In Revenge of the Sith Palpatine feigns helplessness and begs Anakin to save him from Mace Windu so he (Palpatine) can save Padme. Near the end of Return of the Jedi Palpatine is pouring Force-lightning into Luke, who screams and begs Vader to help him.

We know that if Vader has any weakness it is for his family, so cooking Luke right in front of him was not the smartest move by Palpatine. Still, it seems ridiculous that Yoda and Obi-Wan would send Luke out unprepared for Force-lightning.

Was Luke feigning helplessness to compel Vader to act?

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    Palpatine didn't exactly look like he was secretly in control of the confrontation with Windu.
    – Rex Kerr
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 15:28
  • Yoda and Obi-Wan didn't exactly send Luke out. I'm 99.99% sure Luke was, in fact, not even aware of the existence of Force lightning, as well as a whole lot of other Force tricks.
    – Martha
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 0:41
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    @RexKerr After Anakin amputated Windu's hands, Palpatine recovered instantly, displaying no sign of weakness. Given the amazing abilities Palpatine displayed later in the duel with Yoda, I don't think Windu was in as strong a position as it appeared.
    – Kyle Jones
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 1:30

5 Answers 5


No, by all accounts Luke was actually as helpless as he appeared.

The Legends novel The Truce at Bakura picks up the day after Episode VI. A major plot point of the novel is Luke's failing health following the fight with Palpatine.

Luke Skywalker hustled across one cruiser's landing bay, red-eyed but still suffused with victory after the Ewoks' celebration. Passing a huddle of droids, he caught a whiff of coolants and lubricants. He ached, a dull gnawing in all his bones from the longest day of his life. Today - no, it was yesterday - he had met the Emperor. Yesterday, he had almost paid with his life for his faith in his father.

The passage is referring to the fact that Luke voluntarily turned himself in, betting his life - and possibly his friends' - that there was still good inside Vader. Throughout the first chapter, Luke is in constant pain and tries to brush it aside as mere physical soreness & exhaustion, but then he nearly blacks out at one point. Afterwards, we get an account of Luke's actual medical condition following the Emperor's assault:

MEDICAL DROID: You're not well, sir.

LUKE: I'm just tired.

MEDICAL DROID: Sir, my diagnosis is that you have sudden and massive calcification of your skeletal structure, of the rare type brought on by severely conductive exposure to electrical and other energy fields.

LUKE: (THINKING) Energy fields. Yesterday. Palpatine, leering as blue-white sparks leaped off his fingertips while Luke writhed on the deck. He'd thought he was dying. And he was. Dying.


I am not aware of any definitive answer but I think it is unlikely.

For this to be the case then that would mean that Luke was unhurt by the Emperor's force lightning. The Emperor is shown as being very powerful, Luke has potential and some training but I do not believe it was ever shown that he was so powerful as to be unhurt by this.

Cooking Luke the way he did was just malice as he is a deeply evil character, I do not think the he had any idea about Vader's potential weakness. He was too consumed with his own power.

  • "I do not think the he had any idea about Vader's potential weakness" - given that this weakness was what he deliberately exploited to turn Anakin to dark side... you're wrong on that assumption. Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 13:57
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    Sorry, I meant that he had no idea it was a current weakness. Otherwise he would have known better than to torture Vader's son in front of him without taking precautions. He would probably have thought twice about being alone with him and Luke when they were both within sabre range and he probably would not have been so confident that Vader would parry Luke's sabre attack (notice P. was so confident did not even seem to flinch). Palpatine is not known for his lack of careful planning or missing details. The scenario seems to point towards P being completely blind to Vader's weakness.
    – Stefan
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 14:22

Luke was definitely not faking.

Per the film script

Luke is almost unconscious beneath the continuing assault of the Emperor's lightning. He clutches a canister to keep from falling into the bottomless shaft as the bolts tear through him.

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

Luke writhes on the floor in unbearable pain, reaching weakly up toward where Vader stands watching.

The film's official novelisation

On the Death Star, Luke was nearly unconscious beneath the continuing assault of the Emperor’s lightning. Tormented beyond reason, betaken of a weakness that drained his very essence, he hoped for nothing more than to submit to the nothingness toward which he was drifting.


Luke’s body slowed, wilted, finally crumpled under the hideous barrage. He stopped moving altogether. At last, he appeared totally lifeless. The Emperor hissed maliciously.

The film's new (and fully canon) junior novelisation

The Emperor is right. Luke had no idea that the dark side was this powerful, that the Force could be used this way. He does understand now and it is a terrible thing to understand.

Luke collapses under the onslaught, clutching at a railing to keep from being pushed into the reactor shaft behind him. But he can do nothing more. The storm of dark energy blots out his own thoughts and makes his body jerk and writhe.

and the film's original junior novelisation

More blue lightning coursed over and through Luke. He fought to remain conscious and clutched at a canister to keep from falling into the adjacent shaft.


Luke had not imagined pain beyond what he had already suffered, but then he was hit by a wave of power that was even more staggering. His harsh screams echoed across the throne room.


Neither was feigning anything. Sidious was not in a position of power when Windu was about to destroy him. It was only the intervention of Anakin that saved him and allowed Sidious to regain control.

Luke was over matched by the Emperor. Had Vader allowed him to, the emperor would have killed Luke the same way that he killed Windu. I suspect that is why Lucas has Palpatine kill Windu in that manner so that Vader would have no doubt about the outcome when it came time to save Luke.


I actually have a theory on this. This is a very pivotal scene in the movie, even in the context of the whole Star Wars universe. Anakin is given a choice between good and evil, but whenever the dark side is in play the outcome is always a little shady (no pun intended). Mace Windu for some reason changes his mind from bringing the future emperor in to killing him, which is when Anakin walks in and says:

"I am going to end this once and for all! - Mace "You can't, he must stand trial!" -Anakin

And then later on:

"He's too powerful to be left alive! -Windu "It's not the Jedi way" -Anakin

This is only after force lightning is applied. Even if the lightning had not struck Mace he did need to use Vaapaad which some consider a dangerous and possibly dark technique to deflect the force lighting back at Palpatine. I am of the belief that the usage of dark powers affects ones beliefs, after the lightning battle Windu had lost all ability to reason and could think only of killing the Emperor for the greater Good. Palpatine's lightning was being redirected back at him and was actually being used defensively.

It is possible that the use of the lightning and the effect on the person being hit is such a strong force ability that it will actually warp the wills of others around them to cause them to feel pity towards the one being attacked.

I am saying it is like a case of deja-vu. Lightning striking Palpatine caused Anakin to betray the Jedi, striking Luke, Anakin betrayed the Emperor. Remember because of Anakin's high midichlorian count he is very tied in with the ways of the force.

And in the case of Vader saving Luke, this was probably more so given the fact that it was also his son.

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