Darth Sidious

Talkerverse: Vader Kills Maul

I have always held the opinion that Darth Maul should have survived his confrontation with Obi-Wan in The Phantom Menace, and that his story-arc should have reached its finale in Episode III. Disregarding entirely that Darth Maul DOES survive, that he was resurrected from the dead in The Clone Wars animated series and has since made appearances in a number of post-Prequel stories, my belief that Maul should have been a menacing presence in every Prequel film is built upon a rather simple premise. In short, Anakin/Darth Vader should have been the one to kill Darth Maul.

Allow me to paint you a picture with my imagination brush. Darth Maul is still alive and in Revenge of the Sith, and takes full-command of the Separatist cause after the death of Count Dooku and General Grievous. Safeguarding the leaders of the Confederacy on Mustafar, a small Jedi fighter arrives on the volcanic world and Maul goes out to meet this foe. The Sith Lord instantly recognizes the individual: it is the Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker. We know the truth – Anakin Skywalker is no more, the man before Maul is the newly minted Sith named Vader and he has been ordered by Darth Sidious, his new Master, to kill the Separatist leaders as well as Maul. It is a test for Vader: kill your rival and take his place, or perish. Vader is up for the challenge.

Darth Maul leaps into action, his double-bladed saber viciously slashing and hacking at Vader. Deflecting the violent blows with his blue lightsaber, Vader is at first caught off-guard by the rage-filled attack. Gathering himself, anger swelling within him, the new Sith Lord goes on the offensive. Now Darth Maul staggers backwards. He has fought and killed Jedi before – Padawans, Knights, and Masters – but Maul has grown complacent throughout the Clone War. He has been such a menacing presence to Jedi that he has left his flank unguarded against a Dark Side for. Darth Sidious knew this, could see that Darth Maul was in need of a true challenger. If he survives this fight, if he kills Vader, then Maul will be a newly sharpened weapon which Sidious can use.

The battle of blades comes to a momentary pause, Maul and Vader alike unable to land a killing stroke. Starring each other down, it is Maul who  speaks first:

“I sense the darkness within you, Jedi. Tell me, has my Master chosen you to test me?”

“I am no Jedi…” Vader responds with scorn “…and he is my Master now.”

Amused and laughing, Maul replies with obvious derision: “You are naïve, young Jedi, if you believe you will replace me.”

Turning his back to Vader, Maul pauses to looks out at the hellish landscape before he speaks again. 

“Do you remember what I did to your first Master? To that fool Qui-Gon Jinn?”

Anger obviously swelling within Vader, rage contorting his face, Maul confidently continues his mocking tone:

“I should have slaughtered him sooner…on Tatooine. I should have slaughtered him…and his Padawan…and you, Ani. And then…”

Reigniting his blue blade, the rage within Vader ready to spill out, Maul speaks one last time:

“….and then I should have slaughtered Amidala.”

Both hands on the hilt of his saber, Vader launches into a vicious assault and Maul greets it head-on. The clash is unlike the choreographed acrobatics of their fight from moments before. There is no twisting of bodies or twirling of sabers. Now, their battle is purely driven by a desire to destroy the other, their blades being used not as elegant weapons but as bludgeons. Hacking and chopping, deflecting and countering, the two raged-infested Sith give no ground, take no footsteps backward. They are locked in a stalemate, unwilling to give an inch, frozen in a battle of wills against the backdrop of a volcanic, smoked-filled landscape.

Frozen, that is, until Vader finally lands a blow, slicing downward across Maul’s face and chest. Staggering backwards, scars glowing from the heat of Vader’s saber, the demonic-looking Zabrak attemps to recover but Vader moves in. Sidestepping and moving past Maul’s desperate strike, Vader reverses the direction of his saber and drives it upwards into Maul’s back, the tip coming out of the Dark Lord’s chest. Lingering for a moment, Vader yanks the blade from his foe, allowing Maul – agony and the recognition of death on his face – to sink to his knees. Turning as his blade is extinguished, Vader kneels behind Darth Maul, leans in, and softly speaks:

“You have been replaced.”

Rising, Darth Vader walks around the dying Sith Lord and, we can assume, towards the facility beyond, on his way to kill the Separatist leaders within. But the camera lingers on Maul – the landscape of Mustafar behind him – and we watch as the Sith Lord slumps forward and dies.

Killing the Devil, Replacing the Devil

There is obvious religious symbolism in Star Wars and perhaps one of the most obvious forms of symbolism is in the form of Mustafar. Essentially, Mustafar is meant to symbolize Hell. When Vader travels to the volcanic world in Revenge of the Sith, he is descending to Hell, a descent which visually captures his internal descent into darkness. While his conversion to the Sith Order took place in the ecumenopolis of Coruscant, he is baptized in this Mustafarian Hell, transformed by eternal fire and subsequently reborn in his iconic suit of armor. And yet, I have always felt one element was missing on Mustafar: the Devil.

Lava on Mustafar
Mustafar = Hell
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

There is obvious religious symbolism in Star Wars and perhaps one of the OTHER obvious forms of symbolism is Darth Maul. Darth Maul looks the way he does – horned head, red and black face, intense yellow-eyes, black robe – because he is a visual representation of evil. He looks like the Devil because he IS the Devil. And, as such, I have always believed Vader should have descended into Hell with the distinct intention of killing the Devil. While his massacre of the Separatist leaders is violent and shows that he is continuing down his dark path, the added layer of Vader killing the Devil in the Devil’s own lair would have added incredible weight to Anakin Skywalker’s descent into Darkness. 

