Actually, if you watch the prequels with the idea that Jar Jar might be a manipulative, dark character, you begin to notice just how insidious and subtle his manipulation is, and how effective, in almost every sequence he’s involved in, and also just how hyper-aware of the overarching plot he really is.
Examples: Jar Jar tricking the Jedi into traveling through the planet core (so that they need him). Jar Jar carefully causing a scene so that they run into Anakin. Jar Jar constantly mocking Qui-Gon behind his back while Anakin is watching (so that Anakin learns disrespect for Jedi authority early on). Jar Jar telling an 8 year old child that the queen is “pretty hot,” fanning the flames of the child’s infatuation that is exploited later on. I could go on.
Now if you lend even the slightest credence to my above points, and acknowledge the possibility that Jar Jar might notbe an idiot, you’re almost forced to conclude that Jar Jar Binks and Palpatine were co-conspirators. If Jar Jar is putting forth an elaborate act to deceive people, it means he’s not a fool… and if he’s not a fool, it means his actions in Episode II that facilitate Palpatine’s plans are not those of an unwitting tool- they are those of a partner.
Remember- Palpatine and Jar Jar are from the same planet, which in the scale of the Star Wars universe is like growing up as next door neighbors. It’s entirely possible that they knew each other for years prior to TPM– perhaps they trained together, or one trained the other. And Naboo is a really strange planet, actually; remember those odd ancient statues with the third eye? Naboo is the kind of place an “outcast” Gungan might find a Sith holocron or two.
But that’s just speculation. Let’s stick to what we know — what we know is that even after Palpatine is elected as Chancellor, years after Jar Jar has been “tricked” into helping elect him, Palpatine still hangs out with Jar Jar in Return of the Sith:
Why? Wouldn’t he be a constant source of public embarrassment? This is the same character who can’t walk five yards without stepping in poodoo or squealing like a rabid donkey, right? What use does he have now? Why is he still at the right hand of the most powerful person in the galaxy? Could it be that in fact Jar Jar is the most powerful person in the galaxy?
Fine. Maybe. Hilarious conspiracy theory, but why would George Lucas bother to create this devious Gungan character with an elaborate conspiratorial past, but then never actually reveal his true nature?
Here’s George Lucas (from a documentary) talking about Yoda:
“Yoda really comes from a tradition in mythological storytelling- fairy tales- of the hero finding a little creature on the side of the road that seems very insignificant and not very important, but who turns out to be the master wizard, or the master thing…”
As we all know, one of Lucas’ big deals with the prequels was that they were intended to “rhyme” and mirror the original trilogy in terms of general narrative themes. So there should have been a seemingly innocent creature found on the side of the road that later reveals itself as a major player. We do have a creature that this seems to describe precisely… Jar Jar… but of course he never develops into a “master” anything.
Here’s what I think happened: I think that Jar Jar was initially intended to be the prequel (and Dark Side) equivalent of Yoda. Just as Yoda has his “big reveal” when we learn that his tottering, geriatric goofball persona is just a mask, Jar Jar was intended to have a big reveal in Episode II or III where we learn that he’s not really a naive dope, but rather a master puppeteer Sith in league with (or perhaps in charge of) Palpatine.
However, George Lucas chickened out. The fan reaction to Jar Jar was so vitriolic that this aspect of the trilogy was abandoned. Just too risky… if Jar Jar is truly that off-putting, it’s potentially ruinous to the Star Wars legacy to imply that he’s the ultimate bad guy of the entire saga. So pretend he was just a failed attempt at comic relief instead.