How Close to the Dark Side of the Force Did Luke Skywalker Actually Get In Return of the Jedi?

In A New Hope, Luke Skywalker started out as a farm boy, realized he was in a war with his own father, and suddenly discovered he was the galaxy's last hope for freedom. It was a tough gig and, by the time Return of the Jedi rolled around some four years after Luke followed a crazy old man on an adventure, Luke had changed considerably.

He was no longer the blue-eyed dreamer – he was well on his way to becoming a Jedi, he is, the new man in black (step aside, Johnny Cash). Being the man in black meant he was skirting the line, getting too close to the dark side of the Force. That was where Darth Vader went and look what happened with him – millions died.

So what evidence is there that Luke was bordering on the dark side of the Force? Return of the Jedi builds this up very slowly, purposefully, and quite carefully.

First, there's Luke’s entrance to the palace. He begins his rescue by Force-choking two hapless Gamorrean guards in a manner that his father would be proud of.

He then mockingly commences negotiations with Jabba the Hutt and despite nearly having the tables turned on him by way of the Rancor, he warns Jabba “that's the last mistake you'll ever make” – that's a death threat by anyone's standards and it isn't normal for Jedi to do such things. At the very least it's a sign of cockiness – something Han Solo warned him about some four years prior in A New Hope.

Following a mad cap orgy of bloodletting at the mercy of Luke's lightsaber, Luke having pretty much already affected the rescue, he fires the cannon into Jabba's Sail Barge killing everybody but his pals.

He didn't have to kill them – he could have just swung himself and Leia onto their escape ship, but no, he killed them all. It was kind of like how Anakin dealt mercilessly with those who kidnapped his mother in Attack of Clones. Dark side much?

One could perhaps argue that in getting rid of Jabba, Luke was actually helping the people of Tatooine become free of the crime lord's family and the long shadow it had cast over the planet – but that's probably being too liberal with Lucas' intentions with the script.

And let's not forget the fact that Luke wears black costuming for most of the movie. He literally became a man in black. He arrived at Jabba's Palace in a dark Jedi-like robe which, when discarded in the Rancor attack, revealed a suit of black. Or, more correctly, a black suit of death.

mark hamill and darth vader return of the jedi
Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

On Endor, Luke is wearing another black costume, and he wears this when he confronts Vader in front of the cackling confident Emperor. Vader is all in black too, as the color is the universal symbol for villainy, and so the comparison must be made – Luke is getting close to the dark side and his costume is intended to help the viewer believe this may be the case.

Let's cut to the climactic lightsaber battle between Luke and Vader. During the fight, Leia is shot while she's on Endor and Luke feels her pain through the force. This inadvertently reveals the fact that she's Vader's daughter  – a fact that the Sith Lord seizes on and threatens to turn her to the Dark Side. That's a bridge too far for Luke, and he loses his temper with Vader in a big way.

Gone is the formal Jedi restraint – he just goes for it and beats Vader by tapping into his anger. He deals Vader a mortal blow and suddenly that moment is make-or-break for Skywalker. Of course, Luke chooses light over dark but he was incredibly close when he made his final fatal attack. The difference was that he was not Vader, he was Luke Skywalker, son of Anakin Skywalker, a Jedi Knight.

Lucas then served us with a nice twist of sorts, however. Take a closer look at Luke's costume. Look at the fold across the chest that is now unbuttoned, what is that color? It's white. It's the yang to black's yin.

Underneath all Luke's stresses, doubts, and struggles with who his father was and who he was, he was always the good guy. Always the Knight in White Satin. Always the boy who never got to Tosche Station to get his power converters.

This is a movie after all and he was a Jedi like his Father was before him. Nice symbolism Lucas.

So yes, Luke got pretty close to turning to the dark side, but his heroic qualities shone through and, after all of that action with Vader, he regained his zen and stuck it to the Emperor, telling him that he was a Jedi like his Father was before him. It was a fearless moment and one which nearly cost him his life when he was zapped by Force lightning.

But we all know how that turned out

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.