Emperor Palpatine and his Sith apprentices have routinely been held up as the cornerstone of villainy in the Star Wars universe. And with the rule of two applying to the Sith hierarchy, he didn’t do it alone. But in typical Sith fashion, Palpatine had a rotating cast of apprentices by his side.
What fans might not realize, however, is that during every stage of the Emperor’s plans, he established the perfect apprentice to have during each period, which might also reveal how he failed in the end.
When the Star Wars series begins chronologically, Emperor Palpatine, AKA Darth Sidious, has taken on Darth Maul as his apprentice. This is a time during Palpatine’s plans when secrecy and stealth is of the utmost importance.
As an agent of the Sith, Maul applies agility not just in his fighting style but in his overall actions as well. While Palpatine deals with the politics of the Republic, Maul is in the field, being a silent assassin and operative that can put all of the proper pieces in place before Palpatine’s chess match truly begins.
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After Maul’s defeat at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Palpatine needs a new apprentice. And it just so happens that this time coincides with the next phase of his plan.
As the conflict between the Republic and the Separatists reach a boiling point, the Clone Wars are about to begin. With them, Palpatine will no longer require an apprentice who is skilled in working behind the scenes.
Instead, he will need much more of a figurehead, someone to lead a war and be a target for the Jedi. This is where Count Dooku AKA Darth Tyrannus, comes in. As a fallen Jedi himself, Count Dooku will be perceived as especially dangerous by the Jedi council. He will absorb the brunt of their focus, leaving Palpatine a chance to work his manipulations and schemes behind their backs.
It also allows him to control both sides of the conflict with Tyranus leading the Separatists and Palpatine in control of the Republic.
Of course, Palpatine is a Sith and is always thinking ahead. He knew that while Dooku was a worthy apprentice during wartime, he was not the strong fist he required to rule at his side.
For that, Palpatine needed somebody even stronger, someone of such stature and force that his very presence instills fear in those around him. And there is no one in the Star Wars universe that does that better than Darth Vader.
For nearly two decades, Vader traveled across the galaxy, enforcing the Emperor’s will wherever it was deemed necessary. Even loyal Imperials cowered in his presence, making him the perfect apprentice for Palpatine to keep an iron grip on his empire.
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After he was defeated, Palpatine entered a completely different phase. He wouldn’t return to the Star Wars universe until Episode IX, quietly biding his time until he could return. The problem was that it wasn’t planned for him to come back until the last minute.
During this time, the closest thing he had to an apprentice was Kylo Ren. But Kylo had no knowledge that the Emperor was even around. This is one of the many reasons why many criticized the sequel trilogy for having a disjointed plot.
If Emperor Palpatine was able to utilize the perfect apprentice for each stage of his plan, then his failure to properly mentor Kylo Ren had an impact on how the story unfolded.
In the end, Kylo Ren eventually rejected the Emperor’s resurrection, and there’s a chance this happened due to the fact that the Emperor was working through an intermediary with Snoke.
Whatever the case may be, no one could deny that Palpatine’s successes (and failures) were due to the selection of his apprentices.
What do you make of Palpatine’s choices for apprentices and how they aligned with the different parts of his strategy to conquer and rule the galaxy?
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