Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was bad for many reasons, but maybe the worst decision was bringing back Emperor Palpatine with almost no explanation. Audiences were left confused as to how he survived being thrown into the Death Star II’s reactor core (shortly followed by the entire place exploding) in Return of the Jedi. We didn’t get a decent answer until the novelization of the movie landed in March 2020, which revealed that the falling Emperor “thrust his consciousness” across the galaxy into a clone he’d prepared as a backup plan.
Now, a new piece of concept art hints that an earlier draft of the script might have explained all this on screen. Star Wars artist Adam Brockbank has posted a picture (see below) described as showing “Kylo at the threshold of the cloning laboratory.” We got a glimpse of a gallery of gross-looking failed Snoke clones in the movie, but that chamber looked a far cry from the pristine and sterile environment we see in this image. Palpatine dismissively regarded Snoke as a mere puppet, but it makes sense that he’d treat his own cloning process with a bit more rigor. In addition, the hunched over attendants look impressively creepy, being vaguely reminiscent of miniature Darth Vaders.
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But even with all the care in the world, Palpatine’s cloned body was decaying rapidly, necessitating his plan to funnel his spirit into his granddaughter Rey’s body and rule the galaxy as a Dark Empress. As we all saw, though, Rey channelled the power of “all the Jedi” and finally blew the crusty old Sith Lord to smithereens. Or at least, we assume that he was killed. Who’s to say he doesn’t have yet another secret facility tucked away on a distant spooky planet?
Perhaps if this scene had made it into Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, there would have been fewer complaints about the nonsensical plot, but let’s face it, that wouldn’t fix the rest of the movie. Still, I’d be interested in seeing more concept art for unused scenes.