Please note: the following post discusses many aspects of life and death in the Star Wars cinematic universe. It should be considered a spoiler if you have not yet seen Revenge of the Sith, Return of the Jedi or The Rise of Skywalker.
I got the idea for this post from a tweet I saw randomly on Twitter about the Jedi and the Sith and how differently they view death. It’s a fascinating topic. It’s something I’ve never really thought about until now. But it’s everywhere in the Star Wars universe and definitely worth discussing.
So I will break this post up into two parts; the first about the Sith and their views on death and then the second on the Jedi, how they look at death and how different they are and why.
When researching this topic, there was very little to go on. Wookiepedia has a general page on death in the Star Wars universe, but it’s basically what most fans already know. As a Jedi, you can learn how to avoid death by studying the living force. Through these teachings, a Jedi can learn how to become one with the force after the physical body passes on to the “other side”. We have seen many instances of this in the Star Wars universe and in particular, in the cinematic universe.
But you’ll notice this is only about the Jedi. Up until very recently, there was nothing concrete to suggest that the Sith could live beyond their mortal “lives”. The only original mention of Sith being able to “cheat” death is during Revenge of the Sith when Emperor Palpatine is grooming Anakin to slowly turn him to the dark side. A major part of this ploy is explaining to Anakin exactly how the Sith were able to “cheat death” and live extra long lives. The Darth Plagueis the Wise speech is, of course, Palpatine talking about himself as he was Darth Plagueis’ Sith apprentice.
So it’s safe to say that he Sith definitely do not view death as the Jedi do. Palpatine’s discussion with Anakin is actually very informative, even if you know very little about Darth Plagueis the Wise. The most important difference between the Sith and the Jedi is how the Jedi are accepting of death as a natural part of the life cycle. Whereas the Sith look upon death as a finality to all things and therefore it must be avoided at all costs.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Sith had found a way to cheat death by using a combination of the force and dark Sith magic. When Palpatine advises Anakin that “the dark side of the force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural”, he is coaxing Anakin into believing that there was a way to stop death in its tracks.
Darth Plagueis therefore became a key catalyst in the turning of Anakin to the dark side. And without Darth Plagueis’ teachings, Darth Sidious would never have been able to survive the horrific fall down the reactor shaft in Return of the Jedi. Darth Sidious was able to survive or “cheat” death by mastering the technique that Darth Plagueis had discovered before his untimely death at the hands of his apprentice.
Darth Plagueis had discovered a way to transfer a being’s consciousness to another “vessel” therefore preserving that conciousness and effectively, living again once that conciousness had “died” in its host body. This is how Darth Sidious was able to “cheat” death after dying in Return of the Jedi. So cloning was also an integral part of Darth Sidious’ plan to overcome death and rule the galaxy again in The Rise of Skywalker.
Anakin’s journey towards the dark side of the force, as we know, did not involve resurrecting the dead, at least not in the cinematic universe. In a roundabout way, Anakin does “die” on Mustafar at the hands of his master and best friend, Obi-Wan Kenobi and was “reborn” as Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader. But in the comics, Darth Vader’s obsession with life after death is explored and expanded to include an encounter with Padme that is both shocking and interesting. If you haven’t read the Darth Vader comics, I highly recommend you do. They are beautifully written and the art work is fantastic. And the way that they tie into the cinematic universe is done surprisingly well.
The reason I mention these comics is because a) they are now considered canon and b) they discuss Darth Vader and how he manages to do what Darth Sidious could only imagine. And that is, well, you’ll have to read the comics to find out. But it is a nice way to follow up after this blog post and look further into the Sith and their obsession with death. You can check out the comic details on Wookiepedia and the comics themselves are available online from multiple sources.
If you’re at all interested in looking at a list of all the characters that died in the Star Wars cinematic universe, Time Magazine wrote an article listing all 111 deaths. Of those 111 deaths, 32 were Sith or affiliated to the Dark Side of the Force.
If you like my Star Wars posts, you can check out more of them right here.
And while you’re there, why not consider following me which you can do here.