“Two must lift these stones, no more, no less. That is the way of the Sith.” – Maul
In the Season 2 finale of Star Wars Rebels – “Twilight of the Apprentice” – Kanan Jarrus, Ezra Bridger, and Ahsoka Tano travel to the planet Malachor in order to gain knowledge which will help them defeat the Sith and Inquisitors. As we discover in the episode, Malachor was a planet of legend among the Jedi, a world off-limits to members of the Order. And rightfully so. Arriving on the planet, the three companions discover an ancient Sith Temple hidden on the planet, along with the scorched remains of bodies and discarded lightsabers scattered among the ruins, signs of The Great Scourge of Malachor, a historic battle between the Jedi and Sith. Taking place thousands of years in the past, The Great Scourge of Malachor was first named in The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, a small snippet in the reference book explaining that Kylo Ren’s unique, cross-guard lightsaber hails from the time period of the forgotten and catastrophic fight. And, as luck would have it, Bridger finds and briefly ignites one such lightsaber as he scours the desolate ruins.
As someone who has always been deeply fascinated by the Sith and the Dark Side, not to mention all things relating to ancient history in the Star Wars universe, “Twilight of the Apprentice” really struck a cord with me. In turn, the more I have watched this episode, the more curious I have become by the fact that the Sith Rule of Two is a subtle, but central, aspect of the Temple structure. One will recall that the Rule, enacted by Darth Bane, holds that there can only be two Sith at a time: a Master and an Apprentice. As we learn early on in “Twilight” from Maul, himself a former Sith Lord, the Temple is bound to this central Sith philosophy. Relying on a far-to-trusting Ezra Bridger, Maul is able to open the doors of the Temple with the teen’s eager assistance. Maul could not do it alone, rather he needed a second – an “Apprentice” – to work with him. Later, the “elevators” that carry individuals to the higher recesses of the Temple are also bound to the Rule, two and only two being needed/allowed for the lifts to work. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, when the Sith Holocron that plays a central role in “Twilight” activates the Temple (we discover, as does Bridger, that the Temple is a massive superweapon), Ezra is only able to pull the Holocron away from the (for lack of better terms) “activation spot” when he recalls that he cannot do it alone. With the help of Kanan Jarrus, the two are able to pull the Holocron away, shutting down the Temple structure before the weapon can be used by Maul.
On the surface of things, the use of the Rule of Two in the episode is not very surprising. In an episode of Rebels that was a bit chaotic – not in a negative way, just in the sense that a lot happens in a short amount of time – the Rule of Two otherwise blended into the background, playing an important role at critical junctures while not being a central aspect of the show. Since Ahsoka Tano and Darth Vader have their long-anticipated showdown in “Twilight of the Apprentice,” it is hardly surprising that the use of the Rule of Two is ultimately an unremarkable afterthought in the episode. Still, during my first and subsequent viewings of “Twilight,” I have continue to be utterly perplexed by the Rule’s appearance in the episode because the Sith Temple on Malachor really should not be tied to the Rule for one very simple reason: the Rule of Two was not enacted until long after the Temple was built.
As I already mentioned, it is (former Darth) Maul who, early in the episode, describes this central philosophy of the Sith Order and its connection to the Temple. Maul states to Bridger, “Two must lift these stones, no more, no less. That is the way of the Sith.” While Maul is not incorrect in noting that the Sith are guided by the Rule, but again, the Rule went into effect thousands of years after the Temple was constructed. So where does this leave us? How do we make sense out of a seemingly obvious canonical contradiction in “Twilight of the Apprentice”? I have wrestled with this for some time, allowing possible explanations for this curious connection between the Temple and the Rule to bubble up in my mind. That being the case, I have come up with a handful of possible explanations that I have decided to share…
Possible Explanations (The Operative Word being “Possible”)
Possibility #1: Darth Bane did not create the Rule of Two, instead he adopted a concept that dates back, at the very least, to the time when Sith Temple on Malachor was constructed. In other-words, as Bane sought to change the Sith Order so that it would survive, he went in search of knowledge from the ancient Dark Lords such as the female Sith who built the Temple on Malachor. Finding that Sith Lords like her and others believed a “Master-Apprentice” relationship created the strongest connection to the Dark Side (one to hold the power, the other to crave it), these ancient Sith tied the workings of their own Temples, Holocrons, Rituals, etc. to their own de facto “Rule of Two.”
Possibility # 2: Darth Bane actually lived long before the Sith Temple was constructed. The idea that Bane lived in the very distant past is actually something I suggest in another post for a separate reason (you can check it out HERE). Basically, this possibility opens the way for the Rule of Two to have been implemented before the Temple on Malachor was constructed, thereby ensuring that the Temple would be tied to the Rule.
Possibility # 3: When Sith Philosophy changes, such as when Darth Bane enacted the Rule, everything about the Sith changes. Admittedly, this is a rather odd possiblity as it would require some very deep, metaphysical connection between the Sith and their artifacts. This is not necessarily outside the realm of possibility, after-all we know that Darth Sidious could use the Dark Side across great galactic distances. However, I am unsure exactly how, when Darth Bane enacted the Rule of Two, this would also change the structural operations of the Sith Temple on Malachor. Would/Could Bane simply engage in some type of ritual to unify all things Sith to his Rule? Maybe? Perhaps? I dunno. It is an interesting idea but also an unnecessarily complex one that could get confusing really fast.
Possibility # 4: This is just a straight-up error on the part of the Star Wars Rebel show-runners and/or Lucasfilm Story Group. While my inclination is not to lay blame on those who work for Lucasfilm and know far more about the Star Wars universe than myself, I cannot help but wonder if the Rule of Two found its way into “Twilight of the Apprentice” without much forethought. I absolutely do not think tying the Rule to the Temple structure was nefarious or purposefully misleading. Rather, since the Rule of Two plays such a central role in Star Wars lore involving the Sith, the Rule of Two was probably just an easy tool the show-runners could utilize in the episode, especially using it with Maul as he manipulates Ezra. In fact, on this point…
Possibility # 5: …it might be that the Temple is not actually tied to the Rule of Two, or any de facto “Rule of Two.” Perhaps Maul is just lying to Bridger when he says “two must lift these stones,” doing so to convince Ezra to trust him and, more importantly, to work in tandem with him. If so, then the use of the Rule of Two in the episode may not be a mistake. Instead, it could be an intentional plot device that allows Maul to lie his way into Ezra’s trust. Then again, even if it isn’t intentional – if the show-runners/Story Group did, in fact, make an error – I think the possibility that Maul is lying to Ezra could still work.
And there you have it. Five possibilities that could explain why the Rule of Two is tied to the Sith Temple on Malachor. If you can think of any possibilities or ideas of your own, or if you want to offer your thoughts on my own explanations, leave a comment!