Jeremy hopes the Force is with him as he pursues a forensics career in the swamps of Louisiana.
The Light Side of Darth Vader
Anakin Skywalker remains Star Wars's most prominent figure, having served the galaxy as a Jedi before succumbing to the dark side and co-ruling the Empire as a Sith. Forever imprisoned in his dark armor, Darth Vader becomes a bitter shell of a man with little emotion left beyond hatred.
While Vader acquired a reputation for efficiency, his brutal policies often left corpses in his wake—including subordinates who displeased him. Thus, his redeeming instances are few and far-between, and often accompanied by a caveat or ulterior motive, but today we'll explore ten surprisingly merciful moments of Darth Vader!
10. He Opposed Slavery (Sort of)
Due to his childhood on Tatooine, Vader was notably upset when the Empire enslaved survivors after the "Cleansing of New Plympto" mission, staying awake an entire night in contemplation.
Sadly, he didn't stop the act, but certainly demonstrated discomfort. Vader usually manages to convince himself that his ends justify his ruthless means, but slavery nearly crosses a line even for him. That said, he also allowed the Empire's frequent enslavement of Wookiees, either concealing or discarding his misgivings.
9. He Befriended the Clone Appo
Clone trooper Appo is seen in both the Clone Wars animated series and Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith, where he "persuades" Bail Organa to depart the Jedi temple. Shortly afterwards, he's assaulted by a young Jedi and perishes in the canon timeline.
However, in the alternative Legends universe, he survives the wound and joins the 501st Legion, Vader's personal battalion. Unlike many Imperials, Appo respects rather than fears Vader, and the Sith appreciates the clone's courage and insight. Appo ultimately falls to Jedi exile Roan Shryne's blade, and Vader verbally expresses regret, stating he was "rather fond" of the man. Coming from Vader, such blatant praise speaks volumes, highlighting his affection for competent soldiers.
8. He Returned Threepio to the Rebels in Cloud City
When C-3PO wanders into a restricted Cloud City area in Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back, he's shot by a stormtrooper to hide the Empire's presence. Soon, Threepio's rebel allies are captured, and we see his broken parts placed in the same cell as Chewbacca—who quickly begins repairs.
Sure, Threepio isn't much of a combat threat, but this was still an odd move by the Empire—until a comic revealed the order came from Vader himself. Upon seeing the droid he built in his youth, Vader commands the parts be returned, unable to fully dispose of them (paralleling his own compassionate remnants).
7. He Attempted to Spare Obi-Wan and Ahsoka
Though not yet confined to his suit, Vader encountered his old mentor on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith. Obi-Wan's timing wasn't great, leading Vader to suspect his wife had betrayed him; nevertheless, Vader revealed hesitation in lines like "don't make me kill you". Earlier in the same film, when questioned about Obi-Wan by Padme, he replied that he hoped Obi-Wan "stayed true" to the Republic, again indicating a desire to avoid battling his mentor.
Years later in the Rebels series, Vader encounters his old apprentice Ahsoka. Just like with Obi-Wan, the pair end up clashing, but Vader first offers to spare her if she reveals other Jedi survivors, yet again highlighting his affection for former friends. And even when they duel, he hesitates after hearing her proclaim she won't leave him again, hinting at his inner turmoil.
6. He Saved Palpatine
Vader and Palpatine (Darth Sidious) have an odd relationship, sometimes amiable, others littered with betrayal, with each scheming to replace the other. But for all his supposed treachery, Vader often saves Palpatine's life. We see one example before Vader's big reawakening in Episode 6: Return of the Jedi, where he stops Luke's blade from slaying the Sith. Another instance comes from the Ghost Prison comics, where Vader uses the Force to stabilize Palpatine after he's poisoned by an assassination attempt.
So why continuously save the man you claim to want to usurp? My guess is loneliness—without Palpatine, Vader truly would be alone. After all, he never wanted to rule by himself, and despite his evil, Palpatine is all Vader has left.
5. He Allowed His Apprentice to Depart
When it comes to Sith, apprentices don't just walk away if their training proves too much—they're killed and replaced with someone stronger. Yet Vader was uncharacteristically merciful towards his pupil Tao; upon discovering Luke's existence, he would have let the boy depart peacefully had the Emperor not literally forced him to mortally injure him. Afterwards, Vader evens feels enough remorse to bury the near-dead Tao, who dies saving Vader from a Tusken Raider attack.
