Unlimited Power

The Silliest Star Wars Prequel Scene is Also Secretly the Most Tragic

One much-memed moment distilled all the infamous political drama perfectly.

Celebrating the Prequels

The Star Wars saga would not be what it is without Jar Jar Binks. The much-memed, oft-derided Gungan is usually positioned as ineffective comic relief, especially in the fandom’s memory, but Jar Jar is far more important to the Skywalker family’s story than most remember or are willing to admit. Sure, watching him take on leadership roles in Episode I: The Phantom Menace and its sequel, Attack of the Clones, is designed to get chuckles out of fans. But one of Jar Jar’s most ironic moments serves as a crucial cautionary tale; and made it that much easier for the nefarious Emperor Palpatine to conquer the galaxy.

Let’s set the scene: the Galactic Republic is about to plunge into all-out war with the Separatist Alliance. Chancellor Palpatine is quietly lobbying for the Military Creation Act, which will grant him the power he needs to amass a larger army. Meanwhile, Senator Padmé Amidala has become one of the Republic’s most vocal representatives, and she’s staunchly opposed to military expansion.

Palpatine’s ascension kicked off in earnest when Jar Jar was appointed Senator of Naboo.


Padmé survives two assassination attempts before she’s convinced to take a leave of absence. Who does she name as acting senator in her place? Jar Jar, who (against all odds) has also risen through the Senate ranks to become a Junior Representative of Naboo. Almost overnight, Jar Jar becomes the most important figure in the decision to raise a Republic army. We don’t see much of his tenure as acting senator, but the scene we do get speaks volumes about Palpatine’s master plan.

In hindsight, it’s obvious Palpatine orchestrated the Clone Wars to amass more power and turn the Republic into an Empire. We see that plan play out with the clandestine creation of a clone army, and with Padmé’s many brushes with death, but Palps was also up to no good within the Senate. Palpatine manipulates Jar Jar, and he ultimately votes to grant the Chancellor “emergency powers” that make him omnipotent and the Senate obsolete.

Palpatine’s machinations with Jar Jar are subtle, and their dynamic is one of the many political aspects of Attack of the Clones that can be hard to follow. But once Jar Jar takes the Senate floor and proposes the Emergency Powers Act, it’s clear even he was a pawn in Palpatine’s never-ending scheme.

Palpatine’s master plan begins to take shape in Attack of the Clones.


“It is with great reluctance that I have agreed to this calling,” Palpatine tells the Senate when he’s granted emergency powers. It’s Ian McDiarmid’s duplicitous performance that sells the reality of the scene, but it’s Jar Jar’s role in the whole affair that makes it tragic. Palpatine exploited his naïveté to further his plans; the hapless Gungan never stood a chance. Still, Jar Jar was the last man standing between the Chancellor and the unlimited power he craved, making him one of the saga’s most important figures. No, he’s not a Sith Lord in disguise, just a lovable fool... but either way, he doomed the galaxy.

This article is part of the “Celebrating the Prequels” series, a two week-long series of articles about the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy leading up to the 25th anniversary of The Phantom Menace.

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