THIS COLUMN CONTAINS FULL SPOILERS FOR TARKIN
In my review of Tarkin I said that overall, it felt inconsequential to the overall Star Wars saga. The exception to that are the scenes with Palpatine. Almost any time he showed up, I couldn’t help but think the information being given could tie into The Force Awakens, or at least some part of the upcoming sequel trilogy. The two things of importance involve Sith shrines, and Palpatine’s greater goals regarding the Force itself.
Tarkin informs us that the Jedi Temple on Coruscant is built over an ancient Sith shrine, which in the time of the Empire, Palpatine used as a lair. Palpatine meditates at the shrine to “coax from the dark side its final secrets.” The passage quoted below details this further:
Such perilous machinations required two Sith, one to serve as bait for the dark side, the other to be the vessel. Success would grant them the power to harness the full powers of the dark side, and allow them to rule for ten thousand years.
The novel tells us even more about Palpatine’s plans than that, but first let’s focus on the idea of Sith shrines. Paul Hermann wrote a great piece on MakingStarWars.net about various potential dark side shrines that we’ve already seen. When you pair Tarkin‘s shrine with the rumors that the villain in The Force Awakens is a collector of Sith artifacts, it seems likely that even if the Coruscant shrine doesn’t show up in the films, some kind of Sith shrine or dark side nexus will come into play. We could also see areas strong in the light side during this potential search for artifacts. In an upcoming Rebels episode, “Path of the Jedi”, Ezra and Kanan are searching for a temple as part of a trial for Ezra, potentially similar to Luke’s trial in the cave on Dagobah.
Moving back to Sheev’s plots, we all know his goal was to destroy the Jedi to allow the Sith to rule the galaxy via the Empire, right? Turns out there’s more to it than that. The Emperor doesn’t even seem to care that much about the Empire in Tarkin. He regularly avoids government meetings, sending subordinates like Mas Amedda in his place. The following quote is from a conversation between Darths Sidious and Vader:
“Ah, so you’re arguing on Tarkin’s behalf, are you?”
“For the Empire, Master.”
“The Empire?” Sidious repeated, miming surprise. “Since when do you put the needs of the Empire before our needs?”
Vader crossed his gauntleted hands in front of him. “Our needs supersede all, Master”
While the formation of the Empire is a hugely important step for Palpatine, it wasn’t the final step in his plans. Tarkin shows two more of his goals, and to say they are huge would be an understatement.
Darth Plagueis had once remarked that “the Force can strike back.” …Attacks like the one directed against Tarkin’s moon base and discoveries like the one on Murkhana were distractions to his ultimate goal of making certain that the Force could not strike back…”
More than anything else in the novel, this passage feels important to the sequels, especially after learning that Episode VII will be titled The Force Awakens and hearing the voice-over from the teaser about an awakening in the Force. A likely meaning for that awakening could mean Force abilities suddenly manifesting in new people. When you take this information from Tarkin though, it could also mean the Force itself is awakening, becoming more powerful, and taking things into its own ‘hands’, so to speak.
There’s one other major aspect to Palpatine’s plans that we learn in Tarkin. I don’t expect to see much of this in The Force Awakens, but it could end up being very important in Episodes VIII and IX. Palpatine wants to use the Force to literally change reality.
And he would not allow himself to be sidetracked from his goal of unlocking the secrets many of the Sith Masters before him had sought: the means to harness the powers of the dark side to reshape reality itself; in effect, to fashion a universe of his own creation. Not mere immortality of the sort Plagueis had lusted after, but influence of the ultimate sort.
With an awakening in the Force, could the villains of the sequel trilogy be able to unlock these powers, and shape reality itself to better serve their needs?
It’s interesting that now, years after the George Lucas’s movies, is when we discover there’s a Sith shrine under the Jedi Temple and learn all these details about what Palpatine was really up to. With all new Star Wars books, comics, shows, films, etc. now definitively taking place in a single canon, it’s hard not to think that details like this will be important elsewhere. I can’t imagine the Story Group approving things that seem so major unless they are foreshadowing plot points that will be important in the sequels. Hopefully we’ll find out for sure on December 18th, 2015.