But this added weight is not solely based on Vader’s killing a character serving as an archetype and personification of evil. Killing the Devil is certainly profound in and of itself but Vader would have also been replacing the Devil, becoming the new archetype and personification of evil. It would not have been out of goodness of heart, or a willingness to safeguard the galaxy, that he traveled into Hell to vanquish the Devil. No, he would have killed the Devil precisely because he wanted to become the Devil. Only by descending into the darkness could he make his ascension, earning his title, position, and power as Dark Lord (of the Sith) by violently ripping it away from his adversary.

That is, after all, the nature of the Sith and the Dark Side of the Force.

Epilogue

Darth Sidious steps out of the shuttle, surveying the Mustafarian landscape. He can sense Darth Vader, feel the pain and agony bleeding off of the badly injured Sith. As he moves down towards the end of the large landing platform, he passes the Jedi Starfighter which Vader had taken tot he world, and the body of Maul comes into view beyond it. Sidious walks up to the body, pauses, and looks down. Reaching out with his right hand, he uses the Force to call the double-bladed saber to him. Now in his hand, he crushes it, the broken pieces falling onto the broken body of Maul. Opening his hand and a red crystal sits on his palm. Laughing to himself, Sidious closes his fist and moves on to find his new Apprentice. 

Later, after Darth Vader has recovered, and is entombed in his suit, Sidious will hand him the crystal and give him a single order: “Construct a new lightsaber.”

Luke Skywalker: A Farewell to Arms

He hears the command the Emperor, the Sith named Sidious. The Dark Lord tells Luke Skywalker to “fulfill your destiny and take your father’s place at my side.” Young Skywalker, having battled Darth Vader, his father, had finally bested his foe. His “hatred made [him] powerful” and he had unleashed a dark-filled fury against his father, swinging and hacking with his self-crafted green lightsaber until a blow was finally dealt. Vader’s right hand severed, the father of Luke Skywalker lays prostrate, weaponless, and entirely at the mercy of his son.

Luke hears the Emperor’s command, he listens, but his disposition changes. Something within him stirs, a recognition we can see on his face. He is aware that he is on a precipice of falling into a never-ending chasm of darkness (it is little wonder the battle ended with Vader and Luke above an actual chasm, a clear metaphor if ever there was one). In this instance, looking down at the mechanical stump where he severed his father’s hand – and looking at his own mechanical hand, a result of an injury Vader exacted on him a year before – Luke makes his choice.

Turning towards the Emperor, Luke Skywalker will confidently declare to Darth Sidious that “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” But his words are only a part of this pronouncement, the exclamation point actually coming before he speaks when he willingly disarms himself, tossing away his lightsaber, the “elegant” weapon of a Jedi Knight. This is Luke’s active commitment to the Jedi, a practical statement of faith declaring his dedication to “peace and justice,” to “knowledge and defense, never attack.” It is the zenith of Luke’s story in the Original Trilogy, his narrative trajectory taking him from farm-boy on the desolate world of Tatooine in A New Hope to this decisive moment in Return of the Jedi as he stands in the Emperor’s throne room. 

Skywalker’s intentional disarmament is, in a sense, his Arthurian moment, or rather his reverse-Arthurian moment. While the legendary King Arthur inherited Britain’s throne by pulling a sword from a stone, Luke inherits the title of Jedi Knight not by grasping and brandishing his weapon but doing the exact opposite, ridding himself of it. With this simple but profound action Luke Skywalker fundamentally changes what it means to be a member of the Jedi Order and elevates heroism to an even greater level, a level which requires traversing a path of nonviolence, compassion, and mercy (even for one’s enemies). 

As a child I may not have been able to fully appreciate what Luke does in Return of the Jedi but today I am profoundly moved by Skywalker’s heroic choice. It is a stark reminder to me – and perhaps to you as well – that a farewell to arms is necessary in the pursuit of peace. Even when faced with our enemies and the possibility of death we must set aside our weapons of war with a willingness to sacrifice our lives out of love and not hatred. In this way, I interpret Luke’s act through the lens of Matthew 26:52 where Jesus tells a companion to “Put your sword back in its place…for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (NIV). Living by the sword, even a lightsaber, is no longer appropriate for a Jedi Knight; now, the only option is to walk the path of peace and justice fortified and armed with the Light Side of the Force. 

The Death of Padmé Amidala

A friend recently shared an article with me which speculates on why Padmé Amidala dies at the end of Revenge of the Sith. In this article, author Joseph Tavano goes to great lengths to argue that Padmé did not die from a “broken heart.” Instead, Tavano presents the thesis that the reason for Padmé’s death is that Darth Sidious was quite literally ripping the Living Force from her. For the sake of brevity, and because I do not want to take it upon myself to rehash the entire article, I suggest you read the piece for yourself to have a fuller appreciation for Mr. Tavano idea. You can find the article here: Padmé Didn’t Die of a Broken Heart. And, in case you want to re-watch the scene in which Padmé dies, here it is:

When my friend – Michael Miller from the blog My Comic Relief – shared the article with me, it was actually the second (or third, or fourth) time I had been presented with this particular answer to Padmé’s curious death at the end of Revenge of the Sith. In fact, I had already read this particular article before and had also engaged in similar conversations about this possibility in the past with other friends. Still, even though I had already read the piece and reflected on this possibility, since Michael was sharing the article with me, I thought I would re-read it and give him my thoughts. And, because I love talking Star Wars (I am the Imperial Talker after all), I figured I would share these same thoughts with y’all.

