“The key to hunting Jedi is patience.” With that line in the first Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer, the Grand Inquisitor has made his live-action Star Wars debut. But who is the head of Emperor Palpatine’s Jedi-hunting squad of Force-sensitive warriors? The Grand Inquisitor’s story goes far beyond what fans saw on the animated series Rebels. The former Jedi Temple Guard who embraced the Dark Side is destined to suffer one of the galaxy far, far away’s grimmest fates. And Obi-Wan Kenobi could give us a greater understanding of how the Grand Inquisitor ended up on an eternal path to ruin.
Who Are Star Wars‘ Inquisitors?
While Chancellor of the Republic, Palpatine had a vision that he’d control a group of Force-sensitive soldiers one day. This unit would help him maintain power throughout the galaxy by serving as spies and assassins. He’d use them to eliminate any potential threats, especially the few Jedi who would inevitably survive Order 66 and any potential future Jedi. During the Clone Wars, Palpatine hired Cad Bane to kidnap Force-sensitive children, but Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano thwarted that plan. Palpatine continued on his mission, though. He sent nanny droids around the galaxy to locate potential Jedi padawans he could enslave and train. He also paid close attention to which members of the Order had issues with the Jedi.
Once he had complete control of the galaxy, Palpatine enacted his plan and began the Inquisitorius. The Inquisitorius is a collection of Force-users who were not Sith Lords. (There can be only two Sith Lords in existence at any given time, according to the Sith Rule of Two). But, like Sith Lords, the Inquisitors did learn and use the ways of the Dark Side. While ultimately serving Palpatine, Darth Vader oversaw the work of the Inquisitors, also known as the Red Blades, for the color of their lightsabers. Members of the Inquisitorius were known as Brothers and Sisters and named by number (i.e., Eight Brother, Seventh Sister, etc.). They served the Emperor and served him well, right up until the beginning of the Galactic Civil War.
That’s when Palpatine became sure the Jedi Order had been eliminated for good. The remaining Inquisitors (some had died in service, as seen on Star Wars Rebels) then vanished without explanation. What exactly happened to them is unknown. However, it’s not hard to imagine who made them disappear. Neither Palpatine nor Vader ever wanted any potential challengers to their own positions. And with the Jedi “gone,” Inquisitors might eventually pose such a threat.
We do know the fate of the most infamous member of the group, though. The Grand Inquisitor, the most powerful and highest-ranking member of the group, whom Palpatine personally recruited, wasn’t alive by the time civil war broke out. The Grand Inquisitor had already suffered a fate worse than death.
The Jedi Temple Guard Who Betrayed The Order to Become the Grand Inquisitor
As Palpatine expected, Order 66 did not succeed in wiping out all Jedi. Some, like Obi-Wan, Yoda, Ahsoka, Caleb Dume (a.k.a Kanan Jarrus), Cal Kestis, Grogu, and more, survived. Among the Jedi survivors was also a guard of the Jedi Temple, a Pau’an male from the planet from Utapau. Palpatine did not hunt him down, though. Instead, Palpatine recruited the former Jedi Knight to become the highest-ranking member of the Emperor’s new group. A role the now-Grand Inquisitor, who wielded a double-bladed spinning lightsaber, relished. It’s worth noting we don’t yet know the Grand Inquisitor’s real name beyond his title and planetary origins.
But the Grand Inquisitor’s surprising history as a Jedi Knight was not unveiled on Star Wars Rebels until after his death when Yoda summoned a vision of him to the Jedi Temple on Lothal. In Yoda’s vision, Kanan Jarrus encountered a masked figure known as The Sentinel, the leader of a trio of Jedi Temple Guards. During their fight, The Sentinel removed his mask to reveal himself as the Grand Inquisitor. He warned Kanan about the danger of Ezra Bridger turning to the Dark Side before ultimately knighting the former Caleb Dume as a Jedi Knight himself.
