Palpatine’s appearance in Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi implies the legendary Sith Lord broke the Rule of Two. In Star Wars canon, the Sith Rule of Two is used to mitigate the Sith Order’s tendency to betray each other, as well as serving as a substitute for the Doctrine of the Dyad. In the millennium preceding the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Sith Lords adhered to this rule, limiting their numbers to only a master and apprentice, with each constantly trying to betray the other. Either the master would then seek a new apprentice, or the apprentice would usurp their master and train their own pupil. Palpatine, easily the most dangerous and powerful Sith Lord in Star Wars history, may have broken this doctrine.
In Tales of the Jedi episode 4, “The Sith Lord,” Count Dooku is shown doing Palpatine’s bidding, erasing Kamino from the Jedi archives and even murdering Jedi Master Yaddle to prove his loyalty. The episode takes place during Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, meaning Dooku was already a Sith agent before Darth Maul’s apparent death. This would seem to indicate that Palpatine broke the Rule of Two. Since Dooku was only working for the Sith and not a Sith Lord himself, however, the rule remains technically unbroken. Throughout the Sith Order’s history, many, including Dooku himself, have employed Force-sensitive underlings, some of whom are Sith in all but name.
Did Palpatine Make Dooku His Sith Apprentice Before Darth Maul Died?
As revealed in Tales of the Jedi and the Master & Apprentice novel by Claudia Gray, Palpatine led Dooku to the dark side and began training him in the ways of the Sith before Maul’s supposed death on Naboo. While this may seem like a violation of the Rule of Two, Dooku was never a true Sith Lord, having only been prepared for the role. Such behavior is not without precedent. During the reign of the Galactic Empire, Palpatine and Darth Vader both trained a cadre of dark side-using Inquisitors who, in terms of combat and philosophy, share much in common with Sith Lords, effectively making them a branch of the Sith Order without being Sith themselves. Dooku himself trained Asajj Ventress as an unofficial Sith during the Clone Wars.
Palpatine Had Already Broken The Sith Rule Of Two With Maul
In Star Wars Legends continuity, Palpatine was still the apprentice of Darth Plagueis when he abducted and brutally raised an unnamed Zabrak boy to become Darth Maul. This is a blatant violation of the Rule of Two, as Palpatine betrayed and murdered Plagueis during the events of The Phantom Menace, meaning three true Sith Lords were active for much of the film: Darth Plagueis as a master to Darth Sidious, and Darth Sidious as a master to Darth Maul. Exactly when Palpatine usurped his mentor is not exactly clear in Star Wars canon, but it is widely assumed Darth Plagueis died before Maul became an official Sith Lord, meaning Palpatine, once again, likely avoided breaking the Rule of Two in Star Wars canon’s prequel era.
Palpatine Really Didn’t Care That Much About Sith Rules
Sheev Palpatine is perhaps the Sith Order’s greatest offender when it comes to breaking Sith traditions. While the Legends-era Palpatine broke the Rule of Two, he could hardly be considered an outright Sith heretic. Star Wars canon’s Palpatine, on the other hand, frequently broke Sith traditions, and could easily be seen as an illegitimate Sith Lord for doing so. In addition to bending the Rule of Two with the Imperial Inquisitors, Palpatine did not willingly visit the Sith Order’s homeworld of Moraband, choosing instead to study the work of Darth Momin, a historical Sith heretic, in order to perfect the dark side technique of essence transfer.
Moreover, Palpatine outright broke the Sith Rule of Two following his resurrection after Return of the Jedi. Recuperating from Darth Vader’s betrayal and plotting his grand comeback, Palpatine formed a massive Sith cult without ever training another true Sith Lord in the usual tradition. Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren, while both powerful dark side users, are not Sith. Snoke was just a clone puppet through which Palpatine manipulated an ignorant Kylo Ren as part of a larger goal. While Palpatine did not break the Rule of Two in Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi, not taking a Sith apprentice meant he certainly did during the Star Wars sequel trilogy era.