Palpatine, the Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Sidious and former Emperor of the Galactic Empire will make a menacing return in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and odds are his plans will involve a superweapon again. We've known trouble was coming the very second his menacing laugh was heard at the end of the first trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker at the Star Wars Celebration in Chicago earlier this year. The laugh, coupled with the appearance of Sheev Palpatine actor Ian McDiarmid at the event, helped prepare fans for the eventual return of one of the great Star Wars villains as the Skywalker Saga comes to a close.
There are still six months left to determine how Palpatine will figure into Star Wars 9, but we already know two things to be true about Palpatine: One, he's obsessed (and experienced at) seducing Skywalkers, and two, he's always building new superweapons.
Palpatine, has been the big bad of Star Wars' Skywalker Saga from the very beginning. With a resurrection in some form and the need for a new student to help him enact his plans in place, Kylo, the only remaining Skywalker other than Leia, has always wanted to walk in Vader's footsteps, and Vader was Palpatine's apprentice. At the end of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren was coming undone. Having killed Snoke during a battle with Rey at his side but still bent of killing Luke Skywalker and destroying the Resistance, Kylo was caught between the light and fark side, but seemingly embraced the dark fully at the end of the movie. With Palpatine's return looming, it might be time to start preparing for the possibility of Kylo working alongside the resurrected Sith Lord to nefarious ends in Star Wars 9.
Palpatine Had a Clear Plan For His Resurrection
Palpatine's laugh at the end of the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer is our first and only clue that the great Sith Lord will be back in full villainous fashion. It may have surprised many Star Wars fans but for those who have been keeping track of both the films and official Star Wars tie-ins, the implication that Palpatine has always had a plan for his eventual resurrection has been there.
In Chris Soule's Darth Vader comics, Palpatine was focused on researching resurrection possibilities in the event of his death. Palpatine knew it was possible for a Sith to survive after death, as evidenced by his knowledge of Darth Plagueis' manipulation of the Force for resurrection purposes. Additionally, Palpatine owned the mask of Sith Lord Momin, who came back to life in Soule's Darth Vader storyline. The mask, according to Palpatine, taught him many things about the Force — the implication being that Palpatine may have gotten clues about resurrection.
The Darth Vader comics also make it clear that Palpatine was working with a scientist named Cylo to figure out a way to transcend the limits of the Force and of mortality, creating clone bodies to possible transfer consciousness into.
Finally, Palpatine's massive contingency plan after his death at the battle of Endor had his former advisor, Sith cultist Yupe Tashu, convinced he was either still alive or would be resurrected in the Unknown Regions. Not only is his resurrection plausible, it's been a subtle undercurrent in many non-movie stories since even before the release of The Force Awakens.
The Second Death Star May Have Played a Role in Palpatine's Survival
There is reason to believe that the second Death Star may play a role in Palpatine's resurrection in Star Wars 9. In Return of the Jedi, it's implied Palpatine is killed after being pushed by his protégé, Darth Vader, in an attempt to prevent Palpatine from killing Luke Skywalker. The camera shows Palpatine falling down a long shaft in the second Death Star, ostensibly dying on impact. This demise is mirrored with the murder of Yupe Tashu in Chuck Wendig's Aftermath trilogy. There, Tashu recruits Counselor Rax to help him begin the process of resurrecting Palpatine. The pair travel to the Jakku Observatory, where a number of Palpatine relics are stored. Before Tashu and Rax can complete the ceremony, Rax pushes Tashu down a shaft that leads into the core of Jakku while he's wearing a Sith mask and holding a mysterious black holocron.
On the surface, it may be difficult to see how the two deaths connect. What's key here, though, is the description of how The Emperor and Yupe Tashu die. Palpatine falls down a shaft into the Death Star's core, while Tashu falls down a shaft into Jakku's core. On its own that may seem innocuous, but the way Tashu's death, along with the destruction of the Sith mask and holocron, is described by Wendig in a way that draws an uncanny parallel to Palpatine's own death on the second Death Star: "The world shudders. A fierce growl grumbles up through the bore, and the orange light glows suddenly red—the blue threads of mist turn black."
