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At the beginning of Duel in the Senate both Yoda and Palpatine managed to knock down each other for few seconds. First Palpatine uses Force Lightning on Master Yoda, Yoda goes down, but Palpatine does not continue with his attack, arrogantly allowing his opponent to stand up (ironically, right after he accuses Yoda of being arrogant: "Your arrogance blinds you Master Yoda").

Then Yoda Force pushes Palpatine, this time Palpatine goes down, but again Yoda doesn't continue with attack (either another Force push, or with lightsaber) . After this Palpatine rises up, they exchange few words and duel begins in earnest. During the duel neither of them gets another chance, i.e. both remain on their feet right up to that fateful blast of Force energy which separates them and ends the duel.

I know that out-of-universe both characters wear plot armor :) , but is there some in-universe explanation why they didn't press on with attack while they had chance ? I imagine Yoda would not want to attack some ordinary opponent while he is down and helpless, but even he had no second thought about killing someone when it was necessary. For example, Yoda decapitated Clone Troopers on Kashyyyk, and Palpatine was far more dangerous than those clones. As for Palpatine, he liked to play cat and mouse games with his victims, but he had to know that Yoda was to powerful for that. After all, he killed Mace Windu right when he got the chance, and Yoda was more stronger in the Force then Windu .

  • Hmm. I'm tempted to close as a dupe of Why wasn't Master Yoda able to beat Palpatine?, more specifically this answer which addresses some of the reasons why Yoda left... – Valorum Dec 17 '16 at 0:23
  • @Valorum Well, question is not about who was more powerful, or why Yoda left battle. Question is why either of them didn't press initial advantage of knocking down opponent . – rs.29 Dec 17 '16 at 0:57
  • You mention most of the explanations in your question, frankly. – Adamant Dec 17 '16 at 4:28
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Palpatine was arrogant

The point of this scene is that both Yoda and Palpatine have underestimated each other. They’re both arrogant. Yoda thinks that he can just walk into Palpatine’s office and subdue him, the way he could with Asajj Ventress and Count Dooku: "At an end, your rule is." In turn, Palpatine has underestimated Yoda, as illustrated by his surprised scream when Yoda Force Pushes him across the room, or his look of surprise when Yoda can deflect his Force Lightning. He assumed he could just toy with him, the way he could with Darth Maul, Savage Oppress, or Kit Fisto.

Palpatine is the consummate Sith Lord. As such, he’s positively roiling with negative emotions, such as hatred and anger. He enjoys torturing people, as Sith Lords often do.

Note the parallelism here. In Revenge of the Sith, here’s what Palpatine says right before shooting Force Lightning at Yoda:

PALPATINE: Now you will experience the full power of the dark side.

In Return of the Jedi:

PALPATINE: Your feeble skills are no match for the power of the dark side. You have paid the price for your lack of vision.

The truth is, Palpatine likes drawing out his enemies’ agony, particularly by torturing them with Force Lightning. He does it to Maul in The Clone Wars. He does it to Luke in Return of the Jedi. Generally speaking, this works out well for him, since he’s powerful enough that he can indulge his sadistic tendencies before killing his opponents. That’s the whole frame of mind he’s in after shocking Yoda: “I have waited a long time for this, my little green friend.” He appears to have subdued Yoda with one blow, and wants to make him suffer before killing him. Of course, he quickly learns that things aren’t going to be that easy....

Yoda didn’t have the opportunity

Yoda’s Force Push threw Palpatine across the room. Palpatine was only knocked down for about four seconds, to judge from the video. Perhaps Yoda could have zoomed across the room with Force-enhanced speed, but by then Palpatine would have regained his footing. Perhaps, too, Palpatine would have gotten up a lot faster if Yoda had been running toward him. After that, of course, Palpatine was on his guard, and would be much more likely to counter a Force Push.

  • Zooming across the room might even have left him undefended enough for Palpatine to land a crippling blow, changing the course of the following duel. Yoda's inaction could well have been a calculated risk. – Annonymus Dec 17 '16 at 13:32
  • @Adamant I doubt Palpatine was so foolish to think he could toy with Yoda after just one Force Lightning. After all, he just fought very hard battle vs Windu. Also, when Yoda stared to rise slowly, he could (and should) attack again. – rs.29 Dec 17 '16 at 19:35
  • @rs.29 - The evidence suggests that he was. Bragging about the power of the dark side, gloating, striding toward Yoda slowly: all are the actions of someone who believes themselves to be in control. Was it sensible? No, but that’s the point: being a vicious person high on the power of pure evil tends to make one arrogant. Palpatine viewed Yoda as old, weak, and degraded, like the Jedi order itself. That he was similarly brought down by his need to torture Luke suggests that this is an enduring personality trait for him. – Adamant Dec 17 '16 at 19:39
  • @Adamant This seems a bit off, Palpatine was above other calculated player. Yes, he was sadistic, but he didn't attempt to torture Yoda further, like he did with Luke much latter over Endor . As for Yoda, I think he had ample opportunity. Instead of "At the end you rule is..." , he could have used those 4 seconds (long time in such combat) for another Force push, with devastating effects for Palpatine (back against wall) , or Force jump with drawing lightsaber in middle of flight (Yoda's specialty ) . – rs.29 Dec 17 '16 at 19:45
  • @rs.29 - Virtually every time that Palpatine has been in combat, he tries to torture people with Force Lightning. He did it with Maul, he did it with Luke, he was planning to do it with Yoda. The only reason he didn’t spend more than a few seconds torturing Windu is that the latter was blasted away before he had the chance. He was absolutely planning to torture Yoda (thus the whole striding toward him, asserting that he’d “waited a long time for this”). Even when Yoda starting standing up, Palps thought he was beaten (thus his surprise when Yoda was able to push him). – Adamant Dec 17 '16 at 19:49

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