Force lightning is one of the most infamous dark side abilities in all of Star Wars, and in the sequels, it wasn’t limited to just the Sith.
In the Star Wars sequel trilogy, the Sith Empire is long gone, but dark side abilities like Force lightning linger on in a few different characters. Set decades after the original trilogy, both the Jedi and the Sith have largely faded into the recesses of memory by the time of the sequel trilogy, and the New Republic’s primary conflict is between the fringe political groups of the First Order and the Resistance. Knowledge of the Force is scant, although some areligious remnants persist, such as the casual use of the phrase “May the Force be with you,” which is a carryover from its use by the Rebel Alliance.
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While the Force is believed by its adherents to be all encompassing, there is a relatively clear demarcation between its positive and negative aspects and the applications thereof. Force lightning is one of the most malicious of dark side powers, for which there is no corollary in the less offensively-minded light side.
Throughout the Star Wars saga, this particular dark side power has only been wielded by a select few, most notably Palpatine in both the original and prequel trilogies. While there was only one proper Sith in the sequels (and even he was a clone), Force lightning appeared multiple times.
The first use of Force lightning in the sequels occurred in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, when Supreme Leader Snoke used it briefly used it to reprimand Kylo Ren. Along with a musical reprise in the score when he interrogates Rey, this does a lot to inspire comparisons to Emperor Palpatine’s presence in the original trilogy, making liberal use of preexisting signifiers in order to efficiently portray Snoke as more threatening. That being said, Snoke’s quick zap is much more restrained than Palpatine’s barrages, which perhaps relates to his role as a mere pawn in the Sith Lord’s plan.
After struggling with her natural connection to the Force for the first two films, the character’s inclination toward the dark side first visibly manifests in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, when Rey accidentally uses Force lightning when fighting Kylo Ren in order to keep a First Order transport grounded. This shows the power inherent with being Palpatine’s granddaughter, but also the hereditary darkness that supposedly exists within the bloodline. However, the apparently disastrous consequences of Rey using Force lighting – she believes that Chewbacca has died – play no small part in reaffirming Rey’s commitment to the light.
Palpatine was responsible for the very first appearance of Force lightning in Return of the Jedi, so it was only to be expected that he would use his signature move upon returning from the dead in The Rise of Skywalker. Besieged and ensconced on Exegol, Sidious uses the power drawn from Ben Solo and Rey’s Force dyad in order to push his Force lightning to the greatest extent yet seen, unleashing it upon the entirety of the Resistance fleet. Fortunately, much like in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, during which Mace Windu’s reflection of Palpatine’s Force lightning scarred the latter, the Sith Lord is once again undone by his own evil methods when Rey too turns his assault back against him, assisted in spirit by “all the Jedi” from Star Wars‘ history.
Next: Star Wars: All 33 Light & Dark Side Force Powers In Canon
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