Analysis

Six Unsatisfying Character Arcs

Anakin looking out from under his hood with his yellow eyes in Revenge of the Sith.
Character arcs form the backbone of many a story. A successful upward arc fills the audience with fuzzy warmth, while a well-crafted downward arc delivers powerful pathos. But not all arcs are put together well. When a character’s change is rushed or unjustified, it often has the opposite effect from what the author intended. Audiences have little patience for a character who changes without good reason, and that displeasure will likely translate into lost sales for a hardworking storyteller. To help avoid that, let’s take a look at some of the most unsatisfying arcs roaming free in the wild.

1. Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight

Harvey Dent before his injury in The Dark Knight.

If you ask someone what their favorite Batman movie is, they will say The Dark Knight approximately 110% of the time. This is largely because of Heath Ledger’s amazing performance as the Joker, but it’s easy to forget that this film has a second big-name villain in the mix. That villain is Harvey Dent, alias Two Face, a rogue whose signature move is flipping a coin to see if you die or not. That’s not a superpower; he just likes to make important decisions via a random number generator. Kind of a weird concept for a villain, but I digress.

Dark Knight is Dent’s origin story. He starts the film as an upright, virtuous DA and ends it as an unrepentant murderer.* It’s a motif of light and darkness, you see, a commentary on the good and evil that both exist within a human being. It’s almost as if he had… two faces. Ok, I’ll stop.

Lack of subtlety aside, that’s quite a character arc. How does the film manage to transition Dent from team good to someone who is happy to murder innocent children? It doesn’t really. Instead, a convoluted assassination attempt leaves Dent badly injured, including serious burns to one side of his face, and suddenly he’s evil.

The film tries to cover this by having Dent first go after the people who tried to kill him and his girlfriend. That’s reasonable – it’s easy to see how he might decide to take the law into his own hands for revenge. Then he expands the scope of his vendetta to people who were trying to save them but just didn’t quite act fast enough, and it’s much harder to square that circle. Even if he blamed his rescuers for saving him and not his girlfriend,* it’s hard to see how that puts them on the same level as his actual attackers. We never even got the impression he was a particularly vengeful man. Before his injury, the worst thing Dent does is threaten to kill a suspect as part of an interrogation, which is bad, but this is also a world where we’re supposed to cheer for Batman when he dangles people off roofs and yells, “SWEAR TO MEEEEEEE.”

The only justification left to Dark Knight is the implicit idea that because Dent is now physically disfigured, of course he’ll be evil. Not only is this lazy storytelling, but it’s pretty damned ableist as well. Disabled folks are often stigmatized and feared for their looks, something this film only reinforces. For anyone who isn’t aware: having a visible disability does not make a person dangerous. If you won’t take my word for it, the founder of science fiction herself is happy to explain it.

Turning Harvey Dent into Two Face was always going to be a tall order, and the filmmakers made it even harder by cramming his entire arc into the Joker’s movie. If nothing else, we should have at least seen some signs of Dent’s villainous tendencies before he decides to pick up child murder as a hobby. It could also be that Two Face is simply too closely tied to ableist tropes to be worth salvaging, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Edit: This section originally left out Rachel’s role in the plot.

2. Sorsha, Willow

Sorsha mounted and armored for battle from Willow.

Willow may not have had the industry-changing power of Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, but it’s still an excellent film with a lot to offer. It’s got a little person as its protagonist, for one thing, and his arc is great. He goes from feeling inadequate because he can’t learn magic to realizing his own skills had value all along. Fantastic.

What’s less fantastic is the arc of Sorsha, one of the film’s villains. She’s not just any villain, though; she’s the big bad’s daughter. That sounds like a clichéd setup for the dashing hero to seduce her, but maybe Sorsha will avoid such a fate? For one thing, the main villain is her mother, not her father, and she doesn’t wear that sexy-yet-evil armor that’s so common in fantasy. So perhaps…

Oops, no, Sorsha does indeed join team good after being seduced by the oddly named Madmartigan.* And it is a doozy of a seduction, let me tell you. First, Madmartigan is accidentally put under a love charm and tries to seduce Sorsha. She rejects him. Then later, during a battle, she decides that she’s actually super into him. Madmartigan goes with it, even though he’s expressed no interest in her when he wasn’t under the influence of magic. She then switches sides.

