The Sith Rule of Two: A Unifying Theory of the Skywalker Saga (spoilers for Rise Of Skywalker)

Discussion in 'Star Wars' started by Xerxes82, Jul 5, 2020.

  1. Xerxes82

    Xerxes82 Commander Red Shirt

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    OK, so I've thought about doing this for a bit. Might as well go for it. I apologize in advance for the length, I have a lot of ground to cover. I know people probably won't read it all, and that's fair. Also, spoilers for the latest film if you still haven't seen it.

    There are a bunch of things in the 9 Episodes of Star Wars cinema that kind of feel poorly thought out or don't make a whole lot of sense. Every fan has one or two, I'm sure. But one of the things that Rise of Skywalker did, ironically by bringing back Palpatine which I was not initially a fan of, is open the door to a reading of the saga that actually patches a number of things that have always kind of quietly bugged me.

    So, let's talk big picture concepts. The Sith Rule of Two. The Chosen One prophecy. Anakin's redemption. And the Emperor's return, and evil plan, in Rise of Skywalker. Also just how literally should we take Palpatine's declaration that he is "all of the Sith."

    TL;DR: The Sith Rule of Two is actually enabling a ritual sacrifice allowing the "Master" to possess the body of the "Apprentice." Darth Sidious, though different in name and in body, is in fact essentially the same Sith Lord who has been conspiring against the Jedi for centuries. It is this unnatural perversion of immortality that has created imbalance in the Force. And it is only by removing Palpatine, and with him the Sith, that balance may be restored. As it ultimately is in ROTJ and tRoS.

    I'm going to put a lot of my set up thoughts and arguments under spoiler code, just for length. This is going to go on for a bit and I want to try and save space. So read up if you want to see what leads me to where I'm going.

    Ok, so here we go: I'm actually going to start with the Chosen One prophecy, since it sets up so much of what I want to talk about. The Jedi believe Anakin Skywalker to be the Chosen One, whose destiny is the nebulously phrased drive to "restore balance to the Force." When we think of balance we think of equal measures. So the first obvious reading of the line is that the balance of the Force would be between light and dark. I've seen arguments made that Anakin, as Vader, taking part in the Purge was a necessary step towards his destiny. I don't agree. But what constitutes "balance" in the Force?

    Two things to consider. First, in universe, it appears as though Anakin fulfilled his destiny in ROTJ by killing the Emperor (and possibly also by dying himself moments later) and thus wiping out the Sith. The absence of the Sith is balance? This is reinforced by George Lucas himself, who has said that in his mind, it is purging the Sith from the galaxy that completes Anakin's destiny and restores balance. But the absence of the Sith hardly FEELS like balance. All light, and no dark? Say what?

    But, of course, there is another way to look at the balance, and it is actually presented by Palpatine himself, first in Revenge of the Sith and again in Rise of Skywalker. "The dark side is a path to many abilities that may be called unnatural." And there, my friends, do we have it. The Force is life. It is a function or outgrowth of the natural order. As such, life and death are both essential components of the Force. The balance spoken of in Jedi prophecy isn't between light and dark, it's between LIFE and DEATH.

    In order for this reading to work, the Sith would have to have done something, or accomplished something that changes the nature of either life or death. The obvious assumption is the oft cited claim that Palpatine created Anakin. I can't rule it out. I think that theory is bullpucky, and undermines Anakin as a character, but I can't actually argue against it because the evidence used to justify it is just so nebulous and subjective. Perhaps the Sith broke "Life" by creating it outside the will of the Force? But does that feel right to you? It doesn't to me. And it hardly seems like such an egregious offense that being wiped out would be the only way to restore balance. So, allow me to put forth an alternative theory. The Sith broke death. They cheated it, and did so in a way that is undeniably unnatural and against the order of things.

    But wait, you say. Palpatine had this talk with Anakin at the opera. Told him the story of Darth Plagueis the Wise, who had the power to prevent death. A power that Palpatine claims was lost with Plagueis (keep this in mind, we'll be coming back around to it shortly), but which he promises Anakin they can rediscover together after he reveals himself as Darth Sidious. It feels like a manipulation, does it not? That Palpatine is baiting the hook for Anakin, so that he can convince the young Jedi to take the steps towards Vader. This power is either a fiction, an outright fabrication to tempt Anakin, or it has been lost as Palpatine clearly didn't use it himself.

