Ever since the first trailer arrived at April’s Star Wars Celebration, we’ve known that Emperor Palpatine is set to return in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Though Ian McDiarmid’s voice has been heard in the marketing, the villain has never been revealed in the pasty flesh, with Lucasfilm clearly deciding to hold him back until the release of the full movie. Well, with Episode IX now having premiered, leaked images have arrived online that finally give us our first look at the resurrected Darth Sidious.
A previous photo (also seen in the gallery below along with this new one) captured Palpatine in the middle of a cry of rage. That image appeared to show that the villain’s facial disfigurements had lessened since we last saw him in Return of the Jedi. And this new pic seems to confirm it, with the heavily ridged wrinkles and the red areas around his eyes looking completely healed. On the other hand, the Emperor now appears to be blind, as his eyes are pure white.
Of course, there’s been endless speculation over how the big bad could be back after being thrown to his apparent death at the end of the Original Trilogy. The fact that Palpatine’s skin condition has cleared up but he’s now lost his sight presumably tells us the answer though, if we can just figure it out. Is he inhabiting some kind of imperfect clone body, perhaps? Or has he gone through a process of rejuvenation that went wrong and cost him his vision?
Whatever the in-story reason for it, this is certainly a creepy new look for the Emperor and you can see why the studio decided to keep it under their hats until the right time. In fact, it only us has that much more excited to finally lay eyes on the film for ourselves, which we’ll be able to do when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters this Friday.