So we have a villain switching sides based on a man she’s only met once while he was under the influence of magic. Sorsha seems perfectly happy with her job, and her only disagreement with her mother is over how much help she needs. This would be hard to believe even if the film had taken the time to actually show Sorsha and Madmartigan falling in love. As is, it feels like the filmmakers didn’t know what to do with Sorsha in the third act and had her join team good to reduce the number of loose ends they had to tie up.

Perhaps worse, everyone on team good just accepts this without question. Sorsha has served the evil empire for years by this point, so it’s hard to believe none of the rebels have any grudges against her. Nor does Sorsha ever confront her past misdeeds. It almost feels like a different character has entered the story played by the same actor.

The most annoying part is that unlike Two Face, Sorsha’s arc would not have been hard to correct. All the film needed was a few moments early on where we see Sorsha is unhappy with the excesses of her mother’s reign, then a moment where she’s given orders that she considers over the line, and then she switches sides. No magically induced seduction required. It would also help to establish that she’s only recently joined her mother’s service, so it won’t seem like she has a lot to atone for, unless the filmmakers were prepared to go really deep on her arc.

3. Lord Asriel, His Dark Materials

Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel in the Golden Compass film.

In The Golden Compass, Lord Asriel is deep in villain territory. He intimidates people to get what he wants, and what he wants is to destroy the source of a magical substance called Dust because he thinks that will end death. Of course, the reader knows that Dust is actually super important for life as we know it, but Asriel either hasn’t been told or he refuses to hear. When he murders a child as part of his plan, it’s pretty clear that he fits the villainous trope of a megalomaniac convinced that his noble intentions justify his heinous means.

So when I heard that he becomes a good guy in the sequels, I figured that must be one heck of a redemption arc. How could he possibly overcome the bad karma of everything he did in the first book? After picking up the second book, I discovered the answer: just pretend nothing he did in the first book ever happened.

That sounds like a joke, but it’s not. After The Golden Compass, the next time we see Asriel, he’s gathering an army to invade heaven and defeat the evil god that lives there. What does that have to do with destroying Dust and ending death, you ask? Nothing. The later books claim he lied about that, even though he had no reason to do so. Awkward retcon is awkward.

Speaking of awkward, the later books just cannot stop talking about how awesome the child-murdering Asriel is. He’s so cool and strong with a huge super cool army, but he’s also the scrappy underdog fighting the good fight against a more powerful enemy. Oh, and did I mention all the hottest women want to sleep with him and he’s way good at sex?

This character would feel over the top even if he hadn’t been a child-murdering villain in the previous book. That crime is never addressed, in case you were wondering, and eventually Asriel ends his run in a big heroic sacrifice, to the eternal grief of all the hot ladies who haven’t gotten to sleep with him yet, I’m sure.

This change in Asriel is so sudden, I’m not 100% sure it even qualifies as an arc, especially since it mostly seems to happen between books. It’s as if the author got tired of the character he’d established but was really attached to the cool name. I’m not even sure it’s possible to fix it, since killing a child is usually considered irredeemable, even if it’s in pursuit of the noblest goal.

But if I had to try, my strategy would be to lean heavily on Asriel’s original motivation to destroy Dust and end death. At least in that scenario, it’s possible to see why he’d think killing a child was justified. Then at the end, I’d have him presented with incontrovertible proof that he was wrong, and let his final act be to help the protagonist stop whatever doomsday scenario is playing out. I’d leave the heaven-war plot out entirely, since it has little to do with his original motivation.

4. Kes, Voyager

An older Kes in front of the Warp Core in Fury

Kes began her life as Voyager’s resident psychic alien. Her abilities were extremely plot-convenient, doing whatever the writers needed them to do that week, but it was clear she had a lot of untapped power hidden away. Her personality was primarily made up of kindness and empathy. She was always trying to help her shipmates, and she even advocated for the holographic Doctor when no one thought he was a person. Then, at the dawn of season four, she left the show because her powers were too much for the ship to contain,* which seemed to be the last we’d see of her.

But no! A few seasons later, in the episode Fury, she’s back, and she’s super mad at Voyager. Supposedly, this is because Voyager took her away from her home planet when she was too young to know any better and then abandoned her. However, she practically begged them to take her because she hated her home planet, and they didn’t abandon her – she left so her godlike powers could mature.

It’s already difficult to believe that someone like Kes would turn evil for such a flimsy reason, so the episode isn’t off to a great start. If we wanted to extend far more benefit of the doubt than Voyager deserves, we could assume that something happened to Kes offscreen to make her think what she thinks. Maybe she ran into a stream of angry tachyon particles and they’re scrambling her brain, or something. Unfortunately, that justification falls apart once Kes puts her plan into motion.

