There are few moments in Star Wars history as consistently debated — or hotly contested — as the relationship between Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalker throughout the prequel trilogy. There are some close contenders like the poorly written dialogue, shaky character development, and meandering political subplots, but most pale in comparison to the forbidden romance. The animosity surrounding the story’s presentation has obfuscated the truly tragic premise surrounding Padmé’s demise, not by the hands of her former lover, but his insidious mentor, Darth Sidious.
A destined meeting?
Padmé and Anakin’s fateful first meeting happens during The Phantom Menace. Padme, the 14-year-old Queen of Naboo, is forced to flee her planet after it is illegally occupied by the Trade Federation. During the escape, the ship is damaged and forced to land on the rim world Tatooine, where Padme’s Jedi protector, Qui-Gon Jinn, quickly comes to trust a 9-year-old slave boy, Anakin Skywalker. Quickly smitten with Padmé, Anakin wins a highly dangerous Pod Race, winning both the parts to repair the ship and his freedom. The pair part as unlikely friends, with Padmé returned to her throne and Anakin well on track to start his Jedi training at the hands of Qui-Gon’s former apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi.
When the pair meet again, it’s been more than 10 years since they last saw one another. Anakin is an accomplished Jedi Padawan, and Padmé an accomplished senator. Having pined for Padmé since their last encounter, Anakin jumps at the opportunity to act as her bodyguard, though she is much more resistant to her feelings. She is unable to deny them for long, and while hiding out on Naboo, a mutual attraction grows between the two, although they both know it is forbidden. When they are condemned to death by Separatist leader and Sith Lord Count Dooku on the planet Geonosis, they confess their feelings for each other and are wed in secret after escaping.
Love’s dark side
In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin learns that Padmé is pregnant. Though she is overjoyed, Anakin is plagued by nightmares of Padmé dying in childbirth. He believes the dreams to be prophetic, similar to dreams that predicted his mother’s death. Unable to shoulder the burden of losing his wife as he did his mother, Anakin brings his troubles to his most trusted confidant, Senator Palpatine. The kindly old man is, in reality, Darth Sidious, and he easily manipulates Anakin through his fear of loss, twisting his mind and manipulating him into becoming Darth Vader.
When told of this betrayal, Padmé cannot believe it, and she travels with Obi-Wan, secretly stowed away to the planet Mustafar to see for herself. Padmé begs Anakin to stop his destructive behavior and leave with her to raise their child in peace. When Anakin reveals his plan to overthrow Darth Sidious and rule the galaxy with Padmé, she knows he is lost to the dark side and has completed his transition to Darth Vader. When Obi-Wan reveals himself, Darth Vader feels betrayed by Padmé and can’t hear the reason behind her pleas. Relinquishing what was left of Anakin, Vader puts Padmé in a choke hold, releasing her only to fight Obi-Wan. The two fight, and Obi-Wan leaves his former Padawan for dead and rescues Padmé, taking her to the secret asteroid base Polis Massa.
The death of Padmé Amidala
Star Wars medical technology is a thriving industry. In a galaxy where hand replacements look like actual skin and body modification isn’t unheard of, maternity complications seem like they would be a thing of the past. During Padmé’s final moments, she is declared medically healthy but has lost the will to live. She dies soon after giving birth to the twins, but not before telling Obi-Wan that there is still good in Darth Vader. It is hard to believe a woman who had dedicated her life to the democratic Galactic Republic, had so much fight in her, and remained hopeful for her husband would suddenly give up, abandon her children, and die of a broken heart.
Fan theories about Padmé’s death
There are dozens of fan theories postulated over the years to give viewers a more satisfying ending. Some fans believe that the Force choke Darth Vader used on Padmé while on Mustafar contributed to her death, but the damage likely would have been something a medical droid would have seen. Others speculate it was really complications from childbirth, but again, the droid likely would have noted that.
The most popular theory, and the most tragic, states that it was Sidious who caused Padmé’s death. Using his knowledge of midichlorians, Sidious had the power to give life and save someone from dying, a power he learned from his own master Plagueis the Wise. Using this technique, he stole what remained of Padmé’s life force to save Darth Vader, fulfilling Vader’s prophetic dreams that Padmé would die in childbirth. This theory would also mean that Padmé was partly responsible for turning Anakin to the dark side, giving it that Operatic drama that George Lucas was looking for.
The bottom line
One of the reasons the Star Wars universe is so beloved is the ability of the fanbase to draw their own conclusions and theories about the galaxy. While Padmé’s death was simply explained as that of a broken-hearted woman who lost the will to live, perhaps it was left vague on purpose, allowing the fans to contribute their own meaning and become a part of the story of a galaxy far, far away.