Yoda: Yes, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.
Luke: Vader… Is the dark side stronger?
Yoda: No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.
Luke: But how am I to know the good side from the bad?
Yoda: You will know… when you are calm, at peace, passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, NEVER for attack.
Truthfully, I’d say Yoda is only halfway right. The Dark Side IS stronger.
Here is the thing: The Light Side NEVER wins a single fight. Obviously Jedi win multiple fights. But never against a Dark Side user when wholly under the influence of the Light Side. Yoda is right when he says it is to be used for knowledge and defense (I feel I must note here that I am talking about physical confrontations. It is hard to analyze other aspects of the Force from the movies).
The best the light side can do is defend the Jedi into a stalemate.
Episode 1: Qui-Gon Jinn vs Darth Maul – Round 1
Another stalemate by virtue of Qui-Gon being able to jump to his rescue. It was a short fight, and Darth Maul was only using half of his lightsaber. Realistically, if Darth Maul was a master at the two-sided, he would probably be better at it than with one side. Yet the very short fight almost took down Qui-Gon, and left him winded.
Episode II: Count Dooku vs. Yoda
Another battle that ends in a draw. I suppose there will be those that argue that Yoda would have won if Count Dooku had not escaped. But if the Force is guiding both of their actions, it makes no difference. Yoda’s main objective would be to stop Count Dooku. Count Dooku’s main objective would be to escape with the Death Star plans. One strength of the Dark Side is that it is uninhibited. If the best way to achieve his objective is to drop energy cells on top of Anakin and Obi-Wan to distract Yoda he will and does do it without a blink of hesitation. Yoda could have allowed him to do it in order to stop Dooku. Yet the Light Side held him back. He could not sacrifice Obi-Wan and Anakin for a winning blow. The idea that the ends justify the means is a Dark Side idea, and if Yoda had allowed that sacrifice, he would have won, but it would not have been solely with the Light Side.
Episode IV: Darth Vader vs Obi-Wan Kenobi
We typically call Obi-Wan the winner of this fight, merely because of his statement that: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” But I honestly don’t know I would call that a win. Obi-Wan had more powerful knowledge, but Vader’s dark side was stronger. I’d call this one a draw.
So that is it for the competitions ending in a draw. Now lets look at times the Dark Siders straight up win. Get ready for some of the most painful moments in the Star Wars Universe :}
Episode I: Qui-Gon Jinn vs. Darth Maul – Round 2
This is honestly the saddest moment in all of Star Wars for me. Qui-Gon is my favorite character (even have a whole blog post devoted entirely to his awesomeness). But in all honesty, his death is not surprising. Qui-Gon is the embodiment of the Light Side will of the Living Force. He may not hold to the code, but he is the perfect Jedi, and the perfect Jedi would be a Light Side user. In a physical confrontation, he has no hope of winning against a Sith.
Episode II: Obi-Wan and Anakin vs. Count Dooku
Count Dooku might be my least favorite Sith… Ok, he’s probably my least favorite character period. Toss up between him and Grievous. But he destroyed the great Obi-Wan and Anakin. In the case of Obi-Wan, Dooku straight up beat him. Dark beats Light. In the case of Anakin, there are a lot of parallels with the Luke/Vader fight of 5 (ooh, I’m feeling a future post on parallels!). You can chalk it up to Anakin’s inexperience, or the strength of the Dark Side. But either way, Dooku has a resounding victory over these two Jedi.
Anakin and Obi-Wan vs Dooku – Round 2
We’ll discuss the Anakin portion of this fight later. But just like in Episode II, Count Dooku destroys Obi-Wan. In record time, no less. Dark Side for the win.
Episode III: The Confrontation of Palpatine
I know a lot of people hate this scene. Somehow, in a matter of seconds, Palpatine manages to absolutely destroy a good handful of Jedi Masters like it is nothing. It is quick, I’ll give you that. But you have to realize just how powerful Palpatine really is. A Sith Master and an Apprentice are a match for the ENTIRE Jedi Order. Quite frankly, the Jedi Masters were not expecting it. I think they figured their sheer force of numbers would intimidate Palpatine, or that an old man they have known for decades would not brutally cut them down. But that proves just how little the light comprehends the dark. This scene may be too quick for some, but in the story itself it shows just how powerful the Dark Side really is.
Then we cut to the match between Palpatine and Mace Windu. Windu may think he is winning, but that just shows exactly how much power Palpatine has. He controlled that entire fight. In fact, I would be ready to argue that Palpatine would have kept that fight going indefinitely until Anakin showed up. And he only appeared to be losing to force Anakin to act.
