Was the plan to stop the Sith and hide the Skywalker twins really stupid or really smart?
After the entire Republic collapses, and Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda fail to stop the Emperor, they hatch a plan in the final moments of Revenge of the Sith. Along with Princess's Leia's adoptive father, Bail Organa, Obi-Wan and Yoda come up with a solution so clearly full of holes you have to wonder if they weren't playing drunken Jedi mind tricks on each other.
Baby Luke is going to go live with who now? What's the deal with Leia being raised by a dude who is a public enemy of the Empire? And just what is Yoda going to do with all his free time?
It's easy to argue the only reason Obi-Wan and Yoda do any of this is to set up the original trilogy. This Doylist explanation is probably true, but it's also far less fun. So let's leave George Lucas' non-linear approach to writing Star Wars movies aside for a moment and give Master Kenobi, Senator Organa, and Yoda a little more credit.
Maybe this plan was brilliant. Let's break five down five reasons Yoda actually knew exactly what he was doing.
5. Yoda keeps Obi-Wan in the dark — Before we get into the specifics of the plan, we've got to acknowledge that Yoda is the low-key mastermind. He knows all of this is all going to work out eventually, even if he doesn't know how.
In The Clone Wars episode "Sacrifice," Yoda has visions of the future. He admits that the Jedi may have already lost by participating in the Clone Wars in the first place, but he also thinks there's a long-term way to beat the Sith:
"Open to us, a path remains. That unknown to the Sith is. Through this path, victory, we may yet find. Not victory in the Clone Wars. But victory for all time."
Yoda doesn't know what form the eventual defeat of Darth Sidious and the Sith looks like, but he knows it's going to require some patience and radical restructuring of the Jedi. It will also require and his own death.
In The Clone Wars, Yoda doesn't tell Mace Windu and Obi-Wan everything about his visions. He leaves out that he's been learning how to become a Force ghost with the spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn. Yoda waits to give Obi-Wan that piece of the puzzle until after everything goes down in Revenge of the Sith.
Basically, it seems like Yoda believes that if the Jedi can learn to live forever and all become very busy ghosts, the Sith don't stand a chance in the long run. The classic trilogy and Rise of Skywalker prove him right.
4. Make one twin a target, keep the other safe — The most controversial part of Obi-Wan and Yoda's plan is easily the fact that one of Anakin's children gets to keep their super famous last name and the other one doesn't. Especially when you consider why Yoda made that decision.
The idea of splitting them up Luke and Leia is solid since it will help keep them both safe. That said, why does Yoda suggest sending Luke to live with his relatives, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru? Considering Anakin is from Tatooine, it seems like sending Baby Luke there and letting him keep the family name would make him a huge target for Darth Vader and the Emperor.
Luke could easily have been renamed Luke Lars, or, perhaps, Luke Amidala, but he's not. He's named Luke Skywalker, which would make Anakin Skywalker (aka, Darth Vader) super suspicious the second he finds out about Luke. Which, of course, is exactly what happens.
Once Vader and Palps learn that "the young Rebel who destroyed the Death Star" is "the son of Skywalker," they both go apeshit bananas. This, arguably, was Yoda's plan all along. He may not have let Obi-Wan in on it, but in the canonical short story "There Is Another,” we learn that Yoda never wanted to train Luke as a Jedi. He wanted to train Leia.
In the story, Obi-Wan's ghost convinces Yoda to train Luke, mostly because he's already sent him to Dagobah. Yoda is pissed but agrees because it's going to happen anyway. This all checks with Yoda's attitude in The Empire Strikes Back, when he sort of berates Luke ahead of time, mentioning that he's been spying on him for a long time through the Force.
Yoda training Luke was not part of Yoda's plan, but because Yoda didn't tell Obi-Wan, it happens anyway. Keeping Obi-Wan in the dark about the plan didn't work. So what did Yoda expect to happen?