As I told Miller, I really have no problem with this particular theory regarding Padmé’s death. In fact, I find it entirely plausible and perhaps likely. The thought that Darth Sidious – a powerful Sith Lord with arcane abilities that go beyond reason – could, from a galactic distance, siphon the Force from a living being is a tantalizing thought. After all, in The Clone Wars episode “The Lost One” Sidious is able to Force choke his apprentice, Darth Tyrannus, although they are separated by many light-years. In turn, when one also throws into the conversation the tale of Darth Plagueis the Wise- the Dark Lord of the Sith who we know was Sidious’ Master – and Plagueis’ ability to manipulate the Force to keep individuals from dying, the possibility that Sidious did the same with thing with Vader, at Padmé’s expense, grows stronger. It is true, of course, that Sidious tells Anakin Skywalker (after the young Jedi pledges allegiance to the Sith Lord) that “to cheat death is a power only one [Plagueis] has achieved.” However, it is also perfectly reasonable that this is yet another moment in which Sidious manipulates Anakin, withholding the truth that Sidious, having learned from his own Master, already knows how to keep individuals alive. In this vein, while on the surface Sidious purports to be ignorant of the ability, this would merely serve as misdirection, pointing blame for Padmé’s death away from Sidious and placing it squarely on Anakin/Vader’s shoulders. Sidious does, after all, tell the newly minted Sith Lord that “in your [Vader’s] anger, you killed her,” yet another possible example of Sidious toying with the mind of the already tormented man.

youkilledher
Sidious looks at Vader after telling the new Sith Lord that Vader’s anger killed Padmé.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

I would suggest, though, that alternative possibilities exist regarding Padme’s death, possibilities that stray from Mr. Tavano’s piece. For example, while Tavano adamantly opposes the notion that Padmé died from a broken heart, I actually have no personal qualms with it. Broken heart syndrome is a real medical issue, and while it is often not fatal, it can in some instances lead to complications which might result in death. This is not to suggest that Padmé actually died from broken heart syndrome, merely that it is a possibility I am not opposed to entertaining.

Further, I have also wondered whether Padmé died as a result of her connection with Anakin through the Force, a connection built upon the love the two shared. This is not to suggest Anakin-turned-Vader willingly or knowingly killed Padmé, but instead that as Anakin was on the cusp of death, the Living Force in Padmé flowed away from her to her beloved. While Padmé may not be a “Force-user” in the way Anakin is, she is never-the-less intrinsically connected to the mystical energy field; she is, as Yoda would say, a “luminous being.” And so, I cannot help but wonder if the reason Padmé lost the will to live, as the medical droid explains in the scene, was because in her final moments she was quite literally willing Anakin to live, intentionally passing the Living Force within her to him. In this way, it was Padmé – and not some outside presence like Sidious – who chose to sacrifice herself to sustain Anakin. Like I said, it’s an idea that I have considered, and perhaps it’ll be one I develop as a post down the road. 

In the end, when it comes to Padmé’s death, I am perfectly fine with no official or objective explanation ever being given. While I am sure there is some very clear “Star Warsie” reason for her dying, I find it personally unnecessary to know with any certainty why she died. Honestly, I think it is better this way. Leaving her death unresolved opens the door for the imagination to fill in the gaps, allowing individuals like Tavano – and you and I – to come up ideas and theories about why Padmé died. That being said, leave a comment and tell me what idea(s) and theories you have about Padmé’s curious death in Revenge of the Sith


Check out these other posts about Padmé Amidala:

The Funeral of Padmé Amidala

Star Wars: Padmé

Cheating Death: The Dark

When Darth Maul’s return was first flirted in Season 3 of The Clone Wars animated series, I was pretty skeptical. At the time, I thought it was a ridiculous stunt to bring back to life a character who had been sliced in half, his bifurcated body having fallen into an abyss in The Phantom Menace. Yet, the way Maul’s return was handled grew on me, and over time I not only accepted that he was still alive – something I could not argue since  he was literally on screen  – but that the way he was brought back was handled with care. While I certainly have my grievances with some of the story-arcs in Star Wars, Darth Maul’s return eventually became, and still is, one of my favorites.

As I said in a recent post where I discussed Maul’s return – The Power to Cheat Death – the fact that the young Dark Lord of the Sith survived his injuries opened the door to rethinking a number of aspects of the Star Wars universe. In keeping with this stream of thought, for this post I wanted to think about how Maul survived, the way he was able to sustain his life even though he had been horribly injured. 

Long before Darth Maul even arrived in person in The Clone Wars, questions began floating about how he could have survived his horrific injury. Thankfully, this was a question that was answered rather early on in Maul’s story-arc. In the Season Four episode “Revenge” – literally the episode that follows his re-discovery – Maul explains that while his body was broken, his hatred kept his spirit intact. Submerged in darkness, Maul became a self-described “rabid animal,” surviving on the junk world Lotho Minor until many years later his brother, Savage Opress, discovered him.

While his description of survival is brief, what Maul explains in “Revenge” is an intrinsic and fascinating aspect of the Dark Side of the Force.  Bathed in his hatred – hatred towards Kenobi, the Jedi, his old Master, etc. – Maul found himself consumed by the Dark Side in a way he had never prepared to encounter. In this regard, Maul’s survival was purely accidental. While he should have died due to his injuries, the Dark Side of the Force sustained his spirit – the Living Force within him – because Maul instinctively, although inadvertently, tapped into an intense and visceral level of hatred welling within his being. But the consequences of this deep level of hate and Dark Side submersion are clear: in cheating death, Maul lost all sense of his individuality, of “humanity,” becoming a wild animal.

darth_maul_3
Darth Maul, physically and mentally broken, living as a rabid animal on Lotho Minor. Notice that he is quite literally a beast, his mechanical “body” resembling that of an arachnid.

