Tales of the Jedi released its entire six-episode first season on Disney+ the other month. Among many other things, the show explored the backstory of former Jedi Count Dooku, one of the main villains from the Star Wars prequel trilogy.
Dooku first appeared in Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones back in 2002, where he was portrayed by the late great Christopher Lee. Although he only had 11 and a half minutes of screentime in the prequels, Lee made an impression. His acting prowess is on full display in this scene from Attack of the Clones where Dooku discusses galactic politics with Obi-Wan:
This scene may seem like a classic “bad guy trying to turn good guy evil” thing, but after watching Tales of the Jedi, you can almost conclude that Dooku had good intentions here. He knows that Obi-Wan was trained by his old apprentice Qui-Gon Jin, and thus theorizes that Obi-Wan would be capable of seeing the bigger picture, which includes the corruption within the Republic and the Jedi’s hypocrisy when it comes to their role as peacekeepers. Dooku attempts to get Obi-Wan to join him by telling him that the Republic is under the control of a Sith lord, which is straight-up true.
Dooku and Qui-Gon had similar beliefs when it came to the galactic government and the Jedi council. Tales of the Jedi explores this in Episode 2, when Dooku and Qui-Gon witness how a corrupt politician shamelessly neglects his own people to benefit himself. Instead of addressing corruption directly, Dooku points out that the Jedi just go with whatever the Senate decides. This is one of the reasons he left the order, as we learn in this deleted scene from Attack of the Clones:
Count Dooku’s slow slide to the Dark Side
Episode 3 features a team-up between Dooku and Mace Windu. They investigate the death of a Jedi council member named Master Katri. Suspecting corruption at the hands of a senator, Dooku decides to investigate further, which leads to the senator’s death. Although Dooku sympathizes with the men who betrayed the senator, Windu does not approve. Windu is then conveniently promoted to the Jedi Council to take Katri’s place. He says he will speak to the council on Dooku’s behalf. Seeing the obvious hypocrisy, Dooku mocks him and turns his back.
In Episode 4, we learn that Dooku is still a part of the Jedi order during the events of The Phantom Menace, although he is actively working against them at this point. Dooku talks with Qui-Gon and Yaddle about the Sith lord (Maul) that Jinn encountered on Tatooine. Dooku again expresses his annoyance with the council and their dismissal of his warnings. After Dooku shows regret that he will not always be there to help, Qui-Gon reassures him that Obi-Wan now fills that roll. This is the last time they speak before Qui-Gon fights Maul and dies, as seen in The Phantom Menace.
Qui-Gon’s death almost brings Dooku back. In the Jedi order, the master and apprentice relationship is the closest thing the Jedi have to family; they are taken to Corusant as infants. Dooku confronts Sidious to vent his displeasure about Qui-Gon’s death. He even questions why he is betraying the Jedi. “Sifo Dyas, Kamino, the clones,” Dooku tells Sidious. “I have betrayed everyone and everything I know. How many have died because of my actions?”
After Yaddle shows up, Dooku is forced to prove his loyalty to Sidious. If he had joined her in an open fight against Sidious, they both would probably have died. We have seen Sidious easily handle formidable opponents before, even when outnumbered.
Tales shows us exactly how and why Dooku turned the Dark Side. At first, he just wanted to challenge the status quo. After trying to reason with them multiple times, he realized the Jedi and the Republic were not going to change on their own, so he turned to Darth Sidious, who appealed Dooku’s idealism and may have promised him a new world order where corruption wouldn’t be allowed to fester.
This was clearly a lie, since Sidious has Dooku killed without hesitation in Revenge of the Sith when it comes time to turn Anakin to the Dark Side. Sidious did not have time to organize the Empire into a perfect society to satisfy Dooku, instead he opted to kill him and install himself as an autocratic leader.