Episode V: Darth Vader vs. Luke Skywalker
This is obviously a Dark Side win. Darth Vader owned him from beginning to end of that fight. There is more to discuss about this scene, but it will come later.
Episode VII: Luke Skywalker vs. Emperor Palpatine
Luke: Never. I’ll never turn to the Dark Side. You’ve failed, your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.
Emperor: [angry] So be it… Jedi!
Emperor: If you will not be turned, you will be destroyed!
[shoots Luke with Force lightning]
Emperor: Young fool… Only now, at the end, do you understand…
[the Emperor shoots at Luke with more Force lighting]
Emperor: Your feeble skills are no match for the power of the Dark Side.
[shoots Luke with another burst of Force lighting]
Emperor: Now, you will pay the price for your lack of vision!
[shoots more Force lighting]
Light Side Luke wins, right? Well, on spiritual level I suppose. The Emperor does fail to turn Luke to the dark side. But the Emperor wasn’t wrong when he told Luke “Your feeble skills are no match for the power of the Dark Side.” Even Yoda could only intermittently counter Palpatine’s dark side powers. Luke would have died a very painful death at the hands of Palpatine, if not for Vader, which I will discuss in a minute.
So the numbers we currently have are 6 Dark Side wins, and 3 Draws. But what about those instances where the Jedi win, you ask? Well, let’s list them. Obi-Wan beats Darth Maul, Anakin beats Count Dooku, Obi-Wan beats Anakin, Luke beats Darth Vader, Rey beats Kylo Ren. So, that is 5 Jedi wins, but I would not say that they are Light Side wins. Shall we take a look?
Episode I: Obi-Wan Kenobi vs Darth Maul
Tell me what you see on Obi-Wan’s face. Is the the calm, cool, serenity of the Light Side? No. That is the face of a man who has just lost his teacher, his mentor, and for all practical purposes, his father. That is a man feeling heartbreak and rage. Powerful emotions. Emotions that fuel the Dark Side. A good cause, yes. But this win came because the Dark Side gave Obi-Wan strength.
Episode III: Anakin Skywalker vs Count Dooku
Is there anyone willing to argue that this was not a Dark Side win? Anakin has been working hard to control his emotions. He was made a Jedi Knight, so the masters must have thought that he had made enough progress in that respect. But Count Dooku had just taken out his master, mentor, father, brother. Not to mention, there is the revenge aspect. Dooku did take his arm. And Palpatine was sitting there practically feeding Anakin Dark Side energy.
Episode III: Obi-Wan Kenobi vs Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader
I know Obi-Wan Kenobi is considered the perfect Jedi. If Yoda was the Heart of the Jedi Council and Mace Windu was it’s Head, Obi-Wan Kenobi would be its Right Hand. Yet we have already seen Obi-Wan succumb to the Dark Side of the Force for a victory. He grew so much since then. But the loss of Anakin Skywalker would be at least as traumatizing as losing Qui-Gon, if not more so. Obi-Wan’s final words to Anakin are absolutely full of Heartbreak, Anger, and Despair. Things a Jedi should never feel.
Episode VI: Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader
Luke is all over the place in this battle. The true war is not Luke vs Vader or Palpatine. It is Luke vs. the Dark Side. Every time Luke attacks or gains the upper ground he is under the influence of the Dark Side. Even Luke knows that he cannot win without the Dark Side because when he is trying to be a good Jedi, he straight up refuses to fight. It takes the Emperor goading him about losing his friends, and Vader threatening Leia to break that resolve. He destroys Vader with the Dark Side, which is why he throws away his lightsaber as soon as he realizes what he is doing. He let the Light take back control, which opened the door for Palpatine to destroy him.
Episode VII: Kylo Ren vs Rey
Rey is still hard to figure out. One more year and we may get some insight. I’m not going to speculate on her origins here. And honestly, the force is so mixed up right now anyways. Kylo Ren is the reason I have had to switch from saying “Sith” to “Dark Side User” because I don’t think that he and Snoke are Sith. But I suppose we will find more out about that in future movies. What we do know is that Rey is strong in the Force. So is Kylo Ren. Kylo Ren takes the necessary steps to plunge himself into the Dark Side, to all our tears and laments. He is actually trained. He has been training since he was young. Yet Rey beats him. Granted, he took a freaking bowcaster bolt to the side. And he never wanted to actually kill Rey, just have her join him. But she beats him. She wants to kill him. She might have, if the planet hadn’t started breaking up. And what brought about this great strength and intense emotion? Loss. She lost Han. She might have lost Finn.
Have you sensed a pattern yet?