This plan naturally involves time travel, because that always goes well. Future Kes travels several years into the past, where her intention is to get Voyager destroyed while smuggling her younger self back to their home planet. Never you mind about any paradoxes that creates; they’ll all be channeled through the main deflector dish or something. Naturally, this plan fails, Future Kes is killed, and everyone in the past finds out about what she’s going to do in the future.*

That’s where it gets weird: their plan to stop Future Kes is to have Past Kes record a message politely asking her not to destroy Voyager. And somehow, that works? We return to the future, Kes attacks the ship, sees the message, and immediately mellows out. Turns out she wasn’t really that committed to her quest of murdering all her old friends. She goes on her way like nothing happened, and they’re all friends again.

Bringing Kes back was always going to be a challenge, since her exit involved developing godlike powers. Giving her an arc where she starts off wanting to kill her old friends and then decides not to is even harder, as that’s a pretty radical change of heart to happen in one hour of TV. The best solution here would have been to give Kes a more manageable arc. Perhaps she’s used her powers to become a sort of avenging angel, destroying ships she thinks have done wrong. Then the Voyager crew would have to convince her to stop, either because vigilante justice is bad or because she’s hurting innocent people. Either way, it would have been a lot easier to believe than a sudden desire to kill her only friends in the quadrant.

5. Eustace, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Eustace being threatened by Reepicheep in Voyage of the Dawn Treader

If you’ve read the Narnia books, you probably remember Eustace’s introduction because he’s terrible in every way C. S. Lewis could think of. He’s annoying, he’s lazy, he’s entitled, and just about every other negative adjective you can come up with. In fact, Lewis was so eager to make Eustace terrible that some of his traits are contradictory. He’s a bully who pushes kids around despite being the weakest kid imaginable. He’s an academic snob, but the book makes clear he’s not at all smart. He’s also a vegetarian and goes to a school where they don’t hit kids. I don’t know how those last two items are supposed to make him more of an ass, but Lewis seemed to think it was important.

Eustace has a growth arc in Dawn Treader, and on the one hand that sounds really hard for a character who’s the personification of every obnoxious trope out there. But on the other hand, basically any change is sure to be an improvement. So how does this arc manifest? You might expect a series of small moments where Eustace gradually becomes a better person, followed by a critical turning point where that change is made manifest. But you’d be wrong.

Instead, Eustace is turned into a dragon by some cursed gold, and he instantaneously becomes a better person. That’s not an exaggeration. Once Eustace realizes what’s happened, he briefly considers using his dragon form to torment people, then immediately realizes he misses his human friends and that they weren’t mean to him at all and in fact he was the mean one. After that he’s super helpful and nice, even after the great Lion-Jesus* decides he’s been punished enough for his wickedness and turns him back into a human.

Such a sudden transition isn’t convincing, even for a character with less to overcome than Eustace. Real growth takes time, and describing it so suddenly is, frankly, comical. It feels less like Eustace grew as a person and more like the transformation altered his mind, which would make this the introduction of a new character rather than the arc of an existing one.

Part of the issue is Eustace’s over-the-top characterization at the beginning. He’s such a perfect storm of jerkishness that he doesn’t seem real. But beyond making Eustace a little more realistic, what Dawn Treader really needed was to spread his arc out a little. There’s even plenty of time to do it in, since Eustace is stuck in dragon form for quite a while.

Rather than cramming all Eustace’s character growth into one moment, he could have stuck with the idea of using his dragon form to torment people he doesn’t like* a little longer, which is exactly what readers would expect from him. Then he could have realize that this bullying brings him no joy, and a little later he discovers he’s lonely. He expects the other character to reject him, but they don’t, and instead they try to help him. Then Eustace does something to show his contrition, like using his dragon strength to help repair the Dawn Treader,* and he’s returned to human form. Arc done.

6. Anakin Skywalker, Revenge of the Sith

Anakin yelling at Obi-Wan on the lava planet from Revenge of the Sith

While it’s true that only Siths deal in absolutes, I think it’s safe to say that Anakin Skywalker is the most well-known example out there of an unsatisfying character arc. Unlike the other entries on this list, Anakin’s arc wasn’t rushed. It had two entire films to play out,* but it’s still remarkably unsatisfying. While it would be easy to blame the prequels’ general lack of quality, there are a few specific problems that hold Anakin back, and I’m not even talking about the time he yells “noooooooooo” in Revenge of the Sith.