    But what if he did, just not the way we think? We'll come back to this line of thought, bear with me.

    Ok, the big one. The Sith and their Rule of Two. "Always two there are, a master and an apprentice," Yoda tells us in The Phantom Menace. It's literally the only time the Rule of Two is ever mentioned, and it is never named as such in the films themselves. The Rule itself is purely an invention of the EU, which posited that it was drafted by Darth Bane in order to keep the Sith from tearing themselves down as readily as they did the Jedi. Which does make a fair measure of sense given the Sith worldview. Now, Bane is official these days, having appeared in The Clone Wars, but no mention of the Rule there, so it remains outside the official scope. So, we're off in the weeds a bit here. Nothing in the films themselves gives us a clear reading that there is such a rule (in fact, developments with Dooku during the Clone Wars with Ventress and Savage Oppress perhaps argue against it to an extent), or what purpose it may have served.

    But how much sense does the Rule of Two make? Sure, it keeps the Sith power centralized, and the Sith focus outward without petty distractions. You aren't off feuding with other Sith when you could be plotting against the Jedi. But what about resources and information? The entire system is predicated on the apprentice rising up and killing the master. What happens if that occurs far earlier than the master expects? There is a major risk for losing both skills, information, data and resources. Take Darth Sidious for example. In the old Legends EU, Plagueis was his master, who was himself trained by Darth Tenebrous. All three of them conspired the plot against the Jedi that ultimately wound it's way into The Clone Wars. But what if Plagueis has money or weapons stashed somewhere secret that Palpatine doesn't know about? Those are now lost to the Sith, which is wasteful and punishing. And what if he has knowledge he hasn't passed along to Sidious yet? That is now gone. And maybe it can be recovered from ancient texts or holocrons. But maybe it's just gone. Needing to be rediscovered anew.

    In terms of resources, it's bizarre and wasteful. The Sith could be setting themselves back decades or more every time an apprentice rebels successfully. And that doesn't even get into the fact that the Sith Lord is training the very person who is going to murder them one day. Why spill all your secrets to someone who is going to kill you? If you keep something back, they have reason to let you live. Which runs back into that earlier problem of resource waste. But more than that... why not just kill them first? You can always train a new one. Yeah, it sets the Sith cause back big time if you die, but the Sith aren't exactly a selfless bunch.

    Which brings me around to the final issue I want to talk about in regards to the Rule, namely Palpatine's obsession with Anakin. Palpatine has no problem using his apprentices as pawns. Maul is a glorified hit man, and Dooku is an expendable fall guy. But Anakin? From almost the moment he first meets him Palpatine wants Anakin as his apprentice. But why? Yes, Anakin is supposedly incredibly, almost unimaginably powerful. But... so what? Think about it from Palpatine's perspective: Anakin makes sense if you actually care about continuing the Sith legacy in a meaningful way. Setting up the next generation for success, as it were. But Palpatine is so close to bringing the Sith plan to fruition already. And again, there is the idea of the Sith thinking outside themselves, for the good of an order or organization, when everything else about them and their worldview is inherently selfish.

    Now, there are other reasons that could justify Palpatine's obsession with Anakin. Maybe he just wants to one up the Jedi by stealing their golden boy. Maybe he is also aware of the prophecy and hopes to subvert it by coopting it's Chosen One. Maybe Palpatine believes someone powerful enough could actually help him unlock the secrets of avoiding death. There are definitely selfish reasons why Palpatine could engage in such a pursuit.

    But none of them get to the other side of the issue. Once Palpatine turns Anakin, but Anakin gets wounded on Mustafar, Palps gets all determined to get himself a new apprentice. Why? Vader's cyborg modifications are implied to have perhaps limited him in the Force. But why does Palpatine care? When Palpatine learns about Luke, he gets crazy excited. Again, some of that can be justified by him just being a dick, and wanting to hurt Vader by replacing him with his own son. But Palpatine is mad to have the most powerful, capable apprentice around. Taken in this way, the only selfish reason I can think of is that Palpatine needs someone super powerful for some ambition, probably manipulating death in some way.

