WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for director Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi, in theaters now.
When explaining the antagonists of the new Star Wars trilogy, J.J. Abrams told audiences not to think of them as Sith, because they aren't. He explained that Kylo Ren served under Supreme Leader Snoke, the mysterious and powerful figure leading the First Order and pulling Ren ever deeper into the dark side.
However, after The Force Awakens and more recently, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the similarities between Snoke, Kylo Ren and the Sith are too abundant to ignore, and not just because they both wield red lightsabers and constantly attempt to oppress the galaxy. It forces us to take a good look at the Sith as well as Snoke and Kylo Ren so we can figure out what their differences are.
What Are The Sith?
Let's start with the Sith. What are they exactly? Film fans are familiar with the name as the one given to the Jedi Order's polar opposite. Where the Jedi draw their power from patience, compassion and discipline, the Sith draw theirs from passion, strength and power itself. While the films don't explore the Sith as a whole as much as we'd like, the origins and history of the Sith are detailed elsewhere in Star Wars comic books and novels.
In the new canon, the order of the Sith was established when several Jedi failed to resist the Dark Side and the lure of its power. They created a new ideology and went on to fight the Jedi Order in a multitude of brutal wars over the course of thousands of years. They were weakening more and more until eventually, on the verge of complete annihilation, they strengthened themselves through the Rule of Two, which dictated that at any given time, there can only be two Sith lords: a master and an apprentice. This allowed them to exist in secret, beneath the notice of the expanding Jedi Order, which is how Darth Sidious was able to gain power without resistance. However, it's also the reason why the Sith order effectively ended when Darth Sidious and Darth Vader met their respective ends.