The first problem is that Anakin’s downward arc actually happens twice, and the reasons are contrived both times. In Attack of the Clones, we find out that Anakin never went back to free his mother despite having years to do so. That seems incredibly unlikely, but it needs to happen so she can be kidnapped by Tusken Raiders. When Anakin goes after his mother and finds her dead, he gets revenge by killing everyone in the Tusken camp, including non-combatants and children.

Okay, so that’s his arc, right? The setup was extremely contrived, but he just murdered an entire tribe of children, so he’s obviously evil now. Or not. Instead, Padme tries to make it sound like this is something anyone might do if they get angry enough. The two of them get married, and in the next movie, Anakin and Obi-Wan are sharing jokes like nothing happened.

Bold move wasting an entire film on an arc they just have to walk back, but maybe Revenge of the Sith will do better. It starts out pretty well, with Anakin killing an enemy the Jedi wanted him to capture, which shows he’s vulnerable to the dark side’s influence. He just needs something to push him over the edge, and that something is… a vision of his wife’s face, which he takes to mean she’s going to die in childbirth. He decides the only solution is to consult a Sith master for some super-secret Force ritual that will keep Padme alive.

Really? That’s all he could think of? Have bacta tanks not been invented at this point in the timeline? Even if somehow the medical technology in Star Wars can’t handle a rough delivery, it seems like he should at least tell Padme about it so she can decide if she wants to abort the pregnancy or not. If Anakin was supposed to come across as a selfish jerk who isn’t very smart, this might work, but it’s hardly the fall of a good man we were told about in the original trilogy.

In addition to the contrived setup, Anakin’s second arc has one other major problem: his actions have nothing to do with the supposed reason he’s falling to the dark side. We’re told that his main motivation is wanting to save Padme, and to do that he decides to kill all the Jedi, including the children? How does that relate to his motivation? At least in the previous movie, killing the Tuskens was clearly linked to his need for vengeance. That’s why so much of the dialogue after Anakin turns feels stilted and awkward; they should be talking about why Anakin turned, but he doesn’t really have a reason anymore.*

Fixing Anakin’s arc requires more than a few adjustments; we’d have to rewrite the prequel trilogy from the ground up. That’s beyond the scope of this article, but it shows how badly a bungled arc can damage a story. Minor arcs that go bad are just annoying, but when the arc is also the story’s throughline, it absolutely has to be satisfying. Otherwise, audiences will remember the story the same way they remember the Star Wars prequels, and no one wants that.

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Comments

  1. Cay Reet

    1.) I’d say you can twist the coin toss to your favour with the right wording … like ‘heads, I win, tails, you lose’ … but that’s not Two-Face’s style. He really believes in the randomness of the throw. Yet, having a law-abiding Harvey Dent turn into a villain does require a lot more than a burned face – especially today. When Two-Face was originally created, burn scars were for life. Today, a lot of the damage could be undone by surgery (and Dent should either have the medical coverage or the money for that – not to mention Bruce could pay in his stead). For me, Two-Face is an interesting villain, because of his random-number approach, but it’s really hard to do the origin story, because it’s hard to explain the motivation for him to go full-out villain after his face was burned. We’re not talking a vigilante approach like Batman’s (that could even make sense), but a full-out switch of sides, after all. I imagine he could slowly slide from vigilante to villain – as an opposite to Batman -, but it doesn’t go like that in the movie.

    2.) I always felt that the love story between Sorsha and Madmartigan (perhaps his parents knew what he would turn out like and made ‘mad’ part of his name for that reason?) was very contrieved. The whole ‘villainess changes sides because she fell in love’ is so cliché, it’s even on the Evil Overlord list. Sorsha could have had a change of heart. There could have been more disagreements between her and her mother – since Sorsha is head of the army, she could have a different approach to the whole situation. There could have been a true spark of love between her and Madmartigan and situations which made their blooming love more likely. The way it was done, it was contrieved – as if George Lucas had thought ‘hold on, we need that romance subplot … now, who do I have around for that?’ (since Willow himself is happily married already, he’s out).

