Star Wars 9 will introduce Sith Troopers to franchise canon, but how do these new villains connect to the wider Sith legend? As one might expect, the secrets of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker are being kept closely under wraps as J. J. Abrams continues work on the current trilogy's final chapter, but the official Star Wars YouTube channel recently revealed a new brand of Stormtrooper that will debut in the film. Dubbed "Sith Troopers," these soldiers are visually very similar to the standard First Order soldier, but with a bucket of red paint tipped over them.
Although the origin of the term dates back to the very beginnings of the Star Wars series, the word "Sith" wasn't formally introduced until the prequel trilogy began in 1999, denoting the official name for the group of antagonists led by Emperor Palpatine. The Sith were assumed to have died out at the end of Return of the Jedi, with the deaths of both the Emperor and Darth Vader.
Perhaps the first detail to note regarding the new Sith Troopers is that they are confirmed as the "next evolution" of the established First Order Stormtroopers. This represents somewhat of a breakaway from Sith tradition. Previously in the Star Wars story, the Sith have been a shadowy force operating in the background - hiding behind more official titles such as "the Empire" and "Senator Palpatine" - but it appears that the Sith's influence will come to the forefront of the First Order's public relations strategy in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, with the connection far more explicit.
This new transparency may reflect Kylo Ren's current state of mind. In 2017's Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Kylo expressed a desire to see the ways of old die out, and was clear to point out that the Sith were very much included in this culling. Now the undisputed leader of the First Order, Kylo appears to have had a change of heart, and is openly intertwining the Sith and the First Order.
This could derive from a complacent belief that no power could possibly challenge him, however, it's also possible that Kylo Ren is trying to establish himself as a genuine member of the Sith order. Despite his obvious power and skill in wielding the Force, Kylo Ren was trained by Snoke, rather than a member of the Sith, and therefore can't be described as a Sith in his own right. It's well-established that Kylo idolizes Darth Vader and, in the absence of any other Sith Lords out there to bestow a proper Darth title upon him and make Kylo Ren a real Sith, Han Solo's son may be looking to assert his status by rebranding his forces as Sith Troopers.
Of course, the Star Wars 9 trailer revealed that the Sith aren't quite as extinct as everyone assumed, with Palpatine confirmed to have some sort of presence in the upcoming episode. The return of this iconic wrinkly villain is another possible connection behind the arrival of these Sith Troopers. Palpatine's role in the future of Star Wars is the source of much speculation at present, with no firm details emanating from the Lucasfilm camp, however, the introduction of Sith Troopers could certainly be the former Emperor's doing. Many fans are assuming that Palpatine has been planning the First Order from the very beginning and now that Luke Skywalker is dead, the last remaining Sith may believe the time has come to finally emerge from the shadows and openly declare the Sith as rulers of the galaxy.
More cynically, there is an a possibility that the Sith Troopers will prove to be little more than a line of toys. Many figures in Star Wars history have had a strong presence in an episode's merchandise range, but very little screen time in the actual movie (looking at you, Phasma) and the Sith Troopers could certainly fall into this category. Even their title, which feels like a significant development in the Star Wars universe, may have been put in place for marketing purposes, and the soldiers themselves may not even be referred to by name in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019