In Revenge of the Sith:

Anakin and Obi-Wan make it to the command deck of Dooku's ship and Palpatine urges Anakin to kill Dooku. Anakin has every chance to see the look of surprise and betrayal on Dooku's face before Anakin kills him.

Along the way, over the next 20 years, if Anakin didn't know it, he'd have more than enough of a chance to learn that Dooku was Sidious' protege and is well aware of the Rule of Two and of how eager and willing Sidious was to dispose of apprentice when needed to create an even stronger apprentice.

And in The Empire Strikes Back:

Vader suggests to Sidious/Emperor Palpatine that "Young Skywalker" would be a powerful ally if he could be turned to the Dark Side.

But this would create problems with the Rule of Two, since that would result in three powerful Sith.

And later, in The Return of the Jedi:

Emperor Palpatine says that Luke will come to Vader and once Luke is on the new Deathstar, the Emperor/Sidious begins to use the same techniques on Luke that he used on Anakin. Even though it's been 20 years, Vader is no dummy, he knows what's going on.

It would seem that Vader's only chance is to influence Luke as soon as he is turned to the dark side and get him to turn against Sidious immediately, but the Emperor's plan is clearly to make Luke so angry he gives into the Dark Side and, in a flurry of passion, attacks Palpatine, then gets into a duel with Vader. (And perhaps if Vader had NOT parried Luke's blow, Luke might have killed Palpatine right then, which would benefit Vader.) This is not a time where Vader could reasonably expect to influence Luke to think enough to redirect his anger toward Palpatine and away from himself (Vader).

I suspect that when Lucas was working on the original trilogy, he hadn't yet come up with the Rule of Two and had not planned for that in his writing, then later, when writing the prequels, had decided it would work for them, but, of course, I don't know this.

Is there any in-universe explanation for why Vader would willingly participate in this plan, knowing that his chance of surviving it is so slim and that he's essentially being used as a tool to create his own replacement?

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    begins attacking Vader Was Luke's intial strike aimed at Vader or the Emperor? I'd always thought Luke attacked the Emperor and Vaber blocked it, thus focusing Luke's agression towards him. Had Vader really been concerned he could have let Luke strike down the Emperor and then subdued Luke and ruled the galaxy with his son.
    – Xantec
    Nov 27, 2011 at 13:53
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    @Xantex: Actually, you're right, which raises even more of a question. I'll edit to include that when I have time this afternoon.
    – Tango
    Nov 27, 2011 at 14:50

4 Answers 4


As a Sith apprentice, Vader would not only know this, but he would expect it. The role of every Sith apprentice is to eventually die in service to his master, or at the hands of his Sith master. The only way to escape this eventuality would be to kill his master, at which point he'd no longer be an apprentice.

So Vader wouldn't have been too bothered with the implications of Luke being courted to potentially become a Sith apprentice. After having been the Emperor's apprentice for so long, he surely would have known the Emperor's cruelty and that it's the way of the Sith to plot and manipulate and use others, including their own apprentice, as pawns.

Most-likely, as Vader was already an old man by then(Edit: as Tango notes below, he's actually only middle aged), and this was his son we're talking about, it wouldn't have bothered him too much. There'd also be no reason for him to feel like Luke was a rival waiting to take his place. It would take a while for Luke to be as powerful as him in using the darkside of the Force, and in his mind, he probably saw himself killing Sidious in the future and taking Luke as his own apprentice.

Besides, the Emperor had taken on more than one pupil in the past. This has usually been argued as the Sith master hedging his bets, keeping a pupil in the wings in case his formal apprentice dies (which probably happens frequently in Sith apprenticeships since they don't coddle their apprentices like the Jedi do).

Also, though the Rule of Two is mainly designed to strengthen the Sith (as wraith808 explains), it also gives some protection to the master, as two weaker apprentices could potentially kill a master stronger than either of them on their own. So letting the Emperor break the rule of two and bring Luke to the darkside would have weakened the Emperor's position as much as it threatened Vader.

