Spoilers for Lords of the Sith, Tarkin, Rebels and the Darth Vader Marvel Comics series.
For the longest time it was an open secret that Darth Vader will be appearing in Rogue One. Since the movie takes place only weeks before and leading up to the events of A New Hope. It only makes sense for him having some sort of presence in the film considering he is a major player in the events of the latter. So which Darth Vader will we see? It only makes sense that he would be similar to how he was in Hope. That he is the top enforcer for the Empire but something of an outsider.
As shown in the recently concluded Darth Vader series, he does not officially gain a role in the Empire until the interim time between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. So where does that leave Vader in terms of his role in Rogue One?
Lords of the Sith
Five years after the events of Revenge of the Sith and Emperor Palpatine rules the galaxy with an iron fist. Darth Vader still holds onto his past as Anakin Skywalker somewhat. Seeking a friend in his master but always being kept at arms length, Vader is a man on a mission in this book. He can’t go back to the life he had and the life he currently has is one just full of anger and cynicism. The Emperor does not really hide the fact that he views Vader as a tool but always lacing his words with backhanded compliments. By the end, Vader has to embrace the role thrust upon him as he has no other choice.
Vader is shown in this to be something of an Empire spook. No one really knows what to make of him as some don’t even know if he’s a person in a suit or just a robot. It is also implied that he has a death wish as he is shown to throw himself into dangerous situatoons with caution to the wind.
Shortly after the events of Lords of the Sith, Vader is more of a strong supporting player in this novel. Anakin Skywalker and Tarkin had a relationship that started during The Clone Wars. Skywalker respected Tarkin for his tactical prowess and willingness to get his hands dirty to resolve conflict. Tarkin also respected and liked Skywalker despite generally not liking the Jedi. But that may have been a lifetime ago as Skywalker is now Darth Vader.
Tarkin is one of the few who knows more about the Emperor and Vader than is supposed to be publicly known. Knowing that Palpatine is a Sith Lord and Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader are one in the same but keeps these things to himself even though it is strongly implied to be a case of, “I know that you know”.
Vader and Tarkin are thrust on a very important mission together that forces their strong to become stronger. This cements their roles as Palpatine’s left and right fists in the Empire. It also explains why Vader is at Tarkin’s command in A New Hope.
The events of the second season of Rebels, which is about two years before Rogue One, reunites Darth Vader with Anakin Skywalker’s old apprentice Ahsoka Tano. It is known that any Jedi are to be eliminated immediately. Anyone who knows of Vader’s true identity is pretty much marked for death. There are hints of the good still left in Vader as he does not attempt to kill Ahsoka immediately and actually acknowledges his past. He instead tries to plead with her to join as he could find a place useful within the Empire. This could also be interpreted as him wanting his apprentice back to help take down the Emperor.
Either way it does not budge Ahsoka and the two duel. For the first time in the new canon, we see Vader be injured. His helmet cracked and we can see Anakin underneath but his anger consuming him as his eyes are pure Sith yellow. The two continue dueling as the temple they are in is collapsing around them. Vader is last seen limping away and heavily damaged but alive.
It can be assumed that Darth Vader will not be a major presence in Rogue One. The Death Star is the pet project of his ally Tarkin and the most important weapon for the Empire. So it makes sense that the enforcer would be called in when the project may be jeopardized. We know that Vader and Krennic will be exchanging heated words and Krennic is no friend of Tarkin’s, so that cannot be a good sign. Saw Gerrera is also in the movie and he was trained by Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars. So we may be only getting a small dose of Vadee in this but it will surely leave an impaact.