Your ears weren’t fooling you, as it’s confirmed that the familiar sinister laugh you heard at the end of the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker teaser trailer was indeed Ian McDiarmid’s Emperor/Darth Sidious. Obviously, this is an enormous surprise for fans, with none of the usual rumor merchants who claim to have insider information into the production of the movie saying so much as a peep about it.
The first confirmation came via James Dyer of Empire Magazine, who spoke with J.J. Abrams after the panel and got his assurance he was back.
“In case there’s any lingering ambiguity from the trailer (and McDiarmid’s appearance at the panel!), I can 100% confirm that Palpatine is back in The Rise Of Skywalker as I just asked JJ,” tweeted Dyer. “He’s thrilled – and slightly incredulous- that McDiarmid’s presence on set didn’t leak.”
Given that the last we saw of the Emperor was him being hurled into the second Death Star’s reactor (followed by the entire station going kaboom), how on earth is he returning? Well, we might be able to find some clues in the Star Wars extended universe.
In 1991, Dark Horse Comics began publishing the Dark Empire series. These took place after the Emperor’s supposed death and revealed that he kept a number of cloned bodies on standby in case he was ever killed. His plan was to transfer his consciousness into these in order to gain the immortality he craved. The downside was that his clones were flawed – having proved much more susceptible to the decay caused by the dark side than his original body. Despite this, the Emperor managed to regroup the remnants of the Empire and even seduced Luke to act as his apprentice.
Honestly, I doubt they’re going to take too much inspiration from this storyline, but at least that’s how they’ve brought back the character before. Whichever way they go about it though, I’m currently a bit split on this decision.
On one hand, Ian McDiarmid is always a huge amount of fun in the role and I can’t wait to see him chewing through the scenery. On the other, however, this does somewhat dilute Vader’s sacrifice in Return of the Jedi and I was also hoping for a renewed focus on the Sequel Trilogy characters for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I guess we’re just going to have to wait to see how things shakes out, but at the moment, I’m not sure if bringing him back was really the best idea.