So, both men falling down a giant hole and exploding with threads of blue mist could be a coincidence, except for when you consider nearly every step of the situation was orchestrated by Palpatine. The Death Star resembled other ancient Sith superweapons, the Jakku observatory was based on Palpatine's designs and Jakku was central to his plan to flee into the Unknown Regions where he sensed a great Dark Side power. He was suspicious that Vader would turn on him for years (that's why the contingency even existed), and Tashu was instructed, again by Palpatine, to conduct a Sith ritual leading up to his death.
With Palpatine pulling all the strings and his death and Tashu's death strangely mirroring each other with the oddly specific description of the blue mist in Aftermath, it begs the question: was Death Star merely a planet killer, or did it also serve a more arcane role in Palpatine's long term play for immortality?
Palpatine May Have Been Manipulating Kylo Ren All Along
Just as Palpatine kept Momin's mask to learn secrets from it, there is a possibility that Palpatine's life force was transferred into a mask after he was killed in Return of the Jedi. We also know that Kylo kept his grandfather Darth Vader's mask close to him after retrieving it from Endor. Incidentally, Endor is the place where the remains of the second Death Star ended up and Palpatine died in that Death Star after being pushed by Darth Vader and Darth Vader subsequently died aboard the superweapon, too. There is a possibility Palpatine's consciousness transferred into the mask before Kylo took it.
We know Kylo received some kind of messages from Darth Vader's mask, seemingly compelled and controlled by the mask to embrace his Dark Side. Kylo believed he was communicating with Vader but that has never been made clear in the movies, leaving room for the possibility it was Palpatine he was communicating with the entire time. Although Palpatine's death at the hands of his student, Vader, and Kylo killing Snoke fits in with the ongoing theme of Sith Lord successors overthrowing their masters and assuming power, this may all change with Palpatine connecting with Kylo via Vader's mask. It would also eradicate Leia's belief Snoke seduced Kylo to embrace the Dark Side; Kylo may have been corrupted through Vader's Palpatine-possessed mask long before Snoke, and Snoke simply saw the perfect student, already embracing evil, to take under his wing.
Palpatine's Plans All Required Superweapons
Palpatine's obsession with superweapons has been well established over the course of Star Wars. The first Death Star was Palpatine's pet project. Construction was designed by Genosians for the separatists, under the supervision of Count Dooku before being seized by the Republic under Palpatine's rule and completed by General Orson Krennic and overseen by Grand Moff Tarkin. Palpatine was also responsible for the construction of the second Death Star, although that was later destroyed and its remains are now on Endor, as seen in the trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
The Sith also had an obsession with Superweapons, so it's no surprise that this trend continued with Palpatine. In Star Wars Rebels, when they visit the planet Malachor to find an ancient battle had taken place at the base of one such weapon.
The First Order is also no stranger to superweapons. We know about Starkiller Base and Snoke's Star Destroyer, the Supremacy, which may not be a proper superweapon, but still dwarfs even the Super Star Destroyers from Palpatine's Empire. We also see a number of failed projects, possibly precursors to Starkiller Base, in Star Wars Resistance when Kaz and Poe Dameron find planets with their cores hollowed out, and there are several references in the novelization for Star Wars: The Last Jedi that suggest the First Order has more superweapons we haven't even heard about yet. We don't know yet if Palatine was pulling any strings with the First Order (unless the wild theory that Snoke was actually Palpatine is true), but the First Order was spawned by Palpatine's contingency, and he had secretly set up shipyards, storehouses, research outposts, and more in the Unknown Regions, so it's highly possible the weapons are inspired by his designs, if not commissioned by Palpatine himself.
We don't know exactly why Palpatine is obsessed with Superweapons, but we know he's always had long term plans involving getting to the Unknown Regions. In fact, he started building the station on Jakku only a few years after first meeting Anakin Skywalker and becoming the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic. If you though Palpatine's long term schemes involved making merely Anakin his apprentice, forming the Galactic Empire, or building a Death Star (or two), you wouldn't be thinking long term enough.
Thanks to Palpatine's long obsession in the Unknown Regions culminating in his apparent death and contingency plan at Jakku, it's safe to say that, even 30 years after the destruction of the second Death Star, everything is still proceeding as he had foreseen.
So, looking back on over 60 years of Palpatine's schemes all leading to Star Wars 9, we can easily assume two things. First, He wants to seduce a Skywalker, and second, he wants to build another superweapon. As has always been the case with the Dark Lord of the Sith, the how and the why aren't apparent just yet, but with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker primed to close the book on the Skywalker legacy for good, we're probably about to find out.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019