I hope you have stuck with me up to this point. I do have a flair for the dramatic. I tend to want to lay all the pieces out and then make my point. I am an English Teacher, and I can force my students to note down all the parts before the final piece is put into place, and watch the minds be blown. However, I cannot force anyone to actually read a blog post all the way to the end. If you have, here is my real argument:
In a battle between straight Light Side and straight Dark Side, the Dark will win. It is Stronger. The best the Light can hope for is escaping alive. But there is something that is more powerful than the straight Dark Side:
The balance between the two.
A typical Light-Sider/Jedi taking his first steps into the Dark is stronger than the Dark Side.
Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to Anger. Anger leads to Hate. Hate leads to Suffering.
When a Jedi takes those first steps they become incredibly powerful. But not fear for oneself. In fact, the Jedi would lose fear for oneself at a very early age. It is the fear and anger of loss. Did you notice that loss is a part of every Jedi Victory over a Dark Side user?
Obi-Wan lost Qui-Gon.
Anakin feared he had lost Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan lost Anakin and the Jedi Order.
Luke feared losing the Alliance and his Sister.
Rey lost Han and feared losing Finn.
Fear and Anger can be a Jedi’s ally. When a Jedi can balance the Dark Side and the Light they are incredibly powerful. Which does lead to a Bonus Round:
Episode VI: Darth Vader vs Emperor Palpatine
Luke’s struggle between the Dark and the Light were exactly what made him so powerful against Vader. However, when he decided to turn his back on the Dark, he made himself vulnerable to Palpatine’s immense Dark Side power. But the street goes two ways. Just as a Jedi is stronger taking his first steps into the Dark Side, so too would a Sith be stepping into the Light.
Granted there wasn’t much to this fight. It was mostly just Vader chucking Palpatine into one of the universe’s infinite number of bottomless pits. But if the Force not only obeys commands but controls actions, it is definitely in control here. Palpatine is far stronger in the Dark Side than Vader is. He took out most of the Jedi Council by himself. But the Force was strong with Vader. He was finally and completely fulfilling the prophecy after all.
And notice, it is once again fear of loss that is the driving force. Vader feared losing his son. Not just physically, but to the Dark Side. Vader took a step into the Light in his final moments.
So add another score to the balance.
Counter-Argument and Proof
I know the counter-argument right now. If this is so, why does Anakin lose to Count Dooku in Episode II and to Obi-Wan in Episode III? Why does Luke lose to Vader in Episode V?
In both instances with Anakin, he was too far gone down the path to the Dark Side. In Episode II he had just given into his hate for the Sand People and slaughtered them. He turned that hate towards Dooku for the friends and family Dooku had taken from him. He was stronger in the Dark Side than he had ever been. But without the Light to give him strength he was not strong enough to beat Count Dooku.
Come Episode III, however, Anakin had actually learned to walk the Balance, which is why he could beat Dooku this time. Even Dooku commented “You have hate. You have anger. But you don’t use them.” Well Dooku, he still beat you. Because he walked that line. Killing you, however, tipped him over the edge. By the end of Episode III, Anakin had pledged himself to the Dark Side. He slaughtered everyone in the Jedi Temple. He hated the Jedi and Obi-Wan for every loss and every perceived insult to his power. Anakin was stronger in the Dark Side than he had ever been. But Obi-Wan walked the balance this time and won.
And back to Luke in Episode V. You can chalk his loss up to inexperience if you want. It does play a role and we could leave it at that. But also remember the theme throughout Episode V. Luke has been struggling with the Dark Side the entire movie. His impatience with Yoda, his failure with the ship, and his failure in the cave all portray Luke warring with his fear, which weakens his resolve in the Light and doesn’t give enough power in the Dark. But by the time he faces Vader, he does have the necessary fear and anger of loss – Han and Leia were the reason he came. But he stepped too far. He hated Vader. Vader was the reason his Aunt and Uncle were killed. Vader killed so many of his Rebel friends. And most importantly, Luke believed that Vader had killed his father. Like Anakin, Luke had fallen too far into the Dark Side and he just was not powerful enough.
So what does all this mean? What was the purpose of compiling a comprehensive list of Force-User Fights? Honestly not sure.
Except to say that Yoda is not completely accurate when he says the Dark Side isn’t Stronger, because in a fight, pure Dark Side beats pure Light Side. A Balance will beat both. Balance is an incredibly important concept in the Star Wars ethos, and I covered the prophecy of Balance pretty thoroughly. But Balance does not mean all Light as the Jedi are wont to believe. It is an actual Balance between the two.
Does that mean every Force User ought to walk the Balance? No. There are different paths. There are powers in the Force that can only be obtained through study of the Light or the Dark. No Force User can master every power and discover every secret. And truthfully, I do not believe that anyone who walks the balance could ever be at peace.
But in terms of Strength: Balance, then Dark, then Light. Sorry Yoda.