Emperor Sheev Palpatine has been an enduring figure in Star Wars for decades. He began very mysteriously: we only see him as a brief holographic messenger in the Empire Strikes Back. And pre-Special Edition, the role was not even played by iconic actor Ian McDiarmid, but by a woman named Marjorie Eaton (who was covered under heavy layers of makeup and—no lie—had chimpanzee eyes digitally imposed on her face to make her look extra freaky).
We see the character fleshed out by McDiarmid in Return of the Jedi, and he plays a crucial role in the attempt to corrupt Luke Skywalker. The character dies in that movie, but thanks to the Star Wars prequels, the Clone Wars cartoon, and the Internet's memes, he has lived on and become even more well-known.
Well, sort of. We see a fair amount of Palpatine in these movies and shows, and even more of him in various books and comics. At the same time, there’s a lot that we don’t know about the character. And for what we do know, a lot of it makes no sense. For an all-seeing Sith, he makes some pretty dumb mistakes.
Don’t believe us? Give into your feelings to read Star Wars: 15 Things About Emperor Palpatine That Make No Sense!
15 No disguise
Probably the weirdest thing about Emperor Palpatine is his “disguise.” That is, his complete lack of disguise. As “Darth Sidious,” his plan seems to be to just cover his eyes up with a hooded robe. Otherwise, he looks and sounds exactly like, well, Emperor Palpatine! This would be like if Batman decided that he didn’t really need a cowl and that he could disguise his identity as Bruce Wayne by just putting on some sunglasses. (We're looking at you, Superman.)
What’s doubly weird is that Palpatine continues with this look later on, after he declares himself the Emperor. Considering that he had a whole plan to become Emperor that hinged on no one recognizing that “Sidious” and Palpatine are the same, it’s utterly insane that he makes no further effort to disguise his identity.
14 The second Death Star
The first Death Star was impressive, though its long-term usefulness is debatable (more on that later). However, the Rebels proved that one lucky (or at least, Force-sensitive) pilot could destroy the entire thing. The Empire basically proved Dooku right: twice the pride in their technology terror, double the fall. Why, then, does Palpatine go ahead and make a second Death Star?
Obviously, the offscreen reason for this is that George Lucas was running out of ideas to close out his first trilogy. However, in-universe, imagine all of the time, money, and labor that goes into creating yet another superweapon that a single ship can blow up. How many Star Destroyers and TIE Fighters could he have made instead? For a guy who brags about seeing the future, it’s truly strange he didn’t see this coming.
13 What's the point of the Royal guard
The Last Jedi definitely got right the Praetorian Guard right. These are the red-clad guards of Snoke, and they do their best to defend him and, after his death, do their best to avenge him. It’s enough to make you look back at Return of the Jedi and ask why Palpatine bothered with the Royal Guard.
Obviously, they look really cool, and later comics and books would flesh out just how awesome they are as warriors. And it makes sense someone as important as Palpatine would have bodyguards. In the movie, though, Palpatine dismisses them as soon as Luke is brought onboard.
To put it another way, Palpatine waited until the one person in the entire galaxy who was a threat to him came in the room...and then he dismissed his guards just in time to get betrayed and killed!
12 He couldn't sense Vader's betrayal
The big climax of Return of the Jedi comes when Darth Vader suddenly kills the Emperor. This showed that Luke’s mission to redeem Vader was a success. Moreover, George Lucas insisted in later interviews that in this moment, Vader (very belatedly) was fulfilling the prophecy of “bringing balance to the Force.” This is all well and good for storytelling purposes, but why could Palpatine not sense Vader about to betray him?
Keep in mind that sensing emotions is one of the most basic aspects of the Force, for Jedi and Sith alike. Moreover, Palpatine showed how accurately he could sense Luke’s emotions, despite the fact that he had just met the young man. Somehow, though, he suddenly can’t feel the emotions of Darth Vader - someone he has worked alongside for over two decades? We’re calling shenanigans.
