Fans spent months speculating how Emperor Palpatine will be revealed to have survived in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but as it turned out, that was a bit of a waste of time as the movie never actually confirmed how he’s back. Controversially, the villain’s return was quickly explained away via the opening crawl. This may have ensured more screentime was devoted to the main characters, but it left us hungry to learn more about Darth Sidious’ resurrection.
Some comments made by co-writer Chris Terrio may help illuminate the most likely explanation for his comeback, though. While speaking to Awards Daily, the screenwriter revealed that Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy and Michelle Rejwan pushed for Palpatine to be featured in the pic. However, himself and director J.J. Abrams were keen to follow the suggestion as the story needed a new big bad following Snoke’s demise in The Last Jedi.
“[Redeeming Ben Solo] gets tricky at the end of Episode VIII because Snoke is gone. The biggest bad guy in the galaxy at that moment seemingly is Kylo Ren. There needed to be an antagonist that the good guys could be fighting, and that’s when we really tried to laser in on who had been the great source of evil behind all of this for so long.”
And this “source of evil” is Palpatine, of course, someone that Terrio described in a very interesting way…
“The source of the evil in the galaxy is this dark spirit waiting for its revenge and biding its time. The entity known as Palpatine in this version – his body died in Return of the Jedi – is patient and has been waiting.”
The choice of words here heavily suggests that it was the filmmakers’ intentions – or at least Terrio’s personal take – that the decaying body Palpatine inhabits in Rise is not his original one. It appears that his spirit managed to survive following Return but not his physical form, and so he possessed another vessel. Perhaps a corpse or, more likely, a clone body. The lifeless Snoke copies glimpsed in one scene confirms that Palps was at least experimenting with cloning.
Though Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker failed to properly spill the beans, no doubt a future installment in the franchise, whether it be a movie, TV show or comic, will provide a canonical explanation for Palpatine’s revival. For the moment, though, at least Terrio’s tease gives us something to work with.