The Sith are returning in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and here's everything we know about their role so far. While Disney/Lucasfilm have avoided using the Sith in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, it seems their plan was to set up the First Order - including Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren - as an analog of the Galactic Empire in J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi before diving into the Jedi vs. Sith conflict in the final Skywalker film.
What's interesting is that, while the Sith have always been the primary antagonists of the franchise - with characters like Darth Vader and Darth Sidious ruling in the original films and Darth Maul and Count Dooku appearing in the prequels - the term "Sith" wasn't explicitly mentioned on-screen until Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. Sure, the word was used in various other materials around the time A New Hope released, but the Sith received the bulk of its lore in Legends.
While the Sith's history and backstory continued to be explored throughout the Star Wars prequel trilogy, as well as in canon comics and novels that released after Lucasfilm began anew under Disney's ownership, the Sith themselves have been an element missing from the first two installments in the sequel trilogy. But that's all going to change with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which brings the Sith back into the fold in more than one way to not only close out the studio's latest trilogy but conclude the Skywalker saga.
Palpatine, The Last Living Sith, Is Back In Star Wars 9
Bringing back the Sith in the final Skywalker saga installment is happening primarily because of Sheev Palpatine, aka Darth Sidious, returning. While theories have circulated for years that Snoke was either Palpatine or Palpatine's master, Darth Plagueis the Wise, nothing ever really hinted at the one-time Emperor's return in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. That is, until the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker teaser trailer released at Star Wars Celebration 2019 in April, which revealed Palpatine's return. Ian McDiarmid is also confirmed to reprise his role as Palpatine in the film.
Centuries ago, there was an entire Sith Order that contained dozens, if not hundreds, of Sith Lords. But things changed due to in-fighting as well as a war with the Jedi. And so, Darth Bane established the Rule of Two, which meant only two Sith Lords could exist at any one time - a master and an apprentice; no more, no less, as Yoda said. After Return of the Jedi, there were no more Sith. Snoke wasn't a Sith Lord, which means Kylo Ren wasn't either, as he was still an apprentice. And with Palpatine returning, that makes him the last living Sith Lord in Star Wars' galaxy.
Of course, it remains to be seen exactly how Palpatine managed to survive his tumble through the Death Star, as well as the second Death Star's explosion, in Return of the Jedi. It's very unlikely that he's a Force ghost, and keeping himself alive is somewhat of a trick that he apparently learned from his former master, Darth Plagueis, and once told Anakin Skywalker about. As the last living Sith Lord, Palpatine is arguably the biggest threat to the galaxy, and that will play into the Skywalker saga's concluding story arc in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
The First Order Has Sith Troopers In Star Wars 9
Interestingly, though, while Palpatine coming back means that the Sith have returned to the fold - at least in one way - the Sith name is being used elsewhere as well. Revealed by Lucasfilm, the First Order employs a group of Sith troopers in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. While longtime Star Wars fans know that Sith troopers first appeared in BioWare's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic video game and later reappeared in other Expanded Universe material at the time, the Sith troopers in the latest Star Wars movie are entirely different; it seems they've been revamped from the ground-up in order to fit within Disney/Lucasfilm's Star Wars canon.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker's Sith troopers are considered the next evolution of the Imperial and First Order Stormtrooper lineup, which is why they bear a stark resemblance to the original First Order Stormtrooper design. Even though Lucasfilm is holding back key information on the Sith troopers and their role in the film at the moment, what can be gleaned from the first look at the new soldiers is that they are dressed in red and use what appears to be an enhanced version of the standard First Order blaster rifle.
Furthermore, reports have suggested that the unit of Sith troopers in the film answer directly to Kylo Ren. Since Kylo Ren and Rey killed all the members of Snoke's Praetorian Guard in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it would make sense that he would need his own team of elite soldiers to fight alongside him. But using the name Sith is what's most interesting here. As previously mentioned, Kylo Ren isn't a Sith Lord and the First Order aren't, at least they haven't been, connected to the Sith Order in any way. But calling the new Stormtroopers Sith troopers must mean that the Sith, on some level, are now incorporated into the First Order.
Star Wars 9 Ends The Sith/Jedi Conflict
In addition to Sith troopers being introduced in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the fact that Palpatine is returning means that the Jedi vs. Sith conflict is back on track. But rather than simply continuing the seemingly neverending struggle between the two opposing orders of the Force, it's been suggested by a source in Vanity Fair's Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker cover story that the new film will officially end the Jedi vs. Sith war. How that will happen exactly, though, is yet to be determined.
Within the Star Wars franchise, the Jedi vs. Sith conflict has been raging for thousands of years, both in canon and in Legends. It's not something that's new to Star Wars, especially the movies. While the original Star Wars trilogy was about the Skywalker family, those films were still entrenched in the Jedi vs. Sith war that was believed to have ended with the execution of Order 66 during the events of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith decades prior. But it wasn't. Some Jedi survived, which ultimately led to the events of the original Star Wars trilogy.
The thing is, Return of the Jedi wasn't meant to end the conflict between the Jedi and Sith, but when the First Order rose up several years later, it was revived between Rey and Kylo Ren, though, again, he's not a Sith... yet. It's theoretically possible that Kylo Ren can be recruited and trained by Palpatine to become his new apprentice, which would make his duel with Rey the first official Jedi vs. Sith fight since the original trilogy ended. But, of course, all of that remains to be seen.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019