In the little more than a month since their official reveal, the red-armored Sith Troopers from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker have fueled no end of fan theories, many of them tied to the promised return of Palpatine. However, many of them appear to have been crushed with the debut of one piece of official merchandise.
A rundown on StarWars.com of Sith Trooper merchandise available as part of Triple Force Friday included, at least at one point, a T-shirt from Zazzle that reads, in small print, “Under the Strict Command of Kylo & the Knights of Ren.” That would seem to knock in the head the myriad theories whose components include the Sith Troopers being the super-secret forces of Palpatine that have spent decades in the Unknown Regions. Or does it?
To recap, the Red Sith Troopers were unveiled in July at Comic-Con International, and described as elite troops that are brave and loyal. They're also able to eject from their ships (we're guessing red TIE fighters) and maneuver in space with jetpacks to keep fighting.
That prompted an immediate flurry of speculation about their origin. Were the Sith Troopers Kylo Ren’s personal guard, like Snoke's Praetorian Guard, cut down by Kylo Ren and Rey in The Last Jedi, and Palpatine's Royal Guard before them? Are they clones -- and if so, of whom? Given their names, are they connected to the extinct Sith, and to Darth Vader or Palpatine, specifically?
Until the debut of this T-shirt, the theory gaining the most steam involved Kylo and the Knights of Ren finding the Sith Troopers in the Unknown Regions.
However, this tee suggests the Sith Troopers owe allegiance to Kylo Ren and his Knights from the get-go, and that their loyalty will be as clear as the Clone Troopers’ obedience was to the Republic and the Jedi. Until Order 66, that is.
There’s also the matter of Kylo Ren not faring so well with the color red -- unstable lightsaber notwithstanding. In The Force Awakens, his belief shakes when he sees the red beams of Starkiller destroy the Hosnian system. He decides to kill his father while red light bathes his face (representing the Dark Side of the Force), and he nearly dies in Starkiller Base when the ground cracks open, brimming with lava. He's attacked twice in Snoke's red throne room in The Last Jedi, first by Snoke himself, and then by the red-armored Praetorian Guard. General Hux, who should technically be on Kylo's side, tries to kill him while he’s unconscious, and then Luke tricks him into a face-losing defeat on the white-and-red planet of Crait. The idea that red Sith Troopers would be seamlessly obedient to Kylo seems a bit ludicrous at this point.
Let’s imagine he released T-shirt contains a smidge of irony that “rhymes” with past films of the Skywalker Saga. "Under the Strict Command of Kylo & the Knights of Ren" might very well allude to what Kylo and his Knights believe, but the Sith Troopers may actually owe allegiance to Palpatine.
The second twist, firmly in the realm of wishful thinking, is that they turn against the First Order, the Knights of Ren and Kylo Ren through Finn’s influence (the first Stormtrooper to be marked with red, in the first scene of The Force Awakens), which would represent an inversion of the events of Revenge of the Sith.
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 Dec. 20.