Disney has recently previewed something probably nobody expected: a new character that shall appear in Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. This character, or rather, a type of soldier, is a stormtrooper in red-coloured armour, and it has been officially introduced as “Sith Trooper”.
Where Did The “Sith” Come From?
The chief surprise lies in the fact that “Sith” have not been referenced in the sequel trilogy this far (except as thing of the past). And for a reason. The last Sith died on board of the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi. The master, Darth Sidious, and his apprentice, Vader, were the last of the Sith. The successive line has been broken, and after millenia of its existence in secret, the Sith Order had officially been vanquished. It fell together with the Empire that it had helped to build.
Of course, the Empire’s ideals had managed to rise from the ashes in the form of the First Order. But that was not true for the Sith. Nobody was left to teach a new apprentice. That is why neither Supreme Leader Snoke, nor Kylo Ren were Sith. Kylo Ren was, basically, a fallen Jedi; and what Snoke was, the canon has so far failed to explain sufficiently. For our purposes, we can dub him a “Dark Sided Force-user”. But he was no Sith, never have we seen him claim the title. And, according to the Rule of Two, he would not even have the right to do so.
Which makes the appearance of a “Sith Trooper” rather puzzling.
Could Disney Be Just Dumb?
Let me now lay out the worst possible scenario, something that has probably crossed the minds of a few fans upon hearing about the Sith Trooper. It is theoretically possible that Lucasfilm are all dilettantes, that J. J. Abrams wanted only to cherrypick cool elements from old films and he only just remembered that something like Sith existed.
But even the most stubborn opponent of the new trilogy would probably concede that at least somebody in Lucasfilm would likely have reminded the rest of the production team that the Sith are not supposed to exist anymore. Therefore, I believe Episode IX shall provide a reasonable explanation for the Sith Trooper’s appearance.
Scenario 1: Kylo Ren Becomes A Sith
Let’s start our speculation by laying out the simplest possible explanation. At the end of The Last Jedi, we left Kylo Ren at the head of the First Order. As we remember, Kylo Ren’s path to the Dark Side has been very much influenced by the idealised (and misinterpreted) image of his grandfather, Darth Vader. Being now the head of his own Dark Empire of sorts, perhaps Kylo is going to pick up the teachings of the Sith as the next venue of expanding and solidifying his power.
There is one “but” about it: in The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren seems to have undergone character development that involved freeing himself from the constraints laid by others and starting to follow his own path. That is, in fact, the essence of what a Sith is (the Sith Code talks about freeing oneself from all restraints through passion and power). However, I (sadly) don’t expect J.J. Abrams to dig so deep to let Kylo suddenly appropriate the Sith teachings of his own volition. In TLJ, Kylo explicitly asked Rey to throw away everything old: the Jedi, the Sith, and to help him build a new world on the ashes of the old. It seems therefore unlikely that he would suddenly desire to tie himself to the teachings of an old, dead order.
Scenario 2: Ghosts of the Death Star
There are other possibilities. The very first trailer for The Rise of Skywalker featured what looked like remains of the Death Star, and the Emperor’s laughter. Add to it the existence of “Sith Troopers” and we have a theme. Somehow, the ghosts of the old Empire – whether really or metaphorically – are going to play an important part in the upcoming film.
I can think of several ways to connect the Sith Trooper to this. For example: In the remains of the Death Star, the First Order finds old technology/trooper armour the Emperor has been developing but did not have time to use. Or: The ghost of the Emperor appears to Kylo Ren and convinces him that, after all, the Sith philosophy has something to offer. Or the Emperor’s ghost straightaway possesses Kylo Ren (not so unlikely possibility, given that there have been parallels between the new films and some parts of the old book canon. The no-longer-canonical Jedi Academy trilogy, which deals with Luke’s unsuccessful attempt to rebuild the Jedi Order, also features one “fallen student” named Kyp Durron, who falls prey to an ancient Sith spirit). An Emperor-possessed Kylo could forge the First Order into a Sith faction.
…And Other Possibilities
There are many more options to explain as to how the Sith (or something named after the Sith) could make their comeback. Perhaps the trooper is just a soldier enhanced by Sith techniques, or created by using Sith techniques, with no connection to Sith ideology whatsoever. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I just hope the explanation will be satisfactory, and hopefully more than that – perhaps overwhelming in the sense that it makes everything click into place: Snoke’s existence, the reason why the conflict was not “over” with the destruction of the Empire, and so on. I perceive the reappearance of the Sith theme as an opportunity, not as a hindrance.
For now, we are left to our own speculations – which is always fun.