3. Luke's fate doesn't matter — In Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan specifically offers to go watch after Luke on Tatooine. Yoda doesn't tell him to do this, Yoda just suggests sending Luke to Tatooine. When Obi-Wan jumps in and says he's going to "watch over the boy." In his head, Yoda's probably not pleased, because you could argue that Yoda expected Luke to get killed.
In both "There Is Another" and The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda views Luke as another Anakin, a dead-end for the long term cause of destroying the Sith. Having Obi-Wan babysit Luke sort of screws this up, but Yoda is chill about this, assuming the path to defeating the Sith could take many unexpected forms. The primary difference between Yoda and Palpatine is that while they're both manipulative and secretive, Yoda allows random unexpected events to simply unfold. He has faith that the Force knows what it's doing, but it doesn't mean he has to like it.
Even when Luke goes off to fight Vader in Empire, Yoda is still thinking of the long game. When Obi-Wan says "That boy is our last hope," Yoda corrects him. "No, there is another." If Luke dies or turns to the Dark Side on Cloud City, Yoda doesn't care. He's done his best with Luke, but it's not like he sees things working out there.
If Luke is out of the picture, he'll still be able to train Leia. If he trains her well enough, Yoda knows it won't matter if she dies either because Force ghosts.
2. Death provides a path to victory — Everything about Yoda's vision for the defeat of the Sith is connected to him learning how to become a Force ghost. Both Yoda and Palpatine are after a kind of immortality that will allow them to influence the galaxy from beyond the grave, but Yoda's version of this is far more clever and generous.
Yoda realizes that getting killed is not a big deal. Palpatine is so afraid of dying that he creates clone bodies and god knows what else to keep himself "alive" in the real world. Yoda doesn't care about this, and he doesn't just limit this philosophy to himself. He applies it to all the Jedi who he influences.
Think about it. How do all the Jedi gain victory in both the classic films and the sequel trilogy? They are cool with dying. Not in a self-righteous martyr way, but in a tactical way. Obi-Wan sacrifices himself in A New Hope, Luke offers to die in Return of the Jedi and then actually does die in The Last Jedi. And in The Rise of Skywalker, Leia sacrifices herself to save Ben while and Rey puts her life on the line to defeat the Emperor.
“Luminous beings are we. Not this crude matter.”
Yoda knows that a long-term path to victory involves probably everyone dying, including Obi-Wan, Luke, and whoever the Chosen One ends up being. If the Chosen One is Anakin, Yoda is right. If the Chosen One is Luke, Yoda is also right. (In fact, Yoda basically talks Luke into doing what he does in The Last Jedi before Luke kills himself to save the Resistance.)
Even if you think the Chosen One is Rey, Yoda is still right. Rey dies using all the Force ghost energy of every Jedi she can contact. Ben Solo brings her back to life, but Rey defeating the Sith in the exact way she does is Yoda's plan come full circle. Yoda knows that the Jedi are better off dead than alive.
This, you might say, is the path Yoda saw unfolding in The Clone Wars. The secret weapon of the Jedi against the Sith was that they didn't fear death. And because Rey uses the undead power of all the Jedi to defeat Palpatine, all of that works out perfectly. If all those Jedi hadn't died, that power wouldn't have been available to her in the first place.
1. Ben Solo made victory possible — Yoda wanted Luke and Leia were going to die at some point, but he wanted to keep one of them alive for long enough to train that person as a Jedi. This isn't because Yoda was a morbid jerk, it was because he saw the death of fully trained Jedi as a way of stockpiling an energy weapon against the Sith. The first step in doing that was to split up the twins so Vader and the Emperor were unaware of at least one child of "the Chosen One."
In the end, Leia was the mother of Ben Solo. She was the Skywalker twin who was protected and kept a secret for a long time. Through Ben's sacrifice, Rey was able to save the galaxy. Yoda didn't know that's how it would specifically play out, but he knew he needed Leia safe (and then eventually dead) for some reason.
He was right.
Welcome to Star Wars Week! To celebrate the 15-year anniversary of Revenge of the Sith (May 19) and the 40-year anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back (May 21), we're talking about our favorite sci-fi franchise for nine days straight.