There was a lot of division within the Star Wars fandom when Disney decided to bring back Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker.
The Sequel Trilogy had been subject to criticism from the very beginning, of course, but the decision to bring back Palpatine left a lot of fans confused. Not to mention The Rise Of Skywalker didn’t exactly take the time to explain how the Emperor made his return. Darth Vader fulfilled his role in the prophecy of the Chosen One in Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi when he tossed Palpatine down a reactor shaft, killing him and subsequently blowing up the Death Star II.
By killing Palpatine, Vader – or Anakin Skywalker – brought balance to the force and defeated the Sith Order once and for all. At least, until Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion and decided to bring Ian McDiarmid’s iconic villain back to conclude their new trilogy. While fans like myself were in the theater pulling their hair out, trying to make sense of how the studio could logically resurrect Palpatine without completely shattering the Chosen One’s story arc, it seems we all missed a few subtle clues giving us the very answer we were looking for.
In the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker novel, it’s explained that Palpatine was, in fact, a clone, and the book dives deeper into how the Emperor made his unexpected return. When examining The Rise Of Skywalker closer, however, this is hinted at during Kylo Ren and Palpatine’s first exchange on the Sith world of Exegol. As Ren journeyed through the Sith base, we could see vats filled with various body parts and figures resembling that of Supreme Leader Snoke.
Once Palpatine was revealed to Ren, we then saw he was hooked up to similar machines keeping him alive in a new clone body. Also in the film, the Resistance’s Beaumont Kin – played by Lord Of The Rings star Dominic Monaghan – noted the Sith were notorious for experimenting with dark magic and cloning. These little hints were easy to miss, sure, especially upon first watch, but at least Disney tried to throw fans a bone to help us figure out what the heck was going on.
Still, all in all, the explanation seems a bit unsatisfying and further aids the criticism that Disney’s new trilogy was nothing more than a copycat of the original Star Wars series fans know and love, failing to bring anything original to the table. With all that being said, it looks like the studio isn’t done with Palpatine just yet, as they’re reportedly exploring a spinoff about the Sith Lord that could also involve McDiarmid. Yay?