io9 did a prompt, and I liked my response enough to repost it. It’s taken years, but I think I’m finally forming a coherent ability to talk about Empire Strikes Back’s great thematic integrity. There’s so much zeitgeist around Star Wars that the reasons Empire is super compelling (and the reason the Dark Side is so interesting) get lost in the mass simplification of the lore.
There is only one good justification for a plot twist: it serves the story. The best plot twists aren’t plot twists at all. They’re just the next bit, dashed with irony.
This, as opposed to the plot twist that serves to entertain, at the expense of story. An M. Night movie, built around a big shock reveal, is used up once it is viewed. Do you want to watch it again? No, because the first 100 minutes are a lie.
No, a real plot twist is just an extension of the film:
In Empire Strikes Back, the reveal that Darth Vader was the dad? It doesn’t actually matter at all – what matters is that this reveal shatters the tentpole passion that has driven Luke forward in the story. Luke HATES Vader. Vader is the person who kept Luke’s life BORING, who kept him trapped on that farm by killing his father. And then he took away his proxy father by killing Obi-wan.
Empire is a film about people in impossible situations, relentlessly pursued (especially Vader). Empire says the path to the Dark Side is easy to slip to – it’s as simple as telling yourself you HAVE to save your friends, when you’re really just taking the bait. It’s as easy as telling yourself you don’t have a choice when it gets hard, that you can make selfish, disastrous choices as long as you have an excuse.
Luke isn’t sad because his paternity has been revealed, he’s had his entire worldview torn apart, and his own selfishness, hatred, and arrogance laid bare. He’s looking in a mirror, when Vader reaches out to him.