Photo Credit: The Clone Wars Season 4, Episode 21 – “Brothers”

With this in mind, it is worth recalling one of the most iconic and profound quotes about the Dark Side in Star Wars, a quote found in Revenge of the Sith. Speaking to Anakin Skywalker, Chancellor Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious) describes the Dark Side of the Force “as a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.” Darth Maul’s survival is a perfect example of one of the most unnatural abilities swirling within the Dark Side, the ability to cheat death. There is nothing natural about Maul’s survival, about the ability for one to physically cheat death. After all, as Yoda also states in Revenge of the Sith, “death is a natural part of life.” That all life must die is normal, a consequence of the gift of life. To cheat death is unnatural, a subversion of the gift.

Yet, as Maul proves through his hate-filled survival, the ability to subvert, to undermine, the gift of life is inherent within the Dark Side of Force. And since it is life which creates the Force – as Yoda also eloquently states, this time in The Empire Strikes Back – and it is also true that death is a natural part of life, how are we to make sense of this dark ability to cheat physical death?

Regarding this question, I would suggest two things. First, just because life creates the Force does not mean life necessarily dictates or creates the powers/abilities inherent within the Cosmic Force. In turn, this leads to my second point: that the Dark Side and Light Side of the Force are rich with powers/abilities that go far beyond the rationale understanding and capabilities of the Sith, Jedi, and other religious orders devoted to the mystical energy field. When Maul says that his path was”darker than I ever dreamed it could be,” this is precisely what he is pointing towards – the fact that there is a level of Dark Side potential he never could have rationalized or imagined, a level he only could only experienced by tapping into a well-spring of raw, unadulterated hatred. And, as we know, ill-prepared to reach this exceptional level of Darkness, Maul lost all sense of individuality, becoming more animal than “man.”

On this last point, another question arises: could one tap into and sustain the same level of hatred as Maul, preserving their corporeal existence through the Dark Side, while also maintaining their sanity and identity? To this I would answer yes, but to do so would require years of intense and methodical training. Just as one must first learn to swim before diving into the deep end of a pool, so too must a Sith, Knight of Ren, or other type of Dark acolyte learn to wade into the darkness if they are to cheat death, prolonging bodily existence and mental stability. While it is necessary to give into and cultivate the hatred that will take one deeper into the dark abyss and unlock the incredible powers inherent within, it is equally necessary that one exercise intense control over this hatred lest it completely strip them of rational thought.

Furthermore, in answering this question, I would also go one step farther and suggest that Darth Sidious was already treading the dark path towards cheating death. In the novel Tarkin, Sidious hints at coaxing the “final secrets” from the dark side and considers that “success would grant them [he and Darth Vader] the power to harness the full powers of the dark side, and allow them to rule for ten thousand years.” While he does not explicitly state the intention to cheat death, the sentiment is nevertheless implied in his wish to rule for ten thousand years. As Sith believe there is nothingness after death – a philosophical point raised in The Clone Wars episode “Sacrifice” – the only way Sidious could rule indefinitely is if he was to preserve his Life Force in his body, utilizing the Dark Side to forgo death and extinction.

And since Sidious was training to do just that, steadily submerging himself deeper into the darkness in order to unlock the unnatural powers it contained, I cannot help but wonder if he – like Darth Maul before him – was able to survive his “death” in Return of the Jedi. A thought worth pondering, but one I will leave for another day.

The Power to Cheat Death

When we first watched The Phantom Menace and witnessed Darth Maul being sliced in half by Obi-Wan Kenobi, it was safe to assume that the young Dark Lord had been killed. Yet, as we discovered in The Clone Wars animated series, Maul miraculously survived his horrific bifurcation. Confiding in his training and anger, Maul drew upon the Dark Side of the Force to preserve what remained of him. Though his injuries took a physical and mental toll on him, he was able to cling to life and eventually found himself on the junk world of Lotho Minor. It was on the trash-filled planet where his brother, Savage Oppress, would re-discover Darth Maul. Taking the disheveled and mentally unstable Zabrak with him, Oppress returned Maul to Mother Talzin, a Dathomiri Witch who is, we discover much later, Maul’s mother. In turn, using her dark magic, Mother Talzin restored the one-time Dark Lord to his terrifying form, healing his mental anguish and providing him with new, mechanical legs.

Darth Maul’s return in The Clone Wars opened up a rich avenue of story-telling that has since extended into comic-book form (Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir), another animated series (Star Wars Rebels), and a new novel (Ahsoka). But his return also created intriguing ways of thinking about some of the lore and themes in Star Wars. For example, in a previous post from many moons ago – The Last Sith Lord – I speculated on the possibility that it is Maul, and not Vader or Sidious, who is the very last Dark Lord of the Sith (you can read that piece to see what I had to say). And in this post, I wanted to do something similar, this time considering how Maul’s re-emergence in The Clone Wars forces us to think more deeply about the concept of “cheating death,” a critical theme in Revenge of the Sith and the Prequel Trilogy.

For me, one of the most fascinating bits of lore added in Revenge of the Sith is the Tale of Darth Plagueis the Wise. Recounting the tale to Anakin Skywalker, Chancellor Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious) explains that,”Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith so powerful and so wise, he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life. He had such a knowledge of the dark side, he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying.” Of course, Palpatine also points out that Plagueis’ apprentice (surprise, it was Sidious!) killed the powerful Sith Lord in his sleep, noting the irony that “He could save others from death, but not himself.”

tale-of-darth-plagueis
Chancellor Palpatine recounts the Tale of Darth Plagueis the Wise.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

With the Tale planted in Skywalker’s mind, it is little surprise that later in the film, when Anakin pledges himself to the teachings of Darth Sidious, he begs the Dark Lord of the Sith to help him save Padmé’s life. One will recall that young Skywalker was having premonitions about his wife’s impending death, visions of her suffering as she dies in child birth. And, in response to Anakin’s plea, Sidious remarks that “To cheat death is a power only one has achieved, but, if we work together, I know we can discover the secret.”