How did Palpatine know a Jedi sworn to protect the Order’s Temple would turn his back on the Light Side? How did the Emperor know the Sentinel would kill his former brethren? The answer is not exactly an open book.
The Forgotten Jedi Warriors: The Jedi Temple Guards
The role of a Jedi Temple Guard might have been the least appreciated of any position in the Order. Like all Jedi, they made the same sacrifices. They gave up all family and a personal life. But unlike well-respected masters such as Mace Windu—philosopher warriors tasked with everything from being famous generals to well-known peacekeepers—Guards served in anonymity. They wore masks and only had one job, to serve as protectors of Jedi temples, including the main Jedi Temple on Coruscant.
Part of that thankless job also included serving as prison guards within the temples. The Grand Inquisitor helped usher both Ahsoka Tano and Barriss Offee into their respective trials before the Jedi. An experience that certainly contributed to the Grand Inquisitor’s disillusionment with the Order. He saw firsthand how the Jedi treated the innocent Tano during an age where the Jedi’s arrogance and shortsightedness nearly cost them everything.
But the Grand Inquisitor’s issues with the Jedi went far beyond that one experience. Instead, it went deep into the Order’s past, to the least likely of places—the library.
Jocasta Nu and the Grand Inquisitor Fight in The Jedi Archives
The 2017 Vader comic series revealed why Palpatine likely knew why he’d be able to turn a Jedi Temple Guard into a Jedi killer. And it all had to do with the Jedi librarian Jocasta Nu. She survived Order 66 and fled Coruscant. She saved as many valuable Jedi Archives as she could. (Which Luke Skywalker eventually discovered many years later.) But once she had completed her work, she returned to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. She wanted to recover the hidden holocron that contained a list of every Force-sensitive child the Jedi knew of. The very same list Palpatine had once tried to steal.
Nu completed her work and was about to leave the Archives. But she couldn’t help but draw her lightsaber on the intruder she saw reading the most sacred Jedi texts in the library. That person was the Grand Inquisitor. He then revealed himself to be a former Jedi, a Knight who Nu had refused to let him read those same books. That was why he had always hated her and the Jedi Order. She made him feel like less of a Jedi, a simple guard unworthy of the most powerful Force knowledge. Knowledge he always knew the Jedi, the same people who had stolen him from his family, had hidden from him. The Pau’an Temple Guard, now Grand Inquisitor, held this resentment and was now taking his revenge.
He wanted to kill the librarian, but Palpatine wanted her alive for the valuable knowledge she had. Vader stepped in to capture her and take her to the Emperor. But Jocasta Nu eventually sacrificed herself to keep the Jedi’s secrets safe. (But not before she managed to make Vader fearful of a future Sith padawan replacing him the way he had replaced Darth Tyranus. Vader destroyed the Jedi holocron himself.)
The Grand Inquisitor’s Work for Darth Vader and Palpatine
It was more than just unfulfilled dreams and a desire for knowledge that led the Grand Inquisitor to those Jedi books. He also wanted to learn everything he could about the Jedi. Both the specific survivors and the Jedi Order in general. The Archives likely contained information about the lives of the known escaped Jedi. And it would help him understand the keys to locating any Jedi anywhere. (A fact fully on display in the Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer, where he discusses using a Jedi’s inherent goodness to lure him out.)
The Grand Inquisitor served Palpatine and Vader for many years, hunting and killing Jedi. He even recruited Force-sensitive youngsters to the cause. And though he was not always successful, he never lost his position as the head of the Inquisitorius. Star Wars Rebels showed why.
The Grand Inquisitor was as ruthless and powerful as the men he served. He was an imposing warrior who executed his tasks with glee. The strength of the Grand Inquisitor’s depravity was on full display during his first encounter with Kanan Jarrus. The Grand Inquisitor had set a sinister trap for his former brethren. He kept the remains of a Master Jedi he had killed years earlier, Luminara Unduli, and used her body and connections to the Force to trick Jedi into rescue attempts. Kanan and his fellow Spectre rebels escaped the Grand Inquisitor’s clutches that day. But they did not escape his focus.