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    There is a contradiction in your answer: if Vader was truly Sith, then one of the tenets of the Sith is Peace is a lie, there is only passion. another is Through strength, I gain power. Both of those fly in the face of (1) truly caring about his son in this way, and (2) giving up on himself. The third problem with the answer is that the Rule of Two was not designed to protect the master, but the Sith. Ref: starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Rule_of_Two and starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Code_of_the_Sith
    – Chuck Dee
    Nov 27, 2011 at 15:01
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    @wraith808: Then I guess Vader wasn't a true Sith, as he clearly demonstrated a weakness for his son. Though I disagree with your second assertion, since it would imply that all Sith masters who followed the Rule of Two was violating the Sith code, since the Rule of Two ensured that every master would eventually be slayed by an apprentice. You're right about the rule being designed to protect the Sith though. But it does this by protecting a Sith master from being teamed up against by two weaker apprentices before his time. Nov 27, 2011 at 15:48
  • He demonstrated a weakness for his son, which was a weakness in his adherence to the Sith code, as shown by the fact that he was able to be tempted to the Light Side. The master never gives up on himself, as he never gives the mantle to the apprentice. He is wary, he is unforgiving, and he is strong. If the apprentice is stronger, then the master should lose. If not, then he shouldn't. Very simple Darwinism. And not just from being teamed up on, but it protects against apprentices being played against each other- basically the same struggles that destroyed the Sith Empire.
    – Chuck Dee
    Nov 27, 2011 at 18:02
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    I don't see how Vader could be considered an old man. He was rather young, early 20s or so, when Luke was born, and Luke was in his early 20s, so saying Vader was any older than 50 would be stretching it.
    – Tango
    Nov 30, 2011 at 3:52

It should be pointed out that there's no evidence (until the final confrontation on the Death Star II) that the Emperor wanted Luke to become a Sith. Not all Dark Jedi are Sith - the term "Sith" implies usage of certain potent Dark Side techniques and a certain set of tenets.

There's ample evidence in the EU for Palpatine and Vader training people in the Dark Side without introducing them to the ways of the Sith.

Vader and the Emperor were likely considering Luke (initially) as a potential new Emperor's Hand.

  • Excellent point. The Sith employ many other force users/darksiders besides other Sith lords/apprentices: dark jedi, dark acolytes, dark side adepts, and many retainers and associates. Dec 9, 2011 at 16:19

The Rule of Two was created by Darth Bane, to reinvent the Sith after internecine struggles brought the Sith Empire down.

The Rule of Two is Darwinism at work; it demands that the strong survive and the weak fall. Every Sith knows that they will eventually be killed by their apprentice, or they will have failed as a master.

The reason Sidious would so openly discuss it with Vader is that he wanted to see who was more worthy of succeeding him; Vader, whose body had been broken, or Luke, whose will he had not crushed. Vader had mixed feelings regarding turning his son down his path, yet did not allow himself to show it while speaking with Sidious out of fear.

It's revealed in canon sources that Vader was not the lackey that he appeared, but had plans within plans already in motion, and was always plotting against the Emperor for the eventual day when he would make his move against Sidious.

The Emperor would have expected no less. Of course, had he known, he would have punished Vader. The Sith walk an admittedly thin line; if you do your job well as a master, you are proud when your Apprentice usurps you, because at the point, the Sith have become stronger.

So to answer the question directly - Vader was not becoming redundant. This was a test, and one that he had to see his way through. What the Emperor hadn't foreseen was the strength of Luke in the Light Side, and the ability of Luke to sway Darth Vader so totally.


I remember reading a statement from Palpatine in one of the new canon books that covers the nature of the relationship between Master and Apprentice. He taught Vader that essentially each side could trust the other as long as they were holding up their end of the relationship. Namely as long as the Master represented strength in the relationship and the Apprentice obedience.

The whole relationship seems to be built on them testing each other. The Apprentice must test his Masters strength (if he's weak it's the apprentices duty to destroy him) and the Master must always test his Apprentices obedience (not necessarily loyalty one should expect their Apprentice to be plotting and preparing to one day be able to destroy them after all).

I think both Vader and Palpatine were aware that the other had plans for Luke, he'd become the central pawn in the constant power struggle between Master and Apprentice. I suspect Vader's hand was forced. He wanted to save his son, but he was in a much weaker position than Palpatine.

I've considered that Vader planned to hide away with Luke and complete his training and when Luke was ready confront Palpatine (I suspect if it hadn't been for Luke being his son he would have just killed him since Vader wasn't powerful enough to reliably defeat Palpatine).

By RotJ that plan is up in smoke. Luke has come to the Emperor and Vader. Vader is forbidden from going after him and when Luke comes to them as the Emperor had foreseen Vader is pushed into an unwinnable position. His only choice at that point is if he's willing to turn his son to the Dark Side and die or kill his son. Vader couldn't at that point envision escaping the Dark Side or that he and Luke were ready to take on the Emperor. This explains why Vader goaded Luke, why he didn't push as hard as he could during the early stages of their fight and why Vader intercepted Luke's attack on the Emperor (I very much doubt Luke had any real chance of actually striking the Emperor Vader knew this, he also knew both he and Luke were likely screwed if he didn't play his part.

Ultimately I think it played out like it did because from the moment he knew of him, Vader was trying to protect his son.

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