    6.) Yes, Anakin is THE example of a horrible character arc. To be honest, he was done horribly from the first movie onward, but giving him that ‘dip into darkness’ twice was neither necessary, nor was it effective. I always thought they should have made more use of Palpatine – he’s a very good manipulator, after all. Couple that with all the negative sides of the Jedi order as it is, and you can make Anakin destroy the order and kill everyone. The whole romance plot with Padmé, his secret marriage (because of the order, so that could tie into the main plot), and the children he’ll never know about (because that would explain why they let Luke keep the surely not common last name Skywalker – I mean, he applied for the Imperial Academy several times, pre episode 4, don’t tell me Palpatine, knowing the children were alive, wouldn’t have had an eye on that). It would have been possible to handle the whole prequels better. Or, even better, not make them about Anakin at all. I would have enjoyed three movies set in the the time of Knights of the Old Republic (comics or games, I’m not choosy).

  2. Feral

    Small correction to the Harvey Dent arc: he doesn’t go after Batman and Gordon because they failed to save him; he goes after them because they tried to save him instead of Rachel Dawes and, I guess, no one had time to let him know while he was in the hospital that actually they totally thought they were going to save Rachel and not him. (because communication is hard) I still don’t like his arc, but that does make it a little more palatable.

    I agree with Cay Reet that the reliance on luck and fate through the coin flip makes him very interesting as a character, and I wish they had focused more on that when creating his arc. He starts with a two-headed coin, always choosing “heads” and therefore making his own luck; by the end, he has given in to the idea that fate is fate and he has no control. Unfortunately, the writing does not lean into this change in his beliefs (e.g. showing multiple smaller scenes where it is challenged until by random chance (not false info from the Joker) Batman chooses to go to where he is being held captive rather than where Rachel is), which imo is what really makes a character arc, so it comes across as a personality swap due to his disfigurement, which you’ve covered as being ableist.

  3. Sedivak

    Maybe I don’t remember the movie correctly but did Harvey Dent not go murderously insane after losing a woman he loved? That would seem perfectly believable to me. As far as I’m concerned, the scarring was there only as added flavor. I might be mistaken.

    • Cay Reet

      That would work, if we were just talking about revenge. As mentioned in the article, as long as Harvey has it for those behind his burns (and Rachel’s death, since those are the same), it’s still understandable. But that wouldn’t make him a villain, merely a vigilante with a much harsher approach than Batman.

      It’s when he moves past that and threatens to kill an innocent child (the child of the man who tried to save his girlfriend and would have come too late, even had he not fallen for the Joker’s trick) that he becomes a villain. And that reaction, honestly, is not covered by the death of the woman he loves. That is not a step a good man (and that’s what Harvey has been shown as throughout the movie, up to claiming to be Batman in a try to protect the populace of Gotham) would take. Had he been shown as a man who had a tendency to overreact and to use violence to solve a problem before, it might have worked, but not with the Harvey Dent we’ve seen.

      • Sedivak

        We misunderstand each other. Let me rephrase my original post.

        Did Harvey Dent not turn murderously insane as in mentally ill (violent psychopath/sociopath or something similar) as a result of mental trauma caused by the violent death of his beloved? Because I still think that this would be believable. Such a person would not necesarilly be bound by justice, morality or indeed rationality in his behavior.

        I’ve always seen Two-Face as such – substituting morality, empathy and even reason with his coin toss.

        • Cay Reet

          Big problem there: most mentally ill people are not violent. Sociopaths and psychopaths are born that way, they are not made. The most likely outcome for having his beloved killed would have been severe depression or, with the situation he was in himself to add to that, PTSD.

          • Sedivak

            Of course most mentally ill people are not violent, that reallly did not need mentioning. On the other hand a character gleefully and without remorse killing people left and right would strongly hint at some kind of mental disorder.

            As to whether psychopaths and sociopaths are born that way or become that way as a result of external factors, Wikipedia (EN/Psychopathy/Cause) strongly hints that external factors during life are an important aspect in developing psychopathy. I personally believe that you are wrong here but I admit that I am not a medical professional and I might be mistaken.

            I also think that this is beside the point because we are not discussing what is medically proven in real life but what is acceptable and believable in fiction. There I would argue that going comic-book insane after a violent death of a loved one is pretty plausible as far as comic book villain backstories go.

          • Cay Reet

            Both sociopaths and psychopaths are defined by their inability to develop empathy. That can be furthered by their upbringing, yes, and a huge number of them are actually not criminal, despite the lack of empathy they have. And, by the way, they’re unlikely to be sadists – since the have no empathy, the suffering of a victim means nothing to them.