Now, it’s obvious that Sidious’ statement – “to cheat death is a power only one has achieved” –  is a reference to Darth Plagueis. However, it’s also true that Darth Maul was able to cheat death. Plagueis could keep others from dying, Maul was able to keep himself from dying. This being the case, it begs the question: is it possible to reinterpret Sidious’ statement to suggest he was talking about Darth Maul and not Darth Plagueis?

This question has rattled around in my brain for some time, although truthfully it is a difficult one to answer in the affirmative. Sidious’ intention when he says this line is pretty straight-forward: to manipulate Anakin into accepting Sidious as his new Master. Since Sidious seems interested in helping Anakin discover the power to cheat death – all for the sake of saving Padmé – it makes sense that young Skywalker would pledge himself to the Dark Lord. Along these lines, it is also worth remembering that after Anakin lost his mother in Attack of the Clones, he vehemently declares that he will become so powerful he will “learn how to stop people from dying.” Given Skywalker’s intense desire to keep his loved ones from death, it is no wonder that 1) Palpatine told Anakin the Tale of Darth Plagueis and; 2) that he offered to help the young man discover the secret to cheating death.

pledge-to-sidious
Anakin pledges himself to Darth Sidious.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

None of this is to suggest, of course, that Darth Sidious and Anakin were ignorant that Darth Maul cheated death; both are well-aware the Sith survived his injuries and is still very much alive. But due to the context of this scene – embedded, as it is, in the Revenge of the Sith and the Prequel Trilogy – I find it unlikely that Sidious was referring to Darth Maul and not Darth Plagueis. Because Skywalker’s motivation is to save others from death – a power he was told Plagueis possessed – there is really no reason to imagine Darth Maul is at the forefront of his mind (or Sidious’) in the scene.

Nevertheless, I am still open to and intrigued by the possibility that Sidious was thinking of/referring to Darth Maul when he says “to cheat death is a power only one has achieved.” But I am not going to force the issue, in part because I have a lot of other things to say about cheating death and will be doing more posts on the topic. If, someday, a light turns on in my head and I figure out a way to make it work then I will be sure to share it with y’all. Otherwise, perhaps one of you will find a way to work it out in the meantime. 


More posts on the topic of cheating death:

Cheating Death: The Dark

Transcending Death: The Light

The Last Sith Lord

First things first, if you have never watched Star Wars: The Clone Wars, do not read a lot of Star Wars comics, or have not followed news about The Force Awakens, then this post contains some spoilers. Read on at your own risk.

Second, I am going to come right out and say that in this post I am pushing some of the limits. I know that some of you will push back against what I say, and I am perfectly fine with that. Do it! Just be nice about it when you do.

Alright, let’s begin…


Anakin Skywalker lifts Sidious, preparing to hurl him into the depths of the Death Star. Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Anakin Skywalker lifts Sidious, preparing to hurl him into the depths of the Death Star.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Watching as his pleading son is electrocuted by Darth Sidious, Darth Vader chooses to intervene on his son’s behalf. Vader, or rather, the redeemed Anakin Skywalker, lifts Sidious and plunges him into the bowels of the Death Star. Keeping in line with Sith philosophy dating back to the ancient Sith Darth Bane, by killing Sidious it is then Vader/Skywalker’s right to assume the role of Sith Master and take an apprentice of his own.

HOWEVER, the redeemed Anakin Skywalker, having shed himself of his Sith title, does not take up the mantle of Master. While Vader was interested in taking Luke as an apprentice, Anakin Skywalker has no intentions of doing so since he has shed himself of his Dark title and returned to the Light Side. With Sidious dead, and Vader no longer a Sith, the Order came to a sudden and dramatic end.

Or did it?

“There has been an awakening, have you felt it…?”

A dark robed figure walking through a wintry, wooded area suddenly stops and ignites a crackling red lightsaber, two shorter blades extending to form a cross guard. When the first teaser trailer for The Force Awakens landed, speculation immediately began about whether this mysterious individual, this Kylo Ren, was a Sith.

Kylo Ren ignites his lightsaber. Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Kylo Ren ignites his lightsaber.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Questioning whether this figure was a Sith was natural. At the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker is the last Jedi. If Luke went on to rebuild the Jedi Order in the days, months, and years following the Battle of Endor, perhaps another figure had decided to rebuild the Sith Order as well. Besides, it would make sense that if the Jedi were restored that their ancient and mortal enemies would be as well, right?

But just recently, J.J. Abrams, director and co-writer of The Force Awakens, dropped two important nuggets about Kylo Ren. Just as “Darth” is a shortened form for “Dark Lord of the Sith,” Kylo Ren, as Abrams pointed out in an article in Entertainment Weekly, belongs to a group called the Knights of Ren. Presumably, “Ren” is a title.

Secondly, Abrams also confirmed in an article in Empire magazine that Kylo Ren is NOT a Sith, though he does work for First Order Supreme Leader Snoke. Snoke, as Abrams notes, is a powerful Dark Side user but there is no indication that he is a Sith. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. If I was a betting man, I would put my money on the latter.

