The first crawl for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker explains that the emperor has returned, a fact that the characters in the film accept without missing a beat. There are many ways he could have come back, but J.J. Abram’s sequel only touches on the details of the plot and who helped to put it into action. As it turns out, answers can be found in The Rise of Skywalkers complementary material.
(Ed. Note: This post contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.)
In the film we see that Palpatine has thousands of beings around Exegol, but their identities are completely omitted from the film. The one thing the film lets us know is that it is a group of Sith cultists who want to see the faction that exercises Dark Power regain power in the galaxy.
These cultists are called the Sith Eternals. According to The Rise of Skywalker – The Visual Dictionary, the Sith Eternal is a group of cultists who yearn for Sith rule in the galaxy and worship the legacy of Darth Sidious (also known as Palpatine). It is unclear whether these cultists had already gathered in the Unknown Regions in the days of the Galactic Empire or whether they were only brought together to help the Emperor get up again. The Sith Eternals built shipyards on Exegol where, in the years since the fall of the empire, they used slave labor to build a fleet for the final command of the emperor still alive. The cultists apparently also supported Palpatine in creating snoke and several clones.
According to the Star Wars Aftermath books, Palpatine always had an emergency plan that involved building a secret fleet in the unknown regions. However, it appears that this plan led to the first order and that this new fleet from the last order is quite different.
The mysterious crew of these ships, which can only be seen briefly in The Rise of Skywalker, is described in the Visual Dictionary as “brought up as children of the Sith Eternal Cultists”, although it is not specified whether they are actually the biological children of the cultists , The book lets us know that these officers were brought up in the Dark Side fashion and that although they are not power sensitive themselves, they worship the teachings of power. This makes them far from the imperial officers who ridiculed power as an ancient religion.
There isn’t much more information about the Sith Eternal, but there are a few things we can put together if we look at some of the other information in the Star Wars Aftermath novels. A character in the novels is a Sith cultist named Yupe Tashu. He used to be an imperial adviser and was pretty close to the emperor, or as close as anyone could be. While most in the empire believed the emperor was dead after the Battle of Endor, Tashu thought otherwise.
“Palpatine lives on,” he says in Empire’s End: Aftermath. “We’ll find him out there in the dark. Everything has been arranged as our master predicted. All things are moving towards great design. The victims have all been made. ”
Finn and Poe on Pasaana in the ascent of Skywalker.Image: Lucasfilm / Disney
Tashu may not be mentioned in The Rise of Skywalker, but it is mentioned in the Visual Dictionary. In fact, he’s a well-known collaborator with Ochi, the Sith relic hunter, whose ship Lando Rey, Poe and Finn tells about Pasaana in the film. This is the same relic hunter who was looking for a pathfinder to get to Exegol.
This does not prove anything, but it creates the basis for a convincing theory. Maybe Tashu really found the emperor’s body and used Ochi to find a pathfinder so he could take Palpatine to Exegol. Or maybe Tashu knew that the emperor had found his way to Exegol and needed the pathfinder to reunite with his old master. Either way, it seems likely that Tashu was in some way part of, or at least knew of, the Emperor’s larger plans for “resurrection” and for final order.
Speaking of seekers, the Sith Eternal isn’t the only Sith-oriented cult we see in The Rise of Skywalker. According to the Visual Dictionary, the planet Kylo Ren visits at the beginning of the film is actually Mustafar, Anakin Skywalker’s final resting place, and later Darth Vader’s home base – as we see in Rogue One.
Since Vader’s death, cults have appeared that worship the Sith Lord. A pilgrimage to Mustafar is often an important part of their belief. The creatures that Kylo slaughtered there belong to a cult called Alazmec by Winsit. These cultists block Kylo’s path to Vader’s castle, where Kylo finds the signpost, which is hung in a box with the Sith emblem of the Eternal and ultimately points him to Exegol and Emperor Palpatine himself.
Although the Visual Dictionary contains a lot of information (details that we originally wanted), we still have a lot of questions left. It’s nice to know that the hordes gathered around Darth Sidious were members of the Sith Eternal cult, but we still don’t know exactly where they came from. Hopefully the full depth of these Sith loyalists will be explored in comics, novels, or TV shows as we wait for the next Star Wars films.