In both Return of the Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, the Emperor uses the logic of, "kill me and you'll be turned to the Dark Side."

Well, how does that work exactly? Just because you kill a Sith, that doesn't mean that you'd turn dark, does it? That, if a Jedi, someone who's main role is to 'protect' peace from the Sith who feed off hate and domination, strikes down the de facto leader of all the Sith, even if it's out of a precautionary kind of act (i.e., in "cold blood"), then that would automatically make them Sith as well...?

Just to give some conflicting examples of similar situations — Obi-Wan kills Darth Maul just after Qui-Gon was murdered (albeit in combat), and I'm pretty sure there was emotion in that; and then, Mace Windu would have killed the Emperor "in cold blood" if Anakin hadn't intervened, but probably wouldn't have turned dark like the Emperor proposes Luke/Rey would have.

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    I don't think we've properly considered the deep-seated self-esteem problems that have probably plagued poor Palpy since his youngest days. Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 11:30
  • Related question for Episode VI only: Why was converting Luke to the dark side worth the Emperor's life?. Episode IX has a pretty similar explanation.
    – Null
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 13:11
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    Because the writers ran out of creative ideas for the new trilogy
    – Abless
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 16:42
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    I mean, you'd prefer not to have to kill yourself, right? Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 18:39
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    Maul didn't actually die in that fight, and Mace never got a chance to deliver the final blow. If killing a Sith definitely makes you a Sith, then Obi-Wan and Mace are safe. Follow-up question: does really wanting to kill a Sith make you a Sith?
    – user170231
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 21:03

4 Answers 4


This is the way I've always understood Return of the Jedi. I haven't seen The Rise of Skywalker.

The Emperor is goading Luke into an angry outburst. Giving in to his anger will bring him closer to the Dark Side.

He doesn't want or expect to die. He thinks that Vader is more skilled than Luke and will prevent the killing. He feels perfectly safe from the attack. The important thing is that Luke makes the attempt.

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    This is it, exactly.
    – Buzz
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 2:45
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    @buzz that's also arrogance and the belief in the rule of two (i.e. if killed, his apprentice can take over). Also clones as a back up.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 3:07
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    @AncientSwordRage Indeed. Both Vader and Sidious planned to make Luke their apprentice, if possible. Vader so that he could destroy his master and Sidious to replace Vader with his son. See: starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Rule_of_Two#Vader.27s_conspiracy Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 13:51
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    Sidious did the same thing before by getting Anakin to kill Dooku - furthering Anakin's path to the Dark Side so Sidious could replace his old apprentice with a stronger one.
    – MJD
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 13:55
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    @Panzercrisis, the Rule of 2 isn't just a replacement mechanism, it ensures the 2 of them are always growing stronger. You have a master to embody power and an apprentice to crave it. The apprentice is enticed to grow their power so that they can someday overpower and kill their master. The master is enticed to grow their power to keep that from happening. Eventually you end up with Sith who, just the 2 of them, are powerful enough to overthrow the Jedi Order and take over the whole galaxy.
    – Seth R
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 15:10

Difference between the Sith and the Dark Side of the Force

First of all, being Sith and being a follower of the Dark Side are two separate things. All Sith are Dark Side force-users, but the inverse is not true. The Witches of Dathomir for example, use the Dark Side of the Force but are explicitly not Sith. And to make it even more confusing, the Inquisitors (fallen Jedi that had survived Order 66) were trained by Vader but only considered "sith adepts" and not true Sith. One might be tempted to say, that they were Sith existing outside the Rule of Two.

It follows that falling to the Dark Side doesn't automatically mean that you turn Sith. Sith have history, goals, methods, and even rules of their own. You have to embrace those - at least to a degree - as well to become Sith. Both the Sith and the Jedi are considered religious orders after all. Becoming one is more than aligning yourself with one side of the Force or the other.

These nuances are sort of left out though, at least in the movies. The general implication is that a fallen Jedi surely would become a Sith because the teachings of the Sith promise a path to even greater power.

Side note: Dooku is actually kind of point/counter point to this argument. He wasn't exactly a "fallen Jedi" but he had left the Order voluntarily before he was approached by Sidious and turned towards the Dark Side. Eventually becoming a Sith.

Why Darth Sidious provokes attacks

As to the whole "Kill me"-deal: That is meant to coax Sidious prospective apprentices and successors into following the path to the Dark Side even further. The Dark Side provides great strength and power. As such it offers great temptations. But trained Jedi especially need to be coaxed into forsaking their training. Into acting against what they have been taught and against their moral compass. They need to be coaxed into letting go of their control and opening themselves up to the Dark Side of the Force.

Emotions play a role but they are only a gateway to make people embrace the Dark Side. Often out of desperation. Sidious used Anakin's fear for Padme's life to lure him towards the Dark Side. And also encouraged him to give in to his rage and thirst for vengeance when he told him to kill Count Dooku.

It's not about actually killing Sidious anyway. Sidious clashed two times with Yoda, the greatest Jedi Master of his age. Once physically when they dueled in the Galactic Senate and once mentally, when Sidious tried to break Yoda while he was searching for immortality in The Clone Wars episode Sacrifice. But Yoda never managed to really best him and in fact, they are considered equally matched.

From that follows that

  1. Sidious can defend himself against pretty much anyone who attacks him openly if he wishes
  2. for anyone to have a real chance at beating Sidious, they would most likely have to embrace the Dark Side.