            A high tendency towards violence could lead to behaviour as Two-Face shows it, but the problem is that we never see Harvey Dent as someone with violent tendencies. There’s just no base for the Harvey we see before his acciedent and his girlfriend’s death to turn fully villain afterwards. As said – a vigilante is one thing and could have happened (especially with the strong sense of justice Harvey is shown to have), but going so far as to become outright villainous is a different question. Had the movie set the character up differently, it could have been likely.

            And as to ‘not what is real, but what is in comics…’ Comics have a horrible tendency to show both physical deformities and mental troubles as a the root for evil – something which makes life harder for people who have those (either or both) in real life, because they’re thought to be dangerous while they are not. It’s a good idea for comics to step away from that. We’re far past Lombroso and his theories by now – and we know too much about mental illnesses to misuse them the way comics (and movies, and TV series, and books) have in the past.

  4. Silveriver

    Didn’t Eustace become good because while his dragon body got big the dragon gold stayed a tiny bracelet and it hurt him a lot and other kids were nice to him and tried to help when he was in pain? Even tho I still found it unsatisfactory, I remember it being more than just “the boy turned into a dragon and became good because he was sad”

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      You’re remembering correctly that the arm band hurts him and then the other characters help him, but that actually happens *after* the narrator says that he’s become a good person now.

      • Silveriver

        Oh dang, then the meaning kinda shifts into an uncomfortable “the boy was saved because he became good” territory

  5. Laura Ess

    3. LORD ASRIEL, HIS DARK MATERIALS
    I read the trilogy over the new year’s break in the heat, and it still seems fresh to my memory, though I haven’t read “La Belle Sauvage” yet. I don’t think that either of Lyra Belacqua’s parents are portrayed as particularly likeable or pleasant people. Marisa Coulter is very suave and pervasive, but she organises kidnapping for experimental procedures on children, and like Lord Asriel thinks of those children as a means to an end. Certainly Coulter is shocked to see Lyra as the subject of one of those experiments.

    In any case, while they’re major players in the drama, and both are ruthless in their own ways. They’re also not the main characters. Lyra and Will Parry are more that, and to a certain degree we tend to mostly see Asriel and Coulter through their eyes. There are a number of couples in the trilogy: Lyra and Will, Asriel and Coulter, John Parry/Dr. Grumman/Jopari and Juta Kamainen, Chevalier Tialys and Lady Salmakia, and of course Humans and their Daemons. I don’t think Asriel can be considered by himself without Coulter as a counterpart, and his arc (such as it is) makes no sense by itself.

    I’m influenced in this by reading the first two books in the WRINKLE IN TIME series, and find both to be more allegorical anything else.

    4. KES, VOYAGER
    Kes was never written properly on the show, and the time travel scenario of her final episode doesn’t make a lot of sense. It would only work if Kes (by time travelling) would have gone to an alternate time line. Having her dissolve into a “higher realm” seemed more like a cop out than any thing else. Maybe she’ll meet Wesley?

    Perhaps the real issue is that Trek shows back then didn’t have much of an overall arc, either for the whole show or for individual characters (the exception being the 2nd half of the last season of Deep Space Nine). The writing seemed more “opportunistic” than anything else. An episode or character might be popular, so they’d canvas for episodes that might extend that story or use the same characters. But it never seemed PLANNED.

    When Denise Crosby left Next Gen they killed off her character Tasha Yar in the most offhand way. The episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise” resurrected that character in an alternate time line as a one-off appearance. But that opened up the possibility of Crosby returning as Yar’s daughter Sela. Clever, but probably not planned and we never get any closure on Sela. She should have been in NEMESIS. But likewise When Will Ryker discovers a copy of himself (due to a transporter accident) and they DON’T kill off the copy that version takes the name of Thomas Ryker (Will’s middle name). He appears in an episode of Deep Space Nine and ends up in a Cardassian prison camp, never to be heard of again.

    So lack of decent character arcs is an issue with old Trek. Hit or miss at best!

    6. ANAKIN SKYWALKER, REVENGE OF THE SITH
    Meh, less than best scripts and the choice of actors doomed Anakin from the start. I find the main problem is the relationship between Anakin and Padmé. Anakin talks endlessly about how he loves her, but we never see that in his actions. Rather, he’s OBSESSED with her, regardless of whether she loves him or not.

