Why Would Dave Filoni Say Anakin Is the Greatest Jedi of All Time?

The Big Picture

  • Despite the atrocities committed as Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker was still considered the greatest Jedi of all time due to his earlier heroic accomplishments and potential.
  • Anakin’s intense emotions and attachments, particularly his romantic love for Padmé, ultimately led to his fall to the Dark Side, but also served as the catalyst for his redemption.
  • Anakin and Darth Vader are distinct personas, with Vader largely overshadowing Anakin’s identity. While they shared a body, the Darth Vader who committed those unspeakable acts is not the same man as Anakin Skywalker.

The hype for Ahsoka gets bigger by the day as the new Star Wars series approaches its release on Disney+, and a lot of new promotional material is now making the rounds on the internet. It’s so close! But one of those, a video explaining Ahsoka Tano’s (Rosario Dawson) backstory, drew some attention for reasons other than the legendary Jedi. In it, Dave Filoni mentions that Ahsoka was trained by “the greatest Jedi of all time”, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), who, as we all know, would later fall to the Dark Side of the Force to become Darth Vader (James Earl Jones).

Wait, what? Anakin did unspeakable things when he turned on the Jedi and embraced the Dark Side. Everyone who has watched Revenge of the Sith remembers him murdering younglings in the Jedi Council chamber, and The Mandalorian and Obi-Wan Kenobi have both made a point of sharing flashbacks of him leading his 501st Legion of clones into the Jedi Temple and leaving no survivors. How can someone who does this be great?

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We Know More Than the People in the Galaxy

Anakin and Obi-Wan in Star Wars
Image via Lucasfilm

Well, Filoni knows Anakin a little better than us, as he spent a good chunk of his career so far working directly with George Lucas on the character in the animation series The Clone Wars. That’s when we first met Ahsoka (voiced by Ashley Eckstein) as Anakin’s (voiced by Matt Lanter) Padawan learner, and they instantly became a dynamic duo unlike any other in the Jedi Order. Her apprenticeship was a play by Master Yoda (Tom Kane), a way of also teaching Anakin some of the qualities he still lacked as a Jedi Knight, like patience and detachment. But Anakin has always been a slow learner with this type of stuff, so it didn’t work that well, especially due to the way Ahsoka left the Order at the end of Season 5.

But this is a piece of knowledge that we, as the audience, have; the rest of the galaxy in Star Wars, not necessarily. Despite the galaxy having moved on from the Jedi with the rise of the Empire and even after its fall — since there are just 23 years between those events — some people still remember some of these legendary warriors’ exploits, as well as their purpose, and during the Clone Wars, Anakin was the shining beacon of the Jedi for all the galaxy to see.

Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) in Star Wars
Image via Lucasfilm

Anakin was around 22 at the time of Revenge of the Sith and had already accomplished more than most Jedi of his time despite being much younger. He was known as “the hero with no fear”. He trained under the shining example of what a Jedi should be, Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor). He trained a fearless Padawan who understood the Force and questioned the Order with Ahsoka. And he fathered two children who are both powerful Force wielders. He could’ve won the Clone Wars by himself, probably, were it not for Palpatine’s (Ian McDiarmid) machinations, and his exploits made him famous at the time, to the point of him becoming the reference for when people thought about the Jedi. Even though he was arrogant, he had a reason to be — he really was the greatest.

More than two decades later, Ahsoka would decline to take on Grogu as Padawan in The Mandalorian, saying that the kid was too attached to his surrogate father Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal/Brendan Wayne/Lateef Crowder), and she knew what this could do even to a fully-trained Jedi Knight, “to the best” of them. Anakin was indeed thought of as the greatest the Jedi had to offer because he was. For all intents and purposes, anything that happened after that tragic duel between Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) and Darth Sidious was done by Darth Vader, not Anakin.

Anakin Experienced Love in All Ways a Person Can, and It Made Him a Better Jedi

Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) & Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) on Naboo in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
Image via Lucasfilm

Falling to the Dark Side makes us, as the audience, doubt Anakin, and it makes sense. We know how he was manipulated by Palpatine, but also the atrocities he committed. But context is important, and it must be taken into account when looking at the reasons behind Anakin’s fall. The Jedi philosophy is based on love, mostly the selfless kind. Anakin always had intense feelings and emotions, and couldn’t help it. The problem is, love has a mind of its own, and the Jedi wanted to be above things like attachments and love.

Whenever someone who knew Anakin describes him, words like “passionate” and “fearless” are often mentioned, and these two are direct consequences of the love he felt as a Jedi, as a friend, and as a husband. The Jedi condemned him for his attachments, but that’s what gave him purpose, and he knew it. In Attack of the Clones, when he and Padmé (Natalie Portman) are on their way to Naboo, he explains how love gives him purpose, and he does have a pretty good understanding of it — he just expresses it as a 19-year-old would because, well, he was a 19-year-old at the time.

This is such a crucial part of his being, love is what set him on the path to the Dark Side — with his romantic love for Padmé becoming selfish and possessive as his fear of losing her grew because of Palpatine’s influence — and brought him back to light — his love for Luke (Mark Hamill) and Leia (Carrie Fisher) being what put him back on the path of selflessness. We may forget it, but there was another Jedi who experienced all that: Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr.) on Star Wars Rebels. It’s possible the only thing preventing him from eventually falling to the Dark Side was the fact that the Order had already fallen. But he connected to the Force and those who came before him, and they recognized his worth as a Jedi. They finally recognized that romantic love isn’t necessarily selfish, and the only difference between Anakin and Kanan is that the former was under the direct influence of a Sith Lord, while the latter wasn’t. Anakin saw and felt further than the Order ever could because of his love, and he was a better Jedi for it.

Anakin and Darth Vader Are Not the Same

David Prowse as Darth Vader in Star Wars Return of the Jedi
Image via Lucasfilm

Fans may be divided about the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, but it did bring us some interesting perspectives on Darth Vader, especially their last duel. Back in Revenge of the Sith, Vader stormed the Jedi Temple and killed everyone inside, the first step into his dark descent, and the first big crack in Anakin’s personality in order to completely shatter it and make way for the Vader persona.

These two shared a physical body and its abilities for two decades, and Vader was so dominant, Anakin vanished all but completely. In that sense, finding and killing Obi-Wan is not really an act of selfish revenge, but the last step in erasing Anakin forever. He only didn’t imagine there would be more after that with Luke taking Obi-Wan’s place as the Jedi threat to the Empire. It may feel strange to think of Anakin and Darth Vader as two different entities, but trauma can do that to a person. Anakin was told to do unspeakable things, things he really couldn’t bring himself to do, so his mind found a way of carrying it out by splitting. Snoke (Andy Serkis) tried something similar with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) in The Last Jedi, only in his case it didn’t work as well as it did with Darth Sidious.

So it’s important to keep in mind that his Darth Vader persona is separate from his identity as Anakin, but even as a Sith, he displayed selflessness at some points, disguised as respect. Ultimately, though, Anakin and Vader are different people, they have to be. So when Filoni says Anakin is the greatest Jedi of all time, he’s right.

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