In my Episode III, Palpatine’s temptation of Anakin is mirrored by Count Dooku’s struggle with his own desire for redemption. As Palpatine is to young Anakin, so Yoda is to his best student, Count Dooku. Count Dooku is the man he pretended to be in Episode II.
The movie has a tighter focus: Obi-Wan and Anakin pursuing Dooku against the backdrop of the Clone Wars. (None of this nigh-instantaneous transport between star systems.) This, too, is a mirror: this time we’re reflecting the pursuit of Luke and Leia. Dooku moves from system to system, just ahead of the Jedi, directing his grand strategy from behind the scenes. He is still Palpatine’s creature; the Clone Wars are still orchestrated. But he has potential.
Somewhere along the line, and it’s part of Palpatine’s temptation, Anakin dons the armor. It’s not because he’s horribly scarred, although he knows that use of the armor will scar him as it draws upon his life force. It’s because he can’t catch Dooku without it. He needs this crutch before he can fulfill the orders of the Jedi Council. Obi-Wan is outraged. Palpatine is smiling.
In the third act, Obi-Wan and Anakin catch up with the Count. He disarms Obi-Wan with ludicrous ease. Dooku is the best Jedi duellist of his generation, and he has a real claim to the title of the single best lightsaber duellist ever to pass through this galaxy. Obi-Wan watches, pinned, while Dooku and Anakin duel. Anakin is almost up to the task. But not quite. Anakin reaches to the Dark Side, finally, his final surrender in the face of certain death. Dooku cannot allow this: he cannot allow another Jedi to go down the path he foolishly chose. It’s the moment of Anakin’s failure and the moment of Dooku’s redemption and there is no turning back. Dooku slays Anakin rather than allow him to become a monster.
But what now? Dooku could perhaps win the Clone Wars. If he does that, he shatters the Republic. He could allow himself to be defeated, but then Palpatine wins. He cannot return to the Jedi Council, because there is no turning away from the Dark Side.
He makes the only choice. He dons the armor; he seals himself into it, knowing that he cannot be released short of death. He turns back to Palpatine, with another name. He’s the only person who could carry out such a deception; had he not already turned to the Dark Side, living such a lie would surely bring him there.
Decades later, he will gently tease Luke, the son he never had, into reaching his potential. He will, in the end, see the Emperor killed. Nobody will ever know who he was, and he can’t admit it even at the end: to do so would be to shatter Luke, after all. Yoda will die thinking that Dooku was never redeemed.
The real Episode III was pretty good. There’s one scene made up completely of cut shots, back and forth between two principles, that works amazingly well. (Then Lucas reuses the technique and drains the life of it, but oh well.) The lightsaber duels are very good. The dialogue is laughably bad, worse than anything in any other Star Wars movie. Best of the prequel trilogy by a long shot and possibly better than Return of the Jedi.