11 Why Support Anakin Skywalker?
One of the goals of the prequel trilogy was to explore how the relationship between Palpatine and Vader began. Unfortunately, this fell a bit flat: we see Palpatine telling a young Anakin he will watch the boy’s career “with great interest,” and by the beginning of the next movie, they are already buddies. However, by the end of the prequels, we still have no idea why Palpatine took such an interest in Anakin.
It’s tempting just to say “he’s a powerful Force user,” but Palpatine had no trouble finding such apprentices (like Darth Maul). Or you could say because Anakin helped defeat the Trade Federation, but as we all see, he literally just hit the wrong button in his starfighter. Finally, you might think it’s that prophecy thing, but if Palpatine believes the prophecy, why hire the guy who is destined to destroy the Sith?
10 He stops using his lightsaber
When Return of the Jedi first premiered, the Emperor’s use of Force Lightning seemed really wild. It helped set him apart as a bad guy, showing that he had grown beyond using a lightsaber. However, once we see how he uses a lightsaber in Revenge of the Sith, it makes no sense that he ever stopped!
If you remember, Mace Windu played it really safe and brought three extra Jedi to try to arrest Palpatine. Using his lightsaber, Palpatine killed those three extra Jedi within seconds. Flash forward two decades, and he is now content to just slowly zap people like Luke Skywalker? And he’s willing to rely on Vader to stop incoming lightsabers, despite the whole Sith tradition of the apprentice eventually betraying the master?
9 He lets himself get kidnapped
Revenge of the Sith is generally regarded as the best of the prequel trilogy. Part of what makes it great is the action-packed opening, showing Anakin and Obi-Wan leading the effort to rescue Palpatine. He has been kidnapped by the droid army led by General Grievous. If you think about it for more than a moment, this whole thing is insane.
Remember that - as Darth Sidious - Palpatine is the true leader and manipulator of the droid army. He apparently made sure that he was kidnapped in a dangerous assault, and he nearly died several times during the rescue (including falling down elevator shafts and their dramatic crash landing on Coruscant). Weirdest of all, he seems to get no political gain out of this whole thing. Maybe being Chancellor was just becoming boring?
8 He bothered to manipulate Jar Jar
Fans’ clear hatred of Jar Jar Binks meant we didn’t see much of him after the Phantom Menace. Fittingly, though, he still managed to screw everything up. If you remember, Amidala left Jar Jar on Coruscant with the explicit instructions to vote against creating an army. Jar Jar then turns around and calls for a vote to give Palpatine emergency powers so he can create an army.
The onscreen reason for this is that Palpatine manipulates Jar Jar with a handful of words. He is loudly discussing the need for extra power and rhetorically asking which senator would be brave enough to proposed such a plan. He knows that Jar Jar can hear him and, sure enough, Jar Jar immediately does what Palpatine wants. However, why not just mind-trick him? Jar Jar is certainly weak-minded enough to fall for it, and it would have saved time and guaranteed results.
7 The blockade of Naboo
Much of the plot of Phantom Menace is incomprehensible garbage, but this one might just take the cake. Roughly speaking, Palpatine’s plan is to have the Trade Federation attack his home planet so he can have sympathy votes to become the new Chancellor. Why, then, does he blockade the planet?
Think about it. The only way his plan works is if Coruscant finds out what has happened to Naboo. However, he destroys all of their communications, blockades the whole planet, and tries to kill the Chancellor’s Jedi ambassadors. And if he had managed to kill them, well, no one would find out about Naboo, right? When one part of your plan can only work if everything else fails, that’s a sure sign you have a terrible plan
6 He explodes when he dies
Love him or hate him, there’s no doubt about it: Palpatine dies like a chump. He is betrayed by his one-handed apprentice and thrown into one of the many giant shafts that every Imperial installation has (apparently OSHA does not exist in a galaxy far, far away). When he dies, though, there's a weird explosion of blue energy. Looking back, this makes no sense.