    But there's another option available. One that is EXPLICITLY argued for by Rise of Skywalker, and which recontextualizes the entire Rule of Two.

    What if Palpatine is already immortal? Or, more accurately, what if the Dark Lord of the Sith is already immortal, and he's just wearing Palpatine's face?

    Bear with me. In Rise, Palpatine restores himself, sort of, by returning in what appears to be a cloned body. It is badly broken down, but still strong with the Force. Rey comes before him, as he has schemed to arrange since the beginning. But he doesn't want her to join his cause, or become his apprentice. He wants her to kill him, striking him down in anger, which will allow his spirit to merge with hers and for her to become Empress. Later, he even makes the bold proclamation that he is "All the Sith."

    Now, look back at the Rule of Two. Ritualized sacrifice. When fully immersed in the Dark Side, a Sith apprentice strikes down their Master. And opens a conduit. Allowing the spirit of the Master to invade their body and seize it for themselves. The new Sith Lord still looks like the apprentice, and bears their name. But they are now the true Dark Lord of the Sith, with all the memories and abilities of their previous incarnation along with all those of the new host body.

    It perfectly maintains integrity of both information and resources, as the apprentice knows everything the master knew and where all the best toys are hidden away. It perfectly justifies Palpatine's obsession with having the most powerful apprentice, since it will be his next vessel. And it solves the riddle of how the Force has become imbalanced. By using the Rule of Two in this way, the first Sith Lord to engage in the ritual cheated death and became immortal. After a fashion.

    The Jedi are not fighting a long line of Sith Lords. They are fighting a singular Sith Lord, who effectively body jumps across the ages. Who has tainted and absorbed countless others into itself by the process, and who wields it's immense powers and forbidden knowledge to the singular purpose of destroying the Jedi and ruling the galaxy. When Palpatine says he is all of the Sith, he means it. Literally.

    It isn't destroying the Sith as an order or organization that restores balance to the Force. Anakin Skywalker does so by ending the life of this twisted, unnatural abomination. At least for a while. Anakin's work, though unfinished, left the Sith weakened but not dead. And set the stage for Sith vs Skywalker Round 2 in Rise.

    And, this also gives the final battle a ton of thematic resonance. When Rey connects to the lineage of Jedi and is touched by all their spirits ("And I... am all the Jedi."), she has become a natural conduit in the same way that Palpatine is an unnatural one. More, as Palpatine's biological legacy, his grandchild, she represents the form of natural immortality available to everyone. Yes, you will die. But who you are and what you value will live on in your children and their children. But she rejects him as the Force has. And instead embraces the values and code of his most despised enemies, the hated Skywalkers.

    I know that was a lot. Most of it is probably not thought through as thoroughly as it could be. I'm sure I've missed stuff or there are wonderful counterpoints. Maybe you'll all make them. I look forward to it.
     
  2. Ithekro

    Ithekro Vice Admiral Admiral

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    That is something to ponder.
     
  3. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, that's basically what the Legends continuity established with the Darth Bane trilogy of novels. And Darth Bane as the founder of the Rule of Two is still canon according to Disney, since he was in an episode of Clone Wars.
     
  4. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Admiral Admiral

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    I found your whole write up very interesting if a bit at odds with some materials. But, overall, it helps to smooth out Palpatine's seemingly ability to counter the Jedi at every turn.

    However, one part that is most interesting to me is the whole "Chosen One Prophecy"and the allegation that Palpatine's return basically nullifies Anakin's sacrifice. Except, we know that Sith can survive, like Maul did. What matters is Anakin's choice, and he chose to destroy the Sith in that moment.

    What happens afterwards is that Luke fails, sadly. It's explicitly in the text of Episode 7. In Luke's absence the First Order has risen up, paving the way for Palpatine to prepare to return to the galactic stage, with Snoke serving as a useful front man. So, if Luke had remained then he could have countered the the disruption in the Force.
     
