As is commonly considered, the Emperor goaded Luke into raising his saber against him, and in doing so this action caused Vader to intervene with his own saber and save the Emperor's life.
This was all part of the Emperor's plan. He wanted Luke to give into the dark side of the Force, to help Luke let the hate flow through him. Once he had dispatched his Father, Luke would have succumbed to Palpatine's influence as Anakin had some twenty-odd years ago.
We know how this played out; Luke and Vader fought, Luke dealt Vader a mortal blow (or did the force lightning finish him off?), Palpatine attempted to kill Luke, and Vader finally made up his mind about where his loyalties lay and saved Luke.
Great story, and a great ending to the movie trilogy.
But what if, when Vader stopped Luke's strike, it was not to save his master Palpatine but to stop Luke from taking that final path to the Dark Side? We know that Luke appears to have been heading down that path, so it makes perfect sense.
He's started to wear black. He's slowly becoming part machine due to his daddy cutting off his arm, and he forced choked a couple of Gammorean Guards at Jabba's Palace. So he's ripe for the turning right?
Had Vader Noticed This Change in His Son?
Recall in Revenge of the Sith when young Anakin had Count Dooku down for the count. Dooku is humiliated and beaten by Anakin. And what does Annie do? He executes him with a double-blade assault to the neck, mostly at Palpatine's bidding, thus turning him ever more so in the direction of the dark side of the Force.
What if Vader has all this in mind as Luke is about to strike?
We can argue that Vader's loyalty to the Emperor has been wavering throughout the whole of Return of the Jedi. That scene with Luke on Endor is arguably a key moment for Vader.
You probably noticed he didn't respond to Luke when he suggested there was still good in his father. Vader is wavering in his loyalty to the Emperor even more than he was at the time of The Empire Strikes Back when he and Luke join forces and rule the Galaxy.
So, Vader is wavering and he doesn't really want his son to become like him. So if he had killed Palpatine with his first strike, that would have been Luke turning, just like Anakin did with Dooku.
Vader chose not to allow Luke to do this, and would rather fight it and see what happens. Of course, if he had killed the Emperor, the turning to the dark side probably would only have happened if Vader chose to capitalize on it… but stay with us.
Luke seems to know this and calls Vader out during the fight, but he also manages to give away that Luke has a sister.
Does Vader know this is Leia? We have no idea, however, it's enough to goad Luke back into the fight.
Vader is wavering still but is suddenly deep into a fight to the death – a death he may have wanted for a long time since he was saved from being a crispy critter back on Mustpha by Palpatine.
Either way, by the time Luke beats him (how amazing is that swelling musical score then that happens, by the way?), Vader is nearly done.
Ultimately, Vader chooses to let his son live, but he took his sweet time doing it. Throughout that whole scene, he could have gone either way but he really didn't want his son going to the Dark Side. He just wanted the team up.
Anyway, this has been a bit of a ramble, what do you think? Was Vader stopping Luke from falling to the dark side when he prevented Luke from striking down the Emperor?
Perhaps it's overreaching. Perhaps it's actually how it looks in the movie – Vader simply defends his master and it's not until he sees his son dying of a Force lightning attack that he makes up his mind.
Extra for Experts
If you look really carefully at the very end of Return of the Jedi, post-fight scene, Luke's costume is opened up, and the flap's insides are white. This symbolizes that Luke was always a Jedi like his father before him. Perhaps this casts doubt on all of the above, but the symbolism is clear. Luke was always the good guy.
Extra for Experts II
While we just said that Luke was always the good guy, we understand that an early idea Lucas had was for Luke to become the bad guy at the end, and to walk off into the sunset having turned. How interesting a bookend to the Star Wars saga would that have been?!
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.