Alright, brief recap before continuing:

Anakin Skywalker killed Darth Sidious but did not continue the Sith line. Kylo Ren is a user of the Dark Side who works for another powerful user of the Dark Side. But Kylo Ren IS NOT a Sith, and he is a member of a group called the Knights of Ren, so we can probably bet that there are a handful of other “Ren-ites” out there.

Darth Bane Photo Credit - Star Wars The Clone Wars (Season 6, Episode 13),

Darth Bane
Photo Credit – Star Wars The Clone Wars (Season 6, Episode 13), “Sacrifices”

Having arrived at this point my question is this: who exactly can we say is the LAST Sith in the line that extends back to Darth Bane? Remember, it is Darth Bane, the ancient Sith Lord who, after surviving the destruction of the Sith millennia ago, re-created the Sith in a new image. You can think of him sort of as the hinge that connects all who came before him and those who came after him. And so, given all that we know, WHO is the Last Sith Lord?

Well, logic dictates that it be either Darth Vader or Darth Sidious. As the Master-Apprentice duo at the end of Return of the Jedi, one should get the technical distinction of being the absolute final Sith Lord. Wellllll, this is the point where you all start groaning at me so let’s just get it over with…

The last Sith is not Darth Vader OR Darth Sidious. The last Sith Lord is Darth Maul.

Darth Maul

I know, I KNOW, I’m as surprised as all of you! I never saw that coming either!

Well, okay, I did see it coming, but whatever. Honestly, my rationale behind this is pretty simple: at the end of the Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir comic series, Darth Maul is still alive. With the help of a few Mandalorian commandos, Maul escapes from the grasp of Darth Sidious, Darth Tyrannus, and General Grievous.

The cover of Star Wars Darth Maul Son of Dathomir: Issue # 1 Photo Credit - Lucasbooks

The cover of Darth Maul Son of Dathomir: Issue 1
Photo Credit – Lucasbooks

Like I said, it is all pretty simple. As it stands right now, at this very moment, Darth Maul is still hanging around the galaxy far, far away. And the thing is, we can’t just presume he died before the events of Return of the Jedi. Maybe he did, but, then again, we all THOUGHT he had died once before because we actually saw him get cleaved in half. From May 19, 1999-January 21, 2011 Darth Maul WAS dead. But then, when The Clone Wars Season 3 episode “Witches of the Mist” aired, we all learned that HE WAS STILL ALIVE!!!

Bringing Darth Maul back into the fold not only forever altered the way we watch The Phantom Menace, but also how we are to think about Darth Maul. No longer was he the quiet but vicious junior Sith Lord who killed Qui-Gon Jinn then was subsequently killed by Obi-Wan Kenobi. Oh no, this menacing Zabrak is VERY STRONG in the Dark Side of the Force, so strong that he relied on the Dark Side to stay alive even though he was cut in half. Cut. IN. HAAAALF. Yeah, there is no way I am going to sit here and pretend Darth Maul just happened to grow old and die. At this point, if you want to convince me that Darth Maul is really, REALLY dead, then he better be ripped apart atom-by-atom.

But Darth Maul still being alive is only half of the issue. On the flip side, we also need to ask a pretty obvious question: since Sidious took on a new apprentice, is Darth Maul technically still a Sith Lord?

Once a Sith, Always a Sith?

In The Clone Wars Season 5 episode entitled “The Lawless,” Darth Sidious senses a tremor in the Force and goes to the planet Mandalore to confront Darth Maul and his brother/apprentice Savage Oppress. Interestingly, it is not until Sidious senses this tremor that he recognizes Maul has become a threat, although he was made aware of Maul’s existence in an earlier episode. When the two encounter each other, Sidious states that he is impressed that Maul survived his injuries. However, only a moment later, Sidious calls Maul out as a rival. This is, of course, true — in a previous episode, Maul declares that he and Oppress are Sith, the “true Lords of the Sith.”

Maul and Oppress - the

Maul and Oppress – the “true Lords of the Sith.”
Photo Credit – Star Wars The Clone Wars (Season 5, Episode 14), “Eminence”

Now, this is where things get complicated. See, in “The Lawless,” Sidious will ALSO remind Maul (after Sidious kills Oppress) of “the first and only reality of the Sith: there can only be two. And you are no longer my apprentice. You have been replaced!” Well, this is quite true, Maul WAS replaced… but then again, Maul was also not dead.

And that right there is the key – since Maul did not die in The Phantom Menace, neither did his title as Dark Lord of the Sith. Sure, Sidious replaced Maul with Tyrannus, but he did so under the assumption that Maul was dead. As the Sith Master, Sidious should have been more careful, but he wasn’t. Instead, Sidious moved forward with his plans while Maul survived, albeit mentally and physically scarred, on the junk world of Lotho Minor.

But not confirming Darth Maul was dead was Sidious’ first mistake, but not his last.

Although Darth Sidious defeats Maul in lightsaber combat in “The Lawless,” he does not kill him. Instead, in an elaborate ploy (one that plays out in the Son of Dathomir comics), Sidious uses Maul as bait to draw out and destroy Mother Talzin, the powerful Nightsister. With assistance from Darth Tyrannus and General Grievous, Sidious will succeed in destroying Talzin, However, as I already noted, at the end of the four-part comic series Maul is able to survive. While Sidious exclaims at the very end that “Maul’s future has been erased” this does not mean Darth Maul has been erased. This is the second mistake Sidious makes, believing Maul is no longer a threat and choosing to let Maul flee instead of doing the obvious – just killing him.

A Final Thought

Movie Title Idea - Darth Maul: Sith Bad-Ass Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Movie Title Idea – Darth Maul: Sith Bad-Ass
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

I really have no doubt that the people at Lucasfilm have a plan for Darth Maul. The fact that he does escape with his life is reason enough to think that this mysterious and vicious Sith Lord will receive further treatment at some point down the line. In fact, given that actor Ray Park has said he would love to reprise the role, I really hope we end up seeing a live-action Maul once again.

