“[S]omeone was there squinting through the dust,
Saying nothing is lost, that everything lives on waiting only
To be wanted back badly enough”
—Tracy K. Smith, “Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?”
Here is a secret about the Force that the Sith do not remember and that the Jedi have too-willingly forgotten:
The Force wants the things that it will, and it pursues them relentlessly, and it does not care about the means by which it achieves them. The Jedi talk of the Force being in balance, and how their purpose is to maintain it, but here is the thing they cannot understand, that they have never for all their profound stores of wisdom attempted to comprehend—
That sometimes, it destroys, that it is not simply the Living Force that nurtures them but also a cosmic, unfeeling feral beast, and that it wants to burn down the galaxy as much as it wants to save it.
It wants the things it wants, and no one will stop its ravenous hunger. No one can.
That is why the Force loves Anakin Skywalker. That is why it chooses him.
He and the Force are much the same.
He makes the impossible real from birth. First there is his conception, as if out of the very sky. Then there is his skill with machines and the little slivers of precognition that let him pilot pods at a speed that eludes the capabilities of most humans.
Much later, during the war, tales of his feats grow with each retelling, until Anakin seems to contain all the powers of the Force himself.
The Force would preen, but it has no need to seduce him now. Not yet. Oh, it flirts here and there. It lets him accomplish great things, achieve victories. Enough to remind him of where he fits in the galaxy.
He rises through the ranks of the Republic military to general alongside Obi-Wan, and commands the 501st Legion of clone soldiers, staging rescues and fighting Separatists with such frenzied dedication that the masses are inspired to call him the Hero Without Fear. He who blazes forward and never looks back.
Anakin does fear, but he has never looked back since his mother instructed him otherwise all those years ago.
Instead, he keeps his eyes fixed on the future ahead of him, cloudy though it may be.
And he trusts in the Force to steer him through.
Yes, it whispers to the Daughter. He is the One.
The One who will set off its plan of ages, the One that will, for however brief a time, bring balance to the galaxy, and provide the means to steer it right when it tilts and sways.
If Anakin is the being who has won the Force’s heart, then the Father is the winner of its understanding, and this is a feat that travels both ways. The force-wielder knows his time to return to the ethereal is nearing, and with the Force’s encouragement, has summoned the Jedi to take his place. To convince Anakin to remain in this Force-realm and uphold its balance.
As on Mortis, so throughout the galaxy.
But things with its favorite son are never that simple. He resists his fate for the first time, believing he can do the impossible once more, unaware this is where that luck runs out. He wrests the Light and Dark into order, liberating his companions in the process—saving them his only goal.
It is that single-minded devotion that reflects the Force. The Son and Daughter are flawed now, unbalanced in their alignment, having chosen to indulge in their natures.
Then the Son brings death to his sister, giving the Dark a hold on the rest of the galaxy. He takes Anakin to a place that echoes his fiery future and reveals all to him, tells him know what you will become, and the knowledge almost breaks him.
Faced with the true, unblemished reality of his destiny, the Chosen One—
—chooses to succumb before his time, to avoid the destiny the Force has planned for him. To bring balance about in a way that was not planned for him but for a future Son.
The Force can’t help but pause in admiration for how brazenly Anakin flaunts its will. The Father tells him that nothing is set in stone, but there are some things even one as powerful as he does not know.
So Anakin forgets his fate—in fact, all he retains from Mortis is a piece of advice and the dying words of a Father to his Son of an enduring goodness.
It is not until the climax of the war that the Force closes in again, this time ensnaring him.
By its courtesy, the words “Beware your heart” echo constantly in his head. As time wears on, it becomes evident that Anakin’s heart is a muddled thing. It is conflicted, and confused, and it does not know which path it should take because it suffers too many demands.
The clearest for so long is his urge to protect Padmé, and his drive to do anything to protect her is doubled when he learns of their child.
Children, the Force nearly whispers to him on more than one occasion, though it knows the distinction—at the moment—would make no difference to the Jedi.
But the thoughts of what could be
(in a different universe, a different time)
are forced out of his mind by the froth of two fronts hitting, the mist that goes up when light meets dark.
He’ll have to make a choice. From a certain point of view, it is the wrong one, except that it’s not.
For all the right reasons.
There are times during and after the fall of Anakin Skywalker when the Force is almost convinced it would have saved Padmé for him, if he would have had the strength the say no in defiance of its creation. If he could have used that passion he’d once felt as fuel for the fire, and let it consume the Emperor.
But the Sith Lord is quick to act, and—with Anakin too distraught, in agony from his mind and his severed nerves—he siphons her life force to keep his tool’s fractured heart beating.
As much as it is painful to let her go—because Anakin loves her, and the Force wants Anakin to keep what he loves because despite what it has thrust upon him, it loves him—it lets the Emperor drain her away. The Chosen One will live.
Because some desires, once sacrificed, can never be reclaimed. Not in the same way they first existed.
They’ll try again, a second time. It’s been millennia. Another twenty years of waiting, give or take, will be nothing.
(It does not feel like nothing to Anakin. But that is a different story.)
There is a flicker in Anakin’s ruined soul when Alderaan is destroyed. It is the barest fraction of disquiet, so slight that he does not notice.
The Force notices, and appraises it. There have been times, even in its omnipotence, it was convinced those glowing embers of light had been extinguished for good.
And then they meet again, the two that in another life were closer than brothers, the best of heroes, and the Force, knowing that the intentions of each are the same, opens its arms—
—and welcomes the bit of itself that was once Obi-Wan Kenobi into the fold, surprised by how much it still feels of the man’s life. And it all rolls in at once: his sorrow, his failure, his triumphs, and even still his love and hope.
It feeds on to these last two, the love for Anakin, and the hope for the boy, while time flows on to a familiar scene, one it has seen twice before, one it knows it will see again, as Anakin’s son rejects the same offer he once extended to Padmé.
(An end to conflict. Order. Peace.
Soon balance, but not quite yet.)
The boy is so much like his mother.
This fact will be the galaxy’s salvation.
His son’s surrender is wholly unexpected to Anakin. When Luke rejected his offer, it never occurred to him that he might return willingly.
People with lightness in their hearts don’t come back to people like him. People like him don’t get second chances.
Luke has done the first, and offers him the latter. Reminds him of his past, who he was and who he could be again.
It’s too good to be believed. Too good for him.
When they battle, it’s a relief. When his son forces him to his knees, he waits for a blow that never comes.
When the Emperor assaults his son with lightning, the Force breathes that long-banked ember into life, and this time—this time—he finds the strength to act. He tamps down the Dark within, letting that fire rise, and though it is the last thing he will ever do, he kills the Emperor. He saves his son.
And then, not only does he return to the Light, but he feels it, real light, on his face for the first time in decades, and hears his son say that he’s got to save him.
He already has.
You were right.
In the end, it is love and hope—and the desire that marks the Skywalkers as the Force’s own—that bring him back and let him live on.