The Grand Inquisitor Hunts Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger
Once Kanan Jarrus revealed himself to be a Jedi, one with his own padawan and also the leader of a rebel cell, he and Ezra Bridger became of the utmost importance to the Grand Inquisitor. Throughout season one of Rebels, the Jedi did their best to avoid capture.
Eventually, the Grand Inquisitor caught and tortured Kanan. But after Ezra freed his master, the Grand Inquisitor met his end. While Kanan and the Inquisitor fought, Kanan thought Ezra had died. With nothing left to lose, Kanan finally mustered the strength and will he needed to defeat the Grand Inquisitor. For the first time since Order 66, Kanan finally embraced the power of the Force.
However, Kanan did not kill his enemy. The Grand Inquisitor found himself barely hanging on to a platform above a blazing generator. But having failed his Sith Lords, he elected to fall into the fire and meet his death rather than face any punishment Darth Vader would exact on him. Before letting go, he warned the Jedi Knight that something much worse would come for Kanan. And it did, as Darth Vader himself took up the search for the crew of the Spectre. But it was the Grand Inquisitor’s reason for embracing death that proved even more prescient, in a way he could never have imagined. He chose to die because “There are some things far more frightening than death.” And a fate more frightening indeed awaited the Grand Inquisitor in death.
The Guard’s Eternal Punishment: A Force Ghost at a Jedi Temple
Force Ghosts have been a part of Star Wars since the beginning. But they choose their fate, to live eternal as part of the Force itself. Darth Vader made that choice for the Grand Inquisitor, turning him into a different kind of Force Ghost. The Sith Lord enslaved the spirit of the former Jedi-hunter and trapped him in a most ironic local. The powerful Vader kept the Inquisitor from passing into death by locking his essence at an old Jedi Temple. And there, the Grand Inquisitor continued serving the Sith, fighting anyone who came there looking for information about the Jedi.
The fiery ghost of the Grand Inquisitor, forever burning in the flames he had sought refuge in, killed all who arrived in search of Jedi knowledge. That was until Luke Skywalker came looking for a new lightsaber. Inspired by his surroundings, Luke bested the Grand Inquisitor and fled before Darth Vader (having sensed the battle) arrived. The Grand Inquisitor then begged Vader to free him from his prison. The disappointed Sith refused. And as far as anyone knows, the former Jedi Temple Guard will forever remain imprisoned as a Force Ghost in a place he once swore to protect.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: A New Chapter in the Grand Inquisitor’s Tragic Tale
Did the Grand Inquisitor betray the Jedi Order merely because he felt under-appreciated? Did an overprotective librarian cause him to embrace the Dark Side because she denied him access to some books? Or is there more to the story of why a former Jedi became Emperor Palpatine’s most trusted and powerful Jedi hunter? If so, the Obi-Wan Kenobi series might very well give us this information. In addition, the series could fill in some of those missing details about the Grand Inquisitor’s life as a Jedi and what led him down his fateful path toward the Sith. In Obi-Wan Kenobi, which releases on May 25, the Grand Inquisitor will be played by Rupert Friend.
But the show might also reveal we already know everything we need to know about the Grand Inquisitor. That won’t mean his place on the show is any less important, though. The series will also introduce a new Inquisitor to the franchise, Moses Ingram’s Reva. How did she also earn a place in the Palpatine’s Order of Inquisitors? What made her a loyal Jedi killer? More importantly, will she break free of the Dark Side’s clutches and escape a fate like that of the Grand Inquisitor?
In doing so, the two might once again show that in the galaxy far, far away, everyone chooses a path to follow. And no matter how far down one dark road we might go, we can always find the light with the Force. Because if we don’t, we might find something far more terrifying than even death.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.