The Emperor and Vader try to convert Luke to the dark side. The Emperor keeps taunting Luke and it seems like he wants Luke to kill him. How is that a good thing for the Emperor?

I know of the Rule of Two, but in Sith history, I believe it was always the apprentice taking his master by surprise and taking on an apprentice for himself. Why would the Emperor go as far as to give his own life, just to convert Luke? Wouldn't the more traditional way be that Vader kills the Emperor (against his will) and takes on Luke as his apprentice?

  • Short answer, Vader is damaged goods. Luke = young and powerful. Why wouldn't he want two powerful dark Jedi instead of one?
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 19:15
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    "always apprentice taking his master by surprise" is according to the six movies far from the truth. After all Darth Sidious wore down quiete a bunch of apprentices.
    – Ghanima
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 19:18
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    What's with the edit? Most of those words you capitalized don't actually start with a capital.....
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 7:28
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    @Kevin Sith is a proper noun, as is Rule of Two. And "the Emperor" is capitalized in Star Wars (see, e.g., the Episode VI script).
    – Null
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 13:36
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    @Richard, Vadar may be damaged goods, but it's clear the Emperor was only looking for one powerful apprentice (with his money on Luke). Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 17:10

4 Answers 4


The Emperor never intended to die:

I'm looking forward to completing your training. In time you will call me Master.

He taunts Luke in order to get Luke to give in to his anger and turn to the dark side:

Good. I can feel your anger. I am defenseless. Take your weapon! Strike me down with all your hatred, and your journey towards the dark side will be complete.

It's at that point that Luke attempts to strike the Emperor but Vader blocks him.

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From the Emperor's perspective, the outcome of the resulting duel will either be

  1. Luke turns to the dark side, and the winner becomes (or continues to be) the apprentice (Luke or Vader).
  2. Luke remains with the light side, and either Vader or the Emperor himself kills him. Vader remains the apprentice.

The optimal result for the Emperor is that Luke replaces Vader as the apprentice:

Good! Your hate has made you powerful. Now, fulfill your destiny and take your father's place at my side!

Hence the Emperor's taunting Luke, again to induce Luke to give into his anger and turn to the dark side. The Rule of Two would still be followed, but the Emperor would gain a younger, healthier apprentice (much like he had replaced the aging Dooku with a younger Anakin).

Unfortunately for the Emperor, Luke did not turn to the dark side and defeated Vader. This by itself was not a problem for the Emperor, who was able to unleash Force Lightning against Luke and (nearly) kill him without drawing his lightsaber. Had Vader not intervened, Luke would have died and Vader would have still been the apprentice.

From Vader's perspective, this was his chance to kill his master and become the new Sith Master, with Luke as his apprentice. Vader also needs Luke to turn to the dark side (and help him kill the Emperor), so Vader goes along with the Emperor's attempts to induce anger in Luke.

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    Agreed except for one small point: "Vader also needs Luke to turn to the dark side"... if he had been just a split second slower in defending the Emperor against Luke's initial death blow... (I feel like this should have fit into this video: youtube.com/watch?v=zdukWtJwlPU)
    – user11521
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 21:39
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    This is what I have always admired about Palpatine. He strategically arranges confrontations that are win-win for him. After the Battle of Naboo, the outcome was irrelevant. Either the planet falls, creating more demand for Republic military, or the Jedi triumph and Palpatine is seen as the great savior. In the Clone Wars, he finds systems that are disloyal or unhappy with the Republic, organizes them into a confederacy, and pits them against the Jedi. That way, separatists die and Jedi die. In RoTS, he pits Anikan against Dooku. Both outcomes are favorable.
    – Brandon
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 21:29
  • The key is that he pits his enemies against each other. He stays neutral in confrontations and just lets his enemies kill each other.
    – Brandon
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 21:30
  • @Brandon Precisely -- I have also noticed that Palpatine arranges win-win situations for himself. His cleverness is admirable despite how evil he is.
    – Null
    Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 3:38
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    Worth remembering: this is the same Sidious that single-handedly instantly dispatched 3 best swordsmen of Jedi Council, and fought the best best best one to practiclly a standstill (the only reason he was close to losing to Windu was Vaapad's unique suitability to countering Dark Side). Luke had no Vaapad, and he wasn't nearly as well trained as either of those 4. Assuming that Sidious was in any danger at all from Luke is... a tad optimistic. Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 18:14

