I think I should share an insight I made while re-watching the movie. Nowhere can anyone find a good top-down description of the events in Episodes 1 and 2, and eventually 3. There are several plots that come to the forefront of different movies. Director George Lucas says they can be told from the perspective of the two droids R2-D2 and C3PO, but the entire series can be based on Anakin Skywalker; the series shows how he goes from good to the Dark Side, an allegory for the fall of Lucifer, to paraphrase Newsweek's top critic.

What I am about to say will cross into the other movies, as I'm going to explain the entire complicated story of the republic -> empire. I'd better point out that everything I say will be a spoiler for this w/u.

In episode 1, Palpatine is just a senator/politician. You suspect something about him, but don't know what. There is also the black hooded figure that is bent on doing something bad (Darth Sidious).

If you remember, Darth Sidious was in league with the trade federation in a blockade of Naboo. The Queen Amidala went to the senate for help. The senate was in disarray, all disagreeing, bureaucracy tangling up the effectiveness. Palpatine suggested a vote of no confidence. Amidala excercised that vote, calling for a re-election. There was a vote, and Palpatine became Chancellor

Now, 10 years later, Palpatine is still Chancellor, but now the republic is threatened with a problem; many systems want to leave the republic. A faction of planets, led by Count Dooku, want to leave the republic. The only way to hold them back seems to be if there is an "Army of the Republic" to excercise the will of the senate. The senate doesn't have the power, though, and Amidala returns to lead in the vote against the creation of this army, as it could harm democracy.

Her life is suddenly in danger from Count Dooku's side, so she goes into hiding, leaving Jar-Jar Binks as senator. It turns out that years before, a clone army was in the works, to be made ready now. At the same time, the separatist army is discovered. To keep the cohesion of the republic, Jar-Jar becomes the one to propose giving the chancellor Emergency Powers, meaning for a period of time, he can control an army for the republic's benefit. Palpatine promises that when the problem is solved, he'll lay down his power. Yeah, right. So he'll just hand over all his absolute power and control of the galaxy to a committee. Hint: Palpatine secretly is Darth Sidious, but you're supposed to glean that already.

The biggest suprise, or the flash of inspiration, is when Count Dooku and Darth Sidious meet, and it turns out they're both working for the same thing.

Here is what happened in a nutshell: Palpatine/Sidious wants power. He's the leader of the Dark Side, he wants to be supreme ruler. With aid from the trade federation, he engineers a conflict that deposes the Chancellor, and he gets elected in place. (Episode 1) Over the next ten years, he trains a new apprentice, Darth Tyranus (Count Dooku). Dooku helps him get even more power by creating a threat to the republic. To respond to the threat of separatists, the Republic gives him military powers. It's all going according to plan, as ten years ago he ordered a clone army in preparation.

In Episode 3, Palpatine grows in power, and keeps his powers when the separatists have been vanquished, and starts being openly bad.

In Episode 4, A New Hope, the Imperial leaders are meeting with Vader, and Governor Tarkin announces that the Emperor Palpatine has dissolved the senate of the old republic. Not only has Palpatine been a despot for some time, but he's taken his power and gotten rid of all his opposition in a coup, completing the transition from a republic to an empire.

He had planned it all along, since the beginning. Look at how in just a decade, he managed to get elected by pulling strings in the background, then pulled some behind the scenes trickery to accomplish his ulterior motive; assemble an army and use it to overthrow everyone else.

By episode 4 Palpatine is now the Emperor, and his only opposition is the Rebel Alliance, determined to fight against this.

From this perspective, it looks a whole lot better. Before I understood it, it felt too Babylon 5ish for me. "Treaties? Too boring, show me lightsaber action!" That's why a great number of fans didn't like Episode 1 and hated the first half of Episode 2.

If I made any mistakes, /msg me