Of course, when Darth Maul does decide to reappear, I hope his reemergence is handled with care. I do not want him to be brought back just so he can “officially” be killed off. No, at this point Maul deserves to much respect for a cheap, quick death. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with Darth Maul eventually dying, I just want it to be done in a way that does him justice. And while his story may very well come to a close before the events of Return of the Jedi, I am not going to sit here and just pretend it does.

So, for right now, I am going to hold on to the idea that Darth Maul is the last Sith Lord.


Update: Sadly, Darth Maul is not the last Sith Lord. In the Season 3 episode of Star Wars Rebels titled “Twin Suns” Maul meets his end at the end of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s blue blade on the planet Tatooine.

Intro to Sithology: The Rule of Two (Part 4)

“Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice.” – Master Yoda on the Sith

How is it possible for Yoda to know about the Sith Rule of Two when the Sith have been extinct for a millennia?

In Part 1 of this series, I began with the question above. As you may recall from that first post, the question came to me from one of the fans of this blog. Naturally, I was happy to indulge and jumped into it with a full-head of steam.

But as I wrestled with the question in my head, I ran into more problems than I had anticipated, and slowly got bogged down by the extra baggage, all of which I played out in the previous Parts.

At last, though, we have arrived at the Finale and it is time to take the deep dive into my answer to the question.

The Answer

My idea is actually a rather simple one: Rather than having Darth Bane live/enact the Rule of Two 1,000 years before the events of The Phantom Menace, we move his life back in time, essentially making him MORE ancient.

Now, before going any further, I should note that we can do this because there is literally NO ancient history to contend with in the Star Wars canon. Sure, the Expanded Universe (EU), which many of you undoubtedly love and still enjoy, did establish a very detailed history for the era of the Old Republic, including various wars between the Jedi and Sith.

But the EU, while flipping awesome, is not part of the official Star Wars canon, and because it isn’t, we can rearrange things however we want, no longer beholden to those EU stories – including the Darth Bane novels.

The 1st novel in the EU Darth Bane Trilogy Photo Credit - LucasBooks

The 1st novel in the (EU) Darth Bane Trilogy
Photo Credit – LucasBooks

So we push canonical Darth Bane farther into the past. This opens new avenues for storytelling and creates a much clearer picture for the sake of canonical continuity, one that does not put Yoda in the awkward spot of knowing something about the Sith that he shouldn’t be able to know.

Alright, let’s explore the rationale for this and how it plays out.

The Rationale

First off, let’s back up and think about what Yoda says at the end of Episode I about the Rule of Two. He states, “Always two there are, no more, no less. A Master and an Apprentice.”

The fact that Yoda says the word “Always” should tip us off to something – that this is how the Sith have worked for a VERY LONG TIME. Think about it – if Darth Bane lived/enacted the rule 1,000 years ago, and the Sith have been in hiding for those 1,000 years, it would be INCREDIBLY awkward from a continuity/canonical perspective for Yoda to know that this is ALWAYS how the Sith have functioned. How in the hell would he possibly know this if the Sith went extinct 1,000 years ago?

Besides, when Yoda says this statement to Mace Windu in The Phantom Menace, Windu’s reaction is not “Dude, how do you know that!?!” but is rather “But which one was killed, the Master or the Apprentice?” What Yoda says is something Mace Windu already knows.

Also, keep in mind that if we are working within the 1,000 year time frame, the last knowledge the Jedi would have about the Sith is that the Sith Order was massive before it went kaput. Yoda should have said “Always a shit ton of Sith there are!”

Oh, and one other thing – Is Yoda really so accepting that he would actually believe there are only two Sith? The way of the Dark Side is one of lying, deceit, and mistrust, and if Yoda had discovered this new shift in Sith philosophy, he should be the last one to believe this is how the Sith now operate. Then again, that is hardly the point because THE SITH ARE IN HIDING AND THE JEDI BELIEVE THE SITH ARE EXTINCT!!!

Darth Bane speaks to Yoda Photo Credit - Star Wars The Clone Wars (Season 6, Episode 13), "Sacrifices"

Darth Bane speaks to Yoda
Photo Credit – Star Wars The Clone Wars (Season 6, Episode 13), “Sacrifices”

To me, the only conclusion that makes sense is that the Rule of Two was around far longer than 1,000 years ago, so long in fact that the Jedi Order is no longer concerned with thousands of Sith presenting a problem – they are only concerned with two Sith at a given time.

Now, let’s add Darth Bane to the picture.

As I have already quoted and explored in Part 2 and Part 3, Darth Bane states that “The Sith killed each other, victims of their own greed” in The Clone Wars episode “Sacrifices.” Obviously, the implication of this statement is that BEFORE Darth Bane changed Sith philosophy, the Sith were legion. However, what is also implied is that the Sith Order collapsed in on itself. The Dark Side breeds conflict and the Sith focused their fighting on each other rather than their TRUE enemy – the Jedi.

From the “ashes of destruction,” Bane, the last survivor and the most powerful of the old Sith reinvented the Sith Order, declaring that there would be only two Sith Lords.

2,500 years ago. 5,000 years ago. 10,000 years ago. It doesn’t matter when Bane did this, as long as it is at a point longer than 1,000 years ago AND far enough in the past to justify Yoda saying there are “Always” two Sith.

