This article contains spoilers for Star Wars #11 by Charles Soule and Jan Bazaldua!
There’s a subtle reason the Emperor wasn’t afraid of the Rebellion in Star Wars – at least until he learned a Jedi had joined their ranks. When Palpatine transformed the Republic into the Empire in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, he swore he was ushering in an age of security, justice, and peace. Instead, the Emperor used this as an excuse to form a fascist state – and yet, within just a few years, Rebel cells were springing up across the galaxy.
Palpatine never seemed particularly worried about the Rebellion. He mostly used them as an excuse to develop superweapons like the Death Star, in accordance with the Tarkin Doctrine of using fear to rule. But, in truth, he allowed disloyal Senators to remain politically active for literally a generation before finally shutting down the Senate, and he ignored Core Worlds like Alderaan for a long time before taking drastic action. He only seems to have become concerned about the Rebellion when he realized a Jedi had joined their number, the son of Anakin Skywalker. Why was the Emperor so unconcerned about the Rebel Alliance?
The likely answer lies in Palpatine’s understanding of the dark side. While most fans associate the light and dark sides of the Force with the Sith and the Jedi, in truth the Force is connected to all living things, and thus every person has an effect on the balance of the Force. As Clone Wars creator Dave Filoni explained, “The Force naturally exists in balance; that balance is thrown out when someone chooses to give in to their fears and then spirals out of control making selfish choice after selfish choice. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering… The choice between dark and light is often subtle and not limited to the Jedi and Sith. Everyone struggles with the balance between light and dark.” Palpatine knew he had created a situation where even those who opposed the Empire would be forced to do so with actions that were of the dark side. Thus, even the Rebel Alliance unwittingly contributed to the dominance of the darkness.
This can be seen in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, where viewers learn some Rebel cells – such as the one led by Saw Gerrera – had crossed the line into becoming actual terrorists. Indeed, tie-in novels have recorded his Rebel group bombing civilians and using child soldiers, reinforcing the point. Even Mon Mothma’s Rebel Alliance included intelligence operatives such as Cassian Andor, who murdered an informant rather than risk his being taken in by the Empire. There is a reason Jyn Erso became a hero of the Rebellion, and it is not only because of all she accomplished; it is because she reminded the Rebels their Rebellion should be built on hope, not fear.
The same point is currently being made – albeit in more subtle form – in Charles Soule and Jan Bazaldua’s Star Wars comic book run. In Star Wars #11, Leia chooses to risk the life of Lando Calrissian’s friend Lobot in order to ensure the Rebel Alliance are able to communicate with one another. Her tactics are sound, and she has a back-up plan in the works, but the fact remains that she risked Lobot’s life without his consent and against the wishes of his friends. Desperation forced even Leia Organa to make calculated decisions that, while tactically correct, are morally repugnant; and with every one of those decisions, the galaxy tilted further towards the dark side.
This, then, is why Palpatine did not fear the Rebel Alliance. He knew he had created a system so powerful that the only way a Rebellion could win was by employing tactics that unwittingly strengthened the dark side’s grip upon the galaxy. What he had not factored in, however, was the sudden appearance of a Tatooine farmboy who embraced the light side of the Force – and whose faith in his father ultimately brought balance at last.