From the moment the mysterious red Sith Troopers were revealed in July, fans have feverishly speculated about their role in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, to say nothing of their origin. Are they merely soldiers of the First Order, and are they loyal to the (supposedly) deceased Palpatine or to Kylo Ren? Are they clones, Force-sensitives or abducted child soldiers all grown up? However, the most often repeated question has to do with where they have been hiding, and why they've waited until the saga's finale to appear.
Although we theorized the Sith Troopers could very well be the latest batch of clones mass-produced at Kamino, there is a far simpler explanation, with precedent in canon and in Legends. First suggested on Twitter by Ángel de Jorge, it's possible the Sith Troopers have been stored in carbonite.
It does make some sense. Darth Vader, of course, tested carbon freezing on Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back, and intended to use it to transport Luke Skywalker to the Emperor. More so, fans of The Clone Wars probably remember that Anakin Skywalker first used carbonite to freeze himself, Obi-Wan Kenobi and his 501st Stormtrooper battalion and (unwittingly) Ahsoka to infiltrate a Citadel separatist prison that was holding and torturing Jedi.
Although Obi-Wan was skeptical, and the Stormtroopers were reasonably worried they might end up as “wall decorations,” the plan went off without a hitch. At the Citadel, their pilot droid declared their cargo “supplies and rations,” and the ship bypassed the lifeform scans. And, as the heroes were only frozen in carbonite briefly, the symptoms that Han experienced, like blindness, cold sweats and weak legs, did not affect them; Anakin’s Trojan horse strategy worked perfectly.
There’s an even more striking parallel in Forces of Corruption, the 2006 the expansion to the strategy video game Star Wars: Empire at War, in which Tyber Zann and a Dathomirian Nightsister search for the Emperor’s hidden vaults. When they find them, they discover an entire army of soldiers frozen in carbonite. They are implied to be the genetically modified soldiers from Darth Revan’s Infinite Army from the game Knights of the Old Republic, making them more than 4,000 years old.
An element tying this game to the current canon is that Revan’s Infinite Army was developed in Rakata Prime, a planet that contained the Star Forge, a massive, ancient automated facility designed to create Star Destroyers. Why include Rakata at all (and make it so shiny!) in the new canonical maps of the galaxy if it wasn’t going to be used?
Storywise, there are four excellent reasons for featuring Sith Troopers frozen in carbonite: Firstly, they are virtually a genre trope that J.J. Abrams already used in Star Trek: Into Darkness, in which the superhuman soldiers, companions of Khan, spend most of the movie stored in suspended animation, a nod to The Original Series episode "Space Seed."
Secondly, there’s the narrative resonance within the Skywalker Saga. The use of carbonite would echo Han’s tribulations at the beginning of Return of the Jedi. It would also resonate with The Clone Wars, which did an astonishing work of filling in the gaps between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, and it would be a subtle wink to fans of the animated series.
Thirdly, there’s the thematic element: The idea of the past coming back to life to haunt the present has been pervasive since The Force Awakens introduced Rey as a scavenger, and Kylo Ren tortured by the whispers of his grandfather’s charred helmet. The Emperor was a collector of ancient artifacts and a lover of ancient history, and in the comic book series Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith we even see how Palpatine could use the past to literally come back to life.
Finally, there's the mythical aspect. A Sith army frozen in carbonite would underline how similar the Empire was to the mythical world of the dead. If the one who froze them in carbonite was Darth Vader (and Sith Trooper Legion’s number is 105th, the mirror of Anakin’s 501st, so there’s a good chance this was the case), that would reposition him as the metaphorical lord of the underworld, Hades, who with his wife Persephone, the goddess of spring, formed a natural balance… you know, just like Anakin was “the Chosen One that would bring balance to the Force.”
And just like the 501st followed Anakin when he became Darth Vader, maybe the sinister 105th Sith Troopers will eventually join the weakened Resistance, tipping the military scales in their favor.
Directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker stars Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Billie Lourd, Keri Russell, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, and Carrie Fisher, with Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant. The film arrives on Dec. 20.
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