I was always fond of Lore Sjöberg's interpretation: dying in front of Luke lets you become an awesome Force ghost. The entire original trilogy is the story of Kenobi, Yoda, Vader, and Palpatine each figuring this out and then trying to die in front of Luke. :)

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    Wow, that's so bad but hilarious :') Worst of all it actually makes sense.
    – Izzo
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 11:58
  • But chronologically, the first person who died and was able to become a force-ghost was Qui-Gon Jinn. He 'found the secret to immortality and returned from the nether-world of the Force'. It was he who contacted Yoda, who passed the information on to Obi-Wan. And Qui-Gon never came into contact with Luke. Plus, as Obi-Wan says before Luke confronts Vader for the first time, he cannot interfere in worldly doings.
    – ASH-Aisyah
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 15:14
  • Another thing, technically, Palpatine did die in front of Luke. Luke was right there when Vader threw him off the bridge... And it doesn't seem like Palpatine ever comes back as a force-ghost.
    – ASH-Aisyah
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 15:17
  • Palpatine was alive until he hit bottom, far below Luke and out of his line of sight. No force ghost for Palpy! Kwi-Gun Gin? Who's that? Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 23:43

Why was the Emperor goading Luke?

This just seems to be how Sith Lords do.

Consider Count Dooku's training of Savage Opress in The Clone Wars:

Dooku's strategy for training Opress is to make him really, really angry. This works for Dooku because he knows (and demonstrates) that he is superior; for all Opress' strength and fury, Dooku can defeat Opress effortlessly.

This is likely what Palpatine is thinking with Luke: he's trying to make Luke abandon his Jedi principles by feeding Luke's hatred for him. Of course, if Luke actually tried, Palpatine would easily be able to defend himself.1

Wouldn't it make more sense for Vader to kill Palpatine and take Luke as an apprentice?

It would be more traditional, but it has the downside of Palpatine dying. Palpatine considers this a "non-optimal outcome".

It's perfectly within Palpatine's character to test out a new apprentice when he currently has one. This is what he does to get rid of Dooku, after all:

Look at Dooku's face when Palpatine orders Anakin to kill him; he was not expecting that. Obviously the entire scenario was engineered by Palpatine, which means Dooku was presumably promised the opportunity to finally kill Anakin and Obi-Wan. Considering how closely Palpatine has been guiding Anakin's development over the years, it seems most reasonable to believe that this was meant to be a final test of Anakin's strength. Obviously Palpatine would prefer to have Anakin, but he gets the superior apprentice in either case.

The situation between Luke and Vader is essentially the same game, played out twenty years later.

1 The fact that Luke telegraphs his attacks like woah certainly helps even the odds.


Although Emperor Palpatine kept taunting Luke to "strike him down", there was little chance of Luke actually harming the Emperor. In addition to Palpatine's own formidable abilities with The Force, Vader was standing nearby ready to deflect Luke's blow in a moment's notice. And indeed, that's exactly what happened when Luke finally gave in and attempted to strike at Emperor Palpatine with his lightsaber.

Rather, the taunting was intended to make Luke react a certain way - to give in to his emotions and begin his slide towards the Dark Side. And, it almost worked. Until he saw Vader's own mechanical hand (which reflected his own), Luke was falling entirely into Palpatine's trap and would have soon become his apprentice instead of the aging Vader.

The following YouTube video contains excerpts of Palpatine's conversation with Luke. The recurring pattern here is "Give in to your anger.", and that was indeed what Palpatine wanted throughout the scenes - for Luke to get angry and act upon that emotion.

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    His face has rainbows!
    – Mary ML
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 6:26

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