I was thinking last night about 'Star Wars' (an always popular topic in my brain) when something interesting clicked in my brain about the movie. We're told, of course, that Vader in the original film was nothing more than a jumped-up thug, a blunt instrument with Tarkin "holding his leash". But what if the opposite was true? What if it was not Tarkin commanding Vader, but Vader playing a deadly and subtle game that involved letting Tarkin think he was in command?
Think about it. The Emperor is planning to dissolve the Imperial Senate and rule directly through his planetary governors. In order to keep the planetary governors from breaking away and forming their own hegemonies, he has the Death Star present as a weapon of last resort. No planetary governor is going to risk retribution on that scale. But then, logically, I asked myself, what's to stop Tarkin from deciding he's just going to cruise this puppy on down to Coruscant and turn the Imperial throneworld into bacon bits? The Emperor might have Force powers, but I don't think they make lightsabers big enough to deflect that laser. No, the Emperor would have to live in constant worry that Tarkin would betray him, unless he had someone on the station keeping him in line...
And that's when it hit me. Vader. He might be doing Tarkin's bidding--in fact, he probably wants to appear as nothing more than Tarkin's obedient dog, to lull any suspicions Tarkin might have--but deep down, he's a Sith apprentice. I'd be willing to bet that if Tarkin did try to foment mutiny and usurp the throne, he would have gotten a cauterized wound through his heart faster than you can say, "I think you underestimate their chances."
And then, of course, at the end of the film, the Emperor's ultimate terror weapon that he plans to use to keep his generals in line...blows up. Very publicly blows up. Perhaps that's why we see Vader, in the next movie, tooling around the galaxy in a Super Star Destroyer throwing his weight around among all the Admirals. He's not just crushing the Rebellion, he's making a statement to anyone who might be thinking about taking advantage of the Empire's weakness.