The easiest explanation is that this is just the release of the power inside of him, and it explodes as he dies. However, we have seen other powerful dark side users die, including Supreme Leader Snoke in The Last Jedi. If dark side energy erupts when these characters die, then we’d be seeing it left and right. However, Palpatine is the only case, and the mystery dies with him.
5 The Death Star undermines his plan for Naboo
The Death Star is a weapon that has a certain supervillain logic to it. Palpatine wants his enemies scared, so he builds the ultimate weapon that can kill billions with a single blast. Princess Leia later contends to Tarkin that trying to tighten the Imperial grip is just going to drive more planets away. Not only is this true, but Palpatine’s own history shows that he should have known better!
Remember that his insane Phantom Menace plan was to destroy his own world so that people would feel sorry for him and take his side. He should know that destroying worlds like Alderaan is only going to make the galaxy take the side of the victims and, in this case, take up arms against the victimizers. Thus, Palpatine sealed the fate of the Empire by forgetting the very thing that helped make him Emperor!
4 The Death Star's vulnerable shield generator
While it was stupid to go ahead and make a second Death Star, Palpatine improved on the design in one way: he added a special shield that would keep ships from so much as entering the general airspace of the space station. However, the question remains: why leave the shield generator so vulnerable?
Fans have spent decades laughing at Palpatine’s assertion that he “an entire legion” of his “best troops” on the forest moon. Even if that were true, though, he decided to locate the shield generator on a planet filled with hostile natives and lots of forest for rebels to hide in. Oh, and the rebels get camouflage while the Stormtroopers don’t.
All of this is not only stupid, but completely preventable. Sheev could have simply put the Death Star somewhere different and placed the shield generator on an airless moon!
3 Palpatine doesn't bother chasing Yoda
A really cool part of Revenge of the Sith was seeing Yoda and Palpatine go all out in duel with one another. Despite putting in a solid effort, Yoda loses the duel, and Palpatine finds the cloak of the Jedi Master while he escapes to safety with Bail Organa. All of this is necessary to explain how Yoda ends up on Dagobah, but we never really get an explanation for why the Emperor isn’t looking for Yoda!
Seriously: we see Palpatine satisfied that he beat Yoda, and that’s about it. However, it seems like someone in charge of an entire Empire could put in an effort to scour the planet looking for him? Maybe have someone follow Bail Organa, who already had to be chased away from a scene at gunpoint? Just think: if Palpatine had found Yoda, Luke could never have completed his training!
2 He lets himself get zapped
A lot of Palpatine’s weirdest plans involve making people feel sorry for him. The strangest instance of this occurs during his duel with Mace Windu. Palpatine is using Force Lightning on Mace while the Jedi keeps deflecting it back to Palpatine. This seriously messes up Palpatine’s face, but he keeps it up as a way of trying to get Anakin Skywalker to help him.
However, it seems like Anakin was willing to help anyway. He mostly wanted to keep Palpatine alive, which is why he attacks Mace when the Jedi is about to kill Palpatine. Mace, meanwhile, seems like he was planning to execute Palpatine the whole time, insisting on how a trial would be impossible.
Palpatine could have gotten the exact same results without mutilating himself, just like the Republic would have swallowed his lies even if he didn’t look extra freaky.
1 He talks to the Trade Federation
We already discussed how stupid the Darth Sidious “disguise” really looked. However, it would have been possible for this look to work if Palpatine only communicated directly with Darth Maul and let his apprentice talk to others. Instead, we see that Palpatine prefers holographically communicating with people like the Trade Federation.
That’s right: he regularly makes sure that Nute Gunray and all of his flunkies know exactly what Darth Sidious looks and sounds like. This is extremely dangerous because they could easily identify that Sidious is Palpatine (because, again, barely covering your eyes is not a disguise).
You could argue that he planned to somehow have them killed, but remember that his “plan A” involves both the Trade Federation winning and leaving witnesses who could rile up the Senators on his behalf!
Got any weird things about Palpatine we missed in Star Wars? Go take a seat in the comments!