As seen in The Force Unleashed video games, Vader also had an interesting relationship with Galen Marek, code-named Starkiller, whom he ultimately betrayed, but genuinely considered overthrowing the Emperor with.
4. He Prevented Birra Seah's Suicide
Force-sensitive and unafraid to speak her mind, Seah impressed Vader when the pair met, with him even promoting her to the coveted Moff rank. However, after displeasing the Emperor (who had misgivings about promoting a woman), Seah attempted suicide, only for Vader to telepathically stay her hand, telling her she was still of use to him.
How much of this was compassion and how much business is debatable; unfortunately, Seah eventually disappoints Vader when Luke escapes her custody. Despite his former mercy, Vader orders Seah's execution, and her body is eventually found. A sad tale, but one that reveals a slimmer of lingering empathy in the Sith.
3. He Healed Erv Lekauf
Of all Vader's somewhat-friendly partnerships in the Empire (like with Admiral Tarkin and Dr. Aphra), he was perhaps most fond of Erv Lekauf. Serving as Vader's aid, Lekauf impressed Vader by helping him fight attackers, rather than fleeing the chaos as most officers would.
Vader was so impressed with Lekauf that he had him cloned (willingly). And Lekauf returned the affection, willingly taking a bullet (technically a flamethrower) for Vader and receiving terrible burns. However, Vader used the Force to sustain him until medics could heal him, and Lekauf peacefully retired to live with his family. Generations later, descendants Ben Skywalker and Jori Lekauf would bond, continuing the camaraderie their grandfathers shared.
2. He Contemplated Suicide as Redemption
Despite thwarting Seah's suicide, Vader himself deeply considered it. Contrasting his cool demeanor, he was often inwardly distraught over past choices, hating the role he played in his wife's death. This was especially evident during a mission to dispatch traitors in the Atoan system, where Vader learns that one of his targets, Lady Saro, is pregnant, reminding him of his deceased wife.
Cornering her in a cathedral, Vader left his fate to the Force's will "in a moment of clarity and a desire to atone for his sins" (as stated on the official Star Wars Wookieepedia), bringing the entire structure down upon them. This act kills Saro and very nearly Vader, who interprets his survival as a sign to continue living.
1. He Sacrificed Himself to Save Luke
Of course, Vader's blossoming sparks of light come to a pinnacle in Episode 6's climax. When his son refuses to strike him down, Vader quickly returns the favor by saving Luke from Palpatine's vicious Force Lightning (reversing his choice many years prior when put in a similar situation with Mace Windu).
Unfortunately, electrical currents prove Vader's biggest weakness, damaging his breathing equipment and giving only minutes to live. Despite his passing, his love for his family resurrected Anakin Skywalker, whose timely redemption soon grants eternal life as a Force Spirit (a technique unavailable to dark-siders).
Vader's Redeeming Moments
In addition to today's list, snippets of Vader's heart are scattered throughout lore. Despite his cold executions, many troops respected him as a brave and competent leader unafraid to enter a battle himself, and his writings showcase a desire for a just galaxy. His obsession with pursuing Luke reveals his desire for his family, and his self-loathing periodically reveals itself, like when he revealed to Darth Maul's revived clone that the source of his hatred was himself.
Don't get me wrong, Vader committed many atrocities, enough that Leia (his own daughter) took years to forgive him even after learning of his final redemption. Still, Anakin periodically resurfaced to prove that even half-cyborg Vader had a heart.
© 2019 Jeremy Gill
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on April 27, 2019:
That's one of the novels I've been meaning to read, and the scenario you describe sounds like a perfection addition to the list. Thanks for the excellent suggestion!
Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on April 24, 2019:
This is great, Jeremy. Love reading your work about Star Wars. I remember in the novel" Dark Apprentice, in which Darth Vader and the Emperor take on this beast, Vader begs to save a girl's life. But the Emperor pagrees with a stipulation. The Emperor explains, "Lord Vader, now her whole village must die because of you." But Vader was truly a character worthy of the greatest Shakespear plays. He is unforgettable. Wonderful work. Thanks.
Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on April 23, 2019:
The story of Anakin is a tragedy.