’t just want to beat you. He wants to give you a glimmer of hope and then completely obliterate your spirit. These games are the only way he can feel even a hint of anything.
Darth Vader is a sadist.
What do you think? Drop a comment and let me know!
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