  5. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^ The First Order rose before Luke went into exile.
     
  6. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Admiral Admiral

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    I more meant to galactic prominence and as a direct threat to the New Republic. Obviously, there power was growing before Luke's disappearance.
     
  7. Ithekro

    Ithekro Vice Admiral Admiral

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    While one Jedi Master and a handful of other Jedi wouldn't stop the First Order, they could rally the New Republic into taking the threat seriously. Something Leia was unable to do via politics.
     
  8. JD

    JD Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    It's definitely an interesting idea. Although I don't know if i'd see as one Sith Lord jumping bodies, I'd see it more like The Commander/Heda in The 100, with their knowledge and skills being passed on after they die.
     
  9. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Vice Admiral Admiral

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    This isn't really a 'theory' since it's exactly what TRoS demonstrates.

    In official Canon, the Rule of Two is really an immortality ritual allowing a Sith Master to possess their Apprentice, with the Master actually welcoming their Apprentice's attempt(s) to kill them.
     
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  10. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Admiral Admiral

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    Indeed, and it's an interesting highlight of how needed the Jedi were, and how it wasn't Anakin's fault or failure or an undoing of his work for Palpatine to come back.

    I did not know that. Interesting.

    Yeah, I don't care about people say about the Disney Star Wars. The Force stuff has grown more interesting to me under them.
     
  11. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I just looked up some dates, and Lucasfilm has apparently retconned things so that the novel Bloodline begins in 28 ABY and ends in 29 ABY, so fireproof was right when he said that Luke went into exile before the First Order officially emerged on the galactic stage, and so I owe him an apology.

    Re: TRoS and the Rule of Two, the film doesn't directly state that it was always really an immortality ritual, but it does pretty strongly imply that, and is the kind of thing that could only have come from the kind of George Lucas, whom we know collaborated with Abrams and Terrio on the portions of the film having to do with the story mechanics of Palpatine's return.
     
  12. Xerxes82

    Xerxes82 Commander Red Shirt

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    But ultimately you run into one of my central problems with the Sith, as a group. They are SELFISH in everything they do. If you are just passing on your knowledge and skills, but somebody else gets to do the living? What good is revenge against the Jedi if it's somebody else's revenge? Achieved through somebody else's powers?

    But if you are going to yourself live on, and be in control? That sounds very Sith to me. I have now manipulated you, my apprentice, into growing your powers, believing that you would one day be calling the shots. That one day you would be the master, and not the learner. But I have deceived you. In the moment of your supposed victory my essence pours into you and you become... me. Everything you were, everything you crave, has been consumed by my purpose, to my will. I have made you my weapon, and now I have made you my eternal slave. Yeah, that sounds very Sith to me.

    It's even inherent in Palpatine's temptation of Rey. Strike me down, he says. Become Empress. And then you can order the fleet to stop. You can save your friends. Does anybody actually believe that was ever a possible outcome? And I don't mean in the sense of Rey would never accept it, as she kind of does in the moment before Ben arrives. Do we really think that after all the scheming, all the power plays, that Palpatine is going to let some girl come in and have all the power and just call the whole thing off? No. He's going to seize her body, destroy her will, and rule through her.

    I agree that Anakin's choice is the paramount moment for Anakin and the prophecy. But I don't think Palpatine's return nullfies his sacrfice in any way. In fact, I think Palpatine's return actually gives the ST a means to explore and honor Anakin's choice. When Anakin chose the natural order over the unnatural, when he defended his son's life in an act of love and protection rather than out of hatred or anger towards his master, he achieved his destiny. Palpatine's return is just another unnatural act. One that neither Anakin, nor Luke could have seen coming.

    Anakin chose to put those who would come after him before himself. He trusted them with whatever comes next. I think in many ways, seeing them ultimately do the right thing and prove worthy of that trust honors Anakin's sacrifice far more than Palpatine's return could ever tarnish it.

