Like the rest of Star Wars fandom, I am eagerly anticipating next week’s release of Claudia Gray’s Bloodline. And while I am excited for a Leia-centric political novel, I can’t help but think of the other Skywalker family politician: Padmé Amidala. While I have always loved Leia, as a kid I latched onto Padmé in a way I never did with her daughter. I loved Padmé because she was both someone I looked up to and someone who was relatable. Padmé was a kid who ruled a planet and foiled Sith machinations due to sheer stubbornness and quick thinking, and yet was still totally a teenage girl. She pouts when she doesn’t get her way and makes friends with funny little boys in junk shops. I was enamored.
But sadly, most of the EU apparently doesn’t share my fondness for the galaxy’s most fabulously dressed politician. For a character who makes up one third of the prequel trilogy, she doesn’t get a lot of love outside the movies (or even within the movies, if we’re being honest). But she’s intimately connected to most major players in the saga; she’s close colleagues with Palpatine (at least at first), she’s married to Anakin (and indirectly one of the reasons for his fall), and she’s mother to Luke and Leia. She’s firmly entrenched within the Skywalker family and yet this is rarely acknowledged.
All this is why I think we are long overdue for a Padmé novel (well, frankly I just want more Padmé in general but starring in her own book is a start). Furthermore, it should be something focusing on the earlier part of her career, after The Phantom Menace but before Attack of the Clones, and before Anakin comes back into the picture.
To start, the period between TPM and AotC is underutilized. The bulk of the new canon has focused on the post-prequel, pre-original trilogy era and even most prequel-era Legends was concentrated around the Clone Wars. But there’s a lot of unexplored potential there. There’s ten whole years of political buildup and Palpatine’s manipulations to explore. We could see the rise of the Separatists (who show up rather abruptly in the beginning of AotC). Star Wars may not be known for its “political” books, but if the early buzz for Bloodline is any indication, a female-led novel about galactic politics can still be a huge hit.
This time period also holds great potential for Padmé as well. For one, there’s her transition from planetary ruler to galactic senator. How does her relationship with Palpatine change as he goes from her subject to her Chancellor? How does Sidious feel towards her, since she nearly singlehandedly undermined his plan due to her tenacity and smarts when faced with adversity? How do the events of TPM affect her and inform her going forward? She mentions in AotC that she was relieved when her two terms were up…but then the next queen asked her to serve as senator and Padmé says she couldn’t refuse.
That last part is something I find the most interesting. It’s easy to forget that Padmé is only 14 years old during the events of TPM; after her time as queen was up did she want to just spend a year or two being a regular teenager instead of going back into politics? She is constantly putting her duty before her personal feelings; at a certain level does she resent this? We get books exploring Anakin, Luke, and (with the release of Bloodline) Leia, but rarely do we get a glimpse at Padmé outside of what’s seen in the movies or in The Clone Wars. Lest we forget, Padmé is part of the Skywalker family too and just because she’s not Force-sensitive doesn’t mean she should be forgotten from the Skywalker legacy.
And that brings me to my second point. We don’t really get to see a lot of Padmé in the movies, though she has a strong start. The Phantom Menace is really her movie; while it’s difficult to really pick a “main” protagonist for that movie since there’s so many strong secondary characters, I would argue that Padmé/Queen Amidala has the strongest case for the designation for main character. She kickstarts the plot, she drives most of the action; TPM is about her and her conflict. And I think this gets forgotten because the next two movies aren’t about her, which is to be expected since the prequel trilogy is ultimately about Anakin’s fall.
But unfortunately she was increasingly sidelined over the course of the next two movies. Most of the cut scenes in AotC and Revenge of the Sith deal with entire subplots that helped round out her character and actually gave her something to do. We are told she is a great and respected senator, but ironically the only time we see her engaging in politics is when she makes her plea for Naboo in TPM. It’s not until TCW that we actually get to see Padmé in a more actively political role, instead of just being in romantic scenes with Anakin. There’s a fantastic scene cut from the beginning of AotC that shows her making an impassioned and fiery speech less than an hour after her ship was blown up, reaffirming her dedication to her values and responsibilities. Not to mention several scenes with her and Anakin visiting her parents, in a way that helps add dimension to her character as well as adding some depth to the Anakin/Padmé romance (because, as is, it comes across as very abrupt).
And of course there is an entire subplot cut from RotS that shows her helping to sow the seeds of the future Rebel Alliance…as well as enhances the tragedy of her downfall by showing in more detail how the war is tearing her and Anakin apart. Not to mention, cutting those scenes essentially meant that in RotS all Padmé did was sit around, cry, and then die of a broken heart.
Padmé was introduced as this awesome character who is stubborn and fights for what she believes in, no matter the odds (rather like a certain set of Skywalker twins) and then she became not much more than a side character in Anakin’s tragedy, with few motivations of her own and little importance outside of being the catalyst for Anakin’s emotional crisis. And it’s a damn shame, because there’s so much to explore with her. She’s in three movies and yet we barely know anything about her.
What’s more, she’s rarely talked about after her death. While this article is specifically calling for more prequel-era stories about Padmé, I want to see more acknowledgement of her legacy as well. I have always maintained that Luke is far more like Padmé than he is Anakin but both Luke and Leia share a lot of traits with their mother (diplomacy, putting the duty of the greater good ahead of their personal feelings, etc). It is my dearest wish to see more of Padmé remembered as the post-Return of the Jedi story continues to unfold. There was a lovely moment in this vein in the Marvel Princess Leia miniseries, but there can always be more.
There’s a lot of potential to explore with Padmé, and when the franchise decides to revisit the prequel era, there absolutely should be stories about Padmé. For one, we hardly get to see her as is, at least compared to the other main characters. There’s so much untapped potential there that is begging to be explored. Secondly, she is just as important to the mythos of Star Wars as Anakin and Luke and Leia. Her legacy deserves to be remembered.