Star Wars 9 is bringing back Emperor Palpatine, and it could reveal that he has stolen the Knights of Ren from Kylo. All three are set to be extremely important to the events of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, although the specifics of how remain shrouded in mystery, but our theory can bring them together.
The Knights of Ren are one of the biggest dangling plot threads in Disney's Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, having been briefly introduced in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Rian Johnson chose not to build upon that in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but with J.J. Abrams returning to the saga, he can once again develop the concept and revisit some of his original plans in Star Wars 9.
Palpatine is an even bigger mystery, since we still don't know in what capacity the supposedly-dead Emperor will feature. Based on his role across the previous Star Wars movies, however, we can assume he's working as the overarching villain, while there's also the matter of Kylo Ren's possible redemption. With all that, then there's scope for Palpatine to have stole the Knights of Ren from Kylo by the events of Star Wars 9, and some evidence to back it up.
Kylo Fights The Knights Of Ren In Star Wars 9
When the first teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker dropped, the return of Palpatine - thanks to that ominous laugh - was the major talking point, while Rey's training, the voice of Luke Skywalker, and the presence of the Darth Star 2 were all huge moments as well. Within all that, however, is a potentially key plot point that deserved a little more attention: Kylo Ren fighting a Knight of Ren.
The scene in question comes at around the 1:15 mark in the Star Wars 9 trailer, and shows an unmasked Kylo taking down an assailant in a forest area, his red crossguard lightsaber in hand. It's the kind of action beat that works well in a trailer, but on closer inspection it becomes clear that Kylo is actually fighting one of the Knights of Ren - the group he is supposed to be the master of - so what's happened for that relationship to sour so badly?
Since Kylo is fighting the Knights of Ren in Star Wars 9, then that must mean he is no longer in control of them. It could be that he simply chooses to work against them, but it's harder to see what the motivating factor is there. It might also be that the Knights of Ren have decided to turn against their master, which fits with Star Wars as a whole, but since they're not fully-formed individual characters but rather a group to be weaponized, it'd make more sense if the reason was that they are now working for someone else.
The Knights Of Ren & Palpatine Have Been Working In The Unknown Regions
Although Palpatine's return in Star Wars 9 remains a huge question that likely won't be answered until the film itself, both rumors and official Star Wars tie-in materials have been dropping clues as to what he's been up to. Whether it's revealing Palpatine's plan for after his death or rumors of his secret fleet, there's one common link through everything we've seen and heard about Palpatine heading into Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and that's the Unknown Regions. It's from here that the First Order was formed out of an Imperial remnant, and it's this mysterious part of the galaxy that seems to hold the key not only to Palpatine's return, but all of his grand plans.
The Unknown Regions then serves as connective tissue between Palpatine and the Knights of Ren. While it's not yet confirmed, there is a rumor that the Knights of Ren return from The Beyond in Star Wars 9. Again, not a great deal is known about The Beyond, but it's located either in or, well, beyond the Unknown Regions. Since the Knights of Ren didn't appear in the present-day of either Star Wars Sequel Trilogy movies so far, it would make a lot of sense if they were far away on a covert mission of their own. Furthermore, if a group of Dark Side Force-users were indeed in the Unknown Regions at the same time as Palpatine was preparing for his return, then there's a great chance he would be able to orchestrate things so they met.
How The Knights Of Ren Would Fit With Palpatine's Plans
Having the Knights of Ren at his disposal in Star Wars 9 would certainly be in keeping with how we know Emperor Palpatine likes to operate. As Emperor, he had his Royal Guards, although they only appeared ceremonial, and he also had a number of younger Force-users as apprentices, starting with Darth Maul, before moving on to Count Dooku and eventually Anakin Skywalker. The prospect of a group of Force-users who are already strong with and partially trained in the ways of the Force would surely appeal to Palpatine: they can aid him in his plans, but it also doesn't matter to him if they're killed.
Although it's not clear why Palpatine is being brought back for Star Wars 9, at least in terms of specifics, we can make some basic assumptions based upon what we know of the character and what's been said or hinted at in the build-up to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Palpatine is someone who has shown regular patterns in how he operates, so we can expect him to attempt to form a new Empire, if he hasn't already, to look at defeating the Resistance and perhaps the First Order too (or at least take control of them), and seek to rule the galaxy once again. The Knights of Ren would be powerful soldiers for that mission.
What Palpatine Controlling Knights Of Ren Would Mean For Star Wars 9
If Palpatine is controlling the Knights of Ren in Star Wars 9, then it would massively raise the stakes for the film and be a way of bringing together a number of crucial elements, not least Palpatine and Kylo Ren. As the two most powerful Dark Side of the Force-users in the galaxy, then Kylo and Palpatine are bound to attract the attention of one another, but of course it runs much deeper than that. Kylo Ren is the last of the Skywalkers, a lineage that Palpatine himself helped start. Similarly, Kylo is obsessed with Darth Vader, who was a creation of Palpatine as well.
If Palpatine wants to use Kylo for his own nefarious purposes in Star Wars 9, then taking the Knights of Ren first would be a smart move, giving him greater influence over something close to Kylo and making the allure of his side even stronger. But it could be that Palpatine has bigger plans for Kylo. This is the end of the Skywalker Saga, which likely means that Ben Solo has to die. Palpatine is the person who started the Skywalker Saga, so what if he wants to end it in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker?
By taking control of the Knights of Ren, he would not only be making himself more powerful, but pitting himself directly against Kylo. That could then impact on Rey's story, since Kylo may need to team with her to stop someone so powerful. It's a means of Star Wars 9 linking all nine movies together, completing Palpatine's story and that of the Skywalkers, and finishing Kylo's arc as well.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019