    And for all of Luke's failures, when it most counted he got it right. Luke came to the same realization that his father ultimately did, that when push comes to shove all you can really do is try to set up those who come after you with the tools to do the right thing. Not everytime, because everyone stumbles and fails. But in the big moments, when it matters. Luke failed Ben because he didn't trust him to overcome the darkness inside him. But when the universe gave him a second chance he got it right with Rey.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2020
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  13. JD

    JD Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    It might read that way to you, but I don't think it's actually considered an official part of the canon. I just skimmed though Wookiepdia's entries on both The Rule of Two and the Sith and there's no mention of immortality outside of Palpatine coming back.
    I didn't really see it as them always being selfish, so I saw the whole apprentice killing the master as the master proving their strength and ability by training an apprentice who is so good that they are able to kill them.
     
  14. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Admiral Admiral

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    Exactly so. The Sith ultimate are so reflexively inwardly focused that it led to their destruction, and consolidation in to the Rule of Two. Ultimately, the Sith strive for eternal power and this interpretation fits with that description, while acknowledging the limits of mortal bodies.
     
  15. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Vice Admiral Admiral

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    @JD Wookiepeedia hasn't codified TRoS' reclassification of the Rule of Two as an immortality ritual into their articles, but that doesn't make said reclassification any less clear-cut or Canonically valid.
     
  16. Ithekro

    Ithekro Vice Admiral Admiral

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    There was the old Immortal Sith Emperor from back in the Knights of the Old Republic game series. Use to take over bodies if I recall.
     
  17. Xerxes82

    Xerxes82 Commander Red Shirt

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    Ok, so another thing I wanted to briefly talk about on this subject is how this interpretation informs Anakin's creation.

    We know from The Phantom Menace that Anakin apparently has no father, that his conception didn't happen in the typical fashion of human biology. Qui-Gon believed that Anakin may have been conceived directly by the Force. I believe this to be the case, and that it was done so directly in response to the actions of the Sith Lord.

    If a Sith Lord overcame death in the fashion we've talked about in this thread, and had in so doing caused an imbalance in the Force, it makes sense that the "will of the Force" would respond. I'm not necessarily talking in terms of consciousness here, it's never really clearly implied that's what anybody means when they use the phrase. But almost like a natural, biological response. And to oppose an imbalance in death, it makes perfect sense that the Force would use life. (And, in fact, life is the response of the Force to every escalation of the Dark Side in the entire saga. Anakin himself. Then Luke and Leia when Vader falls. And finally Rey, after Palpatine survives Endor.)

    So Anakin is effectively like a Force antibody. His destiny to bring balance, which is perhaps better stated to be the destiny of his entire bloodline, is rooted in this creation. He is the diametric pole to Sidious, life to the dark lord's death.

    When looked at in this way, it again echoes into the ST. The last of Anakin's blood relations dies after Palpatine's defeat, the Skywalker destiny fulfilled. As though the Force was calling back it's children with their work done.
     
  18. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Admiral Admiral

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    This was always my interpretation and one that I felt was confirmed by the ST. In addition, it felt like the Force was trying to further compensate after the death of the Father and the Son on Mortis. Now, I don't think this directly relates to the conception of Anakin, as I think the Sith's manipulations in order obtain eternal life is, as you have described, prompted the Force to respond with a full creation of life itself.

    Unfortunately, the Sith would be aware of the prophecy, at least, and anticipate Anakin's arrival and again try to manipulate it for their own ends, sadly perpetuating the cycle.
     
  19. Ithekro

    Ithekro Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Since Rey is a Palpatine, Sidious essentially created his own doom. However that doom was shaped by the Skywalker destiny. The actions of Ben Solo, Leia Organa, and Luke Skywalker shape her for her destiny. Being trained by two Skywalkers also helps. Rey's father being a clone of some kind makes Sidous's self created doom even more apparent.
     
  20. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^ Since Anakin was among the Jedi who aurally communicated with and provided strength to Rey before she rejected Sidious and destroyed him once and for all, all but one member (Shmi) of the Skywalker family - by birth or marriage - helped her fulfill her destiny, so it's more than appropriate that she chose to redefine herself as a Skywalker by name.