How George Lucas Broke His Most Important Star Wars Villain Rule

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

In the Star Wars prequel The Phantom Menace, George Lucas introduced the Sith “rule of two.” As memorably described by Yoda while Quin-Gon Jinn’s body burns, “always two there are…a master and an apprentice.” This is meant to explain the role of the Sith in both the Original Trilogy and the prequels, but both George Lucas and Disney later verified that Emperor Palpatine himself broke this sacred Sith rule.

The Tale Of Darth Plagueis

Before Disney bought Star Wars (back before the dark times, as some critics might say), George Lucas considered the novel Darth Plagueis canon. This novel provided a treasure trove of info about the Sith Lord who trained Palpatine, and it also explained how the future Emperor broke what was supposed to be his most important rule. According to that novel, he was still an apprentice to Plagueis when he decided to train Maul, which is considered a violation of the rule because (among other things) it means there are more than two Sith running around the universe.

More Than Two

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Other books and comics in the now-defunct Star Wars Expanded universe revealed that Palpatine broke the Sith rule of two when he decided to train both Count Dooku and an alien Jedi known as Vergere at the same time. While the EU no longer matters (more on this in a moment), these early books and comics all had the approval of George Lucas. Weirdly enough, the guy who insisted that “always two there are” was a firm Sith rule seemingly had no problem with his most famous Sith violating that rule on multiple occasions.

The Emperor Played By No One’s Rules Except His Own

After Disney bought Star Wars from George Lucas, they destroyed the EU with all the heartless cruelty of Grand Moff Tarkin using the Death Star to blow up Alderaan. For better or for worse (certainly worse in the eyes of this writer), all of those great new stories and characters were forcibly removed from the Star Wars canon. This gave Disney a relatively fresh slate when it came to Palpatine violating the Sith rule of two, and in an interesting twist, the House of Mouse ended up doubling down on the Emperor being a renegade when it comes to the rules.

Maul And Dooku

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The biggest example of this comes from the Tales of the Jedi anthology series on Disney+. That show revealed that it was Count Dooku who removed the existence of Kamino from the Jedi archives in order to keep the growing army Palpatine was cooking up a secret. However, the timeline is clear that Dooku was running around and doing this while his apprentice Darth Maul was still running around the galaxy, meaning that even in the new canon, Palpatine had little use for the Sith rule of two whenever he needed to have multiple evil apprentices wandering the galaxy.

A Multi-Faceted Villain

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While the idea that Emperor Palpatine himself violated the Sith rule of two may ruffle the feathers of some fans, fans like the idea that it adds a certain level of depth and dimensionality to someone who often comes across as a one-dimensional villain. For example, in Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine tells Anakin Skywalker, “if one is to understand the great mystery, one must study all its aspects, not just the dogmatic, narrow view of the Jedi.” 

The Rise Of Skywalker Makes Slightly More Sense

The fact that Palpatine broke the Sith rule means that he has no use for Sith dogma, either, and may have been telling the truth insomuch as he wants to learn more about The Force than the Sith Lords or Jedi Masters who came before him. As bad as The Rise of Skywalker is, this revelation about Palpatine may even explain why he had all those Snoke clones growing in jars. Having seen the value of having multiple Dark Side flunkeys, Palpatine kept in his back pocket the ability to make as many of them as he would ever need.

The Sith Rule Was Always Confusing

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When The Phantom Menace came out, the whole idea of a Sith rule of two was confusing to fans who had enjoyed various novels, comics, and video games featuring one Dark Jedi after another. It seemed overly restrictive that the galaxy far, far away was filled with countless Jedi but only two Sith at a time to fight them. Now we know that Palpatine’s quest for “unlimited power” was so important that he didn’t hesitate to violate that rule, and that makes us love this cackling villain all the more.