    There’s some character development for him in the animated series THE CLONE WARS but mostly that’s with Obiwan and Ahsoka. Palpatine nd Tarkin also feature in that development, but for the most part he remains a shallow and ego driven character., and one that was easy to manipulate by players like Palpatine and Yoda.

    • Cay Reet

      About Anakin: I agree the relationship/love between Anakin and Padmé was pretty much handwaved, but, if we’re honest, the same goes for Han and Leia (or Sorsha and Madmartigan – “Willow” is also by George Lucas). It would have been pretty easy to give them some real moments of getting closer and falling in love (although I stand by my opinion that they should have been closer in age and they shouldn’t have started out with ‘annoying brat’ Anakin – not that he became less annoying as an adult).

      I would have played more off Palpatine’s manipulation talent in the prequels – used that to explain why Anakin falls for the Dark Side and is instrumental in destroying the order. Padmé as a side-plot would have tied nicely into that, what with Jedi not being allowed to fall in love or marry.

  6. Rose Embolism

    Yeah, the movie Dent isnt very well developed. It especially pales in comparison to Tim Truman’s BTAS take on Dent, where Harvey aleady had a barely contaained split personailty, and all it took was the right circumstance to bring it out. Its amazing that a half-hour children’s show does a better job than the blockbuster film. It also had one of the best lines of the series
    Relevant scene: https://youtu.be/h4TM6kX9dW0

    • Jasin Moridin

      Also, The Clone Wars does a far better job of setting up all the flaws that lead to Anakin’s fall than the movies did. BTAS and The Clone Wars are great examples of animated series that manage to tell their stories better than ginormous blockbuster movies.

      Kudos to Paul Dini and Dave Filoni.

      And as for the issue of Anakin’s mom, one of my friends views the situation as being exceedingly stupid because even if the Jedi order didn’t let him run off in the middle of training to go get her away from being a freaking slave, he literally just saved the entire planet of Naboo. Padme could have used her influence as a planetary ruler to go back to Tattooine and get her out of there. Hell, Palpatine could have done it too, as part of a ploy to get Anakin even more on side than he ended up being in canon.

      And if she still needed to die for the sake of the story, have her tragically die in a Separatist terrorist attack (that was completely engineered specifically for the purpose of killing her by Palpatine himself). There are so many better ways to have gone through that storyline than Lucas managed.

  7. Nite

    Thank you for that top spot Two-Face. It always felt as cheap and contrived as you have described here. He should’ve had the next movie to develop.

    In comparison, his arc in the Bruce Timm animated series shines.

  8. Justin

    Rewrite the Prequels in article form. I think that’d be a hit and people would love to read what you come up with.

  9. E. H.

    Obi Wan isn’t always the most reliable source, but it’s pretty clear from his dialogue that he considered Anakin a good friend and a fine example of a Jedi before he was corrupted.

    This simply wasn’t the story the prequels told. It would have been a better one. Vader was also spoken of as a ferocious character, hunting down the Jedi for the Emperor. Technically, yes he did. He bravely chased their children through the Temple.

    Most of the fully initiated Jedi were shot in the back in a mass assassination. Wouldn’t it have been better if the newly named Darth Vader, formerly the greatest of all the Jedi had actually killed dozens of them? Traveling around with the Galaxy’s most lethal death squad, defeating them in battle and tracking those who retreated to their isolated hideouts?

    • Cay Reet

      The prequels were a mess on the whole, but I agree with you – it would have been much better, had Vader at least taken out a few dozen of his former colleagues. I remember there’s something of that in the first level of “The Force Unleashed,” though, where he tracks down and kills the father of the main character (and takes the child MC with him to train).

      • E. H.

        I have a scenario in my mind where Vader, after proving himself in battle against the Jedi, goes on a long hunt for survivors with a crew consisting of the meanest Storm Troopers and bounty hunter (maybe even a couple of the ones we meet in The Empire Strikes Back) and some evil Force adepts.

        He’s doing very well, but the Emperor tells him to stop after a year or less.
        “I beg you my lord, just a little more time. I’ve recently acquired intelligence on a man who dresses suspiciously like a Jedi and goes by the name of ‘Ben Kenobi ‘. I mean…it’s OBVIOUSLY him.

        ” No. You are needed to fight the Rebellion. This quest of yours has become an obsession. ”

        “But my lord, all I would have to do is go to Tattooine for a couple of weeks and get some local townspeople to tell me where he lives. I already know the general area.”

        ” No!!! “

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