Plus, pushing Bane into the distant past opens up more storytelling possibilities, with two separate eras of the ancient Sith to work with:

1) The Pre-Bane Sith – Story ideas could involve the birth/rise of the ancient Sith Order on Moraband; the constant infighting between Sith Lords; the shaky alliances between Sith in wars against the Jedi Order; a final showdown between the last of the Sith with Darth Bane coming out the victor.

The Inquisitor from Rebels Season 1 speaks with Darth Vader Photo Credit - Star Wars Rebels: Season 1, Episode 1 - "Spark of Rebellion"

The Inquisitor from Rebels Season 1 speaks with Darth Vader
Photo Credit – Star Wars Rebels: Season 1, Episode 1 – “Spark of Rebellion”

2) The Post-Darth Bane/Rule of Two Sith – Stories about two Sith Lords acting at any given time, but with the Apprentice vying with the Master; Master-Apprentice working together to bring about the defeat of the Jedi Order; the relationship between the two Sith and other (non-Sith) Dark Side users (like, for example, the Inquisitors who appear in Star Wars Rebels)

But what of the Sith “extinction” which Jedi Master Ki-Adi-Mundi refers to in The Phantom Menace?

At the 1,000 year mark, the point Master Mundi is referring too, this is when the Sith are finally “defeated” by the Jedi Order. I will let your imagination work to think about what that moment would look like, but the end result is the same: the Jedi are convinced they have finally defeated their arch nemesis.

Battered but not extinct, the Sith would go into hiding, taking a new approach to bringing down the Jedi Order through subtlety, cunning, and intrigue, culminating in Darth Sidious’ victory over the Jedi in Revenge of the Sith.

A Final Thought

Ultimately, I believe this approach, placing Darth Bane/the introduction of the Rule of Two further in the Star Wars past would protect the continuity of the canon while also opening it to new and dynamic story possibilities.

But doing this is not just important for the sake of clarifying how Yoda knows about the Rule of Two in The Phantom Menace, or what Darth Bane is talking about in “Sacrifices.” It is important because as fans, we should expect elements within Star Wars to line up and make sense. That is the entire point of continuity.

Plus, this is even more relevant now that EVERYTHING has the same weight, the same status as being canonical. Whether it is a comic book, video game, television show, a children’s book, or a movie, each of these pieces are on the exact same level. And this necessitates delicacy, attention to detail, and patience to ensure that ALL story-elements in the ENTIRE canon function together and do not create significant points of confusion or contradiction.

But don’t get me wrong, I know incongruities will persist, they just shouldn’t be so massive, so glaring that they chew into a fan’s enjoyment of the galaxy far, far away.

The Death of Count Dooku

“Kill him…kill him now.” – Chancellor Palpatine

With the recent passing of Christopher Lee, the actor who played Count Dooku (aka Darth Tyranus), I thought it would be appropriate to do a small piece on the character he brought to life in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

After serving with the Royal Air Force during World War II, Christopher Lee went on to have a prolific acting career. During his career, he would be cast several times as a villain in different movies. While I have a fond appreciation for his roles in other films, for me, his most notable role will always be his portrayal of Count Dooku. Despite his short appearances in Episodes II and III, Lee left an indelible mark on me with his performance as the leader of the Separatist Alliance and as a Dark Lord of the Sith.

And it is that very short time in Revenge of the Sith that I want to focus on. Well, actually, I want to narrow things down even more and focus on the moment right before Anakin decapitates the illustrious Count.

The young Skywalker, standing above the Count with a lightsaber in each hand, is goaded by the “imprisoned” Chancellor Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious) to kill the defeated Sith Lord.

“Kill him,” Palpatine tells Anakin, “kill him now.”

As he commands Anakin to “kill him now” the Chancellor turns his head towards Dooku, looking down at the elderly man who is also his apprentice.

Dooku's face when Sidious says

Dooku’s face when Sidious says “kill him now”
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode II: Revenge of the Sith

Hearing his Master’s order, Dooku looks at Sidious with an expression of utter perplexity on his face. Each time I watch Revenge of the Sith, and see his face in that moment, I feel a twinge of remorse for the Count and can’t help but wonder what goes through Dooku’s mind in that instance as he hears his Master order his execution.

In that moment Dooku may have realized his Master had always been playing him, and had intended from the very beginning to discard the Count once he ceased being useful to his Sidious’ machinations. The order to execute Dooku was just another part of his Master’s grand plan, and in the moment, was also a way to groom the young Skywalker as Sidious’ new Apprentice.

Or, maybe Dooku recognized that he should have acted against his Master, that he had waited too long to challenge Sidious.  As the Apprentice to Darth Sidious, it was Dooku’s responsibility to challenge his Master and take the mantle of Master from Sidious. The Rule of Two dictates that the Apprentice must challenge the Master, but in that moment, Dooku may have understood that his hesitation had cost him his life. Focused on executing his Master’s plans to destroy the Jedi, Darth Tyranus never enacted his own plan to destroy his Master.

It is possible, though, that Dooku thought nothing at all. Perhaps hearing the order for his execution just left Dooku far too bewildered to have any rational thought. Chances are, if I were in his place, I wouldn’t be able to think rationally either.

Honestly, I think it is better we don’t actually know what Dooku was thinking. Personally, I would be disappointed if there was some “official” statement that told us what Dooku thought in that moment. It is far more interesting to imagine the possibilities and decide for ourselves what he may or may not have thought in the last seconds of his life.

Besides, Christopher Lee captured that moment perfectly, his expression allowing us to connect with Dooku on a personal level even if it is only for a second. To evoke a response from the audience is the goal of any actor, but to do it with a single look is the sign of a very talented man. Mr. Lee, and his prowess as an actor, will surely be missed.