Character Analysis: Sion
Sadism is ultimately weak. Like abuse it is as frighteningly terrifying to the tormented as it is disgusting and the means to break such a person when used by those resistant to it. Sadists depend upon at most a higher degree of physical power, and mental domination. But devoid of this, they are often nothing. Their pain fuels causing pain in others. And stripped of the aura and pleasure they gain, such people are diminutive. Sick and ugly in soul and appearance, hollow faced and slight. Few fictional characters display this as openly as Darth Sion, the initially prominent Sith Lord, one of the Triumvirate dominated in plot and by his opponents, despite his undying state.
Sion even says he will make Atton ‘like a mirror’ in allusion to torturing him, and the idea of fracturing and fragmented is clear in his visceral design. Cracked and pitted, it’s his fleshy hardening, clear white blind eye and rasping natural voice distinguishing Sion rather than the mechanical augmentations this setting usually uses to depict the Sith. His ability to hurt Kreia offers threat immediately and in hindsight. This first Sith Lord is more powerful and intimidating than the previous game’s antagonist Malek already, and as we know how the older, authoritative Kreia is bound to the protagonist and them wounded heavily via a psychic bond, we fear that too.
It’s telling in the story’s themes about the self-defeating nature of violence and the finite nature of pain that in actuality Sion by far deals the most pain to Kreia, perhaps not possessing the highest death toll but is only ever matched by Nihilus whom he outlasts. He beats his former Master physically, cuts off her hand, strips away her pride and station which to her likely is worse, and in a flashback throttles her mercilessly in an upstaging superior to any other apprentice to date. Sion is at face value the biggest conceptual terror, yet as part of the Jungian quest the most inert and even offers the least physical fight to overcome. He is older than Kreia for a certainty, yet her supplicant. If a more psychosexual interpretation of the character is taken he has a desire for a female Exile and possibly Kreia (she is his matriarch certainly, possibly a stand in for a motherly or beloved figure as she may be to an Exile), yet he cannot slake this desire or it ever be reciprocated (if the especially dark interpretation of ‘indignities’ contains this, such abuse would be of no value save torture to essentially a pained cybernetic automaton). It’s less obvious than something sexual, though perhaps not exactly disconnected, although like the often more spiritual or abstinent series this writer is not so fixated on that aspect which can be found in most other general analysis’.
It is deceptively easy to see Sion as more tool than character, when he is so similar in many ways to the more personable Atton Rand. But perhaps this speaks more to the title and one of many very blunt points KOTOR II makes in The Sith Lords: to become a Lord, to become strength and the embodiment of a sensation or negative emotion grants great power, but the cost is enslavement and loss of self or ‘warmth’ of humanity. To follow one discipline locks away other aspects of the human condition. The pained cannot be loved or even heeded. The hungry cannot ever satiate themselves and become the void of anything conceivable or tangible. The betrayer cannot be heeded, loved, remembered, and possibly ever forgiven.
The sight of Sion meditating, one of the earlier sights of him is part of the everpresent intentional theme of emotional clashes. Sith meditating in general is something rarely seen, most famously in the movies it’s notable when Maul chooses not to meditate, pacing, building his anger. Sion kneeling, focusing despite his corpse like quality shows the threat of these antagonists due to them being more multifaceted, and more cunning in applying themselves which makes them effective killers. To pause, either floating as a seeming corpse, or simply collect himself as his ship spirals towards an unsuspecting enemy is much like the cold blackness of the stars surrounding the Sith more than once in the story. Unseen, awake and aware where their enemies are not. The Dark Side, a twist of emotions and using passions certainly empowers this side of their power, but the Sith are heavily amplified by the use of deception, literal darkness or more accurately as things less easily spotted. Visually, watching him amplifies this effect much like watching his character model shamble around as the patchwork he is. He should not be alive. The bone white and black body is hardly a thing we associate with invisibility or ambush. We see him from afar simply staring, walking up to you in Peragus and with the unconscious knowledge that his abrasive voice and the hate holding him together isn’t let out at all vocally.
Surprisingly eloquent discussion of being broken, directly speaking about Kreia’s teaching as one who knows them. aside from being a reinterpretation of The Nameless One and an avatar of pain, Sion is useful in directly explaining Kreia’s philosophy and that of the dark side. His surprising amount of speech and opinion for one so direct and plain in their character is also a clear contrast to the other identifiable and silent Sith Lord Nihilius.
I like how Sion articulates very clearly that you are the apprentice of Kreia, but also -in an insulting way- different and powerful by severing yourself at Malachor. Rather than the squirreled away dialogue about true strength, those excellent but subtly triggered dialogues, Sion tells you directly, his character reflecting that directness.
A hero needs a villain in a story of trauma, recovery, and war. And Sion is both a definitely challenging threat, but also a test and a philosophical lesson. Physical strength, the mental riddles required to unmake him, and seeing his weakness under the fantastic power of immortality are pretty much a story of itself, much like Nihilus is the same. Just one such villain could have made up a game, but three I think is likely a homage to Planescape Torment’s three ultimate villains Trias the Betrayer, the demon Fhjull Forked-Tongue, and The Transcendent One. Sion is a straightforward, and thus very visceral and curious example of what an undying person, lost in many ways to themselves or a life without pain would be drawn to mindless slaughter and only a relationship with beings too strong to easily defeat, amoral and long lived internally, surely damned in a living existence.
Sion’s inclusion works much better interacting with a female Exile with the script’s altered dialogue, as an echo and duality of the women that torment and attract him, although a male Exile being a masculine rival for Kreia’s affections is an interesting way to see it. while the game is not as explicit as that, and there is more to it, it is easy to hear the overtones of the torment and corruption of love. Sion is repulsive, and does not love in a really recognisable sense. He is like Hanharr, different from the others, but really too broken, or rather I would argue too vicious and consumed with inflicting pain to recover. Recovery and peace for them is death, for the benefit of the galaxy. That is the issue with an absolute. Like the serial killers they are, while one can pity their suffering, as with real killers their danger to others outweighs hesitation to punish or remove them until they are unable to continue.
The glimmer of hope among the viciousness turns the hero and villain’s fates and need for empathy full circle. In the end, what one enjoys often within the horror story, the RPG, or a tale involving the pained enemy who cannot be killed, or the pursuing sadist is when the protagonist or companion physically overcomes them. It may be mentally unravelling the torment they inspire, the imposition of punishment and guilt. To give a similar example to Sion, little is as satisfying in a Silent Hill game as watching the Red Pyramids’ impale themselves, as The Exile makes Sion cling to life no longer.
Pain and torment give strength to both the victim, the abuser, and each are victimised by an ugly cycle taken out of control. But only one of them understands or can possess the true nature of strength, and when robbed of fear, like those of his nature Sion ultimately becomes reduced to nothing with so much of his character tied to that concept, a sensation of pain he cannot inspire totally overcome, removing his character and half-life with it.
Knights of the Old Republic. BioWare. 2003.
Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. Obsidian Entertainment. 2004.