And that last one is what he's trying to provoke. Or at the very least for them to further give in to their emotions and thus open themselves up to the Dark Side and its possibilities.

He's actually counting on the attempt on his life to fail so that he can offer to teach the way of the Sith and finally corrupt his would-be apprentice.

So you're right in your point that Mace Windu would not have become a Sith after killing Sidious. Because he wasn't tempted by the Dark Side in the first place.

But he wouldn't have succeeded anyway. Sidious was just waiting for Anakin to intervene so that he would fall deeper towards the Dark Side. It's the same principle actually, only he didn't try to provoke an angry attack on himself but instead coaxed Anakin into betraying someone to protect his "friend".

Side note: There is actually quite a debate whether Mace Windu defeated Sidious or not. The official answer is apparently yes, he beat Sidious in a light-saber duel. But Sidious was stronger in the Force and it looks like he might have held back in order to coax Anakin into defending him. I'm just gonna let this stand in regards to my above arguments.

At this point, Anakin had taken several steps towards the Dark Side. Specifically slaughtering a whole camp of Tusken raiders that had killed his mother (Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones) and then killing Count Dooku in cold blood (Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith).

But betraying Windu was probably when he essentially became a Sith. It was a point of no return where he finally turned his back against the Jedi Order. And making people cross such lines is exactly what a Sith lord does to make them turn towards the Dark Side.

Sidious's reasons to provoke Luke and Rey

Now, how does this translate to Luke and Rey? In Luke's case, it was quite the same. Sidious coaxed Luke into fighting with Vader, actually hoping that Luke would beat and kill his father - much like Anakin had once killed Dooku - so that Sidious could take him as his new apprentice.

With Rey his goals were a bit different. He never wanted her as an apprentice. Instead, he wanted to take over her body. To do this he tried to coax her into embracing her inner dark side and also to lower her guard. And then he would have used his power to take her body.

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    What are your (canon) sources for that history, please?
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 16:37
  • @CGCampbell I added canon sources and a few more examples to support my arguments. If you think that some points still need a (better) canon source, let me know and I will try to find a better source. Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 22:49
  • Sorry that I was away for a week. Looks good to me, thanks.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 14:16
  • Not to be (too) nitpicky, but by "All Sith are Dark Side force-users, but the inverse is not true" do you mean that the converse is not true?
    – Mr Pie
    Commented Jul 19, 2023 at 8:50

Firstly, let it be said we shouldn't trust what the Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Sidious, a.k.a. Emperor Palpatine, says.

For Return of the Jedi, I'm in agreement with this answer. Palpatine tries to turn Luke. He knows Vader will intervene, and indeed Vader blocks Luke's saber when he does try to strike him down in anger. And for the record, Luke came really close to killing his father in anger.

So why?

He does tell Luke a tale, of one day becoming stronger and taking his place as the new ruler of the Sith. The Sith, or at least the Sith movement that Palpatine subscribes to, is fond of the idea of the strongest Sith rising up to kill the master and take their place.

And certainly, when comes Rey's turn to face him, if she were able to strike him down then she would be the strongest, and naturally take his place.

So that's it then, Palpatine wants the best for the Sith. Case closed.

Or maybe not.

It could make sense in the Star Wars canon of 1983.

But in light of the prequels and sequels, it's not at all clear Palpatine believes that. What's clear is Palpatine can be confidently labelled as a manipulative weasel. And in the wider body of work, his research on cloning, his tale of Darth Plagueis the Wise, there is a recurring theme: to extend life.

There is a distinct possibility that his plan isn't to make the Sith stronger by taking Luke as an apprentice and watch him become stronger. There is a distinct possibility he has figured, or is on the verge of figuring, how to use Luke and abilities some consider to be unnatural to extend his life.

And this is somewhat aluded in The Rise of Skywalker. Palpatine is confronted by Rey, and tells her to strike him, that when she does they'll become one, or something to that effect. Rey will absord his spirit and they'll become the one ultimate Sith. How unnatural!

But why assume he's even truthful about that? If he indeed can transfer his spirit in another body, you know he's not sharing if he can help it. Or maybe none of that will happen and he'll become a Force ghost like Obi-Wan. Either way, it's a path to immortality, and becoming a god.

Because there's another recurring theme with Palpatine: power. Unlimited, preferably.

So I submit Palpatine's ambition isn't to die and let someone continue his legacy. It's not to merge and share his legacy. No, his ambition is more power, for himself, no matter the form, physical or even as a Force ghost, but only himself, as the ruler of the galaxy, and Eternal leader of the Sith.

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    You really can't overstate the "manipulative weasel" aspect enough. He could even just be bluffing to cause doubt and save his skin!
    – Michael W.
    Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 18:24

How would killing the Emperor turn Luke/Rey to the Dark Side?

Because to respond to the Emperor's goading by murdering him would be a disproportionate—even an evil—way to answer his verbal provocations.

A fundamentally "good" person would not kill someone else as a result of having been taunted into doing so.

Is there any act more immoral than to slay another sentient being? The wicked words of the Emperor are intended to lead the Jedi to the Dark Side as quickly as possible.

  • Could you edit this answer to flesh it out a bit? It's very terse, as currently written, and doesn't seem to add much that hasn't already been covered by the previous answers. Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 9:57
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    Yes, no problem. Although I don't find that anyone has made this point yet, and it is the simplest and clearest answer. I am loathe to explicate for the sake of wordiness.
    – J. Berry
    Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 9:59

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