The Star Wars prequels play pretty coy with the Prophecy of the Chosen One. Introduced in the often (and correctly) maligned Episode 1, the Prophecy is never explicitly written out. In fact, we only really know two things about the device that will drive the plot of three entire movies:
We know from…context…that Anakin Skywalker is incredibly strong in the Force. It’s implied that he was the Chosen One – an assertion that Obi-Wan Kenobi emotionally rejected by the end of Episode 3.
Obi-Wan was, of course, wrong. By Episode 4, by turning from Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader and fully embracing the Dark Side, Anakin actually did bring balance to the Force.
By hunting down and slaughtering all the Jedi.
Hear me out.
Everyone – from the audience to Obi-Wan – incorrectly read the Prophecy. We weren’t lied to, we just read what we wanted to read. We all have an inherent misunderstanding of the Force thanks to two things: Cultural Assumption and Point of View.
First: Cultural Assumption.
Most of us in the Western hemisphere (and certainly in Judaeo-Christian-influenced societies) are raised to associate Light with Good and Dark with Bad. Things get a little more complicated when you deal in Eastern religions – the kind the Force tends to borrow from – but by branding the two sides of the Force as Light and Dark, most western users get the message. Light, good. Dark, bad. End of story, right?
On to Point of View.
Regardless of where you jump into the Star Wars series, the Point of View characters all operate under the same underlying view point – the Jedi are heros. And these evil characters? Well, if they have good left in them, they can be saved. If not? Then they must die.
The Dark Side characters operate from a different stance – to them they’re not evil, they’re just free from the strict dogma of Jedi code. They’re libertarians. They are gifted and wish to use that power to maximum effect. From the Sith’s point of view and the Jedi are an organization that indoctrinate child soldiers into a radical religious order that forces them to abstain from sex and strong emotion while putting their lives on the line. Look at things from the Sith’s perspective and even the destruction of Alderaan can be seen as a show of force against a quasi-military target known to house one of the leaders of the Rebellion. [source]
See, the problem starts with perspective. When we’re told that the Sith are “dark” and “evil” we see the Sith as inherently evil and it becomes hard to accept the Sith’s continued existence. We hate them, even there are only two of them – a Master and an Apprentice.
Two Sith compared to roughly 10,000 living, operational Jedi.
10,000 Jedi to 2 Sith does not seem balanced, does it? In fact, it’s far from it.
If the second part of the Prophecy is to be believed – the Chosen One will bring Balance to the Force – Anakin must either take the Sith on a massive recruiting drive or he’s got to seriously cut down on the number of Jedi.
Bring on Order 66.
In one fell swoop, the Emperor and his army of clone troopers executed 99.9% of the Jedi. This didn’t exactly even things out, but it was a big first step in bringing balance back to the Force. Of course, the Light still has a dramatic edge.
In between Episodes 3 and 4, according to established canon, Darth Vader traveled the galaxy hunting down the Jedi in hiding. It took a while, but he eventually reduced the number of remaining Jedi from 100 tojust two – Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. His former masters. His friends. Two people he respected.
Two Jedi, two Sith. Balance was finally restored to the force.
In Episode 4, when Luke started on the path to becoming a Jedi, Vader killed Obi-Wan – keeping the numbers at two Light Side and two Dark Side, maintaining the Prophecy.
It’s not until Episode 6, when Vader turns away from the Dark Side, thus breaking from the Prophecy, that the Force falls back out of balance.
That certainly puts the scene near the end of Revenge of the Sith in perspective, doesn’t it? You know the one, where Obi-Wan is standing over the ruined body of his friend and former apprentice, a body slowly being consumed in flames, and Obi-Wan is unable to see Anakin’s physical pain beyond his own emotional torment.
As heart broken as Obi-Wan was, he should have known better.
Before Darth Vader, the Force was horribly out of balance. The Jedi vastly outnumbered the Sith, but their devotion to the Light Side was so fervent that the Jedi could not abide a single Sith living. It was the Jedi who were so blind that they saw the word “balance” and read it as “complete eradication of the Dark Side.”
And for a long time, nobody questioned the line that Light was Good and Darkness was bad. We didn’t bother to question the situation, or examine the Sith from the other side. We heard balance, but didn’t do the math.
Sure, the prequels might have been terrible examples of storytelling. But they did accomplish the one thing they set out to do – establish a prophecy and pay it off.