J.J. Abrams had plans to bring Palpatine back in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker as early as Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Fans found themselves both shocked and thrilled when the first Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer teased Palpatine's return. Since that trailer's release, the Internet has been buzzing with theories about how the former Emperor has cheated death to become what could essentially be the most important villain in movie history.
In the prequels and original trilogy, Palpatine was a Senator, later becoming Supreme Chancellor, who manipulated his way behind the scenes to become Emperor of the Galaxy. Once the Empire gained a stranglehold on the government, he revealed himself as Sith and took Anakin Skywalker, who became Darth Vader, under his wing as an apprentice. Palpatine ruled the galaxy for 23 years, but in the end, Vader killed him. However, in the Star Wars universe, dead isn't always dead. Palpatine will appear in The Rise of Skywalker.
Although Palpatine's return to Star Wars might seem sudden in The Rise of Skywalker, Abrams has admitted that he had planned for the villain's return all along, since The Force Awakens. In an interview with Uproxx, Abrams talked about Palpatine as part of his overall plan. He said:
"Well, when you look at this as nine chapters of a story, perhaps the weirder thing would be if Palpatine didn’t return. You just look at what he talks about, who he is, how important he is, what the story is — strangely, his absence entirely from the third trilogy would be conspicuous. It would be very weird. That’s not to say there was a bible and we knew what happens at every step. But when Larry Kasdan and I worked on The Force Awakens, we didn’t do it in a vacuum. We very purposely looked at what came before. We chose to tell a story that touches upon specific things and themes and ideas that we’ve seen before, to begin a new story. But we examined all that came before to ask where does this feel like it’s going?"
Of those Star Wars fans that loved The Force Awakens, many felt the follow-up movie, The Last Jedi, didn't fit into the overall theme of the Star Wars universe. However, Abrams also spoke about meeting with that film's director, Rian Johnson, and felt that The Last Jedi did not interfere with his plans for the trilogy as a whole. Abrams said:
"So there were discussions about that at the time. Yet, like any beginning, you want to put the threads in, but you don’t want to necessarily be literal about everything. And then when Rian was brought on to do The Last Jedi, we met and we talked about things and he wrote his story. And when I read it the script, I realized this didn’t get in the way of anything Larry and I talked about that I thought I’d get to. There were some very specific things we did get to do in this movie that we were laughing and going, 'Oh my god, we’re finally doing that thing we talked about five years ago.'"
The Rise of Skywalker still has a lot of explaining to do, not just with the return of Palpatine, but with other plot details brought up in previous movies. The death of Carrie Fisher, who portrayed princess-turned-general Leia, has somewhat changed the film's plot. There is also a big question hanging over Rey's parentage and who she is. Many are also wondering if Kylo Ren will eventually turn away from the Dark Side, especially after trailers show him fighting alongside Rey, rather than against her. Almost everything about The Rise of Skywalker's plot is a secret, though, even if a script for the film turned up on eBay at one point.
One of the only thing fans know for sure is that Palpatine is back, at least in some capacity. And fortunately, the wait to find out how and why is a short one. In less than a month, Star Wars fans will line